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America is a lovely country, but familiarity breeds contempt.  For forty-odd years I've cherished the dream of escaping somewhere outside the bubble of American media domination, to a place where people might think something that wasn't fed to them by the corporate press.  And in September, I finally succeeded in casting off into Otherness, on a month-long working holiday to Hungary and Transylvania.  Follow over the Great Orange Curly-Q for pictures!

View of the forest of Poinor, Apuseni, Romania
View over the Springs of Poinor, Apuseni region, Romania
I've always wanted to get out of the country.  I love my mountains and my forest, but  I can live without most of the people, the closed minds, and the automatic assumptions.  I can appreciate a redneck's problems and historical grievances without wanting to adopt her lifestyle, or worse, eat her cooking.  I wanted (and still want) OUT: to return to Europe, my ancestral homeland, raise a garden, and be buried among my ancestors. There's only one small problem . . . it's expensive, and I'm not rich.  I did a good deal of research online and came up with a possible solution . . . Romania.

Romania, so they say, has a lot of lovely countryside that looks like my now-home of western Virginia.  

Book Cover for novel The Wolf And The Forest
It's also dirt cheap compared to most of Europe.  Then again, there are the novels that I've been writing for the last several years.  Not to put in more than a passing plug, but Werewolves And Pistols And Nazis, Oh My, an e-book on Amazon.  Ummm, but not "really" werewolves, because I kept the magic fairly close to what people I know can actually do.  So it's more like what werewolves really are.  Except for the glowing eyes.  But there's a scientific explanation for that in the third book.  Which isn't finished yet.

I originally expected that the story was going to be located somewhere in the old Yugoslavia, but I needed a nice valley ringed by mountains. I found exactly what I needed on the topographical maps.  I mean, look at that.  A perfect, country-sized plateau surrounded by mountains on all sides.  If you want to defend a medievalesque country ruled by werewolves and witches from Nazi tanks, how could you do better?  

topographic satellite photo of the Carpathian basin
It was only AFTER I found the topography that I needed, that I discovered the name.  Transylvania.  At least, that's what Englishmen and Romanians call it.  The Hungarians, who held it for the thousand years preceding 1921, called it Erdely, which means "The Land Beyond the Forest".  I couldn't resist.  The Romanian spelling is Ardely, which became the name of my magical kingdom ruled by not-quite-werewolves.  I kept myself sane doing production data-entry for four years by listening to Bach and writing stories about West Virginia In The Carpathians, while the economy melted down around me.  

And then when they sold the company to an even more disgusting pack of profiteers (and I finished paying the car loan from crashing the last car by driving to work in a snowstorm because corporate profits are ALWAYS more important than worker safety) . . . I quit.  I rented out my house, and moved all my worldly possessions to the cabin in the mountains.

Entrance view of the Shack in the Woods, near Wolf Creek, SW Virginia
I wasn't sure the money would hold out in the current economic climate (it didn't), and I knew I might need to find another job, eke out a few more years until I could tap the IRA (at least, what's left in it after the market crash), and submit to the Machine once again.  But recent events have damned well proven that following The Rules isn't going to get you ahead of the game, and if you've got the chance, it's best to grab while the getting's good.  So I figured that with carbon taxes soon to be added to already steep airfares, and the Euro crisis bringing down the relative value of currency, this was probably the best opportunity I was going to have to get out in this lifetime.

Beside, I owed The Kid for his help in moving.  And for reading the drafts of every chapter as I finished it.

Donal the Mad Scientist and Race Car Driver, harassing Dog
Donal The Mad Scientist And Auto Wizard
And there was no way I was going to do this without him, as I had it on good authority that all Romanian drivers were demons newly released from hell.  Now, demons I can manage.  But demons behind the wheel of two-ton mechanical vehicles is where I draw the line.  That requires an Auto Wizard, which just so happens to be Donal's specialty.  He's also pretty good at putting up with me in close quarters and not being unbearable to be around, which is a definite plus if you're going to be living in each other's pockets for a month.

There was nothing left to do but to go.  On Turkish Air, naturally, because it was both the cheapest and promised the best food.  To Budapest.  Which is in Hungary, not Romania.  But it's closer to Transylvania, and more civilized than Bucharest, which was destroyed by the dictator Ceauşescu in the name of Progress.

Budapest: View across the Danube from Castle Hill
Budapest: View across the Danube from Castle Hill


Originally posted to cynndara on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 09:36 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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