Big Mushrooms

September 30th, 2012

Maciej Cegłowski, confused by Romania:

Around ten o'clock, we arrive in Bistrița, the setting of Bram Stoker's Dracula. […] Bistrița is not shy in the pursuit of the vampire tourism dollar. We pass a hotel called the Golden Crown, lifted directly from Stoker's novel, along with several other Dracula landmarks before reaching our hotel.

A very un-vampire-like young man with careful English greets us at the door. We appear to be the only guests in the entire hotel, and briefly I am filled with hope that I'll hear the Tocatta and Fugue blaring in some distant attic as he escorts us up the stairs with a dripping candelabra. Instead, he asks us if we have eaten, and when we say we have not, he rouses the hotel staff to make us supper. […]

After dinner, he takes us up to our room. In the lobby and on the landing we see some some strange cushioned platforms about a meter square, with joystick-like handles at opposite corners; they look like something you might use for physical therapy, or an excessively comfortable torture device. We ask our host about them on our way out of the dining room.

"This week we have been hosting a Skanderbeg tournament," he explains.

Noting our blank faces, he apologizes for his English and tries again.

"Skanderbeg. Do you know it? For the men with big mushrooms?"

I take some time to reflect on this question as we continue up to our room. It gives me comfort to know that, since I could not possibly become more confused than I am now, I can only grow less confused later. I prove this to myself with calculus. Little theorems like this make my stay in Romania easier. […]

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