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Word Travels - Behind the Scenes in Romania by Robin Esrock
Behind the Scenes in Romania
by Robin Esrock / Published November 11 2008
The Hash House Harriers is one of these mythical things you might hear about, and then you lift up a rock, and suddenly notice they’re everywhere.   After doing this Hash story (and being forever branded the Big Wanker), I noticed HHH meets in Kiev, Vancouver, even Kingston, Jamaica.    How I got my name is due to misfired research.   I had read about Hash titles, like the Grandmaster, the Cash Hash, the Religious Advisor, and one of the names I came across was the Big Wanker.  So when I asked who the Big Wanker was, and was answered with blank stares, I figured it might be a name specific to another club.  Well, it turns out that I was reading something written by a hasher named Big Wanker, and since Hashers can share names, it made sense, after being floured and beered, that I would be christened Big Wanker.     
I would just like to point out that anyone who’s ever met me can confirm I am not big at all.  

Bucharest was steaming with heat, and the city was positively cranking in an economic boom.  The meltdown that would burn the world financial markets was a few months away, and I wonder the impact it has had on the boom in eastern European countries like Romania and Ukraine.     Chances are the people in the small village of Ture will keep on going like they always have.  There’s been controversy over the Borat movie, in which a small Romanian village have filed a lawsuit that they were taken advantage of for the hilarious “Kazakhstan” scenes in the opening of the movie.   It was great to focus on something a lot more positive.   The basis of my resulting article centred quite heavily on Sally Corry, who runs a small Australian-based tour outfit called Carpathian Tours.  Sally is a musician who fell in love with the music and culture of the ethnic Hungarian communities, and it’s her hard work and effort that allows us, and her clients, to get an authentic glimpse into this world.   There’s so much more to Eastern Europe than old churches, squares and cobblestone.  Although our stay was short, our hosts were gracious with their time and hospitality.  

Cluj Napoca had a fantastic vibe to it. I ventured out one night and found myself at a packed student bar, reggae and dub music blasting out, graffiti on the walls, a line up for the pool table.   Everyone was friendly, spoke great English.   Transylvania, as we try show in this episode, is more than just castles and myth.  It never ceases to fascinate me every time I find myself in that gap, the space that separates how things really are, and how the rest of the world thinks it must be.

Trains are a great way to see a country.  Once you’re on board, you get the feeling that there’s not much you can do except sit back and wait for the tracks to lead you to your destination.  By contrast, on our arrival back in Bucharest, we were greeted by some of the most ruthless, unscrupulous taxi drivers I’ve encountered anywhere on my travels.   It took us over an hour to find a couple to transport our gear and us for less than the GDP of Botswana.  They proceeded to charge us the GDP of Botswana anyway.   Years of intense budget travel have made me particular sensitive to being taken advantage of. You can take the boy out of the hostel, but you can’t take the hostel out of the boy.  

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