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Category Archives: Romania

BKBF

Brooklyn Book Festival, one of America’s premier book festivals and the largest free literary event in New York City, happens this year around the Borough Hall Plaza and in its vicinity, September 16 – 23.
I am delighted to post that New Meridian Arts, the independent publishing house ran by the tireless Nava Renek, was present at the event and on display, the stand has also the book I published a year ago “Between Ceausescu and Fidel” that was appreciated by the visitors and sold a number of copies. It’s humbling to know that with so many famous authors, some of them giants of American literature, all showing their work, my love story with and about Cuba was noticed by book lovers.

Nava Renek and New Meridian Arts at BKBF, Brooklyn, NY

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Posted by on September 17, 2019 in Blog, Cuba, Romania, USA

 

Megalomania

Union Boulevard, Bucharest, Romania

It took me more than 30 years to visit the monstrous building that was raised in the heart of Bucharest named by the Communists “Casa Poporului – The People’s House”. The chagrin I felt caused by the Romanian dictator who started this project was unbounded. In order to make space for this huge project, Ceausescu ordered the complete obliteration of a charming part of the city caring in its walls a long history, covering the ground in blood and tears. I hated him for what he did to my city and I decided to avoid walking his grandiose boulevard named pompously “The Victory of Socialism…” to which we added “…Over the Capital”. And I kept my promise for all these years.

Monumental staircase in the Parliament Palace, Bucharest

However, I decided the time has come and I should go and see the place of the city’s oblivion and visit the building that is hailed as the second largest after the Pentagon and the third in terms of cubic feet after the Pentagon and the Quetzalcoatl Pyramid. I never thought about this building too much before but when I came closer it stroke me as obvious the unsustainability of such a megalomaniac project. To maintain such a large building is almost impossible in these days and age.

Conference room, Parliament Palace, Bucharest

Thousands of bulbs candelabras weighing 5 tons maintained by people who have to move in sync from all directions to change them, a cement construction that crumbles already having a life span of only 30 more years, large marble columns that crumble inside eaten by some kind of parasite are just few of the issues that are flagged by the tour guides. The lighting and cleaning budget for the entire building is EQUAL with the budget for lighting and cleaning the streets of the entire Bucharest, a city of 1.5 million people. If you think that you did not understand correctly as I did and I had to ask again, please read it again carefully; it’s the word by word statement of the building managers.

Hall, Parliament Palace, Bucharest

Ceausescu dreamt to have a refuge here in case of nuclear war in the last two underground floors. Also, he planned to open the glass ceiling of the Union Hall and land his helicopter right inside, something that I personally think that it could not be true even in spite of his megalomania. He was crazy but not stupid.

Union Hall, Parliament Palace, Bucharest

Ceausescu’s palace was finished only about half, devoid of any decoration when he was shot in 1989 and the new owners had no clue what to do with the building. At one point, one year after the Romanian revolution, they developed a plan to demolish it but it proved that the cost would have been higher than finishing its decoration so they continued and finalized the building 7 years later. It was renamed the “Parliament Palace” no matter that the two chambers of the Romanian Parliament occupy only a small section that not surprisingly in Romania is off-limits during the guided visit. The ground where the mainly corrupt nation’s higher-ups place their holy feet is sacred and cannot be touch by the boots of the commoners.

Union Hall, Parliament Palace, Bucharest

The building is asymmetrical having in front 12 floors on top and 9 floors underneath and fewer floors on the sides and on its back. Underneath the last two floors contain an anti-nuclear bunker, an obsession for Nicolae Ceausescu’ s plan for survival. In the end, he did not need such a precaution and was executed in daylight and plain sight.

The new orthodox cathedral, Bucharest, Romania

And because nobody learns anything from bad projects of “bigger is better”, made to impress the masses, behind the monstrosity is raising now a long-overdue project of the huge Romanian orthodox cathedral to be seen from the top of all galaxies by God Himself. But unfortunately, there are so many beautiful buildings in the city center that are testimonials of what happens with large buildings when is no money to maintain them.

Old building on Calea Victoriei, Bucharest, Romania

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2019 in Blog, Romania

 

Crowds

Old city center. Bucharest, Romania

Saturday night in Bucharest old city center it’s very hard to find a seat at a table. All sidewalk cafes and restaurants are packed and the streets and alleys are full, people looking for a reprieve from the hot summer days till late hours in the night.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2019 in Blog, Romania

 

Hop a Lime

Limes are everywhere in Bucharest

Last year in October it was nothing but now I found the entire city full of scooters. Lime and Flow and probably many more than I cannot remember were in every city corner ridden by adults and kids alike. Probably some of the users were riding the scooters to work, but I highly doubt knowing the mentality of the city. But for sure most of them were used for pleasure by kids sometimes even nine-year-olds who were riding them from the city center to the Herastrau Park. With the crazy traffic and fed up drivers of Bucharest, few were riding on the streets but mainly speeding on the sidewalk, a menace if you consider the crowds from the city center. Others were riding on the Calea Victoriei bike lane, one after another in a row like in an exotic expedition.

Limes in the night

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2019 in Blog, Romania

 

Calea Victoriei

Calea Victoriei, Bucharest, Romania

Calea Victoriei, the old fanciful artery of Bucharest is generally packed during the day, bumper to bumper, with cars. At night when it’s very little traffic, all sorts of politicians’ spoiled brats in fast and furious cars are racing on the boulevard at incredible speed. The city officials and the police that would make good money by slapping them a fine, choose to ignore them, avoiding to get in conflict with the powers of the day in a country marred in corruption.

Actor reciting on Calea Victoriei, Bucharest, Romania

The most elegant boulevard in Bucharest used to be the place where people were going for a stroll to see and be seen. Some of the beautiful palaces that adorned the avenue are still in place striving to cope with the pollution and the city dust. The American-looking “skyscrapers” – as much scrapping the sky as they could in an earthquake-prone environment – are a reminder of the fact that Bucharest was, and still is, the business center of the country.

Matrimonial

But occasionally Calea Victoriei gets shut down and becomes pedestrian reminiscent of the 19th century Bucharest when the city was called the Little Paris. Actors from various theaters, dressed in costumes perform or just walk the boulevard adding to the old epoch atmosphere, announcements from the old time are posted on the sides with matrimonial requests and events of the bygone days, signs invite you to stop and read about the old city crafts and stages are ready for night demonstrations of various forms of dance in vogue a century ago.

Calea Victoriei, Bucharest, Romania

And all in a relaxed atmosphere characteristic for this East European capital where sidewalk cafes and restaurants align the boulevards and invite you to just sit and admire the people passing by. The beer gardens are all lit and full till after midnight, each and every day of the week. When I tell about this lifestyle to my American friends I always get the question: “How come they stay so late? Don’t they have to work?”. Well, they do, but….

Have a juice

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2019 in Blog, Romania

 

Graffiti

Rope Street, Brasov, Romania

Center Cluj, Romania

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2019 in Blog, Romania

 

Cluj/Koloszvar/Klausenburg

A view from Cetatuia Hill, Cluj, Romania

I have never visited Cluj. Or at least I cannot remember except for a short dinner about 10 years ago and a whisked drive to the train station. But what stroke me in Cluj when I took the taxi ride from the train station in the middle of the night was the large boulevards aligned on both sides by sumptuous buildings in the Austro-Hungarian style, a combination of austere architecture with elaborated turrets mounted on top of the buildings.

St.Michael Church, Cluj, Romania

You cannot call Cluj charming like you would do for Sighisoara or Brasov. Cluj looks like an imperial capital, the most important city of Transylvania, coveted and named by the three populations that inhabited the area. For the Romanians is Cluj with the addition of Napoca, the name of the pre-Roman town in the area, for the Hungarians is Kolozsvar the hotbed of their nationalist movement and the 1848 revolution and for the Germans was Klausenburg. Along with history, these three nationalities juggled for power and influence, with religion as the main component.

Large Boulevards, Cluj, Romania

And this can be seen best in the city by visiting its many churches that adorn the city center, and probably some of the surrounding areas that I did not have a chance to visit: St. Michael gothic church right in the main square, the brancovenesc Orthodox cathedral, a combination of renaissance style with Byzantine elements and the monumental in-construction Greek-Catholic cathedral that all try in a way to outsmart each other’s rites in a post-ecumenical way

Banfi Palace, The Art Museum, Cluj, Romania

You also can feel the nationalistic fever through the city statues. For a year, in 1600–1601, Cluj became part of the 3 principalities union crafted by Michael the Brave, on a territory similar to current Romania, the first time when all three Romanian speaking regions were united together. Micheal the Brave’s statue adorns one of the city squares while the statue of Mathias Rex, considered by the Hungarians as their first national king is standing in the main square of the city. However, for the Romanians, the Hungarian king was Romanian under the name of Matei Corvin, son of another Romanian king who ruled in Transylvania and was hailed by them as a hero.
Well, well, all this Transylvanian history is so complicated! Why cannot be history as simple as in New Jersey?

Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj, Romania

 

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2019 in Blog, Romania