The next day,
Wednesday, I managed to arrive at the Alpin in time for lunch. There wasn't a
Rumanian to be seen. The bar was full of Germans. The lounge was full of
Germans. The dining room was full of Germans. It puzzled me, until Kurt took me
down to the basement to see the native population laughing and drinking in a
crammed cafeteria. "Rumanians cannot afford to eat in the tourist dining
room with us," he explained. It was much jollier down there, but Kurt led
me firmly upstairs again.
lessons this afternoon," he told me, as we settled into our bowls of
mamaliga. "Instead, ve have a valk through the forest to the skiers'
barbecue. In snow. With Rumanian folklore. And much to drink: hot
I nodded. I had
already been introduced to tuica, a plum spirit that tastes remarkably like
disinfectant. Still, whiskey was a pound a shot, so after lunch I hitched a
ride in the jeep that was carrying food and drink from the Alpin, and by the
time Kurt and his hearty cohorts had hiked to the barbecue I was already well
into my second tuica. Five bonfires were blazing, gypsy musicians were fiddling
and zithering, and we barbecued bacon and onion and quaffed tuica from china
mugs. If you have never stood knee-deep in snow drinking hot disinfectant to
the sound of the gypsy fiddle, I do recommend it. The atmosphere was terrific,
especially after the fourth tuica. They were pouring the stuff from
for folk dancing!" cried Madame Anna. We trooped off to the nearby chalet
for hot white wine and the gypsy musicians struck up again.
"Ve vant some
German music," shouted Kurt. "Can you boys play Trinke, Trinke,
Br�derlein Trinke?" The musicians grimaced but obliged, and we sang and
trank, linking arms, swaying from side to side, standing on chairs, and finally
swinging from the fretwork chandeliers. We were just embarking on Ach, Du
Lieber Augustine when Madame Anna, who clearly felt things were getting out of
hand, announced a Rumanian folk dance, the perinitza. This involved a lot of
hauling partners into a circle, kneeling on table napkins and kissing, and it
proved popular. The few Rumanians present realized that fair play in the
perinitza involves only a chaste peck on each cheek; but Kurt and his chums
cheated joyfully and often.
Snow was falling
heavily outside, and it had grown dark. I was worried about my transport down
the mountain to Sinaia. "If they don't send the jeeps soon," I told
Madame Anna, "I think I'll walk."
she exclaimed. "Don't you know the forests are full of wolves?"
bears?" added Kurt.
The jeeps arrived
and I set off in one which contained a zither, an accordion, some drums, two
violins, five gypsy musicians and me. Halfway down we found the snowplow
stranded across the road, so I resigned myself to an entertaining musical
soir�e in the jeep. The gypsies bade me sing them English songs. By the time
I'd quavered through Little Brown Jug and Rule Britannia, the road was cleared
and we all staggered frozen into the hotel.