Okay, all my dearly beloved Roumanian friends...do you really feel cousins to the Italians? Really? Honestly? Yes? Well then, have a look at the following and tell me if there's a connection. This is very funny!
Love Sarah xox
There's a new statue by Florin Codre at Piata Revolutiei...King Carol I has returned, on horseback, in front of the Royal Palace. The original statue by the Croatian Ivan Mestrovic of the afore-mentioned monarch was destroyed in 1948 by the communists. In 2005, the Minister of Culture decided to recreate the destroyed statue from a model that was kept by Meštrović's family. In 2007, the Bucharest Town Hall assigned the project to the sculptor Florin Codre (quote Wikipedia) who designed an original statue of King Carol I inspired by Meštrović's model. Perhaps it will replace the Toothpick and the Potato (Memorial of Rebirth, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_of_Rebirth sent by Nicole, my historical researcher!), that noone seems to understand (hence the nickname as that's what it looks like - see photo above). But it's caused a few issues.. apparently his legs are too short and he doesn't resemble the defunct Rex at all. I went to check it out. Call me blind and ignorant, but I think King Carol looks most regal, and I certainly didn't think he had the legs of Lester Piggott! Whether he looks like he should or not, I really can't tell as the face is too far up to make a ligitimate comparison (will get some binoculars and then let you know!).
Apart from the Toothpick and the Potato, there's also a statue of my dear Iuliu Maniu, though it's hard to recognise him. It's described as the 'Broken Man' and for this reason, I have warmed to it very much, knowing the story of Maniu. If the Toothpick and the Potato goes, will Maniu http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iuliu_Maniu go too? I do hope not. This monument of a broken man but an unbreakable spirit is fundamental 'lest thou never forget'. I just found a great blog written by a guy called Douglas called 'Half Way Down the Danube'. Here's what he says on the subject of the 'Broken Man'. I couldn't have put it any better myself. He took the words right out of my mouth. 'It's a bronze, larger than life size. Maniu is sitting in a chair, with a tree behind him. But the tree is leafless and rather abstract; it's like an ugly, spiky bronze candelabrum, giving no shade or shelter. Meanwhile Maniu himself has these big... cracks running all through his body. Like he's disintegrating, or someone is trying to chop him apart. And he's subtly disproportioned; his clothes are hanging on him, and his limbs are too thin, almost emaciated. All in all, it's a nasty looking thing. Most people recoil a little. So did I, when I first saw it. But: look again, and remember Maniu's story. Great liberal democrat, last honest man, spent his final years in a bleak Communist prison, froze to death and was thrown into an unmarked mass grave. The face of the statue is sad but calm; there's no hope in those eyes, but he's not broken either. The hands on the chair are turned upward, palms open. The body language is helplessness but not despair; he's accepting his fate, but will never admit it is right or fair.
If you know the story... the cracks in his body make it look like he's been, well, frozen and then thawed out. Well: there's Romanian democracy for you. Frozen for years under Communism, now thawed out, maybe not beautiful but present and accounted for. It's very appropriate that he sits in front of the Senate.
It's still an ugly statue. But the more you look at it, the more you realize how good it is. It's very rare in this part of the world to see the painful past acknowledged in this way. I think it's one of the best and bravest pieces of public statuary I've ever seen, and maybe the best in Eastern Europe. If you're ever in central Bucharest, make a point of stopping by'. Bravo, Douglas. Thank you for putting it exactly as it is.
Nicole has sent me a link to the Roumanian newspaper Cotidianul on the subject of the statue. It's in Roumanian, so sorry to all of you in UK and France. I'm hunting for an English or French version. http://www.cotidianul.ro/carol_i_vine_sa_mute_eapa_lui_ghildus-44530.html
Love, Sarah xox
HERE is a great interview (despite ropey translation into English) between poet Ana Blandiana and Naomi Frandzen of Georgetown University, Washington DC. Ana Blandiana describes so many things that we lucky ones from 'the West' can't even gleen to imagine of life under Ceausescu's megalomanic and brutal rule, particularly during the 80's. You can also listen to it (in Romanian) HERE.
... Leaves, words, tears
Tinned Food, Cats
Trams from time to time, queues for flour
Weevils, empty bottles, speeches
Elongated images on the television
Colorado beetles, petrol
Pennants, the European Cup
Trucks with gas cylinders, familiar portraits
Newspapers, loaves of bread
Blended oil, carnations
Receptions at the airport
Bucharest salami, diet yoghurt
Gypsy women with Kents, Crevedia Eggs
The Saturday serial, coffee substitutes
The struggle of nations for peace, choirs
Production by the hectare
Gerovital, the Victoriei Avenue Mob
The Hymn of Romania, Adidas shoes
Bulgarian stewed fruit, jokes, sea fish
A few comments on the 'list':
'Totul' = 'Everything', a word used constantly by Ceausescu in his speeches, stressing that everything has been done by the party, that the people owe him everything.
There was no shortage of words, leaves or tears
The shelves of the supermarkets were bare, all that was left were tins of food
Cats - there was a rumour that an alley cat attacked and injured Ceausescu's beloved dogs when he went to survey the potential site for his Centru Civic - he ordered it to be caught and destroyed but it was impossible; "only a cat may look at a king" Instead he destroyed the Brancovanesc Hospital...
Trams ... only from time to time and then they were always full!
Queues for flour ... and for everything else: bread, oil. meat, petrol, eggs, sugar ... etc
Weevils - in the flour, the pasta, etc
Empty bottles - stock-piled for deposits, to bottle your own fruit etc, or when going out for oil etc
Speeches: no shortage of hot air from the conducator, he was known for his endless, monotonous speeches
Elongated images - TV reception was very poor and the pictures distorted
Colorado beetles: the scourge of potato crops, but there was nothing with which to combat them
Petrol: produced from Romanian oil-fields but mainly for export; strictly rationed and very expensive for the home market
Pennants: hanging everywhere for local footballl clubs, gymnastic teams, and of course waved for the Conducator
European Cup: the nation was obsessed with football - sport was not political
Gas cylinders: refers to the trucks loaded with cylinders of butane gas for domestic cooking use since mains gas was not readily available, even in Bucharest; these were also in short supply so excited crowds awaited the arrival of the truck
Familiar portraits: everywhere you looked there were portraits of Ceausescu - Big Brother was watching!
Export-reject apples: despite having been the bread basket of Eastern Europe, all food of decent quality was exported for hard currency
Newspapers: the skimpy party daily - 'Scinteia' had few uses other than as toilet or wrapping paper
Bread: rationed, a delivery would always create a queue
Blended oil: a euphemism for adulterated cooking oil; and that wasn't all - even flour was reputedly bulked up with sawdust
Carnations: no shortage
Receptions at the Airport: Ceausescu liked to make a fuss of guests with an entourage from the airport through streets lined with cheering people and flag-waving schoolchildren
Cico: a sweet beverage of indescribable flavour, a poor substitute for Coca-Cola!
Bucharest Salami: a very pale, disgusting substance made to a recipe given the seal of approval of the Conducator; said to contain the offal, fat and bonemeal of various animals. The high quality Sibiu salami was strictly for export only.
Diet Yoghurt: healthy food was completely unobtainable
Gypsy women with Kents: Kent cigarettes were the second currency in Romania in the 1980s, especially on the Black Market; the gypsies were thought to be behind the smuggling rackets. Kents were an incredible status symbol and even empty packets would often decorate the sideboard!
Crevedia eggs: considered the best and always likely to attract the longest queues
Rumours: in a world of dis-information and brain-washing rumours were rife
Saturday serial: the most populat TV programme - often important serials such as Dallas or Kojak; not to be missed when the remainder of the very limited programme was dedicated to Ceausescu speeches and patriotic folk music.
Coffee substitute: blends of chicory or acorns; real coffee was rare outside restaurants for western visitors or hard currency shops; a couple of bags of coffee beans were equivalent to a months salary on the Black Market
Peace: Ceausescu's constant call for peace and nuclear disarmament were used to woo the West: in particlular the US who granted Romania 'Most favoured Nation' status for its apparent anti-soviet stance
Choirs: also folk ensembles, the other main interest on the limited TV programme
Production figures: everywhere you went there were tables and graphs of grossly exaggerated production figures
Gerovital: the famous anti-ageing treatment, exported for hard-currency
The Victoriei Avenue Mob: Ceausescu's elite Securitate entrusted with guarding the route along the Calea Victoriei to the Central Committee Buildings; assumed to have been hand-picked orphans who were totally loyal - these were responsible for the continued resistance following the 1989 Revolution
Hymn of Romania: a much-publicised music festival to praise the leader and provide a focus for patriotic nationalism!
Adidas: those who ate meat at the time will know this was the slang word for two pigs' feet joined together
Bulgarian Stewed Fruit: something else that appeared in all the shops during 1984, having been dumped on the market
Jokes: despite the hardships the Romanian were (and still are) very humourous; jokes about the system were commonplace
Sea Fish: usually sardines from China or Vietnam, promoted as nutritious but usually delivered as a semi frozen, semi rotten grey mess to town food stores
Commentary: Why Does Monica Lovinescu Matter?
Radio Free Europe
By Vladimir Tismaneanu
Monica Lovinescu (GNU)
(Monica Lovinescu, a Paris-based literary critic and journalist who encouraged intellectual resistance to Romania's communist regime from the microphone of Radio Free Europe from 1964-92, passed away on April 21 at the age of 85.
The daughter of influential interwar academic Eugen Lovinescu, and a mother who was to die in a communist prison, Monica Lovinescu enjoyed tremendous prestige and influence in her native Romania. She was considered a chief ideologue in arguing that communist crimes were equal to those of the Nazis, and her work angered dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to the point that he ordered the beating in 1977 that left her in a coma. She recovered to return to her seat behind the microphone, where she observed the downfall of Ceausescu's regime in 1989.)
Monica Lovinescu matters because she was one of the most important voices of the Eastern and Central European antitotalitarian thought. Her passing away is a major loss for all the friends of an open society. My personal indebtedness to her -- like that of many Romanian intellectuals -- is immense. As a member of the Presidential Commission for the Analysis of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania (which I chaired), Lovinescu participated, even during the most painful moments of physical suffering, in the condemnation of communist totalitarianism. Her solidarity was unswerving, both morally and intellectually.
Lovinescu's crucial impact on Romania's culture is inextricably linked to her major role as a cultural commentator for Radio Free Europe (RFE). There is no exaggeration in saying that no other RFE broadcast was more execrated, abhorred, and feared by Ceausescu and the communist nomenklatura than those undertaken by Lovinescu and her husband, Virgil Ierunca.
For decades, Lovinescu fought against terrorist collectivisms, the regimentation of the mind, and moral capitulation. Her patriotism was enlightened and generous. Thanks to her, Romanian intellectuals were able to internalize the great messages from the writings of Camus, Arendt, Kolakowski, Orwell, Solzhenitsyn, Koestler, Cioran, Milosz, Revel, Aron, and the list is fatally too short. A spirit totally dedicated to modernity, open to the crucial polemics of the 20th century, Lovinescu wrote poignant essays on the what American critic Lionel Trilling called "the bloody crossroads, where literature and politics meet."
For years, her outspoken positions in defense of dissident writers and moral resistance to totalitarianism provoked the ire of the party hacks and their Securitate associates. Starting in 1967 and continuing today, publications associated with the most vicious, ultranationalist, and anti-Semitic circles among Romania's Stalinists have targeted Monica Lovinescu. On several occasions, in the 1970s-80s, attempts were made on her life.
For Ceausescu and his sycophants (many of whom are still thriving in the Social Democratic and Romania Mare parties), Lovinescu symbolizes all they love to hate: pluralism, tolerance, hostility to xenophobia, compassion for victims of both totalitarianisms (fascist and communist), and a commitment to what we can call an "ethics of forgetlessness." On the other hand, democratic intellectuals (Gabriel Liiceanu, Andrei Plesu, N. Manolescu, H.R. Patapievici, Andrei Cornea, Dorin Tudoran, Cristian Teodorescu, Sorin Alexandrescu, Mircea Mihaies, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, to name just a few) learned from her that "memory is indispensable to freedom."
Lovinescu matters because she knew how to maintain the unity between ethics and aesthetics. In 1963, she wrote: "We live in an age in which impostures abound. They should not conceal however the other voices -- those of the victims." Her RFE broadcasts were precisely an antidote to the official mendacity, a voice of truth speaking for those condemned to silence.
Especially during the watershed year 1968, Lovinescu paid close attention to the ideological crisis of world communism and the importance of disenchantment among ex-Marxist intellectuals. At a historical juncture when Ceausescu masqueraded as a de-Stalinizer, Lovinescu exposed the tyrant's imposture and appealed to Romanian writers to emulate the ethical audacity of Czech and Slovak intellectuals such as Ludvik Vaculik, Vaclav Havel, Ivan Svitak, Ladislav Mnacko, Eduard Goldstuecker, Antonin Liehm, Pavel Kohout, and Ivan Klima. Thanks to Radio Free Europe and to Monica Lovinescu, Romanians had direct access to the iconoclastic pages of "Literarny listy."
At a time when many thought disparagingly about anything smacking of neo-Marxism, Lovinescu and her husband Ierunca highlighted the significance of revisionism for the destruction of communist pseudo-legitimacy. She wrote extensively about the importance of apostasy, which she described as the "voie royale" toward the awakening from what Immanuel Kant coined "the dogmatic sleep." Furthermore, while emphasizing the need for Romanian culture to avoid autarky, she proposed remarkable guidelines that decisively influenced the intellectual cannon in the country.
Lovinescu's writings have come out after 1990 from the prestigious publishing house Humanitas. A few weeks before her passing away, I reread her essays from 1968. They strike me as extraordinarily timely, insightful, and prescient. She understood before many others that communism was irretrievably sick, and she insisted on the role of intellectuals in the insurrectionary saga of Eastern Europe's opposition to Sovietism.
After 1990, Lovinescu and Ierunca saw many of their predictions (including the dire ones) come true. The legacies of national-Stalinism continue to haunt Romania's fragile pluralism. The lackeys of the ancien regime made it politically and financially. Dissidents were exhausted, marginalized, slandered.
Things changed, however, after 1996 and especially after 2004. The initiation by Traian Basescu of the Presidential Commission unleashed a national conversation along the lines of historical truth and moral justice. Immediately after President Basescu's condemnation of the communist regime as illegitimate and criminal, on December 18, 2006, I called from Bucharest and told Monica Lovinescu what happened. I mentioned the hysterical sabotaging of the president's speech by Romania Mare leader, and former Ceausescu bootlicker, Corneliu Vadim Tudor. Her answer was short and encapsulated the meaning of an exemplary intellectual and moral itinerary: "The noise doesn't matter. Truth was said. We won!"
Vladimir Tismaneanu is professor of politics at the University of Maryland, chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission for the Analysis of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania, and author of numerous books including "Stalinism For All Seasons: A Political History Of Romanian Communism" [University of California Press]. Since 1983, he has been a regular contributor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
One of Flori's favourite poets, Nichita Stanescu:
Second Elegy: The Getica
for Vasile Parvan
A god was put in every tree stump.
If a stone split, a god
was quickly brought and put there.
It was enough that a bridge fell down,
a god was quickly put in its place,
or that a hole appeared in the highway,
a god was inserted there.
Oh, do not cut your hand or leg
by mistake - or by design.
They will promptly place a god in the wound,
as in every place, as everywhere,
they will place a god there
for us to worship, because he protects
whatever disunites itself.
Take care, warrior, do not lose
for they will bring a god
and set him in your socket,
and he will stay there, petrified, and we
will move our souls to praise him...
And you yourself will stir your soul
in praising him, as you would strangers.
Another kind of Mathematics
We know that one times one is one,
but an unicorn times a pear
have no idea what it is.
We know that five minus four is one
but a cloud minus a sailboat
have no idea what it is.
We know that eight
divided by eight is one,
but a mountain divided by a goat
have no idea what it is.
We know that one plus one is two,
but me and you, oh,
we have no idea what it is.
Oh, but a comforter
times a rabbit
is a red-headed one of course,
a cabbage divided by a flag
is a pig,
a horse minus a street-car
is an angel,
a cauliflower plus an egg
is an astragalus.
Only you and me
multiplied and divided
added and substracted
remain the same...
Vanish from my mind!
Come back to my heart!
English translation by George Mustea
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.