Fri 21 Sep 2012
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.