My favourite tome for finding interesting things about European countries that don't get much press is Michael Palin's New Europe, the companion book to the television series that took us far and wide from mountain tops to river deltas. And it was at the delta of the mighty Danube at the Black Sea end that Palin began his journey around Romania - meeting the fishermen and the wives who stayed behind at the Romanian equivalent of the CWA or Women's Institute. Buxom, blue-eyed, fair haired with sequined caps, and floral scarves is how he describes them and they're Russian, with a penchant for vodka not tea.
If you think of Romanians, there's Ilie Nastase and Nadia Comaneci who shine in the sporting arena, Constantin Brancusi the sculptor, Vlad the Impaler who Count Dracula was based upon, and dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena, who we and the Romanians will never forget. For me, the current Ambassador Mihai Stuparu is a favourite character never to be forgotten.
But the statistic I really like is Romania's 20 gold medals in the Los Angeles Olympics, with a second place for gold overall, attending the games in defiance of the Warsaw Pact boycott.
In Canberra, we celebrate national days with a time-honoured formula of meet and greet, drink and eat, toast and sing, circulate and communicate. It's the scraping away of the layers of polite chat I like to explore, to meet Romanians who now call Australia home. We marvelled that Crisitina Stuparu is still vertical after a whirlwind trip, joined in the farewells for departing favourites from Portugal and Finland and acknowledged that the Stuparus' daughter Ana is engaged to a nice Aussie bloke.
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