like a mud bath instead?" offered Madame Anna. "You know, we Rumanians
are experts at fighting the aging...."
stormed. "I'm not 40 yet. And I came here to ski!" I made a scene,
shouting, crying, stamping my feet and throwing my passport about. In Rumania
it is often necessary to make a scene. They are Latins, as they never tire of
telling you, and hysterical, arm-waving drama is something they understand and
appreciate. It amuses the hotel staff and provides a welcome diversion for the
other guests, for whom entertainment is sparse.
At the end of my
scene Madame Anna said soothingly, "But of course you shall have some
skiing. You shall go each day up the mountain to the Alpin Hotel for your
lessons. We shall arrange everything. Tomorrow I will send my little boy to
help you hire some skis."
Anna's little boy, Sandu, turned out to be a strikingly handsome Olympic
bobsled driver, I cheered up considerably. Sandu's friend ran the ski-hire shed
in the public park beside the hotel. It's not easy to walk down the solid ice
slope that is the main street of Sinaia; locals do it on skates or skis. By the
time we'd slithered along to the ski-hire hut it was shut.
having a little pause," said Sandu. "Will come again to open,
imediat." (Imediat is a tremendously useful Rumanian word meaning
this-year-next-year-some-time-never; all part of the Latin heritage.)
"You are so
very fortunate!" said Sandu an hour or so later. "Just one pair of skis
left in your size." I soon saw why they'd been rejected by every skier
before me—there was a foot of surface missing from the bottom of one ski.
kaput," I told Sandu.
"But you are
only beginner! You will not want to ski so fast!" said Sandu. "Will
do," I agreed philosophically—since I didn't know the Rumanian for
"Can't you find me a new pair with polyethylfluorothene bottoms?"
next produced for me a pair of beat-up boots with broken laces and a pair of
homemade birch ski poles. In some ways I regretted not having bought what I
needed before leaving home—after all, these days you can even get ski poles
with built-in flasks. On the other hand, Rumanian gear had a certain rustic
charm and gave me the comforting feeling that anytime I failed to show
brilliance on the slopes I could always blame the equipment.