Hello from Zanesti, Romania! (I’ve had limited internet access this past week, so I’m just getting around to blogging now.) Thanks to the Global Fellowship, this is my first opportunity to travel alone, and my first trip to Europe.
Three generations back, my dad’s family came from Romania. A cousin of mine did some research, and says that the name Skurtu (keeping in mind slight spelling changes due to immigration) originated in Sibiu, Romania. So it is I’ve decided to travel to Sibiu to experience the culture and to see if I can find any information about my family history. After a couple months of asking around for names of ancestors, I’ve got only two names in my pocket—I’m aware that my search might not turn up anything, and I’m ok with that.
I was going to fly to Sibiu, but a friend of a friend invited me to travel with her to Zanesti, a village in Northeast Romania, to visit her family. This was incredibly kind of her, as she hadn’t even met me. In fact, we met for the first time in the Rome airport, five minutes before our flight would depart to Bacau.
The plane landed in the evening, and I stepped outside to see an expanse of pasture surrounded by mountains. My baggage didn’t arrive (until almost five days later). I filled out a form, and then had a beer with my friend while we waited for her family to pick us up. The first thing I learned about Romanian culture is that there’s a superstition about placing bags on tables. (At the airport, I set my purse down on the table for a moment, and I haven’t done it since.)
We drove down one road for the better part of an hour, and arrived at my friend’s family’s house. We walked through a lush flower garden and entered the summer kitchen, a small cottage-like building in the back yard. Within ten minutes we were eating: homemade bread, tomatoes, bors (a soup with a slightly sour broth, parsley, carrots, pepper—pronounced “borsh”) with chicken (raised in the yard), vegetable fritters, eggplant spread, sausage, salami, coffee (similar to Turkish), more bread—everything fresh from the garden.
I went to bed with the fullest stomach in recent memory (and in borrowed pajamas), and woke the next morning to the clack-clack clack-clack of horses on the road.