What can you say about bullfighting? It’s shocking the first time you see them plunge the banderillas into the bull’s back, and much more so when he’s covered in blood and the matador runs a sword through him. It’s brutal and sadistic, and it’s also very cool; I don’t only feel one way about it.
I live in Spain now. Have I mentioned that here? Yeah. Easter vacation in Europe is a big deal, and it seems like everyone who can travel, does. I can’t tell if there’s an official schedule – some people take like 2 weeks, some a couple of days. I had a 4-day weekend, and I wanted to go somewhere cheap and interesting. This is Chiajna monastery. It’s pretty spooky in person (when we were there, there was a really dramatic sky with lots of black crows circling), and is, I’m not kidding, located in the middle of a giant city dump. The structure, completed sometime around 1790, is a total ruin but is apparently going to be restored by the church. I wish I could have gotten a better look, but there were a lot of guard dogs chained up around the place, a lot of “NO PHOTOS!” signs, and some guys with additional dogs started to roll up on us as soon as we got there. Here’s some stuff from Wikipedia about Chiajna monastery : “Legend says that the church was bombarded by the Turks even before consecration. Reportedly, the Turks believed that the church was a military objective and tried to destroy it. Thus, all the documents within the church were burned, though the building itself remained standing.”
“Its great bell was cast into the Dâmbovița River waters and, according to locals, is heard pounding on full moon nights.”
“On the wall on the right from the entrance, in about the middle, a few feet high, detaching plaster formed in the appearance of a lady or angel, and some claim it resembles the Sphinx of Giza or Romanian Sphinx.”
Over the years, many disappearances have been reported in the monastery, especially of neighboring Roma people.” “There were two murders, one before and one after 1990.” It rained non-stop the first 2 days, which so perfectly suited my pre-conceived idea of the city that I actually really enjoyed it. When the sun came out, things seemed more surreal. Here, a Communist-era barber shop. Romanian pickelhaube helmet at the National Military Museum. Usually these helmets have an eagle or other some-such military-looking symbol, and this bull emblem gives the whole uniform a kind of pagan look that I’m partial to. Carturesti Carusel, a really beautiful bookstore in the old town that kind of reminds me of a huge, spare, modernist version of Livraria Lello, which I visited a few months ago.
I met a couple of really cool people in Bucharest, including Andy (in the photo, with the rat on his neck), who is part of a crew of guys who find old pinball machines and return them to working order. These ones here are in a place called Club Underworld, which was described to me as Bucharest’s premiere punk club; I sure didn’t see any punks there, but it’s a decent place, with good tunes playing about half the time. Andy’s band sounds like this.
Big Sunday flea market at Valea Cascadelor. You have to imagine the shouting, the smell of mici sausages grilling over an open fire, and the sound of Gypsy music playing through homemade speakers.
Ciolan (giant pork knuckle) and a 1-liter beer at Carul cu Bere. This huge, always-packed 1890s restaurant is at the top of every tourist-blog “things to do and places to eat in Bucharest” list, but locals were also emphatic that I should eat here.
A view of the grounds at the Muzeul Militar Naţional, where there are seemingly hundreds of tanks, big guns, armored train cars, radar trucks – I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much war junk gathered in one place.
The statue of the most famous Romanian at Curtea Veche ( the “old princely court”). I was a little surprised that there wasn’t more Dracula stuff around town, but it’s a big country and he’s from a couple hundred miles to the north.
Last day in town. Rock n’ roll, a breeze carrying the smell of sizzling meat, and shots of homemade 100-proof palinca.
Rila Mountains, Bulgaria : my recent trip to Europe ( returned home night before last, thanks ) reminded me that this clip has been kicking around on my desktop since I recorded it this past Summer. I don’t like taking group tours, but if there’s no other way outside of renting a car to see the most famous place in a country, I’ll do it. And it was worth it. I was taken by the sound of these monks, and the crazy overtones produced by all the vaulted ceilings in this particular church.
Here is a photo I took of one of the very old frescoes there. About the monastery :
“ Founded in the 10th century, the Rila Monastery is regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments and is a key tourist attraction for both Bulgaria and Southern Europe. In 2008 alone, it attracted 900,000 visitors. The monastery is depicted on the reverse of the 1 lev banknote, issued in 1999. “
Monks Singing, Rila Monastery
Monks Singing, Rila Monastery