Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1792: Tempus Fugit - A Return to Bucharest, 48 years later...
By Doru from Canada, Fall 2009
Page 9 of 18: About newspapers, Grădina (Garden) Cişmigiu and some stories
View from Grădina Cişmigiu
(Friday, September 18, 2009)
Today we are on our own. We take again via Calea Victoriei, along the same route described in Part IV of this report, but we turn to the right as soon we meet Casa Armatei, and enter Strada Constantin Mille, previously Strada Sărindar. Sărindar used to be the street where many of Bucharest’s newspapers were located both before, and also for some years, after WWII.
There are two strikingly different memories linking me to this street, one funny (at least for me), and the other pretty serious.
The funny one relates to the times when movie theatres lined Boulevardul Elisabeta, a major street that crosses here Calea Victoriei. At that time all movie theatres had lots of attendants; labour was cheap. Ushers and usherettes would lead everybody to their seats, flashlight at hand in case of late arrival. At the end of the main movie all doors would open on the opposite side of the theatres and, blinded by the sudden light, spectators needed to be directed. Thus was born the famous call “Ieşirea prin Sărindar!” (“Exit to the Sărindar Street!”) which became part of the Bucharest folklore, used in all cases in which lots of people had to exit at the same time through some narrow doors. I know that this may make no sense to many who read these lines, but those from the Bucharest of my time “get it” and crack up with laughter.
The serious memory is linked to the fact that my father started working on this street as an apprentice typographer in the late 1920s, and so did I, about 30 years later, as an apprentice journalist who collaborated on the weekly publication of a supplemental magazine for children. I was sent for, through my father, by a former teacher of mine from primary school who remembered that I “used to write well in Grade 3” and wanted to give me a shot at representing the side of the intended young audience of that supplement. For the next seven years I combined school, and later university, with work at this newspaper where I received lots of love, guidance and was indoctrinated with exigency in style, grammar, syntax and, above all, punctuation. The newspaper Romania Liberă, at the time the official daily of the Romanian government and municipalities, was considered more moderate than the newspapers controlled directly by the Communist Party.
The supplemental magazine for children did not last long, and my eyes were set on “the real newspaper.” After much supplications, I found myself in the sports department, a kid in short pants, surrounded by some of the most famous figures of Romania’s sport of the time: first and foremost the now passed away but then still the glorious Angelica Rozeanu, I believe nine times world champion at tennis table singles (and I have lost the count of her world titles in doubles, her European champion titles and the titles won in national team competitions); S.D., then the middle distance running champion of Romania, C.R., the fastest woman in the country, champion of track for short distances of 100 and 200 meters, etc. All these people were legends in their time and there I was, asked to pick up some information from the wire service and prepare a short note for the Sunday edition on the "fotbal" (aka soccer, calcio, football, fussbal, etc, etc.) games at Stadionul Unirea Tricolor!
Over time, I got to know them all quite well. I was received first with some amusement, I am sure, but it was never displayed; I was taken and treated seriously. Over time this became affection, support, mentoring. My evolution went from sports writing to writing on economy topics and finally, in the Walhalla of the journalism of the time, the literary reportage, wide epic topics which covered usually a number of the inner pages of the newspaper and required frequent and pretty extensive travel around the country.
At some time, I believe in 1956, despite the fact that the building of Casa Scânteii (named after the Romanian equivalent of Pravda) was not even finished, all newspapers were ordered to move to the new location, a controlled media factory, another example of “glorious” edifices of the time, and Strada Sărindar, now named Constantin Mille in the memory of a pre-war journalist who was editor-in-chief of the newspaper where my father worked, was left almost deserted. After the media exodus, the street died. Now, as we pass the side of Casa Armatei, all buildings are literally ruined. The façade of the building in which I worked is presently covered with sheets of canvas but I couldn’t guess whether it is because it falls apart or because some renovation of the building is going on. The smaller building across the street, where the economics department was located for a while, is still being used and the sign indicates that the building remained “in the profession” since it now hosts a publishing house. At the end of Constantin Mille we meet Strada Ion Brezoianu, where was then located another newspaper, “Informaţia Bucureştiului”, where I wrote as an extern sometimes. I spoke last with its editor-in-chief only a few days before leaving Toronto; he is now living in New Jersey.
Thus the wheel of the world turns...
We turn as well, towards Bulevardul Elisabeta, the street of movie theatres, ministries and of the famous Patiseria “Spicul” (“spic” means “wheat ear”) where the cheese patties used to be baked in wheels of 1 1/2 meters diameter. Triangular portions would be cut and presented from hand to hand on sheets of old newspaper; nobody worried about bacterial transmission at the time. Alas, “Spicul” is gone, some other eatery took its place, and I am too disappointed to even check it out.
Instead we enter Grădina Cişmigiu, one of the jewels of Bucharest, a gorgeous garden in the heart of town. With long, treed alleys, rows and rows of old style benches with iron work frames and the same sturdy wooden seats more than half a century old, a meandering lake on which young, romantic couples still row around the shore and under bridges where kisses are shyly stolen, swans floating peacefully, kids playing, alleys with romantic names like “Aleia Rozelor” (“Rose Alley”), “Aleia Indrăgostiţilor” (“Lovers’ Alley”)...
Here nothing has changed.
We know each alley. The flowers may be different, the trees older and the vines thicker, but it is the same Cişmigiu, whose name has an interesting etymology. Since the Principates of Wallachia and Moldova were for many years under the domination of the Ottoman Empire, many Turkish words have made their way into the Romanian language. In this case, Ceşme (pronounced “chesh-mé”) is a public fountain and a cişmigiu (or cişmegiu)” was the man who provided and controlled the water (In Turkish many trades carry the suffix “giu", pronounced like the Italian “giù”.)
One enters Cişmigiu and immediately everything slows down, voices change to murmurs, flowers replace cars and buses, benches are occupied by people reading, or opening their food brown bags, or keeping a watchful eye on the children running around. Even walking here downshifts to “au ralenti.”
In this garden, sometime in 1958, on my way to the building of Radio Bucharest, I met sitting lonely on a bench, shoulders tightly covered with a heavy brown jacket despite the sunny day, one of the tragic figures of the Romanian communist history: Ana Pauker, former member of the Central Committee of the Communist party, former Minister of External Affairs, probably at one time the second most powerful person in the country. She was purged from the party in 1952, at a time when similar purges took place in all communist countries at the instigation of the Soviet regime. She was imprisoned, then placed under house arrest, finally let free after Stalin’s death, never reinstated (or “rehabilitated” as the word was then). She died a few years later, in 1960, still a figure of a mysterious destiny, a controversial historical character.
On the day I saw her in Cişmigiu I didn’t know what to do: to just walk on turning my eyes away, to stop and talk to her? I chose to just nod, I said “Buna ziua, Tavarăşa Pauker!” (Good day, Comrade Pauker!”) She nodded back, and I went on to my business, never forgetting this figure symbolising the shortness of the road from the peaks of power to the anonymity of garden benches. But others had worse fates.
That was then. Today, Josette and I enjoy every moment of this walk, sit for a while in a café by the lake and have excellent espresso (the espresso has usurped the reign of the Turkish coffee here. If I want to have Turkish coffee I may have to find a way of making it myself...) and, after some reflective time, we go back towards our apartment, but not before passing by the building of the Academy of Music where Josette studied, a classical late 19th century mansion of sober lines.
Music: A second evening with the Sankt Petersburg Philharmonic. A beautiful Suite by George Enescu, followed by the Tchaikovsky violin concerto played by Nikolaj Znaider, a musician we have not heard before. Fragments from “Romeo and Juliet” suite by Prokofiev close an excellent concert.
We sit for the third time next to a person who seems to have the respect of many who come by to salute him, using the appellation “Father”, which here is used to address priests. This is a very imposing gentleman, who has an unusual habit: he always stays for the first part of any concert and leaves at the intermission. Josette always take his place and the entire row in this Loge 2 advances by one seat following her. We will find out that this gentleman was once the head of the Armenian Orthodox Church here. Years ago, it was decided to build a tall office building next to, and practically adjacent, to the Church. There were protests that this new building would tower over one of the great churches of the city, to no avail. There were protests when cracks started to appear in the foundation of the church because of the work next door, to no avail. As result of the protests, the Father was “liberated” of his position. Only a few months ago a fire broke in the “Blocul Milenium" (“The Millenium Business Centre”) which caused the roof of the church to also catch fire. Repairs are under way. The Father and his community were right to be concerned, but the “Business Center” towers and will continue to tower over the Church. Such is when “progress” meets, and clashes with, tradition.
These stories close Day 7.
|Car Rental||Hotel Booking||Flight Booking||Train Tickets||Books, Maps, Events|
|Europe Cell Phones||Long Distance Cards||Luggage, etc.||Travel Insurance||Classifieds|
Copyright © 2000 - 2013 SlowTrav.com, unless noted otherwise. Slow Travel® is a registered trademark. Contact Slow Travel