Stepping off of the plane in Bucharest one can instantly feel the weight of history here... Dark and dramatic it seems soaked into the forests, the fabric of rich culture, hearty food, robust music, and beautiful people.
The capitol city is an interesting mix of old and new: architecture, traditions... a dynamic hub with a checkered past.
While in the city, I had the interesting opportunity to guest star on Bucharest's most popular variety show, Access Direct. My introduction to Romanian then, was in front of a live audience with an earpiece translating the host's questions into English.
Trial by fire.
The network also had me guest host at mega-club, Le Gaga, for a fashion show by Catalin Botezatu. Catalin Botezatu is a Romanian fashion designer, model, and media personality who was trained under the tutelage of late designer, Gianni Versace...and is reportedly quite the playboy.
I was told that one supermodel in the show was his current girlfriend, but the model in the prized finale spot was his ex, and watching the models tramp down the runway in bits of leather and lace I felt voyeuristic... Lover, ex-lover made into his image in a masturbatory parade of fashion and intrigue. It was one of the most spectacular displays of extravagance and egotism I've ever encountered.
I was enthralled.
Following the show, we traveled to Transylvania to shoot the first fashion spread ever to be captured within the walls of Bran Castle. We made history. Original home to Vlad the Impaler, Bran Castle and its infamous former inhabitant are said to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula.
We shot at midnight in the castle.
It had just finished raining and the moon had etched the wet cobblestones in shades of silver and gray. Earlier that day I'd been greeted by the Mayor of Bran who awarded me with a certificate of appreciation for our efforts in promoting the prestige of the area. We'd toured the grounds, and I'd found the turrets and hillside perch to be more fairytale than fearsome, but at night a different story was being told.
At night everything changes. The unfamiliar corridors coaxed unbidden thoughts of the castle's history, the blood-thirst and savagery… The very real torturing and death that stained the walls and floors now so carefully curtained off, bordered now in red velvet display ropes and Do Not Touch signs. It was cold and damp in the bowels of the castle where we were staged. The dark ate at the perimeter of our light, the inky blackness erasing the signs of modernity, seemingly erasing time, giving the impression that any moment would reveal our host, the introduction to our minds' horror.
Fortunately, we escaped the night unscathed and finished our tour of the countryside. I enjoyed the meat-centric meals of sausages and pickled vegetables, the signature shots of palinka... Palinka is a traditional Eastern European fruit brandy that seemed to be the way of welcoming everywhere we went, and by the end of the trip, I was quite…welcomed indeed. I found Romania charming, and a little frightening, a destination worthy of the Brothers Grimm.