dinsdag 2 augustus 2011

Impressions of Romania

1.    Bucharest is unlike any place I’ve seen before. It has a somewhat Parisian allure with art nouveau doorways, large art deco concrete apartment blocks reminiscent of Italian fascist architecture, and trams and trolleys that are distinctly Mitteleuropa. On top of that, of course, there is chaos, ugliness, old facades that suddenly end in communist monsters, new buildings springing out of old buildings, Ceauscescean megalomania, and the sense that something is gone.

2.    Gibbon, visiting the principal palace in Turin, saw in every gilt ornament a Savoyard village dying of hunger. He had not seen yet the Palace of the People in Bucharest.

3.    An old woman was cleaning the streets in the early morning. She was probably in her seventies. I would have given her some money if that had not been a colonial thing to do.

4.    The Italians call plums “aiutano” [little helper] because of their laxative effect.

5.    Romanian has two accents to put on the “a”, which transform it into a short úh and a long úhhh respectively – a distinction that most foreign language speakers, including me, can’t hear, like they can’t hear the difference between Dutch a and aa.

6.    Although it is bottled in plastic water bottles, it is not as if every village distills its own palinka. Actually it is quite difficult to do it well.

7.    I first was worried why they didn’t serve fruits in Olteanca. The reason for that is that you can pluck them off the trees.

8.    There were less Gypsies on the streets then you’d expect in Bucharest. I’ve been told, however, that they squat the vacant apartments above the shops in Bulevardul I.C. Bratianu.

9.    You can ride all the way from Olteanca to Bucharest without encountering one traffic sign. There is, incidentally, also no such thing as a highway to the southwest.

10.    The violin with a thread attached to the highest string is among the cooler ‘prepared instrument’ tricks I’ve seen so far. And this was Olteanca, not STEIM or Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ or something.

11.    Back home in Amsterdam, Romanian street musicians are playing melancholy tunes by my window.

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