Sunday Morning Coming Down

A few days ago, something tripped the electricity in my house and reset my radio, erasing all the pre-set stations. I decided to take this as a serendipitous moment and let my radio scan around for a while.

I found a really nifty radio station which I think many of you may like, called Radio Romania Actualitati, which means something like “Current Affairs”.

It has a really nice mix of news, radio plays, music of all kinds (including top 40 pop) and is an awesome way to hear Romanian. If you look on the top right-hand corner of their website, you’ll see “Asculta Live” and plays via your computer.

There’s also a section of Audio News and Video News. If you’re serious about learning Romanian, this is a very important resource. You’ll hear Romanian spoken clearly, correctly and in the prestige dialect.

Of course I’m not getting any profit for linking to these guys or anything like that. Although lots of Romanian media outlets also have news, RRA seems to be less sensational than most, which is a nice change. Most Romanians are disaster porn addicts and like their news bloody, shocking and sensational.

Other than that, I thought I’d mention a little bit what a Sunday is like here, in Romania.

I’m old enough to remember growing up in a part of the United States with blue laws. Essentially there were laws forbidding businesses to be open and it was a law, there was nothing you could do about it. Of course there were a few exemptions, such as restaurants and drug stores (which is why a US drug store is so drastically different than a European chemist/pharmacy).

Most of those laws are gone now except for one glaring exemption: alcohol. For some reason it’s moral to dictate on which days people can buy alcohol as well as forbidding to make it themselves.

In all other respects though, it is gung ho capitalism with all cash registers blazing at full speed.

In Romania there are no “blue laws” as far as I am aware of. Yet all over town stores are either closed the entire day or only open briefly. The streets are quiet and car traffic comes to a lull.

People sit around and gossip with their families, cooking a large meal and enjoying it slowly. Afterwards perhaps they’ll take a walk in the park or stretch out on the couch and watch the “meci” (mehtch a soccer game). For those with an insatiable desire to shop, the hypermarkets are open and doing brisk business.

But otherwise, ah how peaceful. The wind is starting to grow cold here and it’s clear we’re in autumn now. But it still isn’t cold enough to stop loading heavily swathed babies into strollers (prams) and take them for a walk. And the little boys in the bloc are still out there, endlessly kicking a soccer ball around near the parking sheds.

For anyone who recently bought some stylish new clothes and wants to show them off, your destination this evening is the mall. In both Cluj and Timisoara this is the Iulius Mall. In Iasi I don’t know as I haven’t been there in a while.

Although walking through the front door of the mall is actually free, it is akin to a visit to a fairytale castle on top of a mountain. Inside everything is glittery, modern, dazzling and futuristic. Just to walk inside requires a great deal of self-esteem and confidence in one’s high (enough) status, unconsciously effectively excluding the dirty, filthy, raggedy parts of the outside world.

Since you are intermingling with your fellow glitterati, it is absolutely imperative that you look your best. This means if you enter the mall with your favorite worn-out jeans with holes in the knees and your sweat-soaked favorite baseball cap, you are going to be the gypsy, and that’s no good ;)

If you can swing it, the best brands to wear are those found for sale in that mall itself. That’s because nearly everything for sale in the mall is de firma or brand-name and therefore insanely expensive.

Which reminds me of an old joke, which I have modified slightly:

Once upon a time there was a man who was so rich he bought a pair of jeans at the mall

Nonetheless, even if your clothes weren’t bought within the last 30 days at the mall, you are still allowed to enter. It was long considered a myth that a bedraggled, stinking hobo could not only make it through the front door of the mall but actually go to a restaurant and get served food.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you that I am responsible for breaking the “hobo barrier” (Rom: boschetari interzis) policy just a week ago when I went to the Polus Mall directly after returning from Let’s Do It Romania.

The Driver Guy was shocked to see The Woman and I want to get dropped off at Polus Mall (which you might remember from my post Murder Most Fowl hehe) in our bedraggled condition. Plus I know myself I smelled like a big pile of rotting garbage, unsurprisingly enough. Therefore Driver Guy gave us a well-intentioned Scolding of Righteousness about how we should be in our best clothes, not looking like beggars.

I kindly thanked him for his SofR and we went on our merry way because frankly, I am not bound by crippling codes of Romanian cultural limitations on what is and what is not corect so I said fuck it and I walked right in. I was tired and hungry and so we went straight to the Pizza Hat and sat down and had ourselves a feast.

However if dressing in your best sparklies and sipping on a mocha double decaffe latte isn’t your cup of tea, the rest of the city is calm, peaceful and quite serene. If you live near a small church (not one of the monster ones), the Sunday service is soothing, hypnotic and mercifully short with the endless bell ringing.

It’s a good day to stay home, bake some cookies, do your laundry and watch that old movie you’ve seen three or four times. Tie your hair up in a kerchief and you can wear sweat pants and pajama clothes all day. Walk over to the corner store and buy all the beer and liquor you [censored] want to because you’re an adult citizen and therefore at least theoretically responsible for your own alcohol consumption.

Honestly, take a bath. Read a book. Open a nice bottle of wine. Or, if it’s chilly enough, make a Romanian classic, known as vin fiert (veen-fyert).

Literally this means “boiled wine”, which is how most Romanians will translate into English, which always makes me smile because I think it’s cute :) Actually though, in English this would be mulled wine.

Obviously this drink is made with an alcoholic drink (wine), so if you’re reading this in a country where you are not legally deemed responsible enough for yourself to consume alcohol on this day then make this with red grape juice instead. Thank you!

Mulled wine is wine that is heated (and yes, in fact, boiled) and then sweetened and then various spices are added as well. This drink is best served warm, as it is quite a comfort on a cold, chilly day. Sadly however, about half the time you see vin fiert for sale in Romania it has been allowed to cool down to room temperature.

There are two styles to Romanian vin fiert, which for convenience I’ll call “Ardeal Fancy Style” and “Old Skool Moldova Style”, although these of course are not academically conventional names. Both versions involve taking a nice red wine, heating it in a pot or pan until it boils and then adding a sweetener and spices.

Ardeal Fancy Style Old Skool Moldova Style
sweetener sugar honey
spices nutmeg, cinnamon, fruity herbal tea, orange (juice/zest) black pepper

In either case, a hot glass of vin fiert is considered in Romanian folk wisdom to be a good remedy to combat the common cold. I actually know of several Romanian folk remedies involving hot liquids and the use of black pepper, so that especially is considered a good way to combat a cold or other common illness.

Whatever your choices, have a good Sunday!

One thought on “Sunday Morning Coming Down

  1. Next time, try adding small pieces of apple to the mix and eat them after the wine is over. Delicious.

    Also, another cold remedy is tuica fiarta. You first have to inhale the fumes to get rid of a stuffed nose (yes, it stings and your eyes will water but, suck it up!) and then of course enjoy it. Repeat until unable to speak. ^_^


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