I'm back from my fabulous adventures in Austria, Romania and Canada and I had a fabulous time, as you might imagine. We were in Romania for a wedding of some close personal friends who live here in Seattle; much of the groom's family escaped from Romania during the Communist period and settled in Austria, so we spent some time in Vienna and then headed to Bucharest, and then crossed the Carpathian mountains by bus into Transylvania for the wedding. Some of the highlights included:
* Vienna! An astonishingly beautiful city with classical sculpture and architecture everywhere you look. We were playing "identify that goddess" the whole time we were there. Plus, young men dressed like Mozart will try to sell you concert tickets and have an answer for every objection. "I saw that show last night" is met with "The second time will be better!" (The concert really was delightful.)
* Romania! Where there is a stark contrast between the quaint tiled-roof medieval buildings in beautiful mountain valleys, and the horrid, crumbling, brutal Communist-era concrete slab apartment blocks. Said medieval buildings included Bran Castle, a small but lovely medieval castle bizarrely marketed as "Dracula's Castle" for reasons which were obscure to me. Apparently Vlad the Impaler slept there one night as a child, or some such thing. It was difficult to tell from the materials at the castle what exactly the alleged connection was. But still, nice castle. And we visited the Black Church of Brașov, which was also quite historic.
* The ride from the hotel to the wedding! Let me begin by saying that I have a policy of not wearing socks after April, so I only brought my sandals to Europe. "No one is going to be photographing my feet", I said. So there we were at the hotel, and a horse-drawn carriage shows up to bring the bride and groom to the church. Just as they were about to embark, the happy couple said "Eric and Leah! There is room in the carriage beside the driver! Come with us!" Which was an unexpected treat, being taken by horse-drawn carriage over cobblestone streets up to the 14th century Fortified Church of Sfântu Gheorghe. Quite magical. And of course the wedding photographers were running alongside the carriage snapping pictures as we went. Since we were sitting up with the driver, my feet were at the same level as the bride's head. Thanks to the magic of digital photography, by the time the wedding was over the photographers had already blown up some of the photos from earlier in the day to poster size and printed them onto cardboard at the reception hall. And there it was, a life-size poster of my sandalled feet floating beside the bride's head to greet us. (Attention Romanian photographers: next time, use the "crop" feature before you press Print.)
* The kidnapping! Apparently it is a tradition in Transylvanian weddings for the bride to be mysteriously kidnapped and then ransomed back to the groom. The "ransom" included a long list of things such as "the father of the groom must sing a traditional Hungarian (*) song" and "a friend of the groom's must tell a joke in Hungarian". I volunteered for the latter task; fortunately one of the groom's cousins phonetically taught me a clean joke -- in fact, her nine-year-old daughter's favourite joke -- which I must say is hilarious. It goes:
Miért nincs a póknak telefonja?
Mert bemegy a sarokba és telefonja!
Get it? Eh? és tele-fonja!
HA HA HA HA HA!
The joke literally translates as "Why does the spider not have a telephone? Because he is in the corner, weaving." Which isn't funny in English, but in Hungarian it is a hilarious pun because "telephone" and "to weave together" are homophones. A non-literal translation would be "Why does a spider not have the internet? Because he already has the Web in a corner."
HA HA HA HA HA! It is funny in English too!
Even though my timing was flawless, my pronunciation might have been off because the joke was met with utter silence.
Regardless, the bride was restored only to discover that her shoes had mysteriously gone missing. The little daughters of the kidnappers had gotten into the action! They demanded chocolate and gum as shoe ransom. Fortunately they were appeased and no shoes were harmed.
* The alpine village! The day after the wedding we journeyed to a village in the Transylvanian Alps. Which were extraordinarily scenic, but getting there was quite terrifying, what with the unpaved, washed-out road, the sheer cliff on one side, and the -- I kid you not -- donkey-drawn gypsy caravans coming down the mountain.
All in all it was quite the trip; we had a fabulous time thanks to the generosity and enthusiasm of all of the relatives who provided us food, lodging, travel and entertainment.
Seems like it's been a while since we discussed programming language design on this here blog, so next time we'll get back into it with some musings about type theory.
(*) Transylvania was once a part of Hungary, and a large portion of the population is still ethnically Hungarian even though it is today nowhere near the border with Hungary.