“Your passport is the greatest thing you own. It is your key to the world.”
I remember when I first got my USA passport back in 2003. It was a period of great excitement in my life. I was just finishing my first year of college and was preparing for my first trip abroad to Romania. I got many stares as I happily showed off my passport and talked about my upcoming trip. A few people gave me a blank stare, the kind that makes you think you have a third eye protruding from your forehead; “Where?” they would ask, almost like I spoke an off-the-wall language to them. I was amazed, in fact, how many people there were that didn’t know where Romania was. I’m sure some of our dear readers may be a bit confused themselves. Well, fear not! I’m about to satisfy your curiosity…
Many of you have heard of Romania, a part of it anyways, and just don’t know it. Transylvania, anyone? The supposed residence of Bram Stoker’s Dracula…AHA! So that’s Romania? Well no, it’s only a part, and for a good portion of history a hotly disputed part of Romania, but a part none the less. Historically speaking, Romania consisted of three parts, Dacia, Transylvania and Dobrodjea. I won’t get into great detail about all of this because we will be here for months if I did, but this is just a little bit of extra info for those ‘need something to talk about’ party moments.
Back to Dracula, who was in fact a real person and was, indeed, from Transylvania. Stoker did his research…somewhat. Firstly, Dracula was no vampire. Sad, I know, my vampire lovers, but he was actually a voivode, a prince of the country more commonly known as Vlad Tepes, or The Impaler, a name given to him by his enemies due to his favorite method of execution. Now, even though he wasn’t a vampire, if you went to Bran Castle, the ‘supposed’ castle of Vlad (it’s not, of course, but hey, tourists seem to buy it…) they have what I have fondly dubbed as ‘vampire ville’ for all the crazy little bric-a-brac that you can purchase of the vampiric persuasion. If you want to read more about Vlad, which I recommend you do, it’s fascinating stuff, I strongly urge you to read both Dracula, Prince of Many Faces by Radu R. Florescu, as well as In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires. Both books, written by a famous Romanian historian, really dive into the intriguing tale of Vlad.
Please, don’t go and think that Vlad is the only interesting thing to come out of Romania. He’s by far just a tip of a giant iceberg of fascinating people. Have any of you read the dynamic works of Mircea Eliade (1907-1986)? I’m sure many of you had- I should know, I see the holds and send them to all you lovely people! Eliade is probably one of the most famous writers around the globe due to his groundbreaking research in the field of religious studies. Many actually argue that his work had led to the development of the field known as ‘religious studies’ today. If you’d like a taste of Eliade I would recommend The Sacred and the Profane as well as one of his many works of fiction, my favorite being Two Strange Tales (Nopti la Serampore).
Two last famous Romanians, probably my favorites, are Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889), Romania’s national poet, and Queen Marie of Romania (1875-1938). Eminescu is probably the most quoted Romanian due to his brilliant insights into the world around him. Let me give you a taste:
I have yet one desire:
in the quiet of the night.
Allow me to expire
Within the sea’s sight;
To have a peaceful sleep
With the forest near,
Above, a sky so clear
Over calm waters, deep.
I want no coffin rich,
A bed for me just stitch,
With branches young bind tight.
Sadly, the library only has one book on my beloved Mihai, so I strongly urge you to check it out quickly- The Last Romantic: Mihai Eminescu, by Roy MacGregor-Haiste.
Lastly, I encourage all of you who are interested to read the works of Queen Marie of Romania entitled Ordeal: The Story of My Life in Two Volumes. She is beyond words, and I mean that quite literally. I accidentally came across her during my last year of college, finding her books at the small corner of my college library. Her memoir strikes heart chords and drags you into a world that is lost to most modern readers. I encourage anyone with the time to check out her books.
Are any of you dying to know more about Romania? Do you want to know where the real castle Dracula is located? Would you like to learn about an awesome Romanian rock band? Or what about the culture, the food, the art, the people? Come now, I know you are! And I have just the place for you to find out, at the Library’s own Armchair Travels! On Saturday January 3rd at 3 (in the Large Print Room, per usual) I will be talking, excitedly and with much glee, about my trip to Romania as well as any other little factoid that you’re dying to know about! (And the readers who come and say ‘buna’ to me will get a special surprise for being such awesome blog readers!)
I do realize that is a long ways off, so until Saturday rolls around, how about curling up on the couch with a nice Romanian movie? I suggest either 12:08 East of Bucharest (A Fost Sau n-a Fost?) or The Way I Spent the End of the World (Cum Mi-am Petrecut Sfarsitul Lumii). Both are excellent films!
Have a wonderful New Year everyone!
PS- Quick Romanian Phrases for fun!
Buna Ziua – Good day (Buna- Hi)
Multumesc – Thank you
Bine – Good
Ce Mai Facei? – How are you?
La revedere – Good bye