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Monday, April 9, 2012

Fritz Visits a Fulbrighter & New Friends from Romania

Fritz, as purchased, November, 2011.

Fritz, Renewed, April 2012
When I acquired Fritz late last fall, I had in mind owning a cousin of Klaus here in Campton.  Fritz was in fact three years older than Klaus, and much farther down the road, 271,000 miles (436.132 Km) versus Klaus' under 150,000 Km (Less than 100,000 miles).  A 1990 BMW 525i, Fritz had been sitting outdoors for two years when I found him at J & M Imports, an auto repair garage in Campton that Shirley and I have been depending upon to care for our many older European cars for some twenty years now.  Mark Shultz, a Plymouth State College business graduate, is the owner of J & M.  He is also a previous owner of Fritz, so when I asked him about the car's history, he had quite a bit of information.  "It needs work," he said, "but nothing too major.  The engine is sound, and it still goes down the road pretty well."  I offered its owner $800.  We settled at $1000.  Since November, I have been having a blast with this car.  He has been a great toy, and I wanted him also for Alexandra M., who would be coming from UBB-Cluj to teach here in the spring term, and did not know how to drive a car with an automatic transmission.

Since A3's arrival (A3 is Alexandra's nickname in the McDougall house), Fritz has mostly been in her sphere, so I have had little chance to use him.  But when A3 went to Florida over spring break, she could only rent a car with an automatic transmission, so I taught her to leave her left foot on the floor by letting her drive my Santa Fe.  Hence, I could swap cars a bit, and this weekend I did so in order to make the 620-mile round trip to NY and Connecticut that I planned for Friday and Saturday.
Fritz, Renewed
You see, this past week and weekend, Shirl was on a road trip to Boston to meet with some Facebook friends and to show them her favorite city.  So, I decided to take the newly painted, newly tanked, newly clutched, and newly re-emblemed Fritz on a shakedown cruise. 

Some months ago, I'd invited 1987-Fulbrighter-in-Romania Dr. David Hadaller (pronounced "Hadler") and his wife Mirela to visit us in New Hampshire.  This weekend, I renewed that invitation, but as they could not come at this time, the Hadallers turned the tables and invited me to visit them in Upstate New York.  It seemed a perfect opportunity to meet them, and to give Fritz a road test.
Mirela Hadaller, their friend Mona Monescu, and David H.
Mirela told me, "My mother is here, so come have a real Romanian dinner!"  "If she makes ciorba de burta, I'll be there!" I replied.  Mirela said, "Sorry," but offered instead ciorba de perisoara. I said, "Sure, that would be great!"

It was great.  Romanian hospitality in New York.  And on the way, I stopped at a convenience store in a nearby town for directions, and met a half-dozen Hasidim.  They gave me perfect directions.  When I told the Hadallers about this, I learned that the local Hasidim were descended from immigrants from Satu Mare, Romania.  In fact, I remembered that some might have come from Sighetu Marmaţiei, as at the museum there in Elie Wiesel's birth home, I had read of a Rabbi there who had escaped the Holocaust with a large group of his flock during World War II, and had ultimately settled in a village along the Hudson River Valley in upstate New York. As it turns out, this was Rebbe Teitelbaum, and in fact he did hail from Satu Mare, the county just west of Maramureş, and not from Sighet, which is in Maramureş.
Fritz, Re-emblemed

Dinner was indeed Romanian, prepared by Mirela and her mother Stella Mustaca, and included salata de vinete, ciorbe de perisoara and de fasole, sarmale, and cosanac for dessert.  Delicious.  Then, David and I proceeded to talk over wine until 2:00 AM.  Our lives have some remarkable connections beyond our both having been Fulbrighters in Romania.  We were both born at Chelsea Naval Hospital, some eleven years apart.  His father and mine were both in the Navy, and his father and my brother both served aboard The U.S.S. BOSTON (CAG 1).  David's dad left that ship about two years before George McDougall went aboard her as a communications officer in 1965.

On Saturday morning, a family friend of the Hadallers, Prof. Dr. Mona Monescu of Columbia University arrived bearing a container of ciorba de burta that she had bought just for me at a Romanian restaurant in New York City.  I felt very special to receive such a gift.  And I assure my Romanian readers, it was the real thing, and absolutely the right breakfast following a night of wine and conversation.  Many thanks, Mona!  I shall not forget you, and you are invited to my home in New Hampshire, where I will cook for you my very best ciorba de mazare, or ciorba de fasole, as you prefer!
Matt, Cela, and Diana
From Highland Mills, I headed down to the Tappan Zee Bridge, and across Westchester County to Connecticut.  My next stop was New Canaan, where I had a lunch date with the authors of The Little Book of Romanian Wisdom, whom you have met previously in this blog.

Matt and Diana introduced me to her cousin Cerasela (Cela) Feraru, who is now living in Connecticut.  We had a fun time, a scrumptious lunch at the New Canaan Diner, and then excellent coffee at Zumbach's Coffee House.  The ceiling at Zumbach's is decorated with college pennants, and Amherst is right next to Smith, as well it should be, and The University of Chicago (The U. of C.) where my parents both graduated is right next to the University of Colorado (C.U.), where my daughter Christal graduated.  Nice.
Following my time in New Caanan, I drove to Westborough, where I spent a fun hour chatting with Barbara Kimball, my 96 year-old mother-in-law.  Barbara is a delightful person, and I am glad that she was there and happy to sit awhile and chat.

While in Westboro, I filled Fritz with 18.45 gallons of Mobil Premium gasoline (benzin).  He had come 489.9 miles on this tank of gas, so had achieved an average of 26.5 MPG (8.9 L/100Km).  I checked the oil, too.  It was as it had been the morning before, just below the full mark. And on the odometer were 272,170 miles (438015 Km).
Fritz's leather interior

Do you see why I love both Romanians and BMWs?

Most drivers' last view of Fritz.


  1. Nice car you have there. I came across your blog after surfing hours on the internet and I am wondering if you know some spots to visit in Romania? Can you give me some tips? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi, Noah!
      I have looked at your site, "the Best of Romania," and compliment you on it. You give much good guidance, though you might amplify your recommendations to include visits to Chelie Bicazului, a spectacular canyon park in the Eastern Carpathians, (near Piatra Neamt) and to include the Chelie Turzii near Turda (south of Cluj), and a fantastic Hungarian restaurant and inn in a village near that gorge named Conacul Secuiesc in the village of Coltesti.


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