Friday, February 15, 2013

Next station: Roman Square - platform on the right

I have finally set off. My first encounter with Bucharest from a totally different perspective - someone actually LIVING there: having a real job there, having a proper place to live in, making friends there, using the public transport, etc. I felt nervous but desirous in my mission. The 'gatekeeper' was my real estate agent, Crina - a young lady my age with a firm and realiable handshake, who proved to know Bucharest like the back of her palm - she knew everything there was to know about places, things and people. I took to her from the very first moment and I got open to trust her expertise. She obviously needed that to make me quickly have a mental switch about the best place to live in. She proved me right. I got the most suitable place for what I really needed: a clean well-lighted place, as hemingway was saying, in the very heart of the city...I parted with Crina at the station. She took the train into the other direction. I was waiting for mine on the platform at the Roman Square. The monitor showed the countdown time: 3 minutes more. All of a sudden, next to me I saw an unaccompanied little blond schoolgirl, who must have been in her prep grade, thin, frail but stubborn in carrying her heavy schoolbag. Instinctively, I felt the need to protect her as I heard the train grinding to a halt. The gust of wind shredded us both blowing our long straight hair in disarray. She seemed a little embarrased by my gesture and got on very sure of herself ahead of me. With firm gestures she took her seat - steadfast and tenacious, placing her bag and changing boots safe next to her. She glanced at me, somehow intrigued - her eyes young but resilient, glum but garish. Our ages seemed to have reversed for a moment... She was not alone. And neither was I. We were safe, in the grand unsafety around us... all.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Rediscovering Bucharest - Eclectic Living

I came to re-discover Bucharest a while ago. My perceptions used to be filled with stereotypes and prejudgements about the capital city as being a place where souls go numb and everything turns mechanically into money making machines. It's no place to raise your children, I was told. They are all robotic... I was loaded with such ideas when these started to dry out during my latest visits there, in front of a fascinating richness that would slowly come out to light.

Nowhere have I seen a more magical mixture of times and cultures as in Bucharest these days! Here I am sitting in the heart of the city in a fancy four-star hotel room (for which I would have paid four times more in Paris) having state-of-the-art tech and interior design (and yes, they served me camembert cheese and red wine on arrival) - only the cry of a street seller of soap as if coming down from the 19th century time breaks the grand contemporary air of the street. Absolutely surreal!

The place abounds in highly modern buildings and Belle Epoque streets, people range from stylish cosmopolites to rural village characters - so it's this very mixture of spacial and temporal dimentions that cut through time and place that makes Bucharest a uniquely fantastic city - but beware! you need a good friend to show you round the hot spots!

Handmade products come to Life

Not far away from Ancuta's Inn, in the very heart of Moldova, any traveller who crosses this fairytale land can come across traditional handmakers - just like the ones I've met in Barticesti village (Neamt county). The summer was very hot and the local people welcomed us in the coolness of their village house with great hospitality. I couldn't help admiring the hundreds of objects on display - spoons, baskets, pots, pads, various cooking utensils - all carefully handmade of wood, straw and various other natural raw materials. The owners told us this tradition comes down from many generations and you have to be suitably ''cut'' in order to be able to do it. However, they were not doing it for money, even though they had taken part in a Traditional Products exhibition in Bruxelles at the European Parliament. I left the place with many beautiful and useful tools (at bargain prices) that I've been using ever since in my kitchen. I feel safe with such simply gifted kind-hearted people around and their beautiful story fills up my kitchen everytime I spend time there.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Talking to Father Iustin Parvu

One of my most surreal yet eye-opening conversations ever took place in the remote land of a forest oasis in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains this summer.

Romanian monasteries are well known for their instant quests into one-self-ness but this time was different. Surrounded by a good handful of people, I was diligently waiting for my turn to talk to and receive blessings from Father Iustin - probably the holiest man in Eastern Europe today.

Solid hours passed by: I took part in the morning lithurgy, then I was kindly invited to lunch by the nuns - food has so much flavour when eaten in simplicity - and then there came the long waiting. Each step was carefully taken, each time a little closer to the Father's humble room. Everyone was getting deeper into their own introspection. Words were useless anyway...And suddenly a group of tourists disturbed this silence - everybody was making way for them (it's tradition, by all means). Without waiting they were ushered next into the unpretentious room. The rest of us were skeptical - they were mere tourists without any connection to the process of self-ness we, the local people, were undergoing. As they were entering I was asking myself - are they gonna make anything out of this experience or just a tick on a sightseeing list of Romania? Eventually they got out - less cheerful and gay, more retained and pensive. Their eyes were alive with insight and meaning, their touristic giggle had turned into a subdued smile. I was proven wrong. They left in silence and respect.

After several hours my turn came. I had prepared my speech - fully logical and quite a mighty lengthy speech - well, such a complete waste of words! Here all was simplified to the quintessential. I got inside and sat in front of Father Iustin. He calmly looked at me and carefully searched inside my eyes - he got closer slowly and turned his head a little to the left as you would do with a magnifying glass to see the subject better - this time right into the furthest corners of my soul. He straightened up then and simply said: ''it's hard!'' - ''yes, it is.'' came my answer. Never had I been so subjected to a minute soul check-up! I spent 15 minutes instead of the five allowed for each one... Father Iustin quickly dropped all my civilisation shields I had been building for years: ''certificates are not important. it's the way you live your living moments that truly matters'', he said...

Here I was, one of the millions of people in a crisis today - the crisis of the soul, fundamentally. If only we could make this constantly our reason to go on - living our precious moments simply the right way.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What will you be reading this summer? Mircea Cartarescu

The leading magazine Time published the choices of leading world writers about their summer readings - Mircea Cartarescu's choice is among them.
My choice? Cartarescu's Visul ("The Dream") shall be among my readings.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

"Antreprenoriada" - Live Up to your Business!

Antreprenoriada is a most interesting business project, whose aim is to encourage entrepreneurial spirit in Romania, organized by Edurom in Iasi but developed in 9 different cities all over the country. This is an excellent example of what can be done with European funding and people's great ideas in order to build up stronger communities.

Personally, I have been particularly impressed by the attitude and spirit of the two young organizers - Razvan Mitocariu and Adrian Randasu - very professional, inspiring, supportive, informative, with a real sense of 'let's roll up our sleeves' and make a real contribution with our businesses.

While taking part in this project, I strongly had the feeling that Romania is growing.
Thank you so much Edurom team!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Face a Book: The Overcoat, by N. V. Gogol

Face a Book is the second edition of the successful annual Book Review Contest launched by Humanitas, in an open quest for book adventure and lifelong wisdom. Here's my take on The Overcoat, by N.V.Gogol, the text Dostoevsky referred to with these famous words: "We all come out from Gogol's 'Overcoat"...

Care a fost cea mai solemna zi din viata ta de pana acum? - ziua in care ai simtit ca beatitudinea iti inunda corpul, dar nu datorita vreunui vin moldovenesc, ci pentru ca esti plin de dragoste de viata - delirant, iremediabil, ireconciliabil! - ziua cand slujba sacadata, anosta, enervanta nu-ti mai intra pana-n maduva oaselor reumatic si nevrotic, ci ziua in care te-ai imbracat cu haina noua iar cea veche a iesit definitiv din viata ta - un nou "tu" cel eliberat, in sfarsit...

"Mantaua" lui Gogol exploreaza tocmai adancimile unei astfel de transformari si consecintele ei comunitare. Functionarul tipic Akaki Akakievici isi face treaba cu cea mai precisa constiinciozitate pe o leafa perfect mizera. Se intampla de ani de zile intr-un minister oarecare din Sankt-Petersburgul eclectic si eminamente injust, pana cand ziua imbracarii mantalei celei noi ii marcheaza definitiv ultima parte a vietii.
Incredibil de actual, Gogol intuieste miezul problematicii urbane - cum poti trai fara demnitate? Fara respect fata de tine insuti si fata de ceilalti? Indiferent si ignorant? Si cu ce pret?
Umbrele noptii pe stradutele orasului ascund voci nebanuite, soapte, franturi - "aaa, asta...", "lasati-ma in pace, de ce ma necajiti?", "dati-mi mai bine sa copiez ceva", "mantaua asta-i a mea", "da-mi-o pe-a ta!"...Orasul le ascunde dar asta nu inseamna ca ele nu exista.

Poate exercitiul nostru de reflectie de la inceput e unul reusit dar ma intreb ce l-a facut oare pe Gogol sa remarce "Sfanta Rusie, totul este contaminat de imitatie!" spre sfarsitul cartii.

Indubitabil, Mantaua lui Gogol e un text acid dar foarte placut prin vocea domnului Razvan Vasilescu, ceea ce este o adevarata incantare si un privilegiu al multor audiobook-uri.