I’m pretty glad to have moved from Russia to Romania. Russians are actually taught not to smile in public and to strangers as it’s seen as insincere. So perverse and made me feel self conscious every time I did in fact smile. And the other thing – they are so absorbed into their own language. I’m not sure if it’s the huge population or huge landmass or a sense of “we’re the best in the world”, but there’s so very little written in English (or even our alphabet) and whilst waiters speak English, it’s often the uncomfortable halting type. Our final night we wet seeking vodka (and found a lovely restaurant on the first floor which was clearly a bit fancier than we were dressed but also empty!) at this place, there was lots of Russian just spoken at us with the hope we’d understand! She had some English, but it wasn’t anywhere near “comfortable speaking”. Actually we went to a Turkish restaurant and relished an English speaking waiter – he’d worked on cruise ships.
As I mentioned in my annual goals post and my bucket list – I want to visit much of Eastern Europe – Russia, Romania and Bosnia.
Russia is one of the BIG national powers. I loved Paullina Simon’s books, particularly the Bronze Horseman, and I am in awe of the majestic religious buildings, particularly in a communist country, which in other nations has totally destroyed religious buildings. I used to think the ‘cold war’ was over – having just watch The Bridge of Spies, but then I applied for my visa and I’m not so sure. It was incredibly thorough!
(this routine was in the film, and I can guarantee they match! Though the film’s music was even more emotive)
Romania is definitely off the ‘usual’ tourist path. Since 2006’s trip was cancelled whilst I live in France, it’s been on my ‘one day’ list. The first reason for Romania is my fanatical interest in Nadia Comenici – when mum had to go into school on school holidays, she used to put this on to keep us kids quiet. I am not one for learning to rote a movie’s script – but this film (Nadia) I can! The film is SO old I have a copy on VHS! It doesn’t exist in DVD or anything new fangled like that. The second reason is that I made a very close friend in first year university who was Romanian, so I’m curious to see his home town. In 2006, I booked flights to Romania, however it wasn’t part of the EU and required evidence of USD100 per day! As a young student, I didn’t have that sort of cash sitting idly (I was working as an au pair)! It was just too hard to get a visa, so at no cost Air France let me change my fare and I went to Rome, which was memorable and delightfully crisp. To ensure I wasn’t just a dreamer, I’ve read two books set in Romania recently – one at a beachside town where they defect to Turkey. Another was an American based in Romania with a few other shady characters, trying to survive in the communist state that was slowly dis-assembly all relics of the past.
Bosnia is probably best described as ‘trauma tourism’ or similar. The same things that draw me to Holocaust memoirs and visiting Jewish museums interests me in the war. And… I have an ex boyfriend who is Bosnian. He shared so little of his culture, but I was always incredibly curious about him and his childhood, having migrated at the age of 12. Again, I’ve tried to read to ensure I have a better idea of what I’m visiting, and I’m incredibly curious to see this junction of ‘East meets West’ particularly as we’ll now also visit Turkey, which has similar parallels.
So, to date, I’ve booked the long haul flights, in addition to accommodation in two cities of Russia, a flight to Romania, and accommodation in both Bucharest and Sarajevo. It’s a solid start and I just need to keep chipping away at booking for air travel and hotels. Thankfully my younger brother is a champ, and happy to go along for the ride. I bet he ends up knowing all sorts of quirky historic facts, cause he’s that type 😉