“Romania explained to my friends abroad” is the best work I’ve done so far. It includes the best writings from the last 10 years of my life. It is not an exhaustive, academic paper on Romania; nor is it a travel guide. I’m a simple journalist and this is just my own private Romania – a subjective puzzle of all the things I know from experience to be interesting for foreign tourists.
Mostly because of my job, in these last 10 years I’ve met many foreigners – either when they visited Romania or when I went abroad. At the beginning, the distance between my own prejudices (I’ve been taught in school and in my family that Romania is a beautiful and important country with a venerable history) and the way most westerners sees us (as a corrupt dirty backward country) made me feel uncomfortable.
Then I begun accept the facts, and after some time to relax and try to win them over. As I like telling stories I end up using the stories that seemed to captivate them –Ceausescu, Gypsies, Dracula or Transylvania – as pretexts to present my Romania.
The beginning was harder…
Now I’ve got more friends from the other side of the Earth then from my native land. I’ve learned a lot from them and for them as they bombarded me with questions to which I did not know the answers.
• Are Gypsies dangerous?
Do Romanians consider Ceausescu a good or a bad dictator?
• Where do vampires come from?
• Why did the Saxons leave Transylvania?
• How dangerous is it to ride a bicycle in Bucharest?
• Why do most Romanian surnames end in escu?
• Why do you have so many monks?
• Where can I find Gerovital?
• Any recommendations, must-see places?
• How many Jews still live in Romania?
• What are your most interesting traditions?
• And so on…
I had to research and prepare myself each and every time, for every curiosity they had. After a while, some of these studies became the essays I’ve collected in this book.
I’m big fan of Montaigne’s Essays whose model I’ve tried to emulate. Now, I like to think that the Romanian youth who studies abroad will need this book – to pass on information to friends or colleagues curious to learn more about their country.
And I’m bold enough to think that if you, my dear Reader, will want a bite of Romania and for whatever reason you don’t have the stomach or the time to sample it here – for a month, a year or a lifetime – this is exactly the book you will need!