(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program blog; the views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Drinking Palinka with the rock stars

Tonight I had a surreal experience.  The hotel manager where we are staying in  Bucharest invited me to have a glass of palinka before I go to bed.  I've learned, in Romania, you don't turn down Palinka.  It's a strong alcohol, usually homemade, and it is offered as a token of friendship.  To turn it down is rude.

So I go with the hotel manager down to the hotel restaurant to have palinka and talk with the hotel manager about his life story.  We joined three other men at the table having wine or palinka or beer.  Very Romanian men.  Telling stories and jokes about women; teasing one another like old friends.  They talked mostly in Romanian, and occasionally translated for me, especially the jokes. 
Bogdan Bradu, vocalist for Phoenix

After palinka and wine, they tell me that they are musicians.  "Have you heard of Phoenix?" Not really.  "We're the most famous rock group in Romania, we were contemporaries of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles." No, you gotta be kidding!

We told more jokes.  One of the guys told a story on the other about "speaking Russian" or French, or German, or Italian, even though he doesn't know the language.  He just spoke random sounds in the accent of the target language.  Pretty passable characature  of an accent. They had a funny story about impressing some easily impressed girl with their language abilities. 

They passed a traditional Romanian hat around, putting it on one another's head.  Of course, I had to have a round of the funny hat game, too.

And I asked them if they were able to tour during Communism, still thinking they were pulling my leg.    They were banned from the concert halls, but started selling out stadiums, which were controlled by the sports clubs at the time, not the communists.  Then in 1974, they packed themselves into the speakers in a shipment to Germany, and defected from communist Romania and had a successful life in Germany.  Someone pulled out an iPod and played some of their music, "That's one of ours. We're playing an unplugged concert here in Bucharest next weekend with the symphony orchestra and chorale.  It will be quite nice. You ought to come!"
Tourist wearing traditional Romanian hat

You were in Cluj just a few weeks ago.  I saw the posters. "Yeah, that was a sell-out. Are you going to be in Bucharest for the week?  It'll be great." 


Nicu_Covaci FO PHOENIX
A Music Sample

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