Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bucuresti redux

It seems that photos just aren't going to be posted, at least not from here in Romania. Learn to live with disappointment.

I am, again, in Bucharest. To catch up those who may be behind - undoubtedly behind because I've had less chance to get to the internet and update you all than I might have hoped for - I've just returned from 5 days traveling at breakneck pace over the shoddy roads that meander about Romania. (I was assured earlier today that the highway I suddenly found myself traveling was not the ONLY highway in Romania. There is apparently another one as well.) So, as I said, to catch you up, I went from Bucharest north by northwest to Brasov, passing on the way within a couple of kilometers of Peles Castle.

Peles Castle is, according to guidebooks, one of the most crucial and must-see tourist destinations in Romania. We didn't stop.

We did stop in Doftona (completely misspelled), an abandoned prison which was architecturally stunning in its complete dilapidation, and daunting when I began to consider how much work would have to be done to make it look, well, not abandoned. But beautiful. Really beautiful. Central galleries that ended in single, massive arched windows, and walls that rose 30' on either side with narrow walkways to access closely packed cell doors. The fact that the walkways had lost the flooring and the roofing was gone in large sections only made it more stunning.

From there to Brasov,  to ponder churches and cobblestone streets, and to lunch with a cosmonaut whose name is so hard to pronounce I can't even type it. For the sake of story, we'll shorten his name to Dmitri-Demui Warshinsknomui. He was one of the first (last?) Romanian cosmonauts, and the autographed 5x7 card he gave me has a lovely photo of himself in full cosmonaut attire, sans glass helmet. That photo was inset into the larger and more current head shot of himself that he is using to run for the National Senate, representing Brasov. He was just about to officially launch his campaign, which means he and his two opponents will have to campaign for an entire month before the election at the end of November.

From Brasov we traveled up and through the Transylvanian mountains - the Carpathians I believe. to severely understate: the trip was uncomfortable, primarily because of poor road conditions, and slightly terrifying, primarily because safe passing distance while driving into oncoming traffic is slightly less distance than is required to keep the side view mirror attached to your vehicle.

I'm going to race through a bit here: from there we went down in a dark and foggy night to the city of Cluj-Napoca (not misspelled). Over the next few days we saw some of the things I mentioned in a previous posting, including rather more prisons than I needed to see. Every proud warden wanted to show us around COMPLETELY only to let us get to a few minutes of touring the dank basement at the end, which was largely all that we needed. The first couple of prisons were interesting, but the began to blur together.

After hitting the prison museum at Sighuet on the northern border with Ukraine, we turned to East and drove through the mountains to the city of Iasi, which was stock full of absolutely fabulous city exteriors, and farther from Bucharest than anyone would like. Then down , across the Danube by ferry, to the Black Sea, and to scouting of locations for work camps. (The original work camps in this area were to construct a canal from the Danube to the Black Sea. Those camps operated for a number of years in the 40s before the project was ended, and then deemed impossible, and the engineers who planned it killed for dreaming this impossible canal. Then the project was re-opened and I visited a rather impressive canal just yesterday.)

Now I am back, via one of the two Romanian highways, in Bucharest. A question was raised today and answered like this: if you were thrown from a plane above the city, there is a 10% chance you would land on the massive, massive, massive building Ceaucescu built in the middle of the city, a 30% chance you'd land on a communist housing block structure which can only be described as a hive, a 30% chance you'd land on a car stuck in traffic, and a 30% chance you'd land on a wild dog. The chances that you'd land on actually earth is such a statistical improbability, it can be refered to as impossible.

So, a few hours ago, while stuck in traffic between two hives, I looked over and saw a dog peeing on a kiosk of the sort one puts advertising posters. The sorts of posters one sees on construction fences in NYC and LA. Like other kiosks in the city, one poster is not torn down or cleaned off when the next is put up. You would just slather on a bit of wallpaper paste and put your poster over the last, and then move on to the next kiosk. This particular kiosk, however, had a full 8" of poster-depth. I kid you not. I had to jump out and measure. You could see it in cross-section, with peeling corners and edges, and posters had been glued one on top of the last to a full EIGHT INCHES. Crazy. And as I examined this absurdity, I realized that another poster was being, just then, glued on the opposite side.

It turns out that in a mere few days, on my birthday no less, Ace of Base will be performing here in Bucharest. A valuable poster indeed.


Blogger ginsy said...

Vote For:

Dmitri-Demui Warshinsknomui 2008

He's Out Of This World!

4:05 PM  
Blogger juddy said...

8"? That's so awesome. You should carve out little sections and give them away as paper weight holiday season gifts.

9:16 PM  

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