Bucharest Days, A Popular Celebration

The inhabitants of Bucharest came out of their homes in great numbers last weekend to celebrate their city, on the anniversary of 549 years since its first being mentioned in a document.Over one hundred events, taking place in 30 locations, brought entertainment for every taste, from "taraf" music and vaudeville shows to video screenings and urban art festivals.Whether we are talking about pop concerts or the music of the prestigious Strauss orchestra from Vienna, the shows were all spiced a lot with smoke from grilled "mici" and waves of beer.On Saturday, the pedestrian area from the Historical Centre of Bucharest was no longer full of cars. Without cars parked on three rows, Lipscani Street seems broad and welcoming for the crowds of people crossing it to reach the various events. Near the University, vintage carriages march to the music of the brass band from Chiteris. 50 characters wearing period costumes walk through the Old Centre and talk to people. If the ladies in long dresses, white gloves and umbrellas with frills are satisfied by just smiling to people passing by, the historical-relevant characters are not afraid to talk to strangers: a gentleman dressed in Turkish clothing explains to a mother holding her child by the hand the influence of Turks on Bucharest. The characters sketch, through their diversity, a history of Bucharest: men in dress coats and costumes of the period, several variants of Bucur, the shepherd, who goes by cart or carries buckets in balance. The interwar period does not have a representative. "The Cheerful Guardsmen"On Smârdan St., the Marsa ensemble tries to enliven the audience, who are content just to applaud politely and take pictures with their cellular phones. Just when people start to move and gather for a round dance, the ensemble ("taraf") finishes its number and makes way for Masca Theatre. The play "The Cheerful Guardsmen" gathers on the scene a fictional multinational choir of public guardsmen, who sing and dance exuberantly, beyond the requirements of the job. The policemen who looked after the event became a bit contaminated by the cheerfulness of their acting counterparts, without seeming upset by the irony of the play.Although Masca and the Comedy Theatre that followed seemed out of place in the middle of a parade of dulcimers, trumpets and "lăutari", "The Cheerful Guardsmen" amazingly fitted in to the anniversary of Bucharest, an event that brought on the streets a large number of policemen, gendarmes and private security agents. Although their number appeared to be exaggerated during the day, when the traffic is normal, at dusk the streets became full of people. And with the lack of information about the tens of events taking place in as many locations (the program brochure was a rarity), the policemen had to be guides for people confused between the cultural events.Those who attended the carriage parade, the flower fight, the street play and the ensembles in the area of the Centre were generally older people and families with children. Besides the elegant ladies and gentlemen in the carriages, on the streets bootblacks, newspaper sellers, water bearers and other characters from the Capital's past made their appearance. Also, in this area, the famous "flower fight" that once took place in the northern gardens of the city was revived. The "Little Paris" in Unirii SquareAround 7 o'clock, Unirii Square was invaded by another type of audience, gathered to see the "Little Paris" show that took place in a massive tent, installed in the center of the park, with songs by Edith Piaf, parodies after the famous Romanian song "He Who Loves and Leaves", and a cancan show.In Constitution Square, a couple of roughly 30 year-olds were holding each other while watching the concert of Ovidiu Lipan Ţăndărică, Marius Mihalache and Stela Enache. "We heard about the event on TV and we went out, but we did not come to see a particular event. The organization is very poor," tells me the man, without being able to explain in details why the set-up could be better. The Viennese waltz kicks tavern musicIn the park near the Athenaeum another musical event is taking place: the Strauss Festival Orchestra from Vienna plays. From the distance, the contrast with the "tarafs" of the Historical Centre is complete: people in suits standing on chairs and peacefully enjoying classical music. But once you enter the spectators' area, you encounter the hustle and bustle of an audience twice as large as that of the "lautari." Few have managed to get seats in front. The rest are standing on their feet or on the benches in the tent, where they relax with ball music, chips and beer. And the similarities do not stop at the audience: the Austrian conductor seems to have been inspired by Nelu Ploieşteanu, because he does not refrain from clapping his hands together with the audience or to play small scenes at the beginning of some melodies. The mélange between classy music and a relaxed atmosphere enjoys great success. Bryan Adams and "mici" smokeAt the Bryan Adams concert, the large audience, who came especially to hear the middle-aged rocker, blends with those who came to the event casually. The terraces with tables and long, wooden benches, the endless line of beer customers, the grilled "mici" and the eco-toilets remind of the "Beer Festival" and the smoke brings the "mici" smell very close to the scene. "That's why I like the audience from Romania," says half-serious, half-kidding Horia Brenciu after he tries – without much success – to grab some welcoming ovations for Bryan Adams. However, hits such as "Please Forgive Me," "Everything I Do" or "Baby, When You're Gone," made the audience sing together with the artist, while groups of teenagers were having fun, lying on the grass, with their backs to the concert.At the end of the concert, not far from the scene, luminous artesian jets, seeming sparks, explode, next to real flames. It is the Lunatix Aquatique, a fire and water show that blends in the rhythm of the music and the laser beams all the colors and forms possible. After midnight, the projections on the other face of the Parliament Palace, from Constitution Square stop for the fireworks which mark the climax of the evening. Over two tons of fireworks and 2500 explosive devices were launched for the show, from the front of the Parliament, its interior court and from several places on its roof. "I wish they would organize projections on buildings every night"For the youth, one of the most anticipated events of Bucharest Days was, beyond doubt, the video projections, made by over 50 artists on the Parliament Palace and in the University Square. Around midnight colored animations, reminiscent of 2D games, Japanese manga and abstract geometrical designs were simultaneously screened. But also a man completely naked, something that seemed to be a brave reply to the recent scandal about the "obscene" art promoted in foreign countries. "I wish they would organize projections on buildings every night, but I think that would cost too much," says one of the young people attending the video projections at the Parliament Palace, while DJ Gojira mixes along. Museums, mostly visited at nightThe museums of the Capital also participated in the event. They were opened all day long and until 3 AM. If in the first part of the day the National Contemporary Art Museum was empty, towards evening, most museums drew an audience almost as large as that on the occasion of the White Night of Museums. (...)
Romania libera
, September 22, 2008
Translated by Max Gavrilciuc

by Ştefan Iancu; Vlad Ursulean