Party Non Stop

It’s been an action-packed few days since we last wrote. I’m sure Ray will have much to add, but he’s asleep now. And the next few days might be action-packed, and away from the Internet, so I’ll try to catch you up.

We drove from Iasi, Romania in a caravan of 10 cars through Moldova to Soroca, on the border with Ukraine. The plan was to check into the hotel, change into nice clothes, and go to the 4:00 wedding ceremony. The hotel turned out to be under major renovation, with no electricity or hot water.

So we decided to wear t-shirts to the ceremony (Ray and I changed anyway in the parking lot). The ceremony was held in a chapel in a 500-year-old fortress on the bank of the river, and involved lots of orthodox chanting, quite nicely harmonized. The bride and groom were King and Queen for several minutes, wearing crowns which were kissed upon putting on or taking off.

Afterwards we went up to the bride’s family’s house, where her grandmother still keeps chickens and rabbits, some of which were dinner. There was a huge spread of platters full of food that could never possibly be eaten by all the people there.

The next morning, we wandered around town before most people got up, and still ran into others of the wedding party on the streets. The groom’s father took us back to the bride’s house for leftovers from the previous night. Soon, everyone was awake, and we went to a restaurant for their breakfast (we just had a little).

In the afternoon, there was the procession through town. A caravan of perhaps 10 cars drove all around, continuously honking. This drew kids for the long tradition of throwing water at cars and expecting money in return. The procession ended at the “candle”, a rather phallic monument on a hill above the south end of town. Soroca has many “gypsy mansions”, houses which were built by gypsies who had come into a bunch of money one way or another, but never finished or occupied. The street full of these elaborately decorated shells was very Ghost Town-like.

The wedding party started at 7 pm, in the upper banquet floor of a restaurant. There were about 200 guests, and a nine-piece band (including violin and pan flute). The band totally rocked. They played for nine hours (yes, until 4 am) until everybody left, without stopping (one or two members would take a break, and the others would continue). The tables contained a huge spread of platters full of food that could never possibly be eaten by all the people seated at them. But that was only the 8 PM food, essentially appetizers. More food arrived around midnight, followed by cake around 2 AM. Dancing went on the whole time. The band didn’t ever repeat anything, and they played hardly anything we recognized. The band singer emceed the wedding, presenting each of the people toasting or being honored. I wish we’d had UN headphones simultaneously translating everything into English. There were a few cute traditions: at one point the bride was kidnapped, and the groom had to negotiate for her return. At another, her veil was replaced with a scarf, symbolizing the lifetime of housework she was about to embark on.

We got a few hours of sleep before returning to the restaurant to eat a huge spread of platters full of leftovers that could never possibly be eaten by all the people there. A few hours later, after stopping to buy some of the most delicious salami in the world for train food, six of the cars returned to Iasi, guided by the track made on our GPS going up (since no one driving had ever been in Moldova, or had a map). There were a few wrong turns, but with the GPS we realized these immediately and corrected them.

These Romanians, and the Moldavians, who were even more intent on preserving the Romanian traditions as a protest against Soviet occupation, sure know how to throw a wedding.