We only knew of Romania from what the Internet, some films and a lot of clichés had told us. We thought wood, embroidery, metal and ceramics.
We landed at Bucharest airport one evening in May. Under a full moon, in a peri-urban area, we rolled our suitcases over the gleaming tiles of a modern house, signed papers and waited a little. Under a brightly lit porch, a man finished cleaning what would become our only home for more than ten days: a white Dacia Duster.
In a restaurant in Bucharest, where we enjoy a good soup, Tudor Jitianu organises our next day a meeting with Serban Sturdza. Its a sunny morning. The agency of the president of the Romanian Order of Architects, a craftsman for a large restoration project of churches and wooden houses across the country and an admired figure of the young creative scene, is living in a family house, a mansion that survived history. We are warned that our host has a very personal and free way of managing his priorities and his time. We are intrigued.
The master finally arrives. Sitting in his beautiful office, we mark crosses and draw roads on a large blank map. An ideal guide, he is fast and generous and understands our intentions perfectly.
We are now on board the Duster. Music is playing. We have chosen to cross Transylvania (by carefully avoiding the dracula type attractions), explore the Székely Land (Hungarian enclave), and to join Săpânţa to the North of the Maramures region (Greek Catholic cemetery and Jewish community).
The journey is magical.
We will never forget the fireside dinners in Micloşoara, the sedentary Roma houses in Brateiu, the horse carts with cross-country wheels, schoolchildren drawings on whitewashed walls, a conversation in the dim light of a wooded lounge, patterns and colours from the depths of time, a soulless hotel from the 90s, the impossible to find embroiderer, the interiors of Sighetu, vegetable gardens in the spring countryside, our meeting in Korond, and 60km on the DN18B.
At times the landscapes hold something sacred. A timeless beauty, radically simple and that we don’t dare seek out.
Back to Bucharest. We dine at a flashy Italian restaurant, just “to see”. What of this society of new money that denounces and characterises tv series, news reports and visiting witnesses? We tackle a number of hot topics: corruption, commodity trafficking, unfair competition, the hopes and fears of youth, and Europe. Although we lack the historical, cultural and economics to take sides, we leave with the richness of a country that has so much to offer.
Notes for later :
– Everywhere we go we hear romantic American and Romanian songs
– The big factories of the communist era are cut up in favour of the traffic of materials
– many young women tend their nails, they wear them long, even fake / we are told that it is proof that they do not have hands in the earth – « back to nature bla-bla-bla »
– « what’s worth doing is worth doing well »
– « generosity is a virtue »
– « give purpose back to these products »
– « build on the history and create a future »
– « people are not stupid »
– « what will you give me in exchange? »
– Petrol is extremely expensive in this country
– order some honey from Thomas
– « It is our aim that the younger generations should become more aware of their cultural heritage and more attached to its beauty and its historical relevance »
Alexandru Gussi, Yoanna Garnier, Serban Sturdza, Tudor Jitianu, Mihai Mardarev, Tibor Kálnoky, Nadja Zerunian, Christophe Huart, Dan Carpov, Dan Ofrim, Julien Labrousse
(Buna Alan Brown !)
Manufacturers : KÁLNOKY – TRANSYLVANICUM SCOALA DE LA PISCU VICTOR CLOPOTAR