Last week we went skiing more or less every day. It was half term for the kids, so each day I drove them up the mountain to our local resort Hargitafürdő / Baile Harghita, and Bogi had an hour long lesson while Paula got pulled around on skis by me, and then went down shallow slopes on her own. Except on Saturday when she went down a much faster slope and I had to grab her and lift her off her feet before she careered into a tree. After that she didn't want to go again.
Anyway, things at Hargita have improved a lot over the last few years. There are far more places to stay, cafes, and there is even a new small ski lift for kids and a tubing place (where people sledge down the hill on an inner tube and then get pulled up by some kind of special lift). The other thing that has changed is the demographics - when I first went up there 5 years ago, one only ever really heard Hungarian spoken, but slowly over the years it's become far more of a Romanian resort, to the point now where you barely hear any Hungarian, and the majority of the cars are from Bacau or Neamt or places. Having said that though, it was pretty quiet last week seeing as it was a school holiday nation-wide, and it's a very good winter for skiing. I guess that's a visible indicator of the crisis.
Saw two new kinds of police up there too, to add to my collection of various different Romanian police forces, of which there appear to be a huge number. This time I encountered Mountain Gendarmes (Jandarmeria montana) (not sure what they do exactly, but since I've never been really sure what the normal lowland gendarmes in Romania do, this is par for the course). There were also a bunch of blokes in a thick brown uniform skiing around, who were part of the Brigada Antiterorista. Which of course raised the question in my mind as to what the hell they were doing there. Were they on a work outing, and if so, did they really need to wear the uniform? Were they there to counter some specific threat that had been made to the small Csipike ski run? (live webcam here) Which as you can see is not exactly the kind of place that you'd think would be high up the Al Qaida hitlist (they were there all week too, before Romania had announced it was going to spend money it doesn't have installing some bizarre American missile defence shield. Not sure why the US can't pay for all of this, but there you go. Perhaps it's part of the oddly lopsided and with no corruption at all no sir Bechtel deal) . Or, were they there to reassure Romanian skiers that they were being protected from some previously unknown violent Hungarian secessionist movement?
(In the course of checking some spellings for this bit, I have discovered that there is a "Special Intervention Brigade" within the Jandarmeria who go by the name "Vlad Ţepeş" (Vlad the Impaler). I swear I'm not making that up. Look.)
This week there will be a big event up there. The world cup in ski orienteering (round 3) is being held here. (You can find it here and here), and this is apparently the biggest winter sport event held in Romania for many decades. Personally I'd never even hear of ski orienteering (though now I have, it does sound like an event that makes perfect sense), and we've had short course speed skating championships and Junior Ice Hockey world championships here since I've lived here, so that does sound quite a claim.
Just to finish off the winter stuff, we had another big snowfall this weekend, but everybody seems to be managing. Unlike in Bucharest where the city is apparently paralysed, schools closed and all sorts. Soft southern jessies.