Sunday, February 27, 2011
Generosity in Timisoara
With unaccustomed accuracy, the meteorologist got it right last weekend. Timisoara was as rainy and cold as predicted. As antidote to the weather, however, my PCV colleague Connie and I experienced many "sunny" moments of extreme generosity and kindness during our visit. To begin with, we were given a comfortable apartment to stay in and were chauffeured about the city by a sociable young Romanian couple who spoke excellent English. Adi, a computer technician and the son of some of Connie's good friends at her site, and Mirela, his dentist girlfriend, helped us make the best of a short visit to a beautiful city that can only be described as stunning. The amazing variety in the architecture of the secessionist buildings--all unique, colorful, often whimsical--and the sheer size of many of the mansions and cathedrals kept us in awe. The city is grandly laid out with stately squares and small residential parks. It was the first city in Europe to light its streets with electricity, and the large elaborate street lamps in the main square (though only old in appearance) attest to the pride in this fact.****Another point of pride is that Timisoara is where the 1989 revolution against Ceausescu and the communist regime began. What seemed a spontaneous protest by thousands of the citizens had been building and organizing for some time. Their courage was immense as they faced the tanks and guns, and many lost their lives or were badly injured. One such man who walks with a cane due to having taken two bullets in his leg is the curator/proprietor of the Revolutionary Museum. He, too, showed us uncommon kindness as he patiently took us through two levels of rooms surrounding a courtyard, which also housed exhibits, and explained the significance of the pieces. Sculptures, carvings and paintings that depicted the events of the revolution showed both artistry and reverence for the sacrifices and bravery of the people. The curator had a soft-spoken dignity and humility, and it seemed to me HE was the greatest feature of the museum. He seated us in a small theater to watch a video about the revolution and then disappeared to return with a tray holding two cups of herbal tea. I've certainly never been served tea in a museum before and we found it especially nice on a cold, wet day. It was his birthday, he admitted at the end of our tour, and we were invited into his living quarters briefly where we were given more information in pamphlets as we said our goodbyes. I will no doubt forget the murals, the bell of freedom and other tributes in the museum, but I'll never forget this man. Connie captured his back in this photo. He didn't want to be photographed because he said the museum wasn't about him. Oh, but it was, dear fellow,it was. ***In the art museum the day before Connie and I were impressed with the quality of the three floors of exhibits, and we were also impressed--as we have been in Sibiu and Brasov--with how few people visit these excellent museums. Connie was taken by an extensive exhibit of photographs and paintings of the work of a female Romanian architect, but I gravitated to the second floor where a painter's water colors--some whimsical depictions of people, animals and flowers, some bold abstracts--were exhibited along with glass cases holding books of poetry. It took me a minute to realize that this was not just the illustrator but also the poet, herself. I spoke to the hovering docent (in my baby-talk Romanian) who looked rather lonely and she gave me more information than I could possibly fathom, but no matter--I loved this woman's work. Later, as we were leaving the museum after a quick foray into dark Renaissance paintings on the third floor, a docent came running after me and told me to wait. (I thought I must have committed some terrible breach of museum etiquette.) To my surprise, the docent from the poet exhibit rushed out with a beautiful book of the artist's paintings AND on every facing page were her poems in Romanian, English, and French. It was a very fine, museum-quality book and I admired it and asked where I could buy one. "Nu, nu," they both said and made it clear to me that it was a gift. I was flabbergasted and sputtered my thanks and gave them double-kisses. So our weekend may have been soggy and chilly and the bus ride back long and dark, ending in snow, but we sure received some wonderful kindness and generosity to warm our memories of Timisoara.