I just went to visit a very nice little flat off calea Floreasca, orchestrated once again by my solver of all problems and miracle worker, Lucia (how does she do it?!), and have decided to take it for my four final months here in Bucharest. It's in a quiet residential area, a very nice block indeed, surrounded by gardens. It has the sun almost all the day long, it's bright therefore, and there's a balcony for Rosie for when I'm at work for long periods. With a sitting room, kitchen, one bedroom and bathroom, I was expecting to refuse due to the price, but Brigitte (Lucia's friend) is asking the same as I pay for the cave. I regret not having checked it out last summer when Lucia suggested it, but I was sure it was too far from the centre. Not so, however - 20 minutes leisurely walk from BC is perfectly do-able! So...I move on 20th May. I'll be busy getting rid of extra stuff accumulated over the last seven months and trying to solve the internet contract transfer issue, amongst other things. How do people pay bills here? Do I have to queue for hours at the Post Office, or does someone come and bang on the door for payment of gas, electricity and phone? I've no idea...ooh...another adventure, indeed!!!
Returning to the cave, I did feel sad as it's been a cosy, fascinating place to live with its non-stop scandals, soap operas and goings-on. I hope I won't be bored without my str. Telenovelo! But Mr. Viagara has become a bit crazy and having beaten Rosie when I was at work the other day because he opened the gate letting her escape, I realise it's no longer possible to stay. It's better for her that I find something else. I'm dreading telling Mandita...
So, that's my news! Now off to work. Have a good day.
Lots of love, Sarah xox
Happy Orthodox Easter one and all. How spoilt we've been for Easters this year. One after the other, what with the Catholic/Protestant one, then Pessa'h and now Paste. And it's not over yet, LIdia tells me. The Russians still have theirs to come next weekend.
It's been the most glorious Easter weekend in the history of Sarah's Easter Weekends! Adrian was here too and had a lovely time. We left Saturday for Lidia and Marians in Brasov, spent Sunday with Miruna and her family and left to retun to Bucharest this afternoon. As always, I didn't want to leave Lidia, the fresh air and the mountains, but back to the grindstone tomorrow, and a new flat to visit in the morning (maybe I'll leave the cave for my last four months here)...
We arrived at Lidia's around noon after a very easy trip via Azuga and Busteni. There's still plenty of snow for skiing in Sinaia and the mountains look gorgeous. Breath-taking views around each hairpin bend that make you totally forget car sickness! Rosie was so good I almost forgot she was there. She slept and looked out of the window alternately, equally charmed by the beautiful landscape.
Ioana and Ionut, Lidia, Marian, Adrian and I were soon joined by Mara and Dan (Ioana's parents) and Lidia's mum who I haven't seen since New Year. How I adore her. Such a sweet lady. Lunch was a gastronomical affair as always and I wondered how I'd manage anything at dinner. Lidia explained that we wouldn't be eating until midnight, so there was plenty of time for digestion! We sat around talking, exchanging stories, catching up - I hadn't seen Lidia for 5 weeks so we had heaps of news to share, then the rooms to prepare. We were 8 in all, and the house was transformed into the most wonderful hotel! Cosey and homely as ever, it buzzed with preparation and chatter.
In the evening, Ioana, Ionut, Dan and Mara went to church. I didn't, I'm sorry, my Roumanian friends. I just can't stand all that time, and it was pretty chilly. I think that any Orthodox Christian who comes to an Anglican church must think we're a bunch of softies with our comfortable (somewhat) pews, whilst they are able to stand for literally hours, and in some churches even crawl under the altar to receive communion. I'd be afraid of not getting up again once there on all fours! It would hold up the proceedings for hours, imagine!
Once all together again, the Easter meal began with the breaking of eggs. Carmen sent me an sms: 'Nu uita sa ciocnesti ouale!' - don't forget to crack your eggs. The tradition is to take your lovely coloured egg (from a basket in the middle of the table), hold it snugly in the nook between thumb and index finger, and with cries of 'Hristos a inviat!' and 'Adevarat a inviat!' have someone bash it with their egg. There's a competition even for the person who can break the most eggs, a little like our conker fights, though less violent and more elegantly done, as you don't get bits of egg up the walls! The eggs are coloured with food colouring, or rubbed with slanina to get a pink shade. In the countryside, other forms of egg-dying are done using herbs and vegetables. It's really a very charming tradition. So, we ate our eggs and then moved on to the next course - drob (a bit like Scottish haggis but far nicer and lighter - see photo), cold meat, the customary delicious lamb, salad, vegetables, ikre, vinete.... I have to say that any meal at Lidia's deserves to win prizes but this one was exceptionally superb. It kept coming and coming, as did the wine... Marvellous! Poor Adrian however, was out of order. The early start and probably forbidden cheese (he's allergic and tried sheeps cheese thinking it would be okay, but clearly wasn't), he'd come over all weak, felt dreadful and had to go to bed. He slept for hours and woke up yesterday morning feeling tons better. We downstairs, however, finished our Easter cakes and pasca (traditional cheesecake) and got to bed finally around 2h, vowing we never eat again (which didn't last long)!
Yesterday, so Saturday, after a fairly light breakfast by the usual standards (bread, vinete, ikre, jam, vegetables, cheese of all varieties, cold meat...), Radu, Lucia and Miruna came to collect us for our day with them in Bran.
We drove to Radu's mother's house in the mountains near a little village called Predelut (pronounced Predalutz), taking in spectacular views on the way. Oh, what a lovey house. What a beautiful and glorious place...the house was built in the 1920's (I think) and Radu has already started to renovate it. It's his project for the summer, starting with bathroom (none for the moment) and kitchen (insists Lucia) and then going on to redo the outside. It feels, as one steps out off the sheltered porch where one can sit and have breakfast, tea, whatever, that you're in the middle of nowhere. Nothing but you, the trees, the mountains and perfect peace. Imagine waking up every morning with the sun pouring through your bedroom window to find this as you throw back the curtains...it seems barely possible that such utter heavenliness can exist in this world where people do such dreadful things to one another, where people are hungry, starving, afraid, sick, persecuted. Here, you can truely forget about the horrors across our planet caused by mans' inhumanity to man, for you really are in a place where nothing can touch you, nothing disturbs you. It's a kind of purification of the soul on all levels.
We walked a little in the garden at the back of the house, full of fruit trees in blossom, then sat on the porched patio, drank good strong coffee and delected on Lucia's Easter cakes. I wondered how life ever got to be complicated when in fact it could all be so very simple indeed. There we were in a garden of Eden surrounded by indescribable beauty, with dear friends on Easter Day. Things just don't get better than that, do they? It's perfectly understandable why the Roumanan people are so touched and affected by the land, for all begins and ends with foaie verde. If this were mine, I'd fight tooth and nail to keep it and cherish it with every fibre of my being. You only have to read the poetry to feel the love and pride which noone seems to understand - it's just like that. It's inherited. I don't believe there's a single Roumanian living in the city who wouldn't rather be in the middle of a field between land and sky, their own little plot of land to tend...
When the moment came for the next legg of our tour, I felt quite bereft at leaving this heaven on earth. A small, though profound discussion with some nice sheep and lambs on the importance of sheep-dip, and we were back in the car again. But not for long. We were heading for the church of Predelut, the little cemetery to be precise. Lucia, Radu and Miruna, armed with flowers, made for the tombstones of their loved and lost as Adrian and I stood there flabbergasted at the unspoilt perfection once again laid out before us. Never have I been in such an incredibly stunning cemetery and I must say that I've seen some lovely ones, being a fan of such places of rest and history. Again, we were faced with a majestic backdrop of mountains and forests, the gravestones covered most tastefully and terribly touchingly in candles and flowers. I would love this to be my final resting place. Standing there alone not wishing to disturb Miruna and her parents, and not wishing to speak and break the spell, I wondered if this really was what one's first glimpse of heaven was like. Impossible to feel sorrow here, impossible to feel loss. You look out as the mountains embrace you and feel whole and complete. An incredible experience.
We left the little cemetery and drove on to Bran itself, nearby. Here, you can visit the first resting place of Queen Marie of Roumania's heart. Knowing what an idol she is for me, Miruna, Lucia and Radu thought I should see it. I was in awe standing there in front of it - much more awe in one day and I'd explode! The heart was placed in the vault, close to Bran Castle, in 1940. When the Communists came to power, it had to be removed and I guess at some point it ended up in Balcic (now Bulgarian but Roumanian at the time). She is now in the Curtea de Arges, I'm told. But nevertheless, I felt glad to be there. Her soul is never far from Bran. I do so wish the tourists wouldn't see it as the place of Dracula - especially since Vlad Tepes didn't spend more than a solitary night there, if at all! I suppose the upside is that it aids the economy of the country, but such ignorance only serves to make my blood boil...
We did a little tour of the churches in the area, ranging from ancient to quite modern - indeed, a cathedral- like church is in the throes of construction as the others are reportedly not big enough for the hail and hearty congregation of Bran and the stream of tourists that visit daily. I couldn't help thinking, however, that the dosh spent could have been put to far better use - pensions and hospitals for a start. If there's one thing Roumania doesn't need, it's yet another church. The ones that exist already are stunning. Every single one of them, without exception. We made our way back to Brasov via Rasnov, admiring the views yet again (I was clean ut of superlatives by this point).
Our final visit was to Corina, Miruna's aunt and mistress of Becky, Rosie's spaniel friend who taught her to bark back in January. Corina lives literally just off the Piata Sfatului in the very centre of Brasov. She says herself that everything that happens in the town begins in her sitting room (see pic on right - view from her sitting room window - see, I'm not kidding!)! She had prepared a delicious Easter lunch, comprising once again of the traditional eggs, drob (made by Lucia - superb), soup, lamb, crudités, pasca...wonderful, mouth-watering délices! As we ate and talked simultaneously, a folk festival was in full swing outside. Lovely panpipe music drifted through the window, accompanying our meal. Oh, what a fabulous Easter Day.
We arrived home at Lidia's around half past six, missing Rodica and Nick Amza by a hair (such a shame). Both were well, said Lidia. So sorry to have missed them. Dan, Mara, Ionut and Ioana had also been busy - out for a drive to Rasnov. We all slumped in front of the TV, exhausted from our respective trips, and stuffed full of food at our respective tables. Miraculously and most thankfully (!!) noone could eat another thing, and therefore we decided we'd skip dinner. What a relief! I'd no idea how I could have swallowed another morsel! We were all in bed by half past ten and each one of us had a good 8h marathon sleep!
This morning, the breakfast table was ladened, and despite being so stuffed yesterday, we were all quite peckish! A feast fit for a king followed, with the coloured eggs once more and yet more delicacies and gastronomical inspirations from Marian and Lidia. And later, we descended on the Prato Restaurant in str. Michael Weiss. Marian was the architect for the owner's hotel ad subsequently for this restaurant too. I visited it in February when it was little more than a shell (scroll back to February blog) and couldn't believe it was the same place. Very tastefully furnished and decorated in dark wood wih a modern feel, good music (80's - brilliant) and a superb menu. A little too soon after a breakfast, I could only manage a tropical dessert, which comprised of banana, pistachio and strawberry icecream, fresh strawberries and cream - not too big and perfectly negotiable! Adrian had a light salad and Mara ordered a pizza which she shared with a doggy bag for their return trip to Bucharest this afternoon! Very good ambience and a definite must for anyone passing through Brasov and feeling the need for a meal whatever the time of day or night. They even do take away's. Stupidly, I forgot to takeany pix so sorry about that.
We left Lidia's in rather a hurry at 3pm when the news report on Antennae 3 informed that our usual road was closed. It was decided we'd have to go back via Cheia, adding 20km to our trip, but seeing as I adore Cheia, I didn't mind a bit. A sad goodbye with a promise to be back as soon as I possibly could, we packed the car and followed Mara and Dan as far as the exit from Sacele, when we got caught behind a cretin driving a four by four space thingy and lost them. It didn't matter, though. We had plenty of CDs and the view was enough for me. The traffic alternated between fine and down right appalling, and we arrived in Bucharest four and a half hours later, me totally fine, and Adrian rather frayed!
The Easter break is over and I want to do it all over again. I don't want to go back to work tomorrow, leave Rosie locked up for five hours when she's been hurtling through meadows most of the weekend and return to BC...Lucia and George are away and Bucharest feels dreadfully empty without them. Adrian leaves in the morning, but I can't go with him to the airport as I have an appointment to look at a studio on calea Floreasca. Due to hystrionics from Mr. Viagara twice in two weeks concerning Rosie, the time has perhaps come to leave str. Telenovelo and the cave for a new pad for the four months left to me here on sabbatical. We shall see. But if I get fraught this week in any way, I shall mentally transport myself back to Radu's mother's house near Predelut, or Lidia's sitting room and try to remember that everything is relative on the general scheme of things and that, after all, I'm living my dream in the country of my heart during the week following the most important religious festival on the Orthodox calendar. And then I'll thank the powers that be for allowing me to do so.
Paste Fericit, toate lumea! Have a wonderful week!
Love, Sarah xox
TRIBUTE TO MONICA LOVINESCU
Nine O'Clock Newspaper - published in today's issue 4171 page 15.
Friends, relatives and acquaintances, including former President Emil Constantinescu paid tribute to writer Monica Lovinescu Thursday morning at the Lovinescu House on Elisabeta Blvd in Bucharest. The ceremony was held concurrently with the Romanian Church in Paris, where her body lay in state. Monica Lovinescu was a journalist, writer literary critic and a symbol of the freedom of thought and anti-communist fight.
The cremation urns, together with the one containing the ashes of her husband, writer Virgil Ierunca, will be brought to Romania Friday, and taken to the Romanian Athenaeum, where a commemoration ceremony will be held, after which the urns will be deposited at the Lovinescu House. Relatives, friends and acquaintances have written their thoughts about what the writer stood for in a notebook that will also be taken to the Romanian Athenaeum to be filled in by those who attend Friday’s ceremony. Former President Emil Constantinescu was among the first to arrive at the event.
A solemn ceremony will be organised at Otopeni Airport today, at the arrival of the aircraft carrying the urns.
The Lovinescu House is where critic Eugen Lovinescu, Monica Lovinescu’s father, lived since the autumn of 1938 and hosted the first meeting of the Sburatorul literary circle he founded.
On October 27, 1946 the commemorative plate was unveiled, which can be seen today on the outer wall of the house. In January 1950, the apartment on Elisabeta Blvd was seized by the communist state and searched by the Securitate.
In 2000, the apartment was returned to Monica Lovinescu, following intervention from the then-President Emil Constantinescu. Later, the writer decided to donate the flat to the Humanitas Aqua Forte Foundation, for its cultural activity. At present the Lovinescu House hosts literary debates, conferences and roundtables. Just like her husband Virgil Ierunca (died in September 2006) Monica Lovinescu was awarded the post-mortem “Romanian Star” National Order, as a token of appreciation for her work.
Monica Lovinescu died in Paris Sunday night at the age of 85 after a long illness.
by Nine oClock
by Florenta Albu
Swimming in the mud
We swim in past sufferings
Fear barks at us from all sides,
From behind, repeating ad infinitum
Its mindless left-right-left.
Of old, and anew,
Pitiful wretched cowards,
In mud to our ears,
We ask raging questions of ourselves
And forward we march
What lies ahead
What lies behind
How much longer
This march in the mud
This inherited fear barking incessantly
Florenta Albu was born in a small village of the Lower Danube Plain. Issue of the kulak peasant class, she was barred from higher education. She worked as reporter for the Communist press documenting the 'merits' of socialism. She attended the popular university, the only institute of higher education open to kulaks, and graduated in French and Romanian Philology. She wrote many volumes of poetry but was first acknowledged as an accomplished writer late in her career. Ironically, having suffered under Communism, she fell victim to the economic conditions of the 'transition' period. Florenta Albu's poetic legacy is summed up by her friend Oana Orlea in conversation (July 2003): 'Florenta Albu's poetry can be seen as a requiem for a bygone era. Its tragic, meditative lyricism, punctuated with satirical flashes, denounce the rape of the body and of the spirit. There is nothing formal about her poetry, and her poetical language bears witness to a world in disarray.'
Roumanian Culture Mourns Monica Lovinescu
Celebrated Roumanian journalist, broadcaster, literary critic and active anti-communist fighter Monica Lovinescu passed away in Paris at 00h30 Sunday to Monday night at the age of 85. Monica Lovinescu, daughter of Eugen Lovinescu, Roumania's famous critic of literature, was one of the strongest Roumanian voices in exile on Romanian culture. She waged an unequal war against communist oppression both in Roumania and elsewhere.
During the long, harsh communist period, Monica Lovinescu hosted many radio talk shows for Radio Free Europe. From 1951 to 1975, she was Roumanian correspondent for the French Overseas broadcasting corporation in Roumanian on Literature and Music. From 1967 she presented the cycle “Teze si antiteze la Paris” and the “Actualitatea culturala romaneasca”at Radio Free Europe, which had a huge following in Roumania. This attracted the attention of Roumania’s secret service and as a result Lovinescu became the target of Securitate operatives in Paris, was beaten up on her own doorstep and received death threats and hate calls. This left her shaken but more determined than ever to battle on in her crusade with pen and microphone against the megalomanic Ceausescu.
Monica Lovinescu left for France in September 1947 shortly after the communists came to power. She obtained political asylum at the beginning of 1948 and wrote on Romanian culture for numerous media outlets. She translated Romanian works into French under pseudonyms Monique Saint-Come and Claude Pascal, amongst which was Virghil Gheorghiu's famous best-seller, 'The 25th Hour'.
Roumanian culture is in mourning once again.
The Sunday before Orthodox Easter is a celebration of flowers, thus everyone named after a petalled smile celebrates their 'name day'. I was at Flori's to toast her (many times) amongst her friends and students. It was a great evening and I only left because Rosie (who was celebrating her own name day eating my tupperware back at the cave) needed to go out, but was quite willing to sit there all night with Mihai, Christian, Ovidiu 1, Ovidiu 2, Gaby, Miruna....
Love, Sarah xox
I have so much to tell you, but before I go any further, I need to take you on yet another Nicole Tour, from Pta Romana to Pta Victoriei along Bd. Catargiu. It was a beautiful walk sheltered by generous trees and flanked by gorgeous mansions, palaces and villas of a bygone era. Another step back in time, where my imagination ran riot and my throat tightened. Houses left in a hurry, donated to the state, sold off. Most of them are now administrative buildings and embassies, while others are café's and restaurants flanked with publicity and posters. It's so easy, however, to feel and witness how it once was, how grand it must have been. (pic on left, Piata Romana/L.Catargiu)
Let's begin. As you approach Bd. Lascar Catargiu from Piata Romana via the bus terminus at the University of Economy, you fall upon the splendid house of painter Gheorghe Petrascu on the corner of Catargiu and str. Caderea Bastiliei. Though in urgent need of a face lift, it's beauty is there for the oggling, and oggle we did for quite some time, trying to ignore the lovely house next door that has since become part of the Crem-Caffè chain, sporting parasols and tables that spill out onto the pavement. Not so bad, but when you think how this house must have been loved, and now it's just a business. I was tempted to go and sit at one of the tables until I noticed the prices chalked on a blackboard - yow! Daylight robbery. On we walked, fighting the urge for a drink.
Next on Nicole's list was the charming house of the great Roumanian pianist, Dinu Lipatti, on the corner of str. Visarion. It's not my first visit to this house, but each time feels like the first. I could imagine music flooding from the now closed windows, the parties and recitals that must have taken place there. Here's what Wikipedia says about Lipatti as he deserves to be known by you all: " Lipatti was born in Bucharest into a musical family: his father was a violinist, his mother a pianist, and his godfather was the violinist and composer George Enescu. He studied at the Gheorghe Lazăr High School, and finished second at the 1934 Vienna International Piano Competition, which led to Alfred Cortot, who thought Lipatti should have won, resigning from the jury in protest. Lipatti subsequently studied in Paris under Cortot, Nadia Boulanger (with whom he recorded some of Johannes Brahms Waltzes Op. 39), Paul Dukas (composition) and Charles Münch (conducting). Lipatti's career was interrupted by World War II. Although he continued to give concerts throughout Europe, including Nazi-occupied territories, he eventually fled his native Romania in 1943 and settled with his wife in Geneva, Switzerland, where he accepted the position as piano professor at the conservatory. It was at this time that the first signs of his illness emerged. At first, doctors were baffled, but in 1947 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. As a result, his public performances became considerably less frequent after the war.Lipatti gave his final recital, which was recorded, on 16 September 1950 in Besançon. Despite severe illness, he gave unmatched performances of Bach’s B flat major Partita, Mozart’s A minor Sonata, Schubert's G flat major and E flat major Impromptus, and thirteen of Chopin's 14 Waltzes. He excluded No. 2, which he was too exhausted to play; he offered instead Myra Hess’s transcription of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. He died less than 3 months later. Lipatti is buried at the cemetery of Chêne-Bourg next to his wife Madeleine, a noted piano teacher." So, if you didn't know before, you do now!
From this point on the boulevard, I was able to take very illegal photos of nr.15 across the road. A most majestic property designed by the architect Ion Berindey in Louis XV style for Eraclie Arion (well-known politician and general 1897 - a relative of Radu, whose house I admired in str. Biserica Amzei last week?), and the first house of its kind in Bucharest, it's now the Libyan Embassy. Sniff! I sniff because this fact makes the building impossible to visit or photograph (ahum!).
Not far from the Libyan Embassy at nr.29 is another gem. Another general and Prime Minister Constantin Coanda commissioned Gregoire Marc to design the elegant 3 storey house which is today painted white and pale pink. It has very rich architectural detail and a mansarded roof. At some point, says Nicole, it was a museum dedicated to the scientist Henry Coanda (who gave his name to the airport Otopeni) and now is used as the Algerian Embassy. Again all visits and photos are forbidden but the nice guard said that if I happened to be over the other side of the road and decided to photograph the trees he couldn't stop me. How obliging of him!
We continued along the left side of the boulevard heading towards Piata Victoriei. Nr.39 was designed again by Berindey and is now the Iranian Embassy. This guard was much less obliging than his mate, but he said there was a good site on the internet which had photos of the building both outside and in... I've hunted and hunted on the Iranian Embassy of Bucharest site and there isn't a single snap of this wonderful building. It's flanked by trees and impossible to photograph from a distance as you can't see it. Sorry about that.
Nr.40 is a neo-Byzantine style villa designed for Dr. Dobrovici by Duiliu Marcu. Today it's the Grand Duché of Luxembourg. I must say it didn't do much for me. Its lines are hard and lacking in the romanticism of neighbouring houses and usual softness throughout the mansions found in Bucharest.
Next door at nr.42 however, it's another story and I'd dearly like to know who lived there past and present. There was a man in the front garden sweeping up leaves but the cat got my tongue and I became bizarrely bashful - too much so to ask burning questions, and I can't imagine why. He wasn't even remotely good-looking! The house has a yellow glow, the windows smile at you and the cherubs holding up the sills are full of charity and warmth. It's surrounded by trees and flowers that curtain its walls from the pollution and noise of the boulevard. A real diamond in an already impressive crown. We spent quite a while in front of this house. I didn't want to leave it. It's not in a very good state now as you can see from the pix, but it had been so evidently loved and cherished. A real, true home.
Further along at nr.50, a beautiful house, once the Stoenescu House, but unfortunately the Syrian Embassy today so no photographing, loitering or swooning allowed. No internet info either except the address and phone number. If you want to see it, you'll just have to come and look for yourselves, won't you!
Over the road, a very interesting though strange building at nr.21. It was the residence and observatory designed by Berindey for the admiral Urseanu, a passionate astronomer. His wife donated it to the city and today it houses the Astronomic Observatory. Most impressive it is, too, albeit bizarre and in great need of repair in all areas. Lovely sculptures of angels and cherubs hold up windows and ledges and the astronomy tower comes as something as a surprise as you can only see it from one side of the house. The garden was once something to behold, I could well imagine, but today has gone to ruin. Maybe the European Union could help renovate sucha lovely monument and scientific centre.
So many houses in this area were designed by the architect and urbanist Berindey (1871-1928), that I think its time we knew something about him. There's not a whole lot of info on the net in English or French, but I can tell you that he was the architect of the Cantacuzino Palace that is today the Museum of Music and better known as George Enescu's House and also the Palace of Culture in Iasi. His style seemed to be primarily neo-gothic and baroque which can't be argued with when you're in front of his creations. If anyone has anything else they can tell me please do, coz that's all I know.
I was inexplicably drawn along str. Visarion for reasons that still remain unknown to me - just an instinct to explore - and what did I find? Only the Palace of Constantin Bratianu at nr.6. Wow! Rosie and I drank it in and tried to ignore a fat tomcat peeing on one of the porch rooves! Bratianu was leader of the National Liberal Party from 1934. After the authoritarian King Carol's abdication and the National Legionary State (a fascist regime), Bratianu gave his support to Ion Antonescu because Antonescu's close relationship with Nazi Germany had helped Roumania win back land and territories lost to the Soviet Union. He favoured King Mihai's plan to allign Romania with the allies, and in 1944 during the Royal Coup, he was 'minister without portfolio'. As leader of the PNL, he was completely unable to slow down the communists' climb to glory, as he had lost huge popularity due to his Antonescu sympathising. He tried to oppose the communists by protesting to Americn and British diplomats. Here's what the American general of the time, Cortlandt Van Rensselaer Schyler said about him, ""Generally, Mr. Brătianu has disappointed me as a political leader. He is almost 80 and seems to be wasting his energy. Although he is very unhappy about the actual state of things, he has not offered a constructive programme for recovery, aside from a general opposition to what he calls the exorbitant and unjust demands set by Russia". He refused to be part of the communist cabinet formed by Groza on March 6th, 1945. Bratianu, 'at almost 80', poor man, was arrested and imprisoned without trial, dying in 1950, probably in Sighet prison. We lingered and lingered there in front of the once sumptuous palace, knowing that we were looking at the last place of comfort he had known.
Across the road, nr. 8 was for sale. Well...a girl can dream, surely? How wonderful it would be to win the lottery, buy one of these lovely old houses in a quiet and leafy street, renovate it and bring it back to its original beauty...
And that's the end of our second Nicole Tour. Rosie and I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Incidentally, we had our drinks in the end, at the usual Garden Café in Park Icoanei. It was such a beautiful day, 25° with a nice agreeable breeze. A perfect end to a perfect walk. Thank you Nicole for such a superb morning and a break from routine, sighs from the past and a few swoons of awe.
The rest of the week was just as nice. Last Sunday, Rosie and I were at Flori's for hair improvements, tummy filling (a Sibiu party), music and chatter. Her Gaby and Cristy her flatmate joined us for a delicious tea on little tables as we sat cross legged (or lay!) on comfy cushions. Everything came from Sibiu - Zacusca from Minerva (her mum), sausages and salami from Ilie, cheese, eggs... I left with my roots done and swearing not to eat again for at least a week, though of course after two days I was feeling a bit peckish! Rosie was very well behaved (could have been something to do with the Ilie's salami!) and enjoyed having her ears rubbed by everyone.
Placement testing week at BC was something close to manic on occassions and deathly quiet on others, but met some really nice, interesting people who I hope, I'll be teaching this term. We have our programmes now and I have 2C, 4A and 4C plus two off-sites. Phil did a really fabulous job to please everyone following the initial rough copy and I have to say I'm perfectly content with next term's time-table.
I've seen Aura twice this week. Firstly for dinner at her house with Aylin (Aurette) which was really lovely. 'I'm really not good at cooking' she laments, but always manages to come up with a sumptuous spread, beautifully presented, all in such a calm and homely atmosphere in the warmth of her cosy kitchen, so I don't believe a word of it! She really is a hostess with the mostest. Last night we went to a DJParty, I believe for a DJ's first debut. The venue was very nice and soave, Aura and Murat seemed to know everyone as most of those present it seemed were from the Turkish community - very friendly, warm and welcoming. The cocktails were excellent, the food very good. We couldn't say the same about the music, though, which ranged from techno to house, and 'range' is a verb used generously! We shouted at each other to make ourselves heard, laughed a lot because it became really very funny indeed and finally called it a day, taking solace with Jamiroquai in the car. Murat couldn't wait to go. He'd already got the engine going by the time Aura and I immerged, CD player in full swing, and looking relieved! It didn't matter about the music though. It had been so good to be together for the evening.
I'm sure there's more to be said about the week that's almost gone, because I've hardly been home. Apart from the usual walks to the parks, meeting Mandita (photo left - Icoanid: she's now up and about again after the broken ankle saga. Wearing flats now, though. Heels are relegated to the back of the wardrobe until further notice, but still in 'Céline' glasses and looking like a super-model, even for a trot with Pépé in the park) there and the usual dog walkers who are becoming quite a part of my doggy routine, my mind has gone blank (again). When I come up with the rest, I'll let you know! As it is, the weekend isn't finished yet. This evening, dinner at the Lebanese restaurant with my Lucia and George, and tomorrow, lunch (for Pessa'h) with Alex's parents and friends, then Flori's as Orthodox Palm Sunday is a celebration for people who are named after flowers. We're having a Flori Party. So, all the Camelias, Marguerites and Floricas will be dancing 'til dawn! Apparently, we will eat fish - traditional and in keeping with 'post' the pre-Easter fasting tradition.
To all of you in the Jewish community, faith of my heart, Happy Pessa'h! I can't see the first star tonight - too much pollution, but as darkness falls, I'm thinking of you all.
Love, Sarah xox
Today, Rosie and I went for a wonderful walk, a Nicole Tour (the first of many, I have the distinct feeling!), planned by Nicole herself in faraway Connecticut, USA. I received a fabulously detailed e-mail yesterday with an itinerary of must-sees between Piata Victoriei and str. Biserica Amzei - many of the properties I had passed many times but not stopped to look, or take the time to know who had actually lived there, but that's half the fun. Such interesting families resided behind those doors and windows: Stirbey, Cantacuzino, Balaceanu, Filipescu... I will try to relive our lovely walk in writing with the help of Nicole's e-mail, my notes, wikipedia and photos to jog my memory. It was only a two and a half hour trot but felt like a whole day. There was so much to see and absorb. So, put on your walking shoes. Here goes!
We began in str. Orlando, a stone's throw from Piata Victoriei. On the corner of Lascar Catargiu at number 12 was the house of a well-known cardio-vascular surgeon, Ion Juvara (1913-1996). If my research is correct, he was also a professor, head of the University Department of Medicine, and made honorary member of the Roumanian Academy in 1992. Admired all over Europe for his work on pulmonary cysts and pancreatic surgery, he published many books on clinical work and surgical technique. A stunning house of Roumanian style architecture, well kept and certainly lived-in. Just up the road at number 11 was another typical example of the same kind of architecture, though a little less austere perhaps and far more tattered around the edges. There was no clue as to who lived there, no plaque on the gate...but it's indeed a very lovely house.
There is, at number 10 the superb mansion of Emil Lahovary, designed by Grigore Cerchez. I was forbidden to take photos by a very nice guard with an old, fat and grumpy dog, as this beautiful house is, today, the Embassy of Indonesia. No photography of embassies are allowed here in Bucharest although I can't imagine why. Do I look like a terrorist?! However, Nicole sent me this link, so we can at least see a little of it and very marvellous it is too: http://www.thediplomat.ro/residence_0505.htm Thanks Nicole! What can I tell you about Cerchez? Well...he was an engineer, professor and, of course, an architect, born on 5th October, 1950, died in 1927 and was one of the most adept and talented architects of the nation. He founded the Superior School of Architecture here in Bucharest. Further along the road on the same side at number 4 is the Cantacuzino-Balaceanu mansion, where the last descendant of the Balaceanu family still resides, aged 87 (professor and journalist, still teaching at the University, colleague of Flori). Elena of the Cantacuzino family ('an old Greek family from Constantinople, sent by the sultan to lead the occupied provinces of Moldova and Muntenia. One of their ancestors was even a Byzantine emperor' wrote Nicole. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantacuzino_family for more info) married Constantin Balaceanu-Stolnici. Grigore (her 'father') Cantacuzino's will left a lot of property to Elena, although she wasn't officially his daughter. Among the properties left to Elena was Cantacuzino's own house in Bucharest (this very one), designed by Johannes Schultz from Vienna, the architect that also designed Peles Castle itself. The house (in fact only half of it today) is now owned by Elena's grandson, Mr. Constantin Balaceanu-Stolnici.
Tearing ourselves away from this impressive street, we turned right and took the calea Victoriei in the direction of the Piata. Behind a row of apartment buildings at nr. 163 lies a true gem. We fell upon a little palace that had once belonged to Princess Elisabeth (daughter of Ferdinand and Marie). Queen Helen of Greece (for more info, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_of_Greece_and_Denmark )lived here at one time, too, and it was later sold, wrote Nicole, to the Billionaires' Club. Here's what she said, 'After communist takeover it became the Journalists' Club and I remember it fondly for the great jazz concerts (one musician, Johnny Raducanu is still alive). The club had a wonderful restaurant - ambience, service and food so I could prevail myself of the "carnet de ziarist" and invite friends to unforgettable soirees. Today, the place is a restaurant "Marul de Aur". Check it out and let me know. Last time I visited the city I asked myself what happened to the palace/mansion since it had a beautiful garden facing Calea Vict. replaced by those nondescript flats, inhabited by party bosses, to be close to the govt. in Piata Victoriei.' I didn't find any trace of a restaurant although there was a garden with wooden tables and work clearly being done on the grounds. No sign though, either to boast gastronomical delights nor to point out the historical interest of this lovely palace. I hope this is it and I didn't stand there swooning over the wrong property!
Further along the road at nr. 26 is the house once owned by Adina Moruzi of the Stirbey family. Today, I'm sorry to say, it's now the Green Party HQ. Not that I'm anti-Green. I just wish it was being lived in and cherished. Who was Adina Moruzi? Well, all I can tell you is that she was one of the four daughters of Prince Barbu Alexandru Stirbey (1873-1946 see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbu_%C5%9Etirbey), the closest advisor to both King Carol and King Ferdinand. The vineyards of Dragasani have been in the family since the 18th century, and thus not only is the Stirbey family known for its royal connections, but also for its excellent wine. More about Adina, however, I cannot tell you.
On the intersection of Victoriei and str. Sevrastopol is the Filipescu-Cesianu mansion with the largest garden in the area. It's a nice property from the front, but I really can't tell you what it's used for today as, once again, there are no signs or plaques to be seen. I did ask a guard in his little white kiosk who just shrugged and chewed madly on his chewing gum. I'll ask Lucia. She'll know. So who were the Filipescu's and the Cesianu's? Interesting families? I'll tell you. The Filipescu family of Wallachian boyars have amongst their members Mitica (radical revolutionary), Ioan (governor of Wallachia), Nicolae and Grigore (conservative politicians) - pretty impressive if I've got the connections right. Dinner parties must have been fun at their table! And the Cesianu family? Well, Constantin Cesianu was Roumanian Ambassador in Paris in 1936 and Sofia Cesianu was a great friend of Princess Iliana. Tha's all I can tell you for the moment until I've done some research.
Moving on, and really just across the road to the Dissescu Mansion on the corner of calea Victoriei and str. Gral. Manu, designed by our friend, Grigore Cerchez and now houses the Institute of Art History, as Nicole wrote 'in typical Roumanian style according to the specifications of the owner, a lawyer and MP of the early 20th century'. (photo right)
At number 194, is a French neo-classic style mansion which belonged to Cleopatra Trobetzkoi (photo left). Franz Liszt lived and played here in the 1840's and today, it's the National Authority for the Handicapped. It really is a lovely house with a beautiful garden at the back, and an attractive porch.
In awe yet? Well stop gawping and read on...
At nr. 133 we found the Lensh-Vernescu mansion, today the Casino Palace, designed by Ion Mincu. It has, said Nicole, a monumental staircase and painted ceilings (G.D.Mircea) - try to visit inside? Try, I did, but the guard wouldn't allow Rosie in and wouldn't hold on to the lead for 5 minutes either. He caught sight of my camera and said that anyway, even though I was doing a historical tour of the area, I wasn't allowed to take photos inside. 'Why on earth not?' I wanted to know. 'It's in the rules. The Minister of Interior says you can't'. I tried to explain that the Minister of the Interior is a politician, not an interior designer, but he wouldn't have it. I had to be content with photographing the exterior. However, through the front door whch was having its glass replaced, I could peer into the entrance hall - lavish and swish just don't get close. Dark, polished wood and elegant marble from ceiling to floor, chandaliers the size of I don't know what sparkled and glinted, and the staircase...oh, le bonheur! What a marvel! Sweeping, majestic...the kind you'd want to descend in a ballgown with a soldier on your arm, to the sound of an orchestra playing below...
Just over the road on the corner of str. Nicolae Iorga (Rutzi's road!) is the Gradisteanu-Ghica mansion (for more info on the Ghica family, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghica_family ). Here's what Nicole wrote: 'Nationalized in 1948 it was returned to the lawful owners, brothers Constantin and Serban Ghica who restored the building to its former splendor and today houses the "Ion Ghica Foundation". It is a gorgeous, most magnificent property, looking out onto a park, where the statue of Ion Ghica himself (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ion_Ghica ) keeps an eye on the building. Rosie and I stood there for a long while taking in the gargoyles and angels, cherubs and seraphins adorning the windows and balconies. Such and impressive mansion.
Across Bd. Dacia, and a house that I know. The Monteoru-Catargi house. Nicole says, 'Monteoru was a wealthy real estate developer and owner of the Sarata-Monteoru health resort, close to the town of Buzau. Three of the statues in the garden were brought from Greece. The interiors were lavish - monumental staircase, crystal chandeliers, painted ceilings, walls papered with French silk , exquisite furniture imported from Paris..The last owners were Elena and Lascar Catargi and the house was nationalized in 1948, Today, headquarters of The Writers' Union and the union has no money to refurbish it. I visited it (with a little pourboire for the caretaker) and was upset how decrepit it looked. Maybe the descendants of the former owner will succeed in recovering what's rightfully theirs.' Today, it's a restaurant, 'The Blue Cat'. It's one of my mum's favourites, and the Italian cuisine is really excellent. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanian_Writers%27_Union for Roumanian Writers' Union.
Into str. Biserica Amzei and the first stop was the impressive villa of Radu Arion, apparently today the Astoria Casino, though I have to admit that by the dragon outside it looked more like a Chinese Restaurant. A gorgeous building rather kitschly painted in pale pink and white with blue trimmings - a little like a wedding cake.
Further along this lovely street to numbers 5, 6, 7, I give you Nicole once again: 'row of houses that belonged to Ionel Bratianu, the best known politician, prime minister and one of the founders of Roumania. Designed by Petre Antonescu (who also designed the Law School bldg. on Kogalniceanu Blvd. as well as several other office bldgs.) in neo-romanian style it houses today the special collections of the National Library. I hope it can be visited. Look for Bratianu's bust in the garden, located in the back.' Unfortunately I couldn't go 'round the back' as there was a rather large array of pussycats that would have been lunch for Rosie. I'll have to go back another day without her.
Number 12, quite spectacular, I forgot to check out number 16, also on my list: two houses built by the architect Alexandru Savulescu. To go back another time.
And round the corner into Cristian Tell, number 9 (photo left take by Nicole a few years ago). Over to Nicole, historian of the year: This house will totally impress you - and I think it is a little bit out of place. It belonged to a famous courtesan, heart breaker of the several well-heeled men of Bucharest. One of them (possibly King Ferdinand) gave her this house adorned with cherubs (how appropriate!) Her name was Maria Mihaescu (I still have to find a pix of her) nicknamed "Mitza Biciclista" because, in 1898, she was the first woman who dared to ride a bike on Calea Victoriei, impressing everybody with her panache and freedom of expression. She was 1.60m tall, with short blond hair and blue eyes. Later in life she married a general by the name of Dumitrescu. The house was nationalized in 1948 and poor Mitza, an old woman by then, forced to a little room in the attic where her house maid used to live. She lived there in dire poverty, for another 20 years. Some say that she used to send her husband begging so that she could continue to have her hair done at one of the most expensive beauty parlors on Calea Victoriei.' Aura, who grew up here, said today that she remembers Mitza, and as children they would laugh at her - an eccentric old thing with bright red lipstick! See http://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Mih%C4%83escu for more info (in Roumanian).
With the French Embassy on the corner of C. Tell and Biserica Amzei, the final legg of our walk. Number 23 (photo left), the Otetelesanu neo-gothic house, 'with a lovely carved door' that I didn't see though I tried and tried and walked round and round it, ignoring the glares of men delivering parquet. Across the road, a beautiful house, number 24 (photo right), that belonged to Lascar Catargiu (1823-1899, four times prime minister of Roumania, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lasc%C4%83r_Catargiu for more)
I didn't want our walk to end, but I had completed the list, with the exceptions of 120 cal. Victoriei, 9, str. Gral. Manu and the National Library Special Collections plus cats. I'll return as soon as I can - perhaps tomorrow afternoon. It was a waltz with history, a flirt with aristocracy and the Bucuresti de alta data. I will do more research on the families mentioned here and write more as rapidly as possible. Thank you, Nicole, for such inspiration, and the time you must have spent divising such a fascinating and educational tour of this small part of Bucharest.
Now, do you see what I see? Now will you credit this city with some beauty? For it's there! You don't have to look far. Behind the blocks are gems, real gems. Amongst the 'praf' are treasures just waiting for you to stare in wonder. I never stop gawping. Long may it reign!
And to cap an already marvellous day, I went to a conference with Aura, Aylin and their friend Lidia of Jacques Salomé held at the Novotel on calea Victoriei. It was a fascinating lecture, quite heart-rending and difficult emotionally in some places, people cried, some even sobbed, for he spoke of problems and reasons for symptoms of illness and disease deep-rooted even before we're born. The whys and wherefores, possible causes and consequences. Painfully spot-on on many occassions. We cringed more than once. Very thought provoking.
Love Sarah xox
With nothing else to do coz I still feel like varza, (Aura called to see if I wanted to pop round and keep her company in str. Drobeta while she finished packing up her old office, but even that I couldn't manage - pathetic!) I've been on the web all afternoon looking for paintings by my all-time favourite Roumanian painter, Magdalena Radulescu (1902-1983). Sonia had a great collection of her works - how I adored them. We used to stand in front of them for hours, literally falling into them. The ones I've found on the net aren't half as lovely as Sonia's were. I wonder what happened to them? I haven't seen any of the ones she had on the auction sites. Anyway, here are some below for you to see. I know that there are some in the gallery at The House of the People, but as I never have and never will set foot in that monstrousity ever ever it's much of a muchness. There are a couple too at the National Gallery of Roumanian Art, but they are far from her best. Hope you like them and if anyone can find anymore, please don't hesitate to send them on to me so I can add them.
During our time in Sibiu, Flori wrote a horde of Roumanian musicians on Rosie's train ticket so I could go and discover them on Youtubes. As I'm staying home today, it's the perfect opportunity. I wanted to share some real gems with you.
The first Romica Puceanu. Sunday saw National Rrom Day. They trashed the stadium in Sibiu and plenty of other places besides. It's hard to feel good will towards these people, find anything positive to say...but there is Romica Puceanu: http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=VYneyue08so Here she is singing Mai Spritule.
This is Paunita Ionescu, a fabulous jazz singer with a voice somewhere between James Brown and Nina Simone. Do enjoy her! http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=aITbJI7qB-4
http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=tZjVlMvvsO8 Let me introduce you to a crooner, Jean Moscopol singing 'Tot Ce-i Romanesc Nu Piere' - I like the tune! It means, literally, 'Everything that's Roumanian will not perish'. But the piftie and ciorba de burta can perish all it likes.
This is the incomparable Anca Parghel. I'll see her on 19th April with Flori and Aura. http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=CgeOJFXaNgM Here she is singing A Foggy Day. Very Dee Dee Bridgewater but with a style all of her own.
http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=EhQJzZOw4yA&feature=related Here's my very favourite of all, Aura Urziceanu. Isn't she great?
And that's all for now. Going to watch a film.
Love Sarah xox