Category Archives: Must read

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Martisor tradition in Romania

By | Must read, Traditions, Weekly secret | No Comments

The “martisor” is a red and white string offered as a talisman at the beginning of spring. One folk tale says that the string was spun by Baba Dochia, a mythological old woman identified with the return of spring. During the first nine days of March Baba Dochia spins the wool thread next to her sheep, wearing nine sheepskins that she takes off one at a time each day. As she sheds the sheepskins, the weather gradually turns warmer. She uses the red and white wool to make the threads, the former symbolizing winter and the passing year, the latter a sign of spring and renewal.

In the old days the “martisor” was an important custom, the peasants offered close ones lucky charms or twisted wool threads to protect them from disease and bad luck. With time, a coin recalling the sun was added to the thread.

Since then the “martisor” took various forms. I can’t recall how it was during my grandparents’ time, but I like to think it was simpler than today. Whenever the 1st of March is approaching I find myself looking for the traditional “martisor” which carries some meaning. The list below revolves around the “martisor” that has motifs, fabrics, techniques or inspiration of a traditional nature. For me they’re all beautiful, simple, bearing a story.

The list below revolves around the “martisor” that has motifs, fabrics, techniques or inspiration of a traditional nature. For me they’re all beautiful, simple, bearing a story.

Daciana Ungureanu – Everlasting signs

martisoare_Daciana

In the past few years Daciana, an artist from Novaci with a passion for the traditional values, has been a savior in my quest for the “martisor” as every year she has a different collection of a traditional vein. You can contact her on the Daciana Ungureanu Ethnographic Collection Facebook page.

Mesteshukar Boutique – Shukar Martisor

Mesteshukar

Mesteshukar ButiQ (MBQ) is an active supporter of revaluing the traditional crafts of the Roma people. They have recently opened a showroom on Edgar Quinet No 7 in Bucharest, and can also be found at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Stockholm with an exhibition called Nomadic Design Practices.

The Paper Mill – Cărţişor

moara de hartie_Cartisor

The Paper Mill (workshop on paper making, binding, calligraphy, painting) envisages the “martisor” as a book with covers of handmade paper and pages of recycled paper containing poetry about spring. You can contact them at echipa@moaradehartie.ro or on their Facebook page. Their work can be found at Sophia Bookshop and the English Bookshop in Bucharest, and it’s also available for shipping.

Ionela Lungu – Figurines

Ionela Lungu_Pacala (2)

Ionela Lungu is an artist, modeller in clay, photographer and wizard who brings to life figurines based on the characters of Ion Creanga. She charms with photographs of The Ozana River and stories from the Humulesti village. If we are really lucky we can meet her at fairs in Bucharest, Suceava and Iasi and hear her stories live.

Painted Gifts – wooden martisor

CadouriPictate_martisoare

I know Andreea from the entrepreneurship courses we have attended together. We
haven’t got on well with the paperwork and financial tools, but our passion remained unscathed. She has always painted and the muse sometimes even visits her at night, with T-shirts, gift boxes, furniture and painted rooms as proof. She recently started painting martisor on ceramic, wood, fabric, some of them turning into fridge magnets. For orders contact her on her Facebook page Painted Gifts – Cadouri Pictate.

Village Signs – traditional martisor

SemneleSatului_martisoare

I found their Facebook page with photographs of traditional stitches and crafts, which I recommend for their attention to detail. Orders can be placed via private Facebook messages on their page Semnele Satului.

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An encounter with Brancusi

By | Destinations, Events, Must read, Oltenia, Urban break | No Comments

A pioneer of modern sculpture, Constantin Brancusi found inspiration in folkloric art and geometric lines. I first learned about Brancusi and the Architectural Ensemble at Targu Jiu when we discussed important figures of Gorj County during my 4th grade Geography classes. I remember feeling small every time I sat next to The Endless Column, as well as something else that eluded words, which I still have trouble explaining. Luckily I now have the artist’s words to help me decipher both the sculptures and the emotions connected to them.

My first true encounter with Brancusi was through a friend’s article on 10 Romanian places in Paris, which revealed to me the story of The Kiss – a piece commissioned by the father of Tatiana Rachewskaia, a wealthy Russian who killed herself out of love.

Her story led me to finding more about the craft of sculpting and about how Brancusi saw the link between life, death and love. His sculptures are linked in a series: The Kiss came first, then The Kiss Column, followed by The Gate of the Kiss. He said:

I wanted to make something that told the story not of a single couple, but of all people who loved each other and walked the Earth before having left it.”
What’s striking about the work of Brancusi is its simplicity or “resolved complexity”, ashe named it. A layman’s eye looking at The Gate of the Kiss sees lines and circles carved in rock. In actuality all sides of each column are adorned with symbols of the kiss – two halves of a circle. Above the gate there are 40 pairs of lovers facing each other; their faces only show the eyes and the mouth, which unites two halves of the same unit. The interlocked silhouettes of The Kiss are reduced to a few symbols on the gate, recalling couples, love, life and death.
After reading my friend’s article and seeing Targu Jiu with new eyes, I wanted to visit Brancusi’s workshop in Paris, a replica found at Georges Pompidou Centre, which hosts a large part of his works. The experience was a feast for the eyes: the ensemble of works, the way the light fell on bronze and marble, each sculpture and pedestal. Brancusi was constantly mindful of the relationship between the sculptures, their surrounding space and the pedestals. The intimate connection between the sculptures inside the workshop became paramount, and around 1950 he refused to sell his works. If convinced of letting one go, he would replace it with a replica made in cast to recall the original piece made of marble or bronze.

 

Atelier Brancusi, Paris… #brancusi #constantinbrancusi #sculpture #atelier #studio #Paris #column #art #endlesscolumn

A photo posted by Nicola Ferrero (@nicolaferrero) on

My next meeting with Brancusi will be at his home at Hobita. I know the Oltenian gate he sculpted resides at Paris, but I want to see the places that molded him, the gardens where he envisioned The Endless Column in the shape of the oaks, the table he ate at and the veranda where his mother would be waiting for him.
Do you recall your first encounter with Brancusi?
***
Our big plan is an Oltenia tour, that will happen this year in June, which will include Hobita and Targu Jiu. Our smaller plan is a special trip, with focus on Brancusi. Find more about what are we planning for you on our Join us on trip! page.
Gabi_MySecretRomania_Nucsoara

10 lessons learnt after one year in Romania

By | Just my opinion, Must read | 3 Comments

I was born and raised in Romania; every day I had a picture of the real country in front of my eyes and I still didn’t see it clearly enough. It’s what happens when you have something close to your eyes and you cannot focus.

Every time a foreigner would ask me “how is Romania?”, “how are your fellow countrymen?” I had the same dry answer, almost automatically: “Romania is a beautiful country, too bad it has inhabitants.” It is the translation of a phrase I didn’t invent “Romania e o ţară frumoasă, păcat că e locuită!”, a phrase that a lot of Romanians use when they want to describe their country in 30 seconds. This generalisation is not flattering at all, it does not honour any of us. It refers to everyone, even to the one uttering the words “too bad it has inhabitants”. It says something about my mom, my dad, my grandparents.

This dry answer comes to me after years and years of being showed the flaws: my failures, my misunderstandings and what goes wrong in the country (government flaws, bureaucracy, corruption). On the other hand, my teachers and my parents would say: “the French are so elegant!, look at the British educational system!, look at the Dutch social system!” My mental path formed soon after “they are better, have prettier, cleaner countries! Let’s go there!” So I visited more and more countries, looking for a “better, greener grass than in Romania”. I did the same at a personal level – I looked for answers about myself in the neighbourhood’s courtyard. And the more I looked for them elsewhere, the lonelier and lost I would feel.

It took me almost two years and a journey of 10 000 de km to see the link between people very proud of their courtyard, their history and traditions an the smile and the energy they showed every day. Although they have more problems than Romanians do (poverty, corruption, violence – all multiplied by a 200 million population), Brazilians share beautiful stories about their country, their family, music and dancing. They take their energy from their country’s nature – beach, rivers, mountains, from music and stories of local heroes. The crisis they are going through is challenging a lot their perspective, but they are surely more inclined to look inwards then outwards.

I came back to Romania and I turned also inwards, which helped me see with different eyes my “dowry chest” – the traditions, customs and stories that my family accumulated for years. I also showed other people this inheritance and saw that we all learn from this journey inwards, back home. These are the lessons I’ve learned since I came back from Brasil:

1. the Romanian blouse is a story in itself

Discovering the Facebook page La Blouse Roumaine in 2013 and the blog semne-cusute (sewn signs) in 2014 were magic moments for me. They represent the code that I needed to be able to read a part of the riches that I inherited from my grand parents and great-grand parents. I remember all the times we moved the carpets, the rugs, the quilts and all the other woven items from the attic into the courtyard for spring cleaning. We air them, we talk about their motifs and about who made them and we put them back into a room where nobody sees them for another year.  The same happens with the traditional costumes. I knew they had a huge value, but I didn’t have the chance to acknowledge that value. I couldn’t “read” them. This year, during Easter, I discovered a ia – a Romanian blouse that I could read. It belonged to my grandmother and she had embroidered her name on the blouse. I realised that the symbols our ancestors chose for weaving and sewing their dowry tell a story. And a sewn story, like a told story, needs listeners. I will surely listen from now on!

2. nature’s lesson about peace

We reached a remote village in the Apuseni Mountains after a very tiring journey from Bucharest (7 hours of driving and some steep slopes at the end). The moment we entered our host’s courtyard, all the noise in my head seemed to quiet down. We all looked around, made friends with the sheep, the dogs, the bees and we couldn’t believe how peaceful it was. The villagers, their household and their livelihood have a deep connection with the nature that surrounds them; this, in my opinion, brings balance and tranquility.

3. life at the countryside is not easy

In December 2015 the garden of the House of Parliament was taken over by shepherds who were on strike because the legislators thought they might know better how many dogs they need to guard their flocks. One of the photographers at the event wrote that he couldn’t keep up running after one of the men that were protesting. He was in his sixties, he wore a huge sheepskin and when he decided to sprint, he outrun everybody. My mom is also in her sixties and I cannot compete with her for a simple day at the household. Waking up at 6:30, feeding the livestock (cow, chicken, pig, rabbits), cooking breakfast for the family, cleaning the house, making cheese, cooking lunch, doing the dishes, cutting the fresh cheese, milking the cow, feeding the animals and sending them to bed, dinner again. During a day like this, I feel the need for a break or a nap every 2 hours. My parents don’t take breaks and they also have a fulltime job.

Yes, the countryside is a lot more peaceful. Yes, you can have a comfortable dream house. But the miracle of peace and tranquility comes with hard work, sometimes physical hard work.

4. every horse is an unicorn

The majority of our trips happened this year in the southern part of the country, in a village called Odăi, in Lotrului Mountains. Our instructors taught people that were afraid of horses to mount and unmount; they also taught 5 years old kids, misses, misters, respectable ladies and gents. The horses feel so well the fear of their rider that they won’t follow an hesitant command. If you say “gallop” on a soft tone, they will never run with you.

There were two moments this year when I entrusted our faith to the horses. I trusted them more than I trusted myself in those situations. In one of the trips a storm was approaching. The thunders and the lightning were pretty close and the path was engulfed by small bushes. I was riding Fulger (Lightning) and our guide, Mariuca, was telling me to let the horse find its way through the bushes. I accepted the fact that he knows better and I let him climb a slope that I would have never climbed on foot. We reached our shelter exactly when the storm passed and the sky regained a clear blue color.

Odai nomade

The second moment happened in October, in our autumn trip, when we came back from a tour at sunset. Our eyes got first accustomed with the dusk and then with the darkness. I could see only a bit of white (the rear of the horse in front) and we would call each other to see if we are all in formation. Those 20 minutes were the best teambuilding exercise ever. And our horses transformed themselves into unicorns, the horses of princes and fairies.

5. you can also clean off dust from history

Aferim!, a film made by the director Radu Jude, is a good example of how to clean off the dust from the history of a country and to bring in onto the screen. Set in early 19th century Romania, the film is (virtually) the first film ever to depict the enslavement of gipsies that occurred for some five hundred years in the present day territories of Romania.

The restoration of the saxon houses from Cincu, Cincşor, Viscri is another good example. Like digging up in your grandmother’s attic and finding shuttles, spindles, combs from her old loom.

I needed a lot of dusting on my personal history and one of the moments when I did this was the Christmas trip for baking cozonac (a Romanian traditional cake made for holidays). I asked my mom to search in the attic for the old kneading-trough, the oven utensils, the pans and we’ve restored the journey of baking these cakes like grandmother would have. Although we worked for almost 8 hours (kneading, fermenting, putting in pans, raising, put in the oven, baking), I felt that everything had a meaning. That “nothing compares with home baked bread and cozonac” had a taste, a smell and a touch connected to it.

6. that other people cherish their inheritance

It is important not to be the only one looking in the dowry chest, so I tried to find people that share the same passions and values.

We heard and loved the story of Muzeul de Pânze şi Poveşti (The Museum of woven fabrics and stories) from the village Mândra, in Transilvania. Alina Zară-Prunean built an “oasis of Romanian spirit with 0 budget, pride, ownership and meaning!” They looked for pieces of old fabrics in attics, they promoted their value, they taught children to preserve and cherish the national symbols and treasures. They celebrate 7 years of  creating workshops, handicraft evening sittings, social enterprises and projects. Their brand MândraChic is an online shop that sells “contemporary dowry” and their new partnership Colţul Românesc is an online shop that pleads for local consumption and for sustaining the small Romanian producers from High Natural Value areas.

We also like Kraftmade – a networked from from craftsmen and designers that wish to integrate in our daily life traditional techniques and skills. They are the connection between the craftsmen, the designers and the market and they help the owners of the craft to create new products with old techniques (a belt made like a traditional whip, a purse made like a woven rug, a handmade banner), to expose them and to sell them in Romania or abroad.

There are few Romanian travel agencies that really want to show authentic Romania to foreign countries. Dan Chitila is the founder of such an agency – OutdoorActivities.ro. He started in 2012 with an idea, then he became a guide and showed tourists from Europe, USA, Thailand, Japan, Australia, Canada, Israel parts of Romania that are not shown in the touristic guides: haymaking in the villages Peştera and Măgura, traditional lunch with villagers in Zărneşti, along with highlights like Sinaia and Peleş Castle. Every tour is customised for the tourists that contacted him and includes at least a hike, because Dan is a passionate mountaineer and he loves all the corners of the Carpathian Mountains. In 2015 he received a Certificate of Excellence from tripadvisor.com and he is decided to keep his rank!

7. crafts are fascinating

If you already saw this documentary by Mihai Pleşa and his team from Fascinaţia Meşteşugului you will take my word for it. o să mă credeţi pe cuvânt. If not, please book a session in a workshop and try to do something with your own hands: a dish at the potter’s wheel, a model painted on ceramics, a start with a Romanian sandal (opinca), a start with a woven rug or carpet, anything. Any type of such endeavour teaches you that every object requires, time, attention, art and a lot of dedication. It is very hard to craft, so paying attention to the objects made by craftsmen and artisans is a step for showing appreciation. Buying is another step.

8. the Romanian “mioriţa – sheep” should learn foreign languages

We saw the short film The last Transhumance, a preview of the documentary directed by Dragoş Lumpan. He started following the last Romanian families that walk with the sheep thousands of km every year and he ended up creating an artistic, etnografic and sociologic project that sums 8 years, 6 countries, more than 50.000 of km, 100.000 photographs, 70 hours of filmed material and 100 hours of audio records. Being born in a shepherds family, I understand about the lifestyle at a sheepfold, about taking care of the sheep “from morning until tomorrow morning, 360 days per year”. As a daughter of the present, I also understand that shepherding, in its Romanian format, is not lucrative. The wool, the meat, the milk are cheaper in other countries because of state subventions.

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To save itself, the Romanian sheep should start convincing fellow Romanian to buy from local producers (like the social enterprise Made in Rosia Montana does) or to convince foreigners to visit. If she would learn foreign languages, she could invite tourists at the sheepfold, to prepare a traditional meal (with meet or vegetarian), to serve cheese, curd, cottage cheese. To ask the shepherds to sing for the tourists or to teach them to milk the sheep.

9. it is hard to grow if you have no roots

My recipe for moving into a new place is creating a network. People that I already know, friends of friends, acquaintances that can help me. When you are new to a place you will cherish a recommendation, a piece of advice, a kind word. This year I realised that a network is not enough when you are trying to build something. It’s like a floating spider web. The roots I (re)discovered were the stories that my mom and my grandparents always told me, the grandparents house from the mountains in Nucsoara village, the Romanian blouses and the dowry chest, the way you make wine and bread at the country side, the way people gather around the fire (the heart of the house).

10. Romania is so beautiful that people from abroad fall in love

The Bucharest Lounge is a project started in 2011 as a Rebrand Romania Movement, by Yvette Larsson from Sweden. She visited Romania in 1985 with her parents and then, when she returned in 2011, she felt inspired to “spread the word about funky Bucharest and beautiful Romania”. Her blog saw the light of the day because of pure enthusiasm to get the crowds back to Romania!!! Her 2016 campaign is called #letsgotoRomania2016 and here you can find the YouTube playlist with the reasons we love Romania and why you should come visit. Thank you for your love and inspiration, Yvette!

Some of the lessons I’ve learnt in one year of really seeing Romania have meaning also for others. Some don’t, but I assure you of the process – if we look attentively in our courtyard (be it family, town, country) we are going to find the projects and the people that have meaning for us!

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Kule. Romanian fortified houses

By | Destinations, Must read, Oltenia, Rural break, Weekly secret | No Comments

In Romanian architecture, kula means a type of fortified house, with a simple and compact aspect, with a square or rectangular plan, built on two or three floors. It had the main role of defense, but also of surveillance and living space.

The kule were built by southern Romania’s noblemen in order to defend themselves from the Turkish predator gangs coming from the Danube. Because of their uniqueness, the houses were proposed for the UNESCO world heritage list. The name “kula” comes from the Turkish word kale or kule, meaning tower. There were a lot of them in Oltenia (the southern part of our country), but, unfortunately, out of hundreds of such wealthy houses, only 27 survived (now listed as Romanian historical monuments). More than half of them, without the chance of turning into museums, are in very bad shapes or just ruins now.

Why do we know this word and where have we seen a kula?

  • From Greuceanu, a Romanian fairytale written by Petre Ispirescu. „Greuceanu went to the Green Forrest kula, opened the door with the Dragon’s finger and found there the sun and the moon. He took the sun in his right hand and the moon in his left, threw them up in the sky and everybody was happy.”
Kule. Romanian fortified houses

Ilustratie din basmul Greuceanu

  • from Aferim, Radu Jude’s Aferim! movie, winner of Berlin’s Silver Bear. Talking about the places he found for the movie sets, Jude says: „It was a bit hard to find them, because nowadays it is not simple to find places untouched by modern things like electricity, for example. Part of the set was in Dobrogea, Haleș Monastery near Buzău, cula Greceanu near Horezu, from Măldărești, forests near Bucharest. We kind of searched through all Țara Românească (Romanian Country, southern part of now Romania, where all the action is taking place)”
Kule. Romanian fortified houses

Scena din Aferim – cula Greceanu, Maldaresti

  • From the descriptions of the NeoRomanian style by Valentin Mandache: „One of the first classical NeoRomanian style buildings, which still exists in Bucharest, is the Doina restaurant building, designed in 1892 by Ion Mincu, a famous Romanian architect. Here we can clearly observe in the center of the building the kula prototype, with its fortified bastion like a main element of structural diagnostic and byzantine decorative components, peasant ethnographic motifs and Turkish decorative models.”
Kule. Romanian fortified houses

Bufetul de la Sosea – actualul Restaurant Doina

How do we visit these Romanian fortified houses?

Because the kula structure is so compact, our first reaction is to say „if I see one, I have seen them all”. What is really impressive, despite the present state of these buildings, is that they resisted through all these centuries and they can still tell their own stories.

  • A first way of seeing them is through museums. Among the most popular ones are those included in Curtișoara Gorj’s Traditional Museum Complex: kula Cornoiu and kula Tătărescu. Also, in Măldărești Muzeum from Vâlcea we have kula Greceanu, kula Duca and, also in Vâlcea, kula Bujoreanu from the Traditional Architecture Museum in Bujoreni.
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Kula Duca

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Kula Duca – the retreat door, used whenever the invaders came

Cula Greceanu

Kula Greceanu

Before hitting the road, read the story of the kula you are about to visit. You will find out that most of them have 80 cm thick walls, that when enemies were approaching, the servants would hide the animals in the basement. The noblemen were first hiding at the first floor and they used to put a big wooden stick to surely block the door. If the first floor would become insecure as well, they would climb up a rope, to the defense tower. They would pull out water from the basement well, they had food, they also pulled up the rope/ ladder and waited for the danger to pass. Back in 1700, danger didn’t mean a bomb, so the tower was safe enough.

  • Another way to visit these houses is to book a few nights in a kula. Near Măldărești Muzeum Complex there is Maldăr’s Mansion, a rebuilt kula, initiative of Vasilescu family, opened for the public since 2012. The thick walls, the original oak doors, the vintage furniture and the restaurant food will take you back in time. Although captain Maldăr’s legend has its origin on the kula Greceanu domain, here you can get the stories with all your senses. It appears that the captain was captured by the tartar ruler in one of the tartars invasions. He fell in love with the ruler’s daughter and she obtained its pardon. He came back with the beautiful daughter as his wife and with money. (the term Maldăr means pile in Romanian, and in this context, maldăr was used in „maldăr de bani” – pile of money, or „maldăr de dușmani” – pile of enemies).
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Kula Zatreanu

Kula Zătreanu (also in Vâlcea) was also bought by a businessman who wants to make a mansion out of the XX century kula extensions (Boicescu Mansion) and a museum out of the kula which nobleman Radu Zătreanu built in 1754.

  • The third option is becoming an apprentice in one of the architecture and restoration workshops
    organized by Pierre Bortnowski (inheritor of cula Cornoiu) and Artis Organisation. In 2015 they worked on the shingle roof of the mansion, in 2014 they restored the wooden work, in 2013 they covered the house with new shingles.
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Kula Cornoiu – photo Artis Peritia

  • The forth option is to ask the locals or owners to tell you about the houses. That is how we saw kula Zătreanu and kula Sultănica from Șuici, in Argeș.

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Our big plan is an Oltenia tour, that will happen this year in June, which will include these marvels. Our smaller plan is a special trip, with and about kule. If you want „one-shot” trips, we will also have trips in Oltenia and Muntenia which will include seeing one of the Romanian fortified houses on the way. Find more about what are we planning for you on our Join us on trip! page.

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Find out more about kule:

 

 

Nicolae Balcescu Mansion and history

By | Destinations, Muntenia, Rural break, Trips, Weekly secret | No Comments

The indicator to Bălcescu Mansion first appears somewhere after Dedulești, at the foothill of Meridionali Carpathians, when you are almost in Râmnicu Vâlcea. If you are travelling a lot to Transylvania and Oltenia, you cannot miss it every time you pass by, so you start growing a curiosity regarding the place.

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Here, mansion means a house in the Romanian Brâncoveanu style (refers to houses built during 1688-1714, when Constantin Brâncoveanu was the ruler of Wallachia – Țara Românească – the southern part of now Romania), with gothic influences, built up a hill in the first half of the 19th century. The kula (fortified house built in 18th-19th centuries) near the gate, the counter forts, the big veranda windows, the two staircases which lead to the main entrance are enough for the architecture geeks to congratulate themselves for taking a detour and visiting this place.

Nicolae Balcescu’s home

The mansion belongs to the family of Nicolae Bălcescu – a Romanian Wallachian soldier, historian, journalist, and leader of the 1848 Wallachian Revolution. He was born in 1819 in Bucharest and died in exile, in Palermo, aged 33. His family was of low-ranking nobility back then, but looking at the house we would say they were rich.

He was a passionate scholar, furthering his history studies in France and Italy. His liberal views, together with those of his friends that studied in Western Europe, helped the 1848 revolution in Wallachia (back then Romania did not exist). He was, for just two days, both Minister and Secretary of State of the provisional government put in place by the revolutionaries.

You will not find everywhere a house that can take you back two centuries ago. Once you enter, time travelling starts. You step into the saloon, in the dinning room, in Bălcescu’s family bedroom, you come across the place Nicolae Bălcescu grew up with his mother and his four brothers. How they all used to fit in the last room’s small bed remains a mistery…

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You step on the same floor he did, you watch the same beams he did. You admire the garden and the back green hill and you think how much he had to miss these images when he was denied access into our country and he had to die exiled, in Palermo (after the Ottoman Empire restrained the revolution in September 1848, Bălcescu was first arrested, then exiled by the Habsburg Empire).

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Unfortunately, time travelling doesn’t last for long. You can enjoy the Biedermayer furniture only in four rooms, the traditional carpets, ceramics by Corbi (a famous pottery center, which lost its craft in the last ten years) and by Curtea de Argeș. In the other rooms of the mansion we can see an exhibition dedicated to Nicolae Bălcescu, the kind that bores and amazes in the same time.

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Amazes because it is the same for years, so you can see the great communist way of decorating: glass panels for maps and documents, with black letters carefully glued on them, wooden showcases used to present very important documents. It becomes boring because of the same reasons. The exhibition is not doing much for making the regular visitor, Romanian or foreigner, to get closer to Bălcescu’s figure and to understand a bit more about his role in the 1848 big changes.

He was a liberal militating for the introduction of the universal vote and for the peasant appropriation. The revolution didn’t achieve its targets at the moment, but in early 1859, at the close of a turbulent period, Wallachia and Moldavia entered a personal union, later formalized as the Romanian United Principalities, under Moldavian-born ruler Alexandru Ioan Cuza (himself a former revolutionary). Cuza followed the revolutionaries goals and achieved numerous reforms that helped the peasants and the establishment of more modern times.

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Fortunately, at the end of the exhibition tour you end up in the veranda and wonder if you could stay there for hours, with a book and a cup of tea and you would look for inspiration, as the artists who came here probably did. In 1948, Radu Mandrea, one of the Bălcescu family descendants, was forced to donate the domain to the State. A few years later, the communist regime found a big interest in Bălcescu’s figure and the place was transformed into a museum.

On a more happy note, there’s still the garden. With Bălcescu family’s church, moved out of the village, into the mansion domain, with Sevastița Bălcescu’s grave (Bălcescu’s mother), with a big yellow magnolia. The place gives a good vibe, so you might consider taking a blanket and some sandwiches along, for a small picnic.

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Good to know

  • When you enter the gate, there’s a strong ring letting the museum personnel know they have guests, so if you are a big group, you might want to go in all at once.
  • The entrance fee is less then 1 EUR per person; the fee for a guided tour is 1 EUR and the photo fee is also 1 EUR

Our big plan is an Oltenia tour, that will happen this year in June, which will include Nicolae Balcescu Mansion. Our smaller plan are special trips in Oltenia and Muntenia which will include seeing this jewelry on the way. Find more about what are we planning for you on our Join us on trip! page.