Archive for September, 2012

Some of my friends who read the travel notes recorded during our vacation in Romania this summer keep asking – what about the food? When will you share the culinary experiences of your trip? May I say that I kept them pour la bonne bouche?

I must start with a counter-recommendation. Avoid Hanul lui Manuc a place of great tradition that fell under the hands of not so skilled cooks. If you are there because of circumstances go to the Romanian restaurant at least, or ask for the Romanian menu, and not the for the one called Oriental or Middle Eastern. If you ever lived or travel to the Middle East you will immediatly feel the fraud, and if you did not you risk to get the wrong impression about Middle Eastern food.



Now, I should say from start that when I travel to Romania I am walking on the nostalgic path when it comes to food There are a few dishes which I tried in other places of the world, but they never succeed to equal the flavor of the ones prepared in Romania. In this trip I made an exception, as we travelled to the area neighboring Serbia, so we tried Serbian food as well, on both shores of the Danube. By far I should say the one prepared on the Romanian shore was better and I warmly recommend Taverna Sarbului (The Serbian’s Den) which is actually a chain with other restaurants in Bucharest, Constanta, Sinaia and Brasov. It was much better than the Serbian counterpart called At Toma located on the other shore, which has however two advantages – less expensive and they also speak Romanian which is good for the non-Serbian but Romanian-speaking visitor.



Taverna Sarbului near Drobeta Turnu Severin have even a traditional device for charcoal roasting lambs.




The location of the restaurant on the shore of the Danube is excellent.  You should go for any of the pastries filled with meat (they were excellent also on the Serbian side) and for the grills. You can avoid however the kebab, as the Romanian mititei are much better. We went for Sausages on beans and for Lamb cooked in spinach – both photographed here one second before they disappeared.



We ate quite well in Timisoara near the Bega river, at the place the local call At the Boat. I like both brands of the local micro-brewed beer, bearing the name of Nenea Iancu the Romanian playwright and satiric writer who is remembered dearly this year 100 years after his death, and who was a big fan of beer and places where his characters drink beer.



A trip in Romania without eating papanashi is like you never got there. The best we had during this trip were the ones in the restaurant of the hotel in Sebesh, were we spent the last night of the trip.




A trip to Romania without eating mititei (the Romanian version of the Oriental kebab, the true one!) is like you never got there. On our way to Bucharest, after descending the mountains before Pitesti we stopped at Dedulesti, where a chain of restaurants on the side of the road prepare arguably the best mititei in Romania. They indeed equaled in our memory the ones prepared at the legendary Cocosatul in Bucharest.




Last, at least for me, a trip to Bucharest without eating at least once at Caru cu Bere is like I was not in Bucharest. It’s not only nostalgia for the so many meals and beers I had there with my parents, my friends, and lately my sons (Avi loved the place), it’s also the fact that the place succeeds for the last few years to keep a good level of the cuisine, not to speak about the beer prepared according to the same receipt of the one enjoyed by Nenea Iancu. This time we were twice there, and we enjoyed Ciolan pe varza (pig foot on sauerkraut) and sarmalute cu mamaliguta (cabbage stuffed with meat on polenta). However we also have one negative recommendation – avoid the galuste cu prune (gomboti, plums filled pastries). As they say, one does not come at Caru cu bere for gomboti.

Reading and Learning about the holiday of Sukkot which starts at sunset on Sunday I was reminded that Sukkot is among other the date when the First Temple of Jerusalem was consecrated by King Solomon. My idea for this festive blog entry is to mention a few works of art that represent the image of the Temple, one of the historical buildings that marked the history of the Antiquity and of the modern world, a place of high significance for Judaism and Christianity. While the destruction of the Temple twice in history on the day of 9 Av was largely represented, the images created in history of the Temple do not include only destruction. They also represent the vision of the artists about this place where the stone met the spirit, the building, the inauguration by Kinf Solomon, the re-building after the first time it was destroyed.




The Construction of the Temple was imagined in the 15th century by Jean Fouquet, a master of manuscript illumination, in a book illustrated around 1470-1475 similar to the construction of the Gothic cathedrals that were raised and finished in that part of Europe during his times.


The representation drawn by Jacob Judah Leon was famous in the mid 17th century. Leon was a descendant of Spanish Jews and translated the Psalms from Hebrew for the European audiences of the time. In 1643 this engraved plan as well as a description of the Temple based on the original Bible information was presented to King Charles II of England.




The Dedication of the Temple by King Solomon was imagined by French artist James Jacques Joseph Tissot in this painting dated between 1896 and 1902.




This is the way Neapolitan painter Giuseppe Bonito imagined King Solomon praying in front of the temple around 1750




Gustave Dore was one of the most famous illustrators of the Bible. Here is his vision of the re-building of the Temple at the return from the Babylonian exile.




Mark Podwall is a contemporary textile artist, and this vision of the Temple is a detail from a curtain created for the Altneuschul in Prague.




Here is contemporary Israeli artist Yael Avi-Yonah’s utopian vision of the future city of Jerusalem and of the Third Temple
seen from the Mount of Olives, surrounded by the River of Life. Emerging from its entrance is the Tree of Life represented by a DNA helix molecule.


Hag Sukkot Sameakh!

What is a rock musical? or a rock opera? I confess that I never understood exactly where are the borders of the genres, actually where the classical operetta ends and the musical genre starts. Maybe when it is staged on Broadway? :-) Now when do we add the rock adjective? (Is it an adjective?) This may be a little simpler – when electric guitars and maybe a rock band replaces the violins and the classical orchestra. Really so?




All these questions and some more may be asked around the staging of Next to Normal (Kima’at Normali) at HaBima. The text is written by Brian Yorkey, and the music by Tom Kitt, and the play enjoyed great success on Broadway a few years ago, wining Tony Awards and a Pulitzer prize for drama. The story tells of a mother in an average American family suffering of bipolar disorder, her fall into insanity, the electric shocks treatment she is going through, the effects on her and on her family, the ultimate dismembering of the family fabric and of her personality. The music composed by Kitt fits well the developing personal and family drama on the stage. Both the musical and the dramatic awards seem justified.

(video source Sasha Dolgof)


And yet the next question needs to be asked – is this the proper material for the national theater of Israel? Here the answer is even more complicated, as it would need a definition of what is fit for a national theater, and whether such a concept still exist in the conditions where such institutions face commercial viability criteria. I would say that shows like Next to Normal are not a guarantee for audience success, and the largest hall at HaBima was not full the night we watched the show (second day of Rosh HaShana, scheduled in conflict with the first night of the Champions League matches – I should mention).

(video source mgroupofficialpage)


How was the show? Not bad at all. Gathering a proper cast for a two hours of intensive acting and singing is not an easy task,  and all the participants get a good grade for the combination of their dramatic and musical performances. Only one of them is a pop star  (Harel Skaat) and I expected him to be good, but Ayelet Robinson was also remarkable in the lead role. Daniel Efrat’s Hebrew version of the text sounds very good in Hebrew, one would not say the play is translated. Director Hanan Schneer built a rather fluent performance, the musical score is well played by a group of musicians led by Nadav Rubinshtein, the only problem was with the sound, voices seemed strident at many moments, maybe a problem of acoustics, maybe the lack of experience of the sound engineers with the genre.  Overall Next to Normal was a pleasant surprise not only as a repertoire choice item.



This episode of my vacation journal in Romania covers several monasteries and churches that we visited during the trip. Monasteries in Romania have in many cases an importance and signification beyond the religious dimension. The Romanians are historically deep religious people, and the location of Romania as a Latin nation surrounded by non-Latin peoples, and their adherence to the Eastern European faith (unique among Latin people) in a place in Europe which was for many centuries  on the lines of meeting (and many times conflicts) between the Christian Orthodoxy and Catholicism, between Christianity and Islam only increased the meaning and importance of church in the Romanian history. Add to this the fact that in a nation of farmers and shepherds dominated for many centuries by foreign rulers the monasteries, priests and monks were the cream of the educated people and the preservers of faith and language and you will start to understand the role of the church and the fact that many of the monasteries in Romania are monuments of history, art, and religion at the same time.



The first monastery I will tell about is located at Polovragi. Its impressive wood gate reminded us that we were in the district of Gorj, not far from the birthplace of Constantin Brancusi.





1505 is the year the monastery was built, but most of the current structures and especially the church dedicated to the Laying of the Virgin Mary date from 1703, the time of the reign of the last Romanian king of Valachia, deposed and executed by the Ottoman sultan. The Interior paintings on the walls and on the ceiling date from that period and are of great beauty, unfortunately photography is forbidden inside the church.



As we were approaching our second objective, we crossed the village of Horezu, which is the place of manufacturing of traditional enameled pottery characterized by merry forms and vivid colors. Unfortunately a museum that was documenting the tradition closed and we were left with the commercial area on the road, with many shops, quite difficult and confusing for visitors to distinguish between the authentic works and cheap kitsch imitations.




The next objective that day was the monastery of Hurezi (or Horezu as it is somehow named, associating it with the current name of the neighboring village). The building for this complex was started also by Constantin Brancoveanu and was conducted between 1688 and 1714. The original structure was preserved as it was built three centuries ago, and the complex is protected by UNESCO. The church in the middle is dedicated to the saints Constantin and Elena (Constantine and Helen).



The arches at the entry in the church are a combination of painting, colored ceramics and curbed pillars, specific to churches and monasteries of Valachia.



The murals were painted in the years 1702-1703 by Andrei, Istrate and Hranite, three church painters well known during that time. The theme of the Last Judgment is quite frequent for the external walls of the monasteries in Romania, one will find it also at Voronet, and other monasteries in Bucovina. The main difference in the conception here is that the external walls are painted only in the pridvor - the terrace at the entry of the monastery and not all around as on the famous walls of the monasteries in Bucovina, which means less paintings, but better preservation, as the pridvor is in the Valachian monasteries completely covered by a roof.






I have to rely again on external sources for the images of the exquisite painting and of the altar inside the church, part of it recently renovated.



There is an active monastery life going on in Hurezi (as well as in the other monasteries that we visited) so that the dormitories, eating and studying places, as well as the economic facilities which rely on traditional agricultural and crafts are well maintained and interesting to visit for people who can allow spending more time in the surroundings.




Back in time by a few days here we are in Orsova where we visited one church and one monastery – this time both modern, built during the 20th century. The Orsova Catholic Church is one of the very few such religious buildings built during the Communist regime, which has in its sad record much more demolitions of churches, synagogues and mosques than building of such places. I have heard many people including friends of mine who belong to the noble profession of architecture expressing critical views related to this building. I actually liked it, the only critics I could bring is related to the fact that the state of preservation is not too good, the church looks much older than its 40 years (it replaced an old church covered by waters when the Iron Gates dam was built). Otherwise especially its interior looks like an aerial and well lit compound with interesting ideas inserted on the theme of the Cross.



The history of the Sfanta Ana (Saint Anne) monastery was much more agitated. Built between 1936 and 1939 it was not consecrated at the end of its building because of a bureaucratic conflict with the religious authorities. Then the war broke, the communists took the power and opening new monasteries was not part of their charter. Part of the time during the communist rule the complex was a restaurant, the troitze (praying places with crosses and statues) on the road to the hill were destroyed. Only in 1990, one year after the fall of the Communism the monastery was consecrated.



The setting is fabulous, on a hill dominating the city of Orsova, with a view to the Danube that reminds me the view to the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes (where another beautiful Catholic church is located).  The wood work on the terraces is of special beauty and refinement and they resonate with the fully wood-carved churches in the North of Romania.





Most of the original painting of the building was destroyed by covering it with white paint during the Communist rule. The current interior painting belongs to Grigore and Maria Popescu.



A small museum preserves and honors the activity of the benefactor of the church, the man who financed the whole project. I have mixed feelings about this personality, who was a Romanian patriot and a fine journalist, but also a fierce nationalist and a collaborator with the antisemitic regime of dictator Ion Antonescu, who ruled Romania during the war and was the principal responsible of the crimes of the Romanian Holocaust. His newspaper Curentul (The Trend) was allowed to appear during the war because of the right and extreme-right positions it was expressing while most of the other newspapers were shut down. Secaru had the good luck of being abroad at the fall of Antonescu, so the process in which he was judged and condemned to the death sentence for collaboration and other crimes of war was judged in absentia and the sentence was never carried out. He lived in exile for the rest of his life (most of the time in Germany) and died in 1980. In 1990 his remains were brought back to Romania, and a few years later buried again in this monastery.



Ultimul paragraf din Arhivele de la Monte Negro a lui Octavian Soviany (Cartea Romaneasca, 2012) suna ca o punere in context:

Nota: Luigi Lucheni este numele anarhistului solitar, care o asasina in septembrie 1898, la Geneva, pe Elisabeta, imparateasa Autriei si regina Ungariei. (pag. 225)

Este si singurul paragraf din carte care nu este scris la persoana intaia. Este insa vorba despre o reala punere in context? Vrea povestitorul sa ne spuna ca personajul cartii – acuzat la un moment dat ca ar fi Luigi Lucheni, dar care mai este banuit a fi si fiul lui Kostas Venetis, personajul celeilalte carti a lui Soviany, devenit aici sef de satra, personaj care in cea mai mare parte a cartii se prezinta cititorului sub numele de Ulrich de Lichtenstein, descendent decazut, decrepit si descompus al nobilimii europene – ar fi doar frunctul imaginatiei nebunului care la sfarsitul secolului 19 a schimbat soarta Europei secolului 20?

Este o explicatie dar nu cred ca este singura.




Citita imediat dupa Viata lui Kostas Venetis, aceasta carte m-a lasat putin descumpanit. Pe de o parte cronologic ea a fost scrisa inaintea romanului mult mai consistent al carui recenzie am publicat-o acum cateva zile (cartea a fost rescrisa partial dupa marturisirea autorului). Pe de alta parte intentia declarata a lui Soviany este de a scrie o trilogie, in care aceasta carte ar fi un fel de interludiu intre povestirile vietilor lui Kostas si a Nemtoaicei, celalalt personaj si cronicarul vietii lui Kostas in primul volum. Diferentele in structura sunt insa foarte consistente, este vorba despre doua carti diferite ca stil si gen, desi nimeni nu poate pune la indoiala ca sunt scrise de acelasi autor.

Daca Viata lui Kostas Venetis era un roman picaresc si istoric, acoperind cronologic a doua jumatate a secolului 19 si incluzand relatari despre vietile unor personaje intretesute si incrustate una in cealalta ca intr-o ornamentatie orientala ca a celor o mie si una de nopti (dar in culori sumbre), Arhivele de la Monte Negro sunt concepute ca o suita de vise si vedenii, in care personaje fantastice si monstruoase populeaza un univers concentrationar, care aduce cand a spital, cand a lagar de concentrare, cand a manastire, cand a inchisoare. Zidurile si gratiile sunt prezente permanent, paznicii si calaii imbraca diferite forme si uniforme, dar este evidenta obsesia permanenta a damnarii si a pedepsei. De la un moment incolo naratiunea (daca se poate vorbi despre naratiune in aceasta carte) se despica in doua fire paralele create din episoade scurte intretesute, care nu depasesc niciunul in lungime doua sau trei pagini, pentru a se reintalni in final, sub auspiciul notei deja citate.




Personajele feminine care populeaza acest univers sunt toate o fascinanta combinatie de erotism si uratenie, unele dintre ele intrate intr-o faza mai mult sau mai putin accentuata de moarte si descompunere. Nastenka, Liuba, Robusta, doamna Consul si fiicele sale par a fi toate masuri ale neputintei si borne in drumul spre moarte al personajului principal. Personajele masculine, seful politiei, manuitorul de hoituri poreclit Dostoievski, evreul Gruss, par mai mult simboluri ale imperiului (austro-ungar, european) in destramare, o combinatie de personaje descinse din Hasek sau mai degraba Kafka, fara nicio raza de lumina sau nuanta de omenie in siluetele profilate. Fara a atinge adancimile de abjectie ale situatiilor din cealalta carte a lui Soviany, episoadele si cosmarurile puse pe hartie in Arhivele de la Monte Negro reflecta pesimismul profund al unui scriitor care daca nu a vazut, cel putin a imaginat iadul.

Ramane placerea citirii si ea este aceeasi ca si in Viata lui Kostas Venetis. Octavian Soviany scrie intr-una dintre cele mai expresive limbi romanesti pe care mi-a fost dat sa le citesc, cu o imaginatie inepuizabila, facand reale cititorilor cosmarurile si miasmele de putregai ale fanteziilor sale. Una dintre lecturile posibile ale Arhivelor este cea a unei colectii de vise rele despre un continent si un imperiu descompus, despre suferinta si mizeria celor care sunt martorii apusului sau. Inca o lectura care nu poate fi uitata cu usurinta.

All [personal] vows we are likely to make, all [personal] oaths and pledges we are likely to take between this Yom Kippur and the next Yom Kippur, we publicly renounce. Let them all be relinquished and abandoned, null and void, neither firm nor established. Let our [personal] vows, pledges and oaths be considered neither vows nor pledges nor oaths.”

I found the English version of the declaration that opens the service in the synagogue on Yom Kippur at




On the eve of the holiday I looked (again) on some of the beautiful musical works that were inspired by Kol Nidre along the time and some of the special interpretations.


(video source TheCantorsVEVO)


I will start with a synagogue version recorded live in Amsterdam’s historic, 17th Century, Portuguese Synagogue, with three of the world’s greatest cantors.  Performing with a 46 piece orchestra and 16 voice choir are Alberto Mizrahi of the renowned Anshe Emet Synagogue, Chicago, Naftali Herstik of Great Synagogue Jerusalem and Benzion Miller of Young Israel Beth-El of Borough Park, New York.


(video source cdbpdx)


Here is the version sung by sung in Hebrew by cantor Joseph Rosenblatt in 1912 – 100 years ago. It appears on the flip side of his EL MOLE RACHMIN tribute to the sinking of the Titanic.


(video source israelyeshivaguy)


Rabbi, singer and composer Shlomo Carlebach left this version.


(video source 7654328)


The opening of the Adagio of Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 131 is inspired by the tune of Kol Nidre as it was sung at the beginning of the 19th century. If it sounds familiar to you despite the fact that Beethoven’s quartet are not that familiar it may be because the theme was used by the ‘Band of Brothers’ TV series.


(video source kidneykutter)


Beethoven may have heard this version put on notes by Ahron Beer in Berlin in 1765, here performed by René Schiffer & Mime Yamahiro-Brinkmann.

(video source Andrey Granko)


Max Bruch’s ‘Kol Nidrei’ for Cello and Orchestra is op. 47 is probably the most famous piece of classical music inspired by the tune. Here is a variant I heard first time this year and especially liked – it belongs to Misch Maisky and was played at one of the concerts at the 300 years anniversary of Sankt Petersburg.


(video source Jew Man Group)


If (Jewish) humor risks to offend you skip this one and please forgive me, it’s Yom Kippur. If not, you are invited to watch the Jew Man Group in a rap “Kosher” remix of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”!


Judaism is alive, and in today’s world it does not belong only to synagogues of one flavor or another, it belongs to all Jews and is expressed in all forms that remind, preserve, enrich and transmit further our tradition.

Gmar Hatima Tova!

Cyril, ‘le gamin’ in Le gamin au velo (The Kid with a Bike) has all the reasons to be angry. His father left him, after sending him to a public dormitory school he just disappeared trying to rebuild his life. Cyril (acted as only pre-teen actors can act by Thomas Doret) refuses to acknowledge reality (which is something that so many mature people do daily) and rebels against any institution (like school) or individual (like the woman who hosts and takes care of him during weekends). Anybody who can show some understanding easily gains his trust, including a very bad guy who pushes him to do a very bad deed.




This film could have turned easily into melodrama and if it does not it’s because the brothers Dardenne wrote and directed the story. They give credibility and human touch to all the characters, they judge none, not even the bad guy, not even the institutions who seem unable to understand or solve the real problems of life. The story develops naturally and when eventually things end by getting back on the right track it’s because of the belief of the characters, actors, directors, and eventually cinema viewers that life, simple gestures, the normal doing of good are the right thing to prevail. In a melodrama or in a bad drama you just want things to end well. In a good drama you believe this is the way they should end.


(video source MadameFigaro)


If Cyril is the hero, the mystery character of the film is Samantha, the woman who helps him, takes care of him, plays the role of a mother to him. As a viewer maybe I would have liked to understand more about her motivations, her personal sacrifice (at some points she has to chose between her boyfriend and the kid), why she does not have children of her own. I realize that the mystery may be intentional and that it may have been the choice of the script-writers and directors and their way of telling us ‘this is how things should be, this is how normal people should behave in unusual circumstances’ but I still miss something in understanding the character despite the wonderful acting of Cecile de France.  Yet, it’s a nice and touching film.

This is my first encounter with work from Turkish director Nuri Bige Ceylan, and one of my first with the Turkish cinema, most of my previous experiences were with films made by Turkish directors living in Europe (Germany especially) and dealing with the lives of the communities of exiles and their relations to the society around and the one back home. ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ has a 100% focus on the life of a remote community in the hills of Anatolia, far not only from Europe but also from the lives of the majority of the Turks in big cities like Istanbul or Ankara. The subject however does touch the relation with Europe and with the modern society as it describes a police and judicial procedure of reconstructing a crime committed in a setting that does not seem to have changed too much for many decades or even centuries, with the evolving tools of the modern state.




Interestingly this beautiful film brought up to me similarities with the Romanian cinema, another ‘peripheral’ movement in the landscape of European cinema which saw a breakthrough and underwent the experience being ‘discovered’ in the last decade by art film festivals. The subject and even the style reminds the – maybe – best film in the history of Romanian cinema – ‘Reconstituirea’ by Lucian Pintilie, also a story of a process of justice slowly developing in a natural landscape, with the focus more on the souls of the heroes than on the action itself. The attention paid by the director on his characters, the deepness of the psychological analysis, and the excellent support of the actors look very much like some of the best products of the ‘new wave’. In the case of ‘Once Upon the Time in Anatolia’ the three principal characters (the police chief, the public investigator, the doctor) enjoy all splendid performances from the three actors – Muhammet Uzuner, Yilmaz Erdogan, Taner Birsel. As the story develops we learn more and more about the characters, their personal stories and their fears, their hidden secrets.



(video source CinemaGuild)


The story development is slow, and whoever has expectations for detective action should pick a different movie. This film is about men living in a remote place, their lives and emotions, their relation with nature and with the society around them which is not immune to change, but changes come at its own pace. The rhythm of the film borrows something from that pace, viewers need to be warned and ready to pay the price of some patience, but those who will do it will be highly rewarded.


Besides Lugoj, Timisoara is another city that has an important place in my biography, a city where I had been maybe three times in my life before, but whose geography, history and stories are familiar to me from the numerous stories told over the years by my parents – always with melancholy and longing for a place that seemed to be like some kind of a lost paradise in their renditions. This is the place they learned as young students in the aftermath of the second world, the city they met and fall in love. My grandftaher’s brother was a rich merchant in the city in the period between the two world wars, he and his wife were very cultivated and arts-loving people.



Our stop in Timisoara this summer is related to the name and person of Larry (Adrian Ionita) an artist and Internet friend I was waiting for a long time the occasion to meet. He and his lovely and friendly wife were our guides in the city, they also recommended us the Best Western hotel (called in the past the Ambassador) which is newly renovated to the older splendor of the Art Deco period, reminding similar buildings in Prague.



It is hard not to start a trip (even a short half-day trip) in Timisoara from some other place than the Orthodox Cathedral. Built between 1936 and 1946 it was one of the last churches that were inaugurated by King Michael before he was deposed by the Communists. The internal design is impressing in dimensions but rather eclectic in style, combining the Romanian traditional style and Italian influences. The paintings belong to Anastasie Damian, the same painter who authored the painting of the church in Lugoj.



I will skip the restaurant by the shore of the Bega river where we had a late lunch, as one of the next entries of this travel journal will be dedicated to food and drinks. I will mention however one of the works of Larry, a praying pillow with the absent shape of somebody praying to an universal God, which is also located on the shore of the Bega. Larry wanted it to face the cathedral, but this was not possible during the years of the Communism, it still is beautiful and strikes by its symbolism.



The Park of the Roses is a place of attraction well known beyond the borders of the city since the time my young parents were strolling in the many and beautiful gardens and parks of Timisoara.




The adjoining streets are approximately the district were uncle Marcu, my grandfather’s brother lived. Their house was a place of arts, and his son (my father’s cousin) was a famous violinist. Today history put its imprint on the streets, each house belongs to another epoch and belongs to a different style, from the strict and elegant geometry of the inter-wars Bauhaus, passing through Soviet-style villas built during the occupation of the city by the Russians after the war until the new riches villas of today, which exuberant but bad taste too charged ornaments.



The building that hosts nowadays the Philharmonic of Timisoara was once a cinema hall, the largest and fanciest in the center of the city. Somebody had the nice idea to imprint in the asphalt Hollywood-style stars for each of the great musicians who visited and played in the city. Liszt, Bartok, Enescu were among them.



The street that connects between the Cathedral and the Opera and theater House is nowadays a pedestrian area. In the middle a beautiful fountain …



… and also a replica of the on the other the cathedral again, and on the middle of the axis the she-wolf with Romulus and Remus, symbols of Rome and of the Roman empire. It does not fit too well neither architecturally not as a symbol in a city and in an area that gathered historically the different nations living together usually in good relations, but this is only my personal opinion.



The buildings on the two sides of the pedestrian area are in very different states of conservation and renovation. Some are well preserved, other need a good renovator hands and money. They all could become one day jewels in the center of a city that has a conception, a harmony and the dimensions of an important European city.




We stopped for one moment of recollection in front of the Opera house. There are two balconies related to the moment December 1989 in the history of Romanie. One is in Bucharest, were the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was booed by the crows who cut shot his last speech. The other balcony is the one in the photo, the place where an authentic revolt against Communist and dictatorship took place, the place where the proclamation of Timisoara was read, the document that could have been the source of the freedom regained by the people of Romania, the words that could have been at the basis of a truly popular and democratic Constitution.



We continued our walk in the streets and squares of the city. A Baroque statue from the 18th century celebrates the survival of the Timisoara from one of the plagues that were striking Europe in these times.



One can enjoy the European city atmosphere, much more relaxed and civilized than in any other places in Romania.



Gaudi? This was our first reaction when seeing this building, at a street corner, with no indication about the architect, the year it was raised, the original destination of the building. Yet, the Catalan genius scarcely left Barcelona during his life time and built nothing significant out of the city of the shore of the Mediterranean. He did however influence scores of other architects, and this is probably one of the indirect results of his style. Whoever knows more – I would be happy to hear.



Last stop in daylight was in the Unirea Square, bathing in the golden light of sunset.



Unfortunately the Art Museum was closed at that time of the day. We have at least one good reason to be back, as they hold the richest and most significant collection of works of Corneliu Baba which I must see.



We had a nice ice-cream and then we made our way back in the streets well lit at night. A lot of people, most of them young were enjoying the late summer evening atmosphere.



Last look at the Cathedral at night.



Final picture is of the Catholic Church with its stain-glass windows, with shining colors in the dark of the night.


Cu ‘Viata lui Kostas Venetis’ (Cartea Romaneasca, 2011) Octavian Soviany da literaturii romane o carte nepereche. Cine ia in mana aceasta carte si se cufunda in lectura ei nu va putea ramana indiferent. De la primele pagini este evident ca lumea si eroii imaginati de Soviany, stilul scrierii si atmosfera in care au loc povestirile intretesute care construiesc aceasta carte au o consistenta si o expresivitate neobisnuite. Unii cititori se vor simti poate respinsi de acest univers cu miasme de putrefactie si luciri de pacat si vor abandona repede lectura. Chiar si acestia nu vor putea uita cartea aceasta.

Eroul care da numele cartii se naste in Grecia renascuta dupa eliberarea de sub dominatia turceasca, dar faptele eroilor independentei elene vor ramane pentru el in fundal si vor fi amintite doar ca un model de justete respins de insasi structura damnata a personajului.

‘Dumnezeu ne alcatuieste pe unii drepti, iar pe altii stramb si schimonositi. Dar cum ar iesi la lumina dreptatea daca n-ar exista nedreptatea si cum s-ar putea recunoaste cele frumoase altminteri decat prin felul in care se deosebesc de cele schimonosite?

De mic copil, eu, Kostas Venetis, m-am cunoscut stramb si stramb am ramas pana la batranete.’ (pag. 14)

Blestemat din nastere si predestinat pacatului, personajul lui Soviany va parcurge o lume care geografic se desfasoara cititorului de la Grecia satelor sarace si a calugarilor de la Muntele Athos, trecand prin Stambului descompunerii Imperiului Otoman, prin campurile de razboi ale Plevnei, prin Bucurestiul imediat dupa razboi, decadent si asteptandu-si Craii, trecand Carpatii mocanilor, in capitalele intrigilor Europei si sfarsindu-si  destinul in Venetia miasmele mortii. Merita insa examinata structura cartii. Cele cinci capitole au nume de inspiratie cabalistica ‘Picioarele’, ‘Pantecele’, ‘Inima’, ‘Capul’, ‘Coroana’ care par a sugera o constructie care are un tel, o directie. In fiecare dintre ele insa se repeta acelasi tipar narativ, intreaga carte este de fapt o poveste narata care cuprinde in ea alte povesti narate, si asa mai departe, cateodata in cateva nivele suprapuse – aici mai degraba infloriturile structurale amintind arabescurile Seherezadei. Nimic nu este insa basm in structura personajelor lui Soviany, de multe ori pare ca naratorul este acelasi personaj damnat, dedicat raului si destinat pedepselor eterne.




‘Eram stricat, stricat pana-n maduva, la fel de stricat ca si putoarea blestemata care ma zamislise si nici macar nu puteam gasi in stricaciunea mea vreo pricina de placere’. (pag. 329)

Filozofia eroului cartii – pe care il vedem crescand de la un copilandru grec de la inceput corupt si dedat pacatului pana la a ajunge sa fie implicat in intrigile marii politici europene din ultimul sfert al secolului si scula a puterii malifice a beizadealei Mihalache, urzitor de comploturi intru instaurarea prin rau a unei ordini de 1000 de ani – pare a fi dominata de un fatalism in care Binele si Raul sunt doar doua forte egale intr-o eterna balanta:

‘Cand imparatii pamantului si capeteniile lor se aduna impotriva lui Dumnezeu si a unsilor sai – e dupa voia lui Dumnezeu. Cand cel ce locuieste in ceruri va rade de dansii si Domnul ii va batjocori – va fi dupa voia lui Dumnezeu. Si cand sunt zdrobiti cu toiag de fier, facuti praf si pulbere si tarana risipita de vant – e tot dupa voia lui Dumnezeu. Atunci, eu, Kostas Venetis am inteles ca sunt numai pulbere si tarana risipita de vant, blestemat fiind de iubirea lui Dumnezeu, care pe unii ii binecuvanteaza si pe altii ii blestema, prin unii naste si prin altii ucide, cladeste prin unii si naruieste prin altii.

Prin strambatatea mea din nastere, peste care s-a adaugat pecetea lui beizadea Mihalache, am fost harazit acelei parti din lucrarea lui Dumnezeu care risipeste spre a aduna, dezbina ca sa uneasca si distruge pentru a zidi. De asta sta scris in cartile noastre sfinte: Cine vrea sa-si mantuiasca sufletul sau il va pierde si cine isi va pierde sufletul lui pentru mine il va castiga.

Si iata pricina pentru care, dupa ce am ajuns la varsta intelepciunii, eu , Kostas Venetis, n-am incercat nicicand sa ma bucur de roadele blestematiilor pe care le-am savarsit. Asa cum faptele noastre bune sunt jertfe aduse lui Dumnezeu, si faptele noastre rele, Nemtoaico, sunt de asemenea jertfe aduse lui Dumnezeu.’ (pag. 190-191)




Imensa este placerea citirii acestei carti pentru cei care au curajul de a patrunde in universul de cuvinte creat de Soviany, care este un excelent narator si un re-creator de lumi imbibate de culori si miasme. Iata ca exemplu descrierea Stambulului si a populatiei sale cosmopolite:

‘O multime pestrita si zgomotoasa bantuia pe ulite si pe cheiuri. Magari incarcati cu marfuri prin pietele neobisnuit de murdare, pline de caini si pisici fara stapan. Camilele rageau, oamenii vorbeau in toate limbile si gesticulau cu aprindere. Burnusurile albe ale arabilor se amestecau cu mohoratele redingote evropenesti, barbile stufoase ale persanilor stateau alaturi de perciunii lungi ai misitilor israeliti, iar in mutimea bazarului am recunoscut multe nasuri grecesti.’ (pag. 124)

Daca in evocarea istorica si recrearea universului balcanic si european Octavian Soviany are precedesori in Mateiu Caragiale sau Eugen Barbu, nici unul dintre acestia nu a avut interesul sau poate curajul de a se cufunda pana la capat in universul de pacat si in strafundurile intunecoase ale sufletelor personajelor cum o face autorul acestei carti. O combinatie otravita de rautate, uratenie, crima, deviere sexuala pare a domina caracterele fiecaruia dintre personajele sale, sau poate a personajului unic infinit reflectat in oglinzi intunecate. Flori ale raului, flori de mucegai cufundate in adancul Infernului lui Dante.

Realitate istorica sau vis? Amintiri traite sau cosmaruri? Rapunsul il da pe undeva chiar Kostas:

‘Unele din lucrurile pe care ti le povestesc s-au petrecut poate cu adevarat, altele doar in vis si-n inchipuire. Fiecare dintre noi are o viata visata si o viata traita, intre care nu trebuie insa sa facem nici o deosebire, caci in fata lui Dumnezeu, pacatul cu gandul ori visul si pacatul cu fapta sunt tot una. … Iar daca unele din aceste intamplari s-au petrecut doar in inchipuire, ele tin tot de povestea lui Kostas Venetis, caci ce e fiecare dintre noi, fiule, altceva decat o poveste inchipuita de Dumnezeu? (pag. 93)