Archive for August, 2013

Tiberiu Ceia, Modern Talking și The Doors, la pachet

Dacă vă întrebați de ce am început să scriu în engleză (probabil că nu vă întrebați), am să vă dau un motiv simplu: am prieteni, colegi, familie care citesc în engleză.

Să revenim la română.

Am scris în postările anterioare despre muzica veche la care sunt încă abonată cu urechile și cu feelingu (pardon, dar n-am promis că las de tot englezismele, nu vă supărați). Încă n-am terminat cu subiectul ăsta, și probabil că va fi unul recurent. Poate unii dintre cei care dați pe blogul ăsta în tăcere și plecați tot în tăcere și pe furiș sunteți și voi prinși în aceleași mreje muzicale. Sau ați fost.

Prima muzică de care-mi aduc aminte este cea cântată de mama. Mă legăna când nu puteam să dorm și îmi aduc foarte bine aminte asta, eram destul de mare cât să-mi aduc aminte ce se întâmpla, dar nu mai știu de ce nu puteam să dorm (boală? insomnie? agitație? no idea). Nu mă mai putea ține pe brațe vreme îndelungată, așa că țin minte că așeza o pernă pe picioare și mă întindea cu capul pe ea și-mi cânta ”Luceafărul”. Cred că pot cânta la orice oră din zi și din noapte primele strofe, pe melodia aia.

Tot prin perioada aia mă gândesc că ar fi fost când stăteam cu urechea lipită de magnetofon și muzica populară din Banat. Eram mare fană Tiberiu Ceia și făceam karaoke după cântecele lui. Dacă știu eu bine, Ceia a fost unul dintre interpreții care au păstrat muzica tradițională și n-au prea ”îmbunătățit-o” cu nimic. Îți dă cumva un sentiment de continuitate să știi că pe aceeași muzică dansau bunicii tăi la sărbători în sat.

Primul interpret sârb pe care l-am iubit a fost Laza Knezevic. Nu mai țin minte astăzi nici unul dintre cântecele lui, dar omul a fost și în casa părinților mei. Cânta cu trupa lui la rugă, pe 8 septembrie, și ai mei i-au invitat să-i omenească, să-i pună la masă între cântări (jocul în sat, de după-amiază până pe la ora 22:00, și balul, care începea la miezul nopții). Băiatul lui Laza, Vlady Cnejevici, a cântat cu Phoenix, la clape.

Mă gândesc acum că acel magnetofon a fost cel cu care ținea tata discotecile în Politehnică, pe vremea când credea că se va face inginer și avea arhivă Rolling Stones, Beatles, Donovan&co. Habar n-am ce s-a întâmplat cu el, cu înregistrările de când eram eu o gogoașă de copil (da, eram grăsuță la 2 ani) cu voce groasă, sau de mai târziu, când i-am stricat câteva benzi lui tata înregistrând prostii pe ele.

Mai târziu, când am mers la școală, muzica sârbească de peste graniță era la mare prețuire. Pop-dance-ul lor cu accente tradiționale avea mare priză la public, iar Lepa Brena, yugo-starul prin excelență, a avut în 1984 un mega-concert la Timișoara. Primul film văzut pe casetă video a fost al ei, tot prin anii 80.

Au mai fost, desigur, Neda Ukraden, Magazin și alții, ale căror cântece erau, pentru puștimea din Banat, repere mult mai clare decât cele ale Angelei Similea și cine o mai fi cântat pe la București la vremea aia.

Într-o noapte, când n-aveam somn la job, m-am apucat să caut cântece sârbești de când aveam eu 8-12 ani. Poate într-o zi voi scoate câteva de la naftalină și pe blog.

Tot din Yugo au venit și discurile cu Modern Talking, cred că am avut cam toate albumele lor. În vacanța dintre a V-a și a VI-a mă jucam tenis de câmp cu peretele în curtea bisericii, iar în boxele așezate pe treptele casei triluiau vocile celor doi cântăreți germani. Câte o partidă de-asta de tenis de-a mea ținea cât albumul, vreo oră, așa, vreme în care visam tot felul de povești, pe malul mării cu un puști de care mă îndrăgosteam sau cine mai știe ce alți gărgăuni copilărești.

Mai târziu lucrurile s-au complicat, opțiunile s-au diversificat, am ascultat și Azur, pe la 15 ani, când eram la Păltiniș cu o familie de prieteni și el, un domn foarte distins, de o erudiție care se impunea de la sine, cu un discurs care te reducea la tăcere și te obliga să-l asculți până aveai ceva de spus cu adevărat, surprinzător că era autodidact, din păcate a murit anul trecut, domnul ăsta ne-a cam muștruluit cu blândețe pe mine și pe fiică-sa, că asta e muzică primitivă și nu aduce nimic. Mamele au intervenit, că eram copii încă și aveam timp să ne rafinăm gusturile muzicale.

Bine, dar nu era doar Azur. Tipul care ținea discoteca pe atunci, unul dintre etnicii germani din sat, aducea muzică din Germania. Așa a ajuns tot tineretul satului să fie punkiști, să poarte părul zburlit măciucă și să asculte DAF și Sex Pistols, bine, împreună cu ”Boys”, megahitul Sandrei, pe care le plăcea gagicilor să danseze. Și eu eram mare amatoare de muzică punk și într-o bună zi mi-am sfâșiat o pereche mai veche de blugi și am desenat-o artistic cu pixul: un craniu cu creastă, numele formațiilor, și alte chestiuni care probabil că au îngrozit-o pe mama. Când am ieșit din cameră îmbrăcată așa, să merg la discotecă, mama m-a trimis înapoi să mă schimb sau nu plecam nicăieri. M-am resemnat, trebuia să păstrez preferința pentru punk doar la muzică.

Despre Depeche Mode am vorbit deja.

Tot în anii 90 am descoperit The Doors. Jim Morrison mi-a rămas moștenire de la un fost iubit, din facultate, prima îndrăgosteală cu lacrimi mari și amare.

De-a lungul anilor, a rămas preferința pentru electro și accentele etno, pe care le găsești oricând în playlistul meu.

Voi cu ce muzică ați crescut? Ați mai asculta aceleași lucruri sau azi sau le renegați? Credeți că v-au influențat în vreun fel sau altul?

Zilele trecute făceam curat și aveam nevoie de o muzică veselă, deloc obositoare, cu un ritm stimulant. Mi-am pus ceva Eurodance. Al meu, cu căștile în urechi, asculta altceva. La un moment dat și-a scos căștile și, râzând, mi-a spus că ascultăm lucruri complet diferite. M-a luat și pe mine râsul: eu cu muzica mea ușurică de făcut curățenie, el cu ”Traviata” cântată de Angela Gheorghiu.

Dacă e să mă iau după mama, opera a fost de fapt prima muzică absolut fascinantă pentru mine. Când eram bebe mă lăsa pe canapea, sprijinită pe pernă, cu muzică de operă, uneori mai dădeam o fugă până dincolo, în bucătărie. Eu nu mișcam, stăteam cu ochii căscați, aparent în transă.

În facultate mergeam deseori la Operă, în Timișoara nu se prea juca nimic bun la teatru atunci. În București, cum nu eram jurnalist pe operă, mi-a cam sărit rândul, în schimb am scris despre teatru la greu. Acum îmi lipsesc amândouă.

Nu uitați întrebările, mi-ar face plăcere să vă citesc și eu, asta dacă nu cumva treceți doar în fugă și pe furiș și nu vreți să știu că ați fost pe aici.

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Those summer nights

Do you remember those summer nights, each of them holding a secret call, a whisper floating at the atomic level or just surrounding everything in an invisible pulsating halo? For me, those were the nights of my late childhood and teenage years. There was always something out there in air, something untouchable and yet so close, like an imperceptible flutter of wings.
No wonder I ended up a night person, a strange kind of a night bird, with the bad habits of roaming the internet and sometimes just looking at the ceiling and my mind drifting away. Less now, oh, the age… (laziness is what’s killing me, I could do so much better with reading when I’m in my night mood, actually).

What made me go back to those crazy nights was Depeche Mode and all the rest of the music in my early-middle 90’s. Or maybe it’s just the rain that poured down today which made me crave for summer.
1991 was one of the best years I’ve ever had. The group of friends I had back in my parents’ village became a brotherhood, we were almost never apart (except for school days lol) and nobody was dating another in the gang. Years before, we used to get together a big bunch of kids, sometimes even 20 of us, and play hide and seek at sunset until it got dark and our parents were shouting at us to get home alright or else. It was much more fun when nobody could really see whom they were seeking and they’d more or less have to guess. To make it even harder, we used to swap our jumpers or cardigans so that the seeker couldn’t tell us apart. If they made a mistake, they just had to seek again. Quite a harsh task, when we were more than 15 playing they would for sure be the seeker for the night, no chance to pass it to another.

But then we grew up a little, we started dating among the gang, there was even this one guy who dated all of the girls and later on, in the coming years, we’d just sit down for a chat in a lazy hot summer afternoon and have a laugh about how it was when he first invited one us to dance or the first kiss. No, it wasn’t just us girls chatting, it was with him as well. He turned, from early Don Juan, into the charming best friend (I know you can hardly believe it possible, I wouldn’t either).
In 1991 I was studying to pass the admission exam into High School. I did study hard, but I did have lots of fun as well. Saturday and Sunday afternoons were for the brotherhood, and in that year the local pubs weren’t so popular yet, I can hardly remember if any was really open, and yes, I know we were under 18, but it was acceptable back then and we did used to hang out, a year later, in the pub which was also the local disco.

The afternoons in that golden year would just catch us chatting and always doing something silly funny. I remember one rainy Sunday we sheltered under the roof of one house in the street were we usually gathered, the Maths teacher and his wife, Geography teacher, lived there, and she came out to feed the geese which were roaming in the street as well, and she saw us. She laughed, saying “are you soaking wet or is the roof helping at all?”, and then adding she could hear us earlier, she didn’t mind, it just amused her. Well, truth is nobody ever chased us away.
The summer came. That blessed summer when my dad made for us a table for playing tennis, and it filled half of the yard between the main house and the small summer kitchen, sheltered by clinging vines which kept a cooling shadow over. We used to play for hours and the recorder in the hallway fed us all our favourite music. Two bands distinctively stood out: Depeche Mode and Roxette.

It was that year that I had my first coffee sickness as well, this is such a silly story. My mum asked us all if we fancied coffee, we were like 10 kids in the yard, I mean 14-16 years old at the time, and we did all wanted a cup. Thing is most of us didn’t finish their coffees. Me and a friend, O., had a brilliant idea: why don’t we finish it for them? Genius! 20 minutes later, who was having strong heart bits, headache and felt the ground running from under their feet? Me and O. Mum took us inside and made us lay down for half an hour or so, the heroes of the day.

When my dad brought the first video player we watched all the worse action movies of the 90’s, Van Damme was our favourite, we all loved karate action and the good universal soldier hero. There was only one rule: we had to be nice and quiet whilst inside. We all crammed into that small lounge, some on the sofas, some of us on the floor, watched the movie, and then went out quietly.
Every now and then there would be visitors in my parents’ house, either for my father, who’s the priest in the village, or for my mother, who studied alternative medicine practice in the early 90’s and people would come for advice and Chinese massage treatment. In order to get out of the small lounge we had to pass through another room, where my parents would usually sit down with their visitors. They would ask if we’re the priest’s and his wife’s children, and my parents would say yes, we are. One, two… four, five. When it got to six the people couldn’t usually hold their amazement anymore, spared by my mum’s or dad’s explanation: the whole gang was their soul children.

One year later, at the beginning of summer, I got my first boyfriend whom I was in a relation with for four years and the whole brotherhood broke. Not because of me, come on, I wasn’t the only one getting steady. My neighbour became my best friend again (she was never part of the gang), I used to hang out a lot with her when 12, and her cousin was now that steady boyfriend of mine.
It’s fun now to remember all these. Listening to some Euro dance music from that decade, I don’t really remember all my romantic butterflies and projections and plans to get married to my one and only true love (oh, well, I went to college and he turned out not to be the love of my life after all). It just gives me that feeling of utter silliness, of just sticking my nose out in the real world of grown-ups and thinking that having one or two glasses of alcohol and smoking at every Saturday night disco was sooooo cool.
All the silly dreams, pains and suffering of the teenage years seem like sweet madness, the haze of a light and curious heart, and the restlessness of an idealistic mind meeting the world of grown-ups pragmatism.

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The Not Awarded ones

 

One morning recently, heading home from work, I heard Depeche Mode again on the radio after a long time. It was “Everything counts”, on one of our favourite radio stations, Jack FM. On this station I’ve heard the best joke since I came to the UK: “How many bankers does it take to screw a light bulb? None, they’re too busy screwing us all”. But I’m diverting.

Depeche Mode has been the first band I fell in love with. Ok, when I say fell in love I don’t mean like I fancied one of the guys, none of them really ever seemed my type, physically at least, although I liked the rebel look of Dave Gahan when he came to be more of a leather jacket guy. But I fell for their music, it was the most familiar tune to sound in my head all throughout my teenage years. I remember this afternoon when I took a nap in my old bedroom, in my parents’ house, and I played the “World in my eyes” album throughout my sleep, which I didn’t use to do, as I could only fall asleep back then if the surroundings were very quiet.

 

We could say no wonder they stuck to my ears, as there was such a lot of bad music, to put it nicely, in the ‘90s, all that Euro dance, starting with Haddaway and DJ Bobo and carrying on with the bands, Fun Factory, Ace of Bace and 2 Unlimited. I do have something to say in defending it all, it was fun, really unpretentious fun, just for the joy of it and just to keep the rhythm going.  Remember “Rhythm of the Night”?

 

But Depeche Mode was different, and they stayed different. They made “music for the masses”, and they became the biggest electro band ever. I kind of always knew they were, even before checking this on the internet.
According to EMI, the New Wave boys sold over 100 million albums around the world. Also, Q magazine called them “the most popular electronic band the world has ever known”. Despite this, they never got any award for their achievement at this level, until 2013, when they refused to be part of the BRIT Awards. To tell you the truth, I kind of understand them. It’s been more than 20 years since they started having this mad success and became an icon for the electro stage, still it took so long for the people giving out the awards to acknowledge it. On top of that, the award offered to them would have been called something like Most Influential Band In The Last 20 Years. No, not Lifetime Achievement Award, like it wasn’t their lifetime work and success. They refused and Dave was quite pissed off with BRITs, they wouldn’t be featured in the award broadcast when handed out the award. As such, there was no award for lifetime achievement this year. It seems a bit weird, doesn’t it?

 

What’s with “Everything counts” and why did it bring me to writing this post? It’s not the best of their songs, the lyrics are ok-ish, but they don’t strike as their finest, they kind of loose me with being insincere in Korea, poor rhyme.  But “Everything counts” was one of the DM first songs about society, with good criticism towards consumerism.

 I can say without blinking that “People are people” really set the standard for Depeche Mode socially involved lyrics, on a topic still so hot in the UK and just all around the world today. And that’s exactly what I meant to talk about today (or rather tonight, as it seems). What still keeps me love Depeche Mode is the way they packed everything together: electro music for the masses, good dance rhythm, some romantic intensity and some social message. They managed to do this in the 80’s and early 90’s, to criticize racism and ferocious materialism in a decade when the UK has known prosperity and there wasn’t so much to complain of as nowadays, as it seems.

 

 

 

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The man behind the crystals. Forgotten Romania II

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In the previous post I’ve started to tell about the trip I took on May to Ocna de Fier, together with my brother, sister-in-law and the kids. Driving there was really pleasant as it took us through the fields of my old Banat, the region where I was born and raised, into the hills of Bocșa. While a student in the University, whenever I travelled in that area I got excited as soon as I saw the wavy landscape, the forests, the greener shades as we were approaching the mountains.

Now the mountains weren’t out target, but this hidden village I’ve always known of, but never really sure how far or close it was from Bocșa. I had no idea Ocna de Fier was really just 15 minutes driving. I say 15 as the road is in a quite bad shape and you wouldn’t want to speed up in the forest anyway.

 

Getting close, you first reach the old iron mine, a gloomy site, you’d expect miners ghosts to flicker in the shadow of the deserted buildings. Then the countryside houses, aligned on the valley, actually look like mushrooms growing up a hidden path in the forest. You can see people aren’t very rich here, but there is something homely in the simplicity of the landscape, something welcoming, despite the silence that only the fowls in the yard are braking with their „cock-a-doodle-doo”, softer now just before the rain would start.

We drove up the road and I was a bit nervous we might miss the house with the crystal exhibition. On the other hand, I guess I was just excited, as I knew we could always stop, knock at somebody’s door and ask. Didn’t have to do that, as we stopped and asked a man on the street and he gave us precise directions: “Just drive forward and you’ll see it on the left side, before the Village Hall”. Easy, isn’t it?

 

We were there in about two minutes. Couple of days before my mum tried to ring and let the owner of the museum know that we were going. Constantin Gruescu exhibits his collection of stones in his own house. Well, his phone line was disturbed and we couldn’t reach him, but we were lucky that day, he was at home. And his house is always open to guests.

Finally meeting mister Gruescu face to face I could but only admire his energy, his open heart and his dedication. Growing up in a family with a mining tradition, he turned out to be passionate about rocks and minerals since childhood. I don’t know if he was really into mining at all, all I know is that he never worked in a mine, although he didn’t get a higher education either. In the times when he grew up it wasn’t easy for a young man to study. Still, he went to primary and secondary school for 7 years and then got professional qualification, three different courses, started to work at the age of 19, in 1943, as part of the quality control team in the Steel Factories in Reșița.This continued to be his job until 1977 (the year I was born!), when he got pensioned.

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 Mister Gruescu opened this museum in 1945, when he was only 21, and dedicated his life to studying the minerals, collecting them and showing them to everybody who comes to visit. The communist times came and passed, without causing much harm, his collection wasn’t confiscated or “donated” to the state institutions, although over the years he donated for    real many of the rocks and crystals to be hosted by bigger museums. Still, there is nothing    like just driving there, shaking his hand and listening to him for over an hour while you look    at the violet, golden or milky white facets, giving a special glow, of the crystals that seem to    have grown in that very room.

   On the right side, as you enter, you’ll find a big rock which is made of three generation of crystals, each grown in a different age, each by a new process of crystallization. You can see the different groups by their size and orientation. Mister Gruescu encouraged us to hold our hands palms down, above the big rock, and feel its energy. He said each person gets a different feeling, for some it’s a cold vibe, for others is warm, some feel tingling in their toes and arms or whole body, some become agitated. Well, the energy of the crystals is a much argued esoteric belief, although they have been used for centuries in alternative healing techniques. There is some scientific truth, as to crystals vibrating to the pitch that is emitted by a source close to them. For the sceptical, they at least give a quite beautiful sight.

 

The owner of this wonder room of minerals doesn’t practice crystal healing himself, although he could easily do. The massive rocks that he has seem to be taken out of an extra-terrestrial landscape. Some of them really reminded me of Stargate SG-1, to which I’m a forever fan. Some of them just sparkle imagination, some are poisonous, like the realgar rock, which contains arsenic and it’s thought to have been used by the cardinals in the old times whenever they needed to… send somebody to heaven (or hell, who could really tell?).

One of the stories he’s told us stands out for its ironic twist. During the former dictator’s rule, each County Council would send a gift to the Ceaușescu couple on a certain occasion (probably one of the many they were celebrated as the heroes of the Romanian people…). Mister Gruescu has been asked to help with two crystals for that year, which would have been gracefully presented, as gifts from Caraș-Severin. He donated a violet crystal for the dictator and a pink quartz for his wife. A month after the celebration, the quartz came back. The County Council official explained they couldn’t finish the case for it in time, so they didn’t want to make fools of themselves and decided to send something else. Years later, a visitor who had a position as a staff serving the dictators at that particular event said the truth was somewhat different. Ceaușescu wasn’t impressed or bothered by the crystal gift, he was merely indifferent as he passed through the room and was presented with what every county sent him. His wife, however, took a look at the quartz and overreacted, shouting “What’s this crap? Take this stupid thing out of my sight, I don’t want to see it!”  It is thought that she couldn’t stand the good energy of the crystal, which came into conflict with her really murky vibration, one of an egotistical woman driven only by her thirst for power.

 

The truth is that listening to Mr. Gruescu, now 90, can make you feel like you are in crystal heaven. His passion, his generosity and his open heart are the things that make this museum live. There is no fee to visit it. Everybody is welcome and everybody can make a small donation. When we left some money, he said it’s a bit much and asked us to take some crystals he had for sale, take them as gifts. Going there I had in my mind to record him talking about the museum and his experience with collecting and studying the minerals over years. He even discovered a formation unique in the world, called Macla Gruescu, and which looks like a cross, never found anywhere else before or after. But his modesty came first: I could see him a bit embarrassed with talking in front of my laptop, so just gave up the whole idea. Instead, I thought of writing this post in English and posting the photos we’ve taken there.

 

Funny enough, on the way back home both me and my sister-in-law fell in the line of duty. I got so sleepy I couldn’t keep my eyes open while my brother was talking to me, and she just fell asleep in the back and we had to leave her there while stopping at my parents to leave the kids. Maybe it was just because of the rain. Or maybe the power of crystals completely knocked us down, taking our minds to the higher dimension of dreamless sleep.

The happy bunch

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Next to one of my favourite crystals colony

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Three generations 

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Minerals party 

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Note: None of the photos can be reposted without written permission.

@Catalina George

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Romania still unknown, even to Romanians

Before going on a holiday in Romania I distributed on facebook the photos posted by an old friend from Timisoara. These pictures were taken around Easter, with particularly hot weather this year, in the region where the Danube River enters Romania, creating spectacular scenery.

It was not only the Cazane Gorge, with the wide riverbed, where the waters run so fast and deep that they resemble the back of a dark, silent dragon, what caught the eyes of my English friends and family “liking” the photos. Some of them were drawn by the image of an old, traditional house, as seen from up the hill, with greenery growing wild, very idyllic.

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With this in mind, and determined to take some good pictures of my beloved places back there, I defied the bad weather in Banat, the region where I was born and raised. Got my brother driving me, sister-in-law and the kids (nephew and foster brothers) to Ocna de Fier, a small village in the county of Caras-Severin. I’ve wanted to visit the place for years, and although during University and later on, before I moved to Bucharest, I was always visiting the area, I never got to this village. Why is it so special, anyway?

That part of Caras-Severin was an old mining region, now quite deserted, with almost none of the old industry still working, if I know correctly. If I’m wrong, it means it’s all shut down by now.

Ocna de Fier translates, literally, to Iron Mine. To get there you have to pass through Bocsa, a town where a Metal Works Factory had worked since 1781. There were about 6.000 employees working in the factory in 1989, and all the tower cranes in the Romanian industrial ports were produced here, as well as parts of the only Nuclear Plant that functions in the country. It went bankrupt and was shut down in 2005, due to political fights behind the scene over who was going to control it.

Passing by the old structure, dull, but still impressive during the communist times, all that’s left to be seen is a gruesome image. Rust and decay have overtaken everything, holes punched through the long walls reveal the fossilised intestines of the big halls, some staircases barely stand in between. One could expect zombies to crawl out at any time, tired and sad and helpless zombies.

The whole mountain part of Banat is mostly forgotten in today’s Romania, despite its great touristic potential. Investing in diary industry has also proven a good economical idea in some of the most deprived places in the region. Life for people here gets really tough, there’s nothing to do, other than grow your own vegetables, care for the cow in the yard, which gives your family milk, maybe work a patch of land with corn for the chicken and other birds you grow to fill the freezer later, and hope for better times. Maybe go to work abroad, dreaming you’d come back and open your own business with the money you’ve exhausted yourself working for.

Anyways, there are a lot of good things in Caras-Severin, waiting to be discovered and appreciated as they worth. One of them is the Museum of Minerals in this village that’s barely on the map today, Ocna de Fier, where the old mine greets you as you reach the settlement like an old creature, still dignified, but melting under the teeth and claws of some unseen beasts.

If you think museum, don’t picture anything like the National History Museum. Of course you wouldn’t, I’ve already told you it’s in a more or less deserted area. Don’t even think of the Motorcycle Museum in New Milton, although I shouldn’t say it, as I haven’t managed to get myself together to visit this one in my already two years spent in the area. Maybe it is a bit like the Motorcycle Museum, then.

Our trip to Ocna de Fier was as pleasant as a lovely lazy afternoon chilling out with a book in the garden. The fields here, spotted with villages, trees and some new silos (mostly owned by an American company, as I’ve been told), shows Banat as a region where nature has been tamed and turned into a sweet friend, offering images to sooth the eye and relax the mind. What somewhat surprised me is the short time to drive there, I remembered it longer, but it could be just the fact that I used to go by train, a slow old dusty train, full of students and a few commuters.

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Once we’ve turned the car towards the intended destination, at the statue of the miner in Bocsa, the sweet tamed scenery gave way to a completely other panel of images. The quality of the road changed significantly as well, pot holes and patches gave quite a rural feeling to the whole 15 minutes’ drive. Nevertheless, we didn’t mind too much, as the freshness of the forest woke us up a bit.

I have to say that there’s one thing that really annoys me when I drive in England: there’s no visibility. In the small towns and villages, almost every corner has reduced visibility by some hedge or bushes or other types of vegetation blocking the view. Between them, it’s the same, and the roads are very winding. Yes, I realise England is on an island, and it’s highly populated, and trees are good, and it’s only me being used to the sense of openness which growing up in Banat flat lands gave me, but still, it annoys me.

Well, there really is something special about the countryside in Banat: German order. One can see that this was once a flourishing Austrian province. The houses aren’t built just next to the road, but with a good strip of green lawn in front, owned by the community and administered by the local authorities. So the eye can see without obstructions, but not too far. The houses are close to the pedestrian pavement, the gardens and yards behind high fences (nowadays, concrete, bricks or metal sheet), so that the owners can still keep their privacy. Funny enough, neighbours can meet at the fence separating vegetable gardens, which is usually made of metal net, and they can chat while tending for their tomatoes, potatoes and strawberries.

But driving towards Ocna de Fier, the branches of the trees were invading and narrowing the space above the road. None of them was cut and removed for traffic, and this might seem unacceptable for an English person. One reason is there’s not so much traffic at all, and there’s no high buses. I even doubt any buses go to this secluded place.

The image of the thick forest all around us, the music of the trees written on the land, sound after sound, in a rhythm known only to nature, made me rejoice, taking me out of my relaxed state. This was nature, close to its original state, not completely kneeled down by humans.

Next thing I need to do whenever I have the chance is go up in the mountains hiking. I’m not sure I’d be able to do mountain climbing soon, as my partner would for sure love to. If I’m ever going to, it will be with his support.

I’ll get you to Ocna de Fier with me in my next post here.

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