Romania revisited

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I wrote one column about my June trip to Romania, but that country is more than a one-column destination. Its charms cover the map: medieval architecture, luscious scenery, colorful traditional costumes -- even remnants of a real and legendary man called Dracula.

One feature may bring an unexpected measure of comfort to the visiting American. Romanian is a Romance language, so those who studied French or Italian may recognize some words.

The region traces its linguistic history to its days as part of the Roman Empire. The later arrival of Slavs and Magyars created a kind of Latin island in the area. I knew the language had a Latin base; still, it was an unanticipated dividend to understand bits of Romanian. Do these look familiar? "Un, doi, trei" for "one, two, three"; "buna seara" for "good evening," and "unde este?" for "where is?"

Many clients will understand some signs, like "liber" and "ocupat" for "vacant" and "occupied," "intrare gratuita" for "admission free" or "piata" for "plaza" or "square."

Moldavia in eastern Romania is renowned for church exteriors covered with paintings illustrating biblical and other stories. We visited five in one day, some of which are in monasteries that are still active.

The fact that artists painted exterior surfaces with countless well-defined figures -- and that so much is clear and the deep blues, greens and reds are so vivid 450 or so years later -- knocks me over. (Why do we have to paint our houses so often?)

It was a source of some amusement that we were in one of the churches when the guardian offered to sell a hand-embroidered, sheepskin-lined vest. Her interests dovetailed with mine, and I bought it. The transaction was in dollars: clean, new $20 bills.

My trip ended in Satu Mare, in the northwest, because Tarom serves it with nonstop New York service.

On my last night, we "attended" from balcony seats a prom in the ballroom below at the refurbished, turn-of-the century Hotel Dacia. Here, we watched teens, girls in platform shoes, dancing to all kinds of music, including rap, and greeting one another with high-fives. They also took to the floor for the waltz and nearly all rose for a hora that circled the room and wound its way across the balcony.

The best of the mind-bending visions was a slim young thing dancing the hora carrying her mobile telephone. I figured proms did not look like this 10 years ago if they happened at all.

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