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All a Commie Flop
Janet Graham
December 16, 1968
Skiing behind the Iron Curtain is an experience, especially if you are not really keen on skiing, are prepared to put up with gypsies and vampires and understand that if you don't fall down you will fall off the mountain
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December 16, 1968

All A Commie Flop

Skiing behind the Iron Curtain is an experience, especially if you are not really keen on skiing, are prepared to put up with gypsies and vampires and understand that if you don't fall down you will fall off the mountain

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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.

"No ski 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 tuica."

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 teakettles.

"Now, time 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."

"Walk!" she exclaimed. "Don't you know the forests are full of wolves?"

"And bears?" added Kurt.

"And vampires?"

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.

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