Monday, June 20, 2005


One of the major reasons I haven't posted very much for the past, oh, four weeks is that I was out of the country for a good portion of the time, visiting, among other places, Romania. Mrs. Good Reverend and I took the train into Sighisoara, a small town in Transylvania, before continuing on to Bucharest. Sighisoara was the most refreshing point on our journey--an old countryside village build around a brightly colored, cobblestoned medieval citadel. We enjoyed partaking of local cuisine at cafes and hiking into the surrounding hillside before returning to our centuries-old hostel in the center of the citadel. A block away lay Casa Vlad Dracul, the home of "The Dragon," whose son, Vlad Tepes, came to be known as Dracula. Though he didn't drink blood so much, Little Vlad grew up to be a tyrannical ruler of Transylvania and gain another alias: Vlad the Impaler. They called him that because of his habit of punishing enemies by setting them anus-first on the top of a tall pike. One's bodyweight would pull him down the pike, which would work its way around and through various internal tissues until one died, two days later, from a combination of blood loss, dehydration, exposure, infection, and trauma to vital organs. Oh joyous holiday!
7 Sighisoara - Citadel
In Bucharest, Romania's capital, we saw the government palace of Ceausescu, a dictator who ruled the nation before the people revolted and instituted democracy during the fall of the Iron Curtain. The palace, now home to the parliament but then ironically called "The People's Palace," is the second largest building in the world behind The Pentagon. In the 1980s, Ceausescu demolished hundreds of homes--an entire suburban sprall--to build the palace and the Champs-Elysee-style boulevard B-dul Unirii while spending 40% of his country's GDP on the palace's spectacular marbled, crystaled, carpeted, woodcarved opulence.
8 Bucharest - Palace of Parliament
Now several recent news reports depict Romanians, almost all of whom have last names ending in -u, for some reason, as backwards, superstitious folk applying medieval logic to contemporary circumstances. On June 11 there was the story of the agriculture minister whose in-office accident (parts of the wall and/or ceiling fell on his head) prompted the department staff to call an exorcist:

Father Deheleanu used holy water, a crucifix and said a set of prayers to exorcise the spirits.

Chelmu said: "After a wall fell on top of ministry advisor Teodor Craciun, I decided enough was enough.

"We tried to work out why we were so unlucky, and realised no priest had stepped foot in this ministry for years - and the last government had not had a particularly close relationship with God."

Link (via Fark). Then there was the June 19 Observer story of Petre Toma, whose painful death marked the start of a string of bad luck that convinced his family he was haunting them:

'His own sister complained that her daughter-in-law had fallen ill and that Petre was to blame - she said he had become a strigoi and something must be done,' recalls Marinescu.

What six local men did was enact an ancient Romanian ritual for dealing with a strigoi - a restless spirit that returns to suck the lifeblood from his relatives. Just before midnight, they crept into the cemetery on the edge of the village and gathered around Toma's grave.

Then they dug him up, split his ribcage with a pitchfork, removed his heart, put stakes through the rest of his body and sprinkled it with garlic. Then they burnt the heart, put the embers in water and shared the grim cocktail with the sick woman. More than a year later, the effect of the macabre ritual still reverberates through the village: 'Well, the sick woman got better again, so they must have done something right,' says Anisoara Constantin, on what constitutes the village's main street.

Link (via Sploid). Ghosts or no ghosts, I certainly enjoyed Romania and its citizens, and I don't blame them for their quirky ways. If your country's two most famous leaders were Ceausescu and Vlad the Impaler, you just might believe in monsters too.

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