We’re in the middle of nowhere. Or, more specifically, in Maramureș — Romania’s impossibly remote northwest corner, where horse carts outnumber cars and Ukraine sits just across the river. We’ve come all this way to film a TV show, but it’s been pouring rain for two days straight. So, even though we fly home to Seattle in 24 hours, we’re just killing time. First we shot everything we could indoors. Then we shot everything we could under umbrellas, tiptoeing through six inches of mud and goat dung. And now we’re “scrubbing the script” while we pray for sun.
In a simple hotel room, Rick Steves sprawls on the bed, propped up against the headboard, laptop on his belly. Simon, Karel, and I sit in a semicircle around the bed, squirming in our wooden chairs, as Rick rolls words around in his mouth. Were the Hungarians “rulers” or “overlords” of Transylvania? Was Vlad Țepeș a prince or a duke? And, to describe Nicolae Ceaușescu, what’s another word for “megalomaniac”? We’ve used that one twice already…
The clacking of the keys ceases for a moment. And suddenly, in the silence, the same awareness dawns on all four of us at once: No more raindrops. We look to the window, where a sunbeam tries to punch through a layer of clouds as dense and as dark as a Maramureș peasant’s felt vest. Buoyed by adrenaline (and an immovable deadline), we scramble to load up our gear and chase down some sunshine. We’ve got a TV show to finish.
I’ve been a fan of Rick’s TV shows since I was a teenager. But this summer, I got to tag along with Rick and his film crew through Europe. Rick Steves’ Europe Season 9 is premiering on public television stations across the USA as we speak. And for this season, I helped Rick with scouting, writing, and field-producing two episodes: Bulgaria and Romania. Now I’m kicking off a series of “behind the scenes” blog posts. If you’re a fan of the show, hop in my rucksack and come along to see how it’s made.
By the way, that rain did eventually clear, allowing us to spend a very busy afternoon scrambling around Maramureș to get glorious footage of Europe’s “Amish Country” in all its splendor. The final shot we filmed was one of the first you’ll see in the show: A new generation of hardworking farmers as they lovingly shape a stout haystack, as their ancestors have since biblical times. Capturing precious, ephemeral moments like this — and sharing them with our TV audience — make the grind of TV production extremely rewarding.
This is the first part of my “Behind the Scenes” blog series about Rick Steves’ Europe Season 9 — now airing nationwide (check your local listings). You can also watch the Bulgaria and Romania episodes for free. And in case you’re in a gift-giving mode, the brand-new, 10-episode Season 9 DVD is currently on sale in our Travel Store.