Illustrated Journey To The Five Corners Of The World

excerpt Romanians love entertainment but they equally like to laze around. When they don't have a rest, they spend their time having walks, going to the theatre, parties, visiting acquaintances and playing cards. French, German and Romanian performances lure people to the theatre. If they are young and beautiful, the actresses obtain sparkling, long lasting success. Playing cards is a passion that sometimes turns into frenzy; not seldom did boyars lose their fortune in one single night. In Bucharest, people can call in almost any time of the day. When a woman enters the parlor she shall kiss the forehead of the lady of the house. If the person who enters is a girl she shall kneel and kiss the hand of her hostess and after standing up the latter shall kiss her on the cheeks. As for men, they usually smoke throughout their visit. The servants bring a hookah, the lord of the house tries it first and then he offers it to the guest; after the latter has finished smoking, the lord claps his hands three times and coffee, marmalade and rose water are brought in. After this ceremony they part at once, often without having uttered a word.People go by carriage or ride horses in Baneasa, Herastrau or Colentina, which are to Bucharest like Champs-Elysées to Paris. There is nothing greater than the opulence of the carriages; each and very boyar, as modest as he may be, dreams of a carriage that can compete, in terms of shape and adornments, with that of his friends or neighbors. Nevertheless, it is only the rich that can afford hiring Albanians. A quarter of an hour later (S.B) was seen into a huge parlor in which, just like in a greenhouse, rare flowers and exotic shrubs were shivering in the draught of an invisible fan. Inebriating odors freshened the air. Small bushes of begonia, myosotis, cactus, honeysuckle, myrtle, pomegranate, jasmine served as swings for numerous tamed little birds - humming birds, grosbeaks, starlings - that chirped as they were flying from branch to branch. Two Albanians, wearing expensive garments, opened the door for each new comer and closed it behind him. The boyars smoked hookahs, sprawling on divans. Withdrawn in the corner of the parlor the girls chattered in French, while a few elegant women talked about the fashion of the day. At eight o'clock five gipsy slaves, holding silver pots drew close slowly. The pots were filled with rose water and aloe essence, meant for hand-washing. Other five slaves followed them at a certain distance and held out to the guests high-quality towels made of Crimean flax, embroidered with silk and gold threads. Immediately after this, the doors opened and everybody stood up. The house of Lady D., who was famous for the simplicity of her day-to-day life, was glamorous and opulent when she had guests. That particular day the dining-room was lit by 300 pink Leopoldstadt candles; the 52 diners sat at a table covered with silver cutlery and crystal that were glittering as if they were gems and diamonds. Dinner was served according to the French custom, the only difference being that it stared with salad and ended with consommé. The princess's cook wanted to outdo himself: Meilschspeisen, a light pastry product that resembles our pancakes, "sarmale" made of fried meat wrapped in young vine leaves; smoked plums covered in butter; raw eggs cooked in wine; ram with marmalade; at the end, salad and fish; everything was outstandingly delicious. There were floods of champagne and wine brought from Cyprus, Metelin, Naxos, Tokay, and Bordeaux. Around the middle of the dinner Malaga wine was served. Finally, black caviar and white caviar were brought in, along with some excellent cheese cooked with sturgeon roe. As for desert, no one can deny that all five corners of the world brought their contribution to this savory meal. Throughout the dinner a valet stood behind each guest and fanned away flies, mosquitoes and other insects.

by Adolphe Joanne