travel


Notele de calatorie si fotografiile facute de Erica in calatoria sa in Rajasthan, India in 2013 stau de foarte multa vreme in fisierele mele. Acum Erica se afla in Japonia, si dorinta de a ne impartasi si impresii de calatorie din aceasta recenta aventura a sa m-a mobilizat sa platesc aceasta veche datorie, si sa editez textul si sa includ fotografiile ei. Ii multumesc pentru impartasire si astept cu placere materialele urmatoare pentru a le pune la dispozitia cititorilor blogului. 

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E a doua calatorie a mea in India. Prima a fost in India de Sud, adica incepand din Chennay pana la varful de sud al subcontinentului coborand dealungul marii de-a lungul golfului Bengal si apoi urcand spre Nord dealungul marii Arabiei. Am inceput cu sudul fiindca mi s-a spus ca e mai putina mizerie si cred ca a fost o alegere buna pentru o prima excursie nu in grup organizat. Impresii din excursia asta sunt.

De data asta am ales Rajasthanul  nu numai pentru palatele extravagante si fortaretele si templele unice.  E un rai pentru turistii non-back packer care se pot simti ca un maharaja (rege sau print cel putin) cand innopteaza  intr-un heritage hotel.   Si ce este deosebit e faptul ca orasele principale ale acestei regiuni sunt extrem de diferite intre ele: Jaipur e orasul roz, culoarea predominanta a fatadelor si a palatelor, Jodhpur e bleu, Jaisalmer, situat  la marginea desertului e orasul de aur construit din pietre de nisip iar Udaipur situat  la malul unui lac fotogenic  este ceva cu totul neasteptat.

Farmecul estetic al fortaretelor si al palatelor pe care le-am vizitat se datoreste in buna parte si influentei artei musulmane (din anul 1200 Rajasthan, ca si alte   parti din India de nord au fost sub stapanire musulmana iar din secolul 16 au facut parte din imperiul Mogul) .

Ca in alte povestiri de excursii nu voi face un jurnal pe zile, ci voi impartasi impresii care mi-au ramas.

 

Diwali in New Delhi

Diwali in New Delhi

 

Shop in Delhi-1

Shop in Delhi

 

New Delhi.  Am picat  in orasul asta in ajunul festivalului Diwali-festivalul luminilor si dulciurilor. Cerul era luminat de focuri de artificii iar vitrinele erau decorate si dulciurile se vindeau peste tot.  M-am plimbat singura prin oras timp de doua zile pana ce  m-am intalnit cu grupul de australieni/englezi/neo-zeelandezi cu care am pornit la drum.

 

The metro in Delhi

The metro in Delhi

 

Un detaliu foarte interesant din Delhi: metroul e nou, curat cu statii moderne. Insa, exista vagoane separate pentru femei si pentru barbati. Si cuplurile se despart cand intra in metro. Nu stiu de cand e legea asta, dar nu ma mira in urma cazurilor cumplite de viol.

 

Estetica palatelor si a fortaretelor, murdaria de jur imprejur

 

Agra fort 1

Agra fort

 

Agra fort 2

Agra fort

 

Am inceput cu fortareata din Agra in care a stat sultanul din Delhi incepand din 1488, dar ce se vede astazi a fost renovat in 1558.  A nu se confunda cu cunoscuta cladire a Taj Mahalului, uimitoare  prin proportiile ei perfecte, care e de fapt un mausoleu construit pentru sotia defuncta a imparatului Shah Jahan in 1653.

 

Jaipur fort 4

Jaipur fort

Jaipur fort 3

Jaipur fort

Jaipur fort 2

Jaipur fort

Jaipur fort 1

Jaipur fort

 

La Jaipur, fortareata  Amber (1592)  a fost si mai uimitoare.

 

Mandawa painted house

Mandawa painted house

Mandawa painted house

Mandawa painted house

 

Dar nu numai fortaretele sunt exemple de estetica si maestrie. Un orasel intreg , Mandawa, e plin de case decorate , una mai frumoasa ca alta.

 

 

Mandawa town

Mandawa town

Mandawa town

Mandawa town

 

Dar in acelas orasel, in fiecare colt sunt resturi de material care au ramas dupa constructii si mormane de gunoi cam peste tot.

 

Milk distribution Jaisalmer

Milk distribution Jaisalmer

 

As vrea sa adaug aici si contradictia intre tehnologia apparent foarte dezvoltata – computer si wi-fi peste tot, dar laptele tot in bidoane se aduce, cu motocicleta insa.

 

Indienii si animalele

 

In Jaisalmer

In Jaisalmer

In Jaisalmer

In Jaisalmer

 

E un fapt bine stiut ca la indieni vacile sunt un animal sfant. Dar pana ce nu vii in India nu-ti poti inchipui in ce masura. Vacile se plimba pe strada, pe trotuare sau in mijlocul strazii, in grupuri sau singure,  la fel ca oamenii si masinile. I-am intrebat pe indieni dece se plimba prin oras si am primit doua informatii: 1. Ele se plimba ziua si seara se intorc in curti sa doarma pe langa stapanii lor si 2. Cand ele dau lapte au stapani, dar cand nu, ele pleaca in lume. In orice caz, cu sau fara stapani, ele mananca din gunoiul care e aruncat peste tot. Si cand vor sa doarma se intind pe o insulita de circulatie. Masinile nu par sa le deranjeze. Vedeti fotografiile.

Am incercat sa inteleg semnificatia vacilor in reiigia hinduista, fiinca  vaca e respectata ca un animal sacru. Dar dece? Vaca nu este de fapt o deitate. Acest animal a devenit important pentru indieni cam 1000 de ani BCE ca simbol al bogatiei. In afara de asta, vacile reprezinta sacrificiul fiindca untul topit (ghee) produs din lapte este o componenta principala la oficierea sacrificiilor. Deci, vacile fiind socotite ca darul D-zeilor omenirii , vanzarea si consumarea carnii de vaca este interzisa prin lege. Dar nu numai consumul carnii de vaca este interzis. Un numar de religii originare din India (Jainismul, Hinduismul si Buddhismul ) preconizeaza vegetarianismul in general in mod mai mult sau mai putin riguros si am fost din nou uimita cate restaurante in care vin si turisti sunt restaurant strict vegetariene

Ati stiut oare ca nu numai vacile sunt socotite animale sfinte, exista si …sobolani sfinti??

 

Rat temple

Rat temple

Rat temple

Rat temple

Rat temple line

Rat temple line

 

Da, in cadrul acestei excursii in Rajasthan am vizitat si Templul Sobolanilor de langa Bikaner. In fotografii vedeti si coada oamenilor care se pregatesc sa intre in templu, unii deja cu batiste la nas, dar toti localnicii cu daruri pentru sobolani, si eroii templului, sobolanii in actiune.  In templul pe care l-am vizitat traiesc vreo 20.000 de sobolani negri si nu este singurul templu de acest fel din India. De unde provine sfintenia sobolanilor?

O legenda spune ca unul din eroii mitologiei indiene a fost salvat de la inec cu conditia ca toti copiii lui de sex barbatesc sa fie reincarnati in sobolani. O alta legenda spune ca o armata de 20.000 de soldati a dezertat de la o lupta si ar fi trebuit sa fie pedepsiti pentru dezertare. Karni Mata, o inteleapta hinduita, reincarnata in zeita Durga, a decis sa-i ierte dar i-a prefacut in sobolani si le-a oferit templul ca adapost. Acesti 20.000 de sobolani sunt venerati de indieni; este o mare onoare sa mananci din mancarea gustata si de sobolani…

Personal nu recomand aceasta vizita amicilor mei care care au de gand sa viziteze Rajasthanul……

 

Dormi ca un maharaja

 

Hotel room in Udaipur

Hotel room in Udaipur

 Entrance to Maharaja residence Jaisalmer

Entrance to Maharaja residence Jaisalmer

Resort hotel in Mandawa

Resort hotel in Mandawa

 

Exista o serie de hoteluri in palate sau foste resedinte ale maharajilor. Nu intotdeauna totul functioneaza perfect, dar impresia camerei, a salilor de primire si a restaurantului este ca in 1001 de nopti.

 

India, un paradis al amatorilor de shopping

 

Road to the temple in Jaisalmer

Road to the temple in Jaisalmer

Road to the temple in Jaisalmer

Road to the temple in Jaisalmer

 

Nu numai palatele si templele sunt dovezi de un gust deosebit. Si obiectele de zi de zi, mai ales textilele, bijuteriile sunt deosebite. Si dat fiindca populatia e saraca, aceste “cadouri” usor de carat sunt ieftine si de gasit peste tot. Cui ii place sa se tocmeasca  poate ajunge la preturi derizorii.

Eu am cumparat:

 

Cushions

Cushions

 

1 Fete de perne decorative

 

Shawls

Shawls

Pashmina and shawl

Pashmina and shawl

 

2. Saluri si pashmina

 

bedspread

bedspread

Bedspread

Bedspread

Bedspread

Bedspread

 

3 Cuverturi de pat

 

Carpet

Carpet

 

4. Un covoras de bumbac

 

 

Erica Hoffer mi-a permis preluarea pe blog a notelor ei de calatorie din vizita facuta recent la New York. De aceasta data va fi vorba despre cateva expozitii si muzee mai mici, din acelea pe care placerea de a le descoperi si vizita ti-o poti permite numai dupa ce ai epuizat obiectivele ‘importante’.

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Am descoperit ca americanii au maestria de a face din orice subiect o expozitie cel putin, daca nu un muzeu.  Ma gandesc de unde vine aptitudinea asta pe care nu am vazut-o si in alte aspecte ale vietii americane. Poate  din necesitatea de a explica oamenilor cu capacitati reduse sau cu un attention span limitat anumite fapte. Este aptitudinea de a face orice explicatie pe intelesul tuturor, de a inventa metode audio vizuale inedited.

Pe scurt, in vizita  din saptamana trecuta m-am ferit de muzeele mari cu sali infinite cu sute de picturi atarnate. Pentru a ilustra compunerea de jos am pus fotografii care ilustreaza expozitiile respective.

1. In Lower East Side “The Tenement Museum” care poveste (printre altele, nu numai) etosul emigrarii evreilor din Europa de est de la inceputul secolului trecut. Muzeul se afla intr-o casa in care stateau un numar de familii in conditii teribile de inghesuiala si saracie. Spre deosebire de muzeele clasice in care se viziteaza camera cu mobilele si ustensilele din acea perioada, in acest muzeu s-au ales un numar de subiecte si fiecare este prezentat de o ghida. Eu am ales subiectul castigarii existentei (in idish parnuse). Expozitia se numeste Sweatshop Workers. Cu ajutorul ghidei am urmarit viata a doua familii, una, familia Levine,  care avea o manufactura chiar in incinta locuintei, cu muncitori angajati care lucrau in living room si bucatarie. Am cunoscut aceasta familie din momentul in care ajunge la NY,  am urmarit educatia copiilor si am luat parte la succesul commercial al parintilor care dupa multi ani in care atelierul se afla in apartamentul lor , reusesc sa se elibereze finalmente de aceasta viata incomoda si ajung sa mute atelierul in alt loc inafara casei.  O alta familie mai instarita, familia  Rogarshevsky, reprezentata prin masa ei festiva de Vineri seara, reuseste de la inceput sa se puna pe picioare fara sa aibe atelier in casa. Copiii lor sunt trimisi la scoli mai bune iar stranepoatele in rochii elegante dupa gustul American sunt fotografiate la nunta in familie. Fotografia reda toata satisfactia acestei familii care a reusit sa “ajunga”. Nu numai emigratia evreilor din Europa de Est este reprezentata la acest muzeu. Si emigratia irlandeza, la fel de saraca, a fost povestita intr-o alta vizita ghidata in aceasta cladire.

 


2. Expozitia Beatrix Potter, la biblioteca Morgan. B. Potter, autoare a unor carti de copii deosebit de reusite care il au ca protagonist pe iepurasul Peter Rabbit. Aceste carti s-au nascut din scrisorile illustrate ale autoarei catre copiii prietenilor ei. Este vorba de scrisorile adresate lui Noel Moore, un copil des bolnav, fiul guvernantei lui Beatrix Potter. Autoarea isi ilustreaza scrisorile cu mici desene in creion. Cu timpul, aceste scrisori au devenit povestiri, publicate pentru prima data in 1983, iar eroul, Peter Rabbit, iepurasul imbracat in hainita albastra a devenit iubitul copiilor din toata lumea.  Expozitia e la biblioteca bogatasului Pierpoint Morgan. o cladire superba, largita in 2006 de arhitectul Renzo Piano pentru care a primit premiul Pritzker si renovata in 1910 de firma McKim, Mead & White.

 

 

Beatrix Potter - letter to Noel Moore

 

3. Expozitia “Eruv” la Yeshiva University, 15 W 16th Str. Pentru cine nu stie, si nici eu nu am stiut asta mult timp, eruv este fizic o sfoara sau sarma intinsa intre stalpi de telefon sau iluminatia orasului. Conceptual eruvul are o mare importanta in viata evreilor religiosi. In lipsa acestui fir care delimiteaza spatiul in jurul casei sau al asezarii, evreii religiosi nu au voie sa care lucruri, sa impinga carucioare in timpul Shabatului.  Existenta acestui fir subtire le mareste spatiul in jurul casei incat in chii lor, ceea ce fac in spatiul delimitat de eruv e ca si ar face in interiorul casei. In Statele Unite, eruvul este pe de o parte o delimitare a spatiului in care stau destui evrei , dar si o integrare in viata urbana americana.

 

 

4. “Parfumuri (Scents)” la Museum of Arts and Design la Columbus Circle. Aceasta este prima expozitie a unui muzeu in care crearea unui parfum este considerat un act de creatie artistica. Expozitia se concentreaza asupra a 12 parfumuri create intre 1889 si 2012 care reprezinta metode sau curente diferite in aceasta arta, de exemplu  Chanel 5 creat in 1921.

 

 

Cel mai neobisnuit aspect al acestei expozitii este aspectul spatiului ei: o incapere minimalista toata in alb pe al carei pereti sunt montate urne care emit valuri ale parfumului respectiv. Textul alaturat fiecarei urne descrie creatorii, anul creatiei si genul de parfum (modern, abstract sau brutalist).  O incapere alaturata permite vizitatorilor o noua examinare a acestor parfumuri, interactiva de data asta,  vizitatorii avand posibilitatea de a caracteriza parfumuri alese.

5. Imbracamintea studentilor de la Ivy League in decursul anilor (la Fashion Institute) 7th Av cu 27th str.

Expozitia se numeste Ivy Style, adica stilul vestimentar care caracterizeaza studentii de la universitatile renumite in care deobicei studentii nu numai ei mai brilianti dar a caror parinti aveau posibilitatile materiale de a trimite copii la aceste institutii prestigioase. Stilul Ivy league origineaza de la inceputul anilor 1900, in ultimul secol s-a raspandit mult inafara de universitatile de elita. Expozitia este aranjata in mod tematic si nu chronologic, in sectii care acopera difersele activitati studentesti, clase, camine studentesti, sporturi, evenimente festive.

 

Expozitia este interesanta fiindca e evident ca look-ul Ivy care a dat dovada de capacitatea de a supravietui  testul timpului este de fapt look-ul pur american.

 

 

6. Garage sale al artistei Martha Rossler la MOMA. Cati dintre noi nu avem pasiunea sa cotrobaim prin bibelouri, bijuterii, vase de servit si alte obiecte care se aduna prin case. Artista Martha Rossler  a umplut un spatiu enorm la muzeul de arta moderna MOMA cu obiecte de zi de zi din casa ei, din casele salariatilor MOMA si donate de public. Artista, prezenta in tot timpul expozitiei si luand parte activ la targuitul in sine,  examineaza de fapt reactia publicului la acest happening popular si arata fotografii si filme video facute in timpul expozitiei.  Prin aceasta expozitie, muzeul isi demonstreaza apropierea de strada, de viata de toate zilele, de posesiunile care ne inconjoara si ne caracterizeaza.

 


I am spending a short vacation traveling all over Israel with old friends from Bucharest. It’s their first visit in Israel, but for me it’s maybe the 20th time I have the joy to be guide to family and friends coming to Israel, to share with them some of the beauties, history, real life here.

I do not have too much time today (I am busy as I am on vacation!) but I would like to share a few snapshots taken in Tzfat (Safed), one of our stops today.

 

 

Safed has a long and troubled history. While a Jewish presence was almost permanent for the last two thousands years, the political and military control over the city changed hands many time in this interval. The last change was in 1948 when the Jewish forces won after fierce fights the battle over the city. In the years that followed the former Mosque Market became the artists district of the city, with many remarkable artists settling here, opening ateliers and galleries.

 

 

This is how the closed Galleries Alley looks today.

 

 

 

From the galleries alley one can access the Yosef Caro synagogue. The original synagogue was built in the 16th century by the famous rabbi who authored Sulkhan Arukh - the book of interpretations of the Halacha written for the Jewish communities in the aftermath of the expulsion from Spain. Destroyed twice by the earthquakes in 1759 and 1837, it is now a beautiful example of the Sephardic style synagogues.

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.

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.

 

 

source http://calatorii.myfreeforum.ro/t100-manastirea-polovragi-gj

 

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.

 

source http://www.crestinortodox.ro/locasuri-cult/manastirea-hurezi/manastirea-hurezi-5982.html

 

source http://www.crestinortodox.ro/locasuri-cult/manastirea-hurezi/manastirea-hurezi-5993.html

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

The city of Lugoj is located between Caransebes and Timisoara, but the two segments of the road we made the same day were quite different. Both are in very good condition by any standards, some of the best we have traveled in Romania, but while the first part between Caransebes and Lugoj bends in between the hills in a very picturesque area, the second one that connects Lugoj and Timisoara is one of the dullest and most boring areas I have ever driven on.

It’s only the second time I was visiting Lugoj in my life, despite the strong family relations with this city. My grandparents and my mother were born there, and actually the first time I visited the city was exactly 40 years ago, together with my mother, on some kind of roots finding visit. Of course, I had now again a list of places I was supposed to visit, make photos of and bring the pictures to my mother who cannot travel that far any longer.

Lugoj is a place with an interesting history in an interesting area. Mentioned by historical documents for the first time in the 14th century, it was by the time my grand-grandparents lived in a town at the Southern extremity of the Austro-Ungarian Empire, in the area of Banat inhabited by Romanian, Hungarian, German, Serbian, Jews, Gypsies and probably more nations. My grandmother used to say that before the first world war the population in Lugoj was one third Romanian, one third Hungarian, one third German and one third Jewish. She was right despite the arithmetic paradox.

The Two Towers Orthodox church was the first on the list that we visited. It was built in the 18th century, but the interior painting was completely redone between 1941 and 1944 by the painter Anastasie Damian, the same painter who created much of the interior paintings of the Cathedral in Timisoara. My mother’s years of war were related to this church, as a Jew she could not go to public schools because of the racial laws, and as my grandfather was a friend of the painter she took a job of apprentice to church painter Damian! She claims that one of the angels painted on the ceiling is her portrait, I could not really identify it :-) The interior painting was renovated a few years ago, the exterior is now under renovation.

Just behind the church can be found the Saint Nicholas Tower, the oldest Orthodox Christian structure in the city, built in 1402 with baroque additions dating from 1726.

We then wondered on the streets of the area of the city called the Romanian area, located on the right side of the river. Many of the buildings are more than 100 years old, some of them are renovated, but a more serious renovation project would help to bring back the beauty of this very picturesque city. See for example the photos of the Bejan Palace, built in 1901 by a royal notary clerk who also was a fine intellectual, who translated first to Romanian the Chronic of Bella, fundamental document in the history of Hungary.

The water of the river Timis cross the city and divide it between the Romanian side and the German side on the other side of the river. Of course, the names are just history, today more than 85% of the population is Romanian. The Iron Bridge is connecting the two parts of the center of the city, and the reaction of my mother seeing the pictures was that it did not change at all from the image she had in her memories as a child.

The same cannot be said about the Dacia Hotel, which was a landmark of the city. We stayed here overnight in 1972 when I first visited the city, which would not have been possible now. The hotel is closed, the building is waiting for some well-deserved renovation to be brought back to its functions and splendor.

Not far from the hotel and the heart of the city the beautiful building of the synagogue can be found. It was built in 1843, and was the heart of the Jewish life – religious and cultural as well, as many of the Jews of Lugoj were educated and music was part of their life in a city that gave to Romania several fine composers and musicians. A school existed in the backyard for more than one hundred year, and was closed forever by the Communist regime. According to Romanian Jewish Community web page dedicated to Lugoj there are only 56 Jews living today in the city, the synagogue is still active, but unfortunately was closed by the time we visited there so we could not enter it.

On our way back we took a picture to what was once the corso - the place of leisure and wandering of the middle class and of course beautiful ladies of the city. Today it’s a commercial area, nice but not too different of the one that can be found in many other places in Europe or the world.

Last stop was on the Popovici Street, to see the house that was once owned by my grand-grandparents and my grandparents, and where my mother and uncle spent their childhood. It’s a quite area, somehow remote from the center of the city. A moment a remembering, a few pictures of the house and the places around, and we got back to the car on our way to Timisoara – another city with good vibrations in the history of my family.

We spent four days during our vacation in the Iron Gates area. Two of the days were spent on driving tours on the Romanian and Serbian shores of the river. Here are a few impressions and photographs taken in these areas.

 

 

Our lodging place was the Steaua Dunarii (Danube Star) pension after Eselnita, on the shore of the Danube, about ten kilometers up the river from Orsova. The place is open since 2001, and is one of maybe ten or twenty such places in an area that could accomodate much more. The sitting is beautiful and we enjoyed unforgettable evenings on the balcony to the Danube, we admired the sunset and the sunrise over the river, and silence of the place. The restaurant is decent but not more, and boat trips on the Danube are offered at extra-cost.

 

 

 

 

The road on the Romanian shore spreads on more than 100 kilometers between Eselnita and Bazias, crossing the Moldova Noua area. The river bends and creates a chain of very picturesque gulfs. The water is calm and deep in an area of gorges which was once fast and dangerous, this is the result of the Iron Gates dam project built in the 60s and 70s by the Romania and former Yugoslavia. It’s an area of huge touristic potential which could rival with the lakes in Germany or North Italy or with the Balaton lake in Hungary. Unfortunately it is very little known, too little investment in hotels and tourist attraction was made, and the roads … oh, the roads … on the Romanian side the first 20-30 kilometers of shore road West of Eselnita are in the worst possible condition.

 

 

As in other places in Romania we could see on the side of the road abandoned industrial structures, the ruins of what the Communist propaganda called ‘the golden age’, remains of the process of forced industrialization of Romania during the Communist rule. Many of these industries had no real economic reason and could not resist the open market conditions after the fall of the Communism.

 

 

We also had that day our first experience of ‘eating Serbian’ on the beautiful terrace of a restaurant located in a villa in the hills near Moldova Noua. More about our culinary experiences during the trip in a future episode.

 

 

The landscape on the Serbian side where we crossed in another day is even more spectacular. The road on that side of the border is in excellent condition, it gets higher in some places which allows for spectacular views and photo opportunities. Places to sit, eat, rest, enjoy the landscape by road are much more frequent. I am sorry to say but the Serbian shore drive felt much more ‘European’ than the one of the Romanian side.

 

 

 

 

On the other hand there is very little development on this side as well. Actually the road between the crossing border point at the Iron Gates dam to Belgrade is scarcely populated, there are no more than three villages on the 50-60 kilometers we traveled near the river. Two points of interest are however very much worth a stop. One is the archeology museum that gathers the findings at Lepenski Vir site, a settlement that was covered by waters when the dam was built. The Yugoslavs created this museum in a spectacular structure near the Danube, and the remains of the civilization that was active between 5300 and 4800 BC where such preserved.

 

 

 

The other objective are the ruins of the Golubac fortress located in a strategic place on a bend of the Danube. First documented mention dates from the Middle Ages, mid 14th century, and successively the Romanian Transylvanians, Serbs, Hungarians, Turks and Austrians conquered and controlled the place. Today the highway passes under two of the porches of the fortress, the place is easily accessible and the visit is free of charge.

 

 

 

I am bringing in this episode of my travel notes a few pictures taken on the spectacular alpine highway Transalpina which we crossed in the last day of our motor trip. The road crosses the  Parang mountains and allowing for a scenic drive from the city of Sebes in the North to the resort of Ranca south of the mountains. The map is available at

http://www.transalpina.biz/harta.html

The road competes with the Transfagarasan alpine road which is located about 100 km East for the title of the most beautiful alpine road in Romania. Its origins are said be traced back to the 4th century BC, this being one of the roads used by the Roman legions to reach the defense posts in the Northern area of the Empire.  Used for the many centuries to come only by shepherds crossing the mountains with their sheep. It was only during the First World War that the German army built a stone road, then when both sides of the Carpathians became part of Romania it was modernized during the 1930s (the reign of king Carol the 2nd). During the last few years it was asphalted and is in very good shape, yet it is not yet officially open as the sides of the road are not all in place. It is safe to look on the Internet Web site for the state of the road and for the weather forecast before planing a trip

 

 

 

 

We crossed it from North (the lake at Obarsia Lotrului) to South (the resort of Ranca). After climbing on the alpine plateau the landscape becomes spectacular, endless rows of mountains, and the road that at some points seems to climb to the sky. We have visited alpine roads in Austria and Switzerland and we can witness that the Transalpina proudly competes with them. The Internet side quotes 2145 as the highest point on the road, although the GPS on our car claimed that we reached 2170m at some point.

 

 

 

Here is an odd and sad story – the story of a place of worship, the story of a place that witnessed the history of a Jewish community and was the symbol, the place of gathering and the center of life of this community. A place which was sold as a piece of real estate and its purpose changed. Instead of becoming a place of remembering it will soon forget all.

 

 

This was the second day of our trip in Western Romania. After having spent the night in Baile Herculane and then traveled for a few hours in the wild and picturesque valley of the river Cerna we descended to Turnu Severin.We stopped first at the walls of the medieval city which are also the head of the bridge built by Apolodor of Damascus in the years 103-105 when the Roman army entered Dacia to win the second and final war and conquer this territory. Then we went to the center of the city which looks quite nice and was quite and empty in that summer Sunday afternoon. There we noticed the building, a red bricks structure with a silhouette that looked familiar.

 

 

Without any doubt the building was a synagogue. Or better said it was once a synagogue, because now the firm outside indicated the present destination of the building – a notary office. What we were seeing was the former synagogue built in the center of the city in the second half of the 19th century by the Jewish community of Turnu Severin. The community was not too big in numbers, a mix of about 140 Ashkenazi and Sephardic families, but probably a wealthy and flourishing community as they could afford buying in this location and building the Jewish place of prayer in the heart of the city. I could find no information about the building on the Internet, not the exact year of its building, not about the architect and builder, not about the benefactors who contributed. I do not know if there are any archives of the community, there are certainly Jews who were born here, or descendants of the Jews born here living all over the world, they could have contributed with information, photographs, memorabilia, they could have helped to make this place a museum if there is no longer a viable community for praying, but the fate of the place was to be different.

 

 

I could actually find more information on the Internet about the transaction that settled the fate of the synagogue building. The case made some waves a few years ago. If the information I found is accurate, the building was sold by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania (FCER) in 2006 for the amount of 57,000 Euros (the price of an average apartment in Bucharest) to a family of notaries who opened here their office. Here are two articles (in Romanian) describing the story and the history.

 

http://www.mehedinti.djc.ro/ObiectiveDetalii.aspx?ID=993

http://www.divers.ro/actualitate_ro?wid=37455&func=viewSubmission&sid=1665

 

We could not enter the building, the offices were closed on Sunday. Near the synagogue a big Christian Orthodox cathedral is being built, actually it looks close to completion, and it dwarfs the much modest (in size) synagogue. The building looks like it’s being maintained in good conditions, but soon the external architectonic details still existing that keep trace of the original purpose of the building may disappear, and with them the last memories of another Jewish community in Eastern Europe which is gone forever.

 

 

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