My Johann Strauss Golden Medal

Sep 18, 13 • BlogNo CommentsRead More »

“You were so authentic” said a pretty young lady at the after-party to the peasant from Romania. 

As I was turning the house upside down desperately looking for my lost passport I’ve found instead a letter from some 3 years ago; and it all came back to me all. So this was an official letter inviting me to the Johann Strauss award ceremony in Vienna to receive an award.

I went to Vienna with my friend Bogdan (the photographer Bogdan Croitoru) believing that whatever this will be, a joke or a formal thing, I might get off easily. On the plane, Bogdan convinced me  that I haven’t won a thing or in the best scenario, I might be one of the nominees. I smiled to myself relaxed, thinking only of my dear Vienna.

Slowly, things were becoming more serious: tickets with Austrian Airlines, a limousine waiting for us at the airport, a wonderful hotel in the heart of the city and then, the big night: a black-tie ceremony, in a hall like you see at the Oscars, where I entered completely unprepared. I was unshaved, in jeans and snickers and in that crowd of fully-dressed people.

I felt like a wild man from Papua New Guinea with a bundle of straw around my belly. When they told me that I had to go on the stage to get my Johann Strauss Golden Medal (won for Vienna for 2 – a story I’ve wrote for National Geographic Traveler) and then to deliver a speech (in front of all those cameras!) the first thing that came to my mind was RAAAN. Just ran away, find a way to escape this embarrassing situation.

But somehow I managed to say some decent things and I didn’t make a fool of myself more than I had to. Even Bogdan who can be sometimes more cynical and mean than Diogenes himself told me that I capture his attention in my few minutes of glory, that I had been a pleasant contrast in that sophisticated but stiff crowd.  I have to admit that I had some luck particularly because I was naive, shy and badly dressed (the tailor makes the man, isn’t that so? ) that I made myself be liked a little bit by the Viennese aristocracy.

“You were so authentic” said a pretty young lady at the after-party to the peasant from Romania.

Here I am now, back home, at my traditional house in Transylvania, chopping wood the whole day long, preparing for the winter that is knocking at the door.

And I can’t help asking myself if I had been in Abu Hasan’s shoes in that wonderful story from “One Thousand and One Nights” when Abu Hasan is intoxicated and kidnapped by the caliph Harun-Al-Rasid only to wake up in the caliph’s bed, with all the servants around him, pleasing every wish and in the next day he is to be banished again in the low life neighbourhood where he came from- his confusion between a dream and a joke is well-known.

Luckily I have this gold medal to remind me that I can spin it like a coin: heads– dream, tails- joke:)