Adriana Zoder: Romanian visitors find lots to see and do in the county

Jul. 07, 2013 @ 09:46 PM

“Summertime and the living is easy...” wrote George and Ira Gershwin in 1935, and over 33,000 artists have sung it since.

The lyrics, arguably the best in musical theater, were penned by Edwin DuBose Heyward and his wife, Dorothy. To me, “Summertime” is the quintessential American song and the ultimate soundtrack of southern summers.

Since my sister, her husband and their 14-year-old son are visiting with us from Romania for the summer, doing American things versus Romanian things provides a neat contrast and makes for great observations of cultural differences.

So what are some things we do with our guests as we spend the summer together in Gatlinburg? We do the usual things families do at reunions: cook and do dishes, watch the cousins play together, go to the pool, and simply relax. We talk a great deal, covering events we had to witness from our separate continents.

Skype serves a purpose, but nothing beats being in the same room in person. Trying different restaurants now and then provides a diverse culinary experience for their taste buds.

Then, we take them to our regularly scheduled appointments and incorporate other activities. After a trip to our pediatric dentist in Knoxville for my children's regular checkup, we went to West Town Mall and Earth Fare, for instance.

The Summer Reading Program at Anna Porter Public Library in Gatlinburg is especially interesting to my sister. She has written and published several children's books and works as a Christian radio producer.

Her blog is in the Top 150 Romanian blogs. As one might imagine, my sister is very keen on books and libraries. It runs in the family. When we were small, we used to walk to the library together, carrying our teddybears.

As many cultural events as they have in Romania, nobody has figured out – just as yet – that summer is a great time to invite children back to the library to keep their reading skills going. So my sister is taking notes.

She knows people in leadership at the largest children's library in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, where she gets invited to read to the kids. She plans to take these ideas to them and see what sticks.

The American Eagle Foundation program, for instance, really forced her to think outside the box. Birds at the library? I can't wait to see how her mind will be stretched when we attend the program on rocks, minerals, and caves. The theme of this summer's reading program is “Dig into Reading,” so anything to do with dirt and digging seems appropriate.

On slow days, we watch wild life just outside our windows. A bear visited our backyard the other day. A raccoon, the other evening.

Our guests love animals and, as city dwellers, they only get to see them in a zoo or in books and documentaries. Upon seeing this raccoon scuttling across our front yard, my sister commented, “It looked just like in the books ... and it moved just like in the documentaries I have seen.”

Of course, we do the tourist thing. We will visit Ripley's Aquarium, Dollywood and the Knoxville Zoo. We will probably go to the Biltmore. We will definitely play some mini-golf.

Sevier County bubbles over with things to do so their stay should be memorable.

— Adriana Zoder, who was born in Romania, is an American citizen living with her husband and two children in Gatlinburg.Email to aezoder@gmail.com.