The Sport Hotel
at Poiana looked luxurious from the brochures, and I set off on Monday morning
full of another burst of joyful anticipation. In Brasov I discovered that you
got up to Poiana by way of a 10-mile drive standing crammed into an open cattle
truck. But the air was crisp, the sun glistened on the tops of the frosted pine
trees, the truck was full of skiers and skis and ski poles, and I was content
at last. I waltzed up to the desk with my reservation in hand. It was just half
past 2. "Imediat," the clerk said ominously.
By 10:30 that
night I still hadn't gotten a room. I had visited a few, though, lugging my
baggage up and down three staircases and searching for the numbers I'd been
sent to. Since the rooms were marked with plastic figures above the doors, many
of which had fallen off with the vigor of Rumanian door-slamming, it wasn't too
In 401 I was
supposed to be joining a German hausfrau holidaying alone. When the shy
chambermaid and I knocked on the door we were met not only by the hausfrau and
her Rumanian lover but also by a party of three Rumanian businessmen, who,
having lavishly tipped someone in authority, were contesting the right of the
illicit pair to the room. I returned for the fourth time to the head
Maybe it was time
to slip him a �5 note, or at least to make a Rumanian scene, which was cheaper.
But just as I was drawing breath, someone tapped on my shoulder. It was a
curvaceous brunette with two-inch eyelashes.
me," she said and, taking my hand, drew me off into the powder room in a
conspiratorial manner. "I hear you have great difficulties," she said.
"Let me introduce me: I am Olga Szymanski from Poland, now living in West
Germany. I am sharing a room with some Rumanian friends. We have a four-bedded
room in the attic. One bed is spare. You would be welcome to join us, if you
wish." It was 11 o'clock by now, and I wished pretty fervently. "Please
do not inform the head porter or any of the staff," Olga went on. "I
believe Rumanians are not supposed to share with Westerners."
And that is how I
came to be sleeping with Olga the Polish actress, with Doina the fashion model
and with Doina's handsome ski-champion brother, Ion.
"And this is
luxury," Ion told me. "You should see the mountain huts, where there
can be 30 of us in a room this size. We sleep like sardines on a great wide
shelf that runs around the walls, with our feet pointing in to the middle. When
one turns over, he gives a shout, and all must turn over together. It is
friendly, jolly fun, no?"
Olga and I had
our meals together and smuggled food up to Doina and Ion, who didn't want to be
seen with me. Our waiter caught us food-smuggling; he didn't tell on us, just
added on to our meal bills as the price of his silence. "This hotel,"
said Olga disgustedly at breakfast, "is unbelievably corrupt. But, on the
other hand, no waiter in this country could possibly live on his pay."
This was gently
undulating country, and the nursery slopes lay smooth, white and inviting just
outside the dining room windows. I couldn't wait to get started. "Where can
I hire ski equipment?" I asked.
13," Olga told me.