The Bucharest Inns

excerpts In the second half of the 17th century, inns emerged in Bucharest. They later formed a very important chapter in the Bucharest economy of the 17th century and of the first half of the 18th century, and they made an important contribution to the development of the city and to the fame of its market in South-Eastern Europe. Foreign merchants who looked for markets to sell or buy in Bucharest found the great Bucharest inns were not just places where they could store or keep their goods, but also places with good business conditions, where they could meet with Turkish, Greek, German, and Russian merchants, and even French and British ones. In Şerban Cantacuzino's inn or in the Colţea inn, as well as in Constantin Brâncoveanu's inn, in the Zlătari, or Gabroveni inns, and later, in Manuc's inn, all these merchants set their storehouses and business offices. They found in Bucharest what no other city in the Balkans, in the DanubeValley could offer, except for Vienna. In the 18th century, in the shops of the great Bucharest inns, there were goods from Vienna, Leipzig, and Silesia: cloths, fabrics, silk, and textiles from Ypres, Louvain, and Lyon; glassware, mirrors, and perfumes from Venice; silks, arms, and jewelry from Baghdad, Damascus, and Constantinople; the famous, fine English "londish cloth"; and even more famous and expensive furs from Moscow and Novgorod. This Bucharest of business and pleasure had everything that could be of interest to sophisticated tastes, to the tendency to luxury, and to the inclination to spend foolishly and party – these tendencies were so typical of the aristocratic and merchant cosmopolitan spirit in the 18th century, and they were further emphasized by the presence of Austrian, Russian, and Turkish occupation troops. The weakening of the Turkish economic tongs following their endless wars with the Russians and the Austrians in the 18th century, as well as the settling in Bucharest of foreign diplomatic agents in the late 18th century, offered favorable circumstances for the Bucharest economic life to develop faster and more diversely. The notes left by foreign travelers (diplomats, merchants, or missionaries) about Bucharest in 1750-1850 describe very interesting urbanism and social aspects, where we can see the role played by the inns at the time. This information about the inns, mostly gathered from the documents of the time, as well as from other sources, found anywhere, will help us describe the countenance of the great Bucharest inns, to sketch the less famous ones in a few lines, and to draw some conclusions on the role they played in old Bucharest. General Considerations about the Inns The word han (inn in Romanian) is archaic today, not circulating in modern Romanian anymore. As an instrument of feudal and middle class trade, the inn is a place with a diner, on country roads or on the outskirts of cities, where travelers can spend the night (with their horses and wagons).1 The origin of the word is Turkish [han-handjy]; it penetrated the Romanian language in the 17th century, with the thing itself, which was very popular across the Danube, and which came to the Romanian lands owing to trade. On the large roads of Wallachia, from Moldavia to Transylvania, at crossroads or in valleys, there was almost always an inn with a drinking parlor and heated rooms, sometimes with a large verandah, but always with a huge yard, with stables and a well, where travelers found a secure shelter and food for themselves and their cattle. "When the mail service was the only traveling means, there were inns on Romania's roads at regular intervals. One service replaced the horses and drivers and it was organized according to a fixed schedule, and couriers on horseback delivered the mail. It was good to be an innkeeper at the time. Many people got rich that way. The inn was a living, active center all year, where travelers changed all the time, where they met, planning business, love affairs, or political dissent."2 Such an inn existed in August 1836 in the PrahovaValley, at the exit from a difficult mountain pass, where Timotei Cipariu and Gheorghe Bariţiu stopped, on their way to Bucharest. That inn was kept by the "widow of Prince Brâncoveanu, the last of his family."3 And Bariţiu, the man who wrote the traveling notes, explains what this inn was: "this is the name of those huge guest houses [named differently in Transylvania]." The existence of this inn, close to the border-crossing point, but most of all close to the customs house, makes us infer there were inns in all quarantine and customs places, where travelers had to stay for a long time, until border crossing formalities were over. However, the Bucharest inns were totally different from this one in the PrahovaValley, or from other inns, in other places. The very two Transylvanian travelers tell us that: "these inns in Bucharest are worthy of being known more closely." Used to the big cities of Transylvania, which were surrounded by walls, they are surprised that "no part of this city is surrounded by any wall, and, instead of that, there are several buildings in various parts of the city, with very large squares and with two rows of houses. There are churches, too, in the middle of such inns." These were the great inns, the princely or monastic inns, which had stood up to all the vortexes of the of the 18th century, and which were still proud and solid in 1836. "They included a very large square yard, surrounded by strong, brick walls. The façade looked on the yard. They communicated with the street through one hole in the gate only, cut on one side, and stuffed at night by massive oak, iron-reinforced doors. The actual building was inside the yard, along the walls, and annexed to them. It was made up of several deep cellars, and above them there were shops, one next to the other, covered with vaults. At first, the only access to the shops was trough the yard, but later, they were connected to the street. At the first floor, above the shops, there were rooms, and their doors and windows looked to an open gallery, supported by pillars, which could be accessed by two staircases, facing each other on the two sides. These staircases, decorative and picturesque, led to a little tower, similar to those of peasant houses."4 The construction of the great Bucharest inns was truly monumental. Apart from the Princely Court, as much as was left of it in the 18th century from earthquakes and fires, apart from the proud churches and monasteries with slender, enriched ecclesiastical homes, the inns added to the attempts at urban monumentality in Bucharest. "The elegant proportion of trilobite arcades, the beauty of the staircases, which could have led to princely verandahs, and generally, the entire development of the facades, which, owing to their gallery verandah, ascribed unity without monotony to the building, and, not least, the very proportion of the large yard by comparison with the buildings allow us to consider Manuc's Inn as the perfect prototype of the genre."5 Therefore, the great Bucharest inns were really more than just charming curiosities of the city, but an actual attraction for western travelers who visited Bucharest. The Bucharest inns appeared in the 17th century, even before the peaceful rule of Matei Basarab, although they are only mentioned din documents much later. Their existence must be considered in connection with the development of the economy, which began to grow fast and profitably in Bucharest as early as the second and third decades of the 17th century. The testimony of Paul Strassburg is fully clarifying in this matter.6 So, inns emerged as immediate needs for the Bucharest trade, enlivened by the large number of merchants from north and south, who found good markets in Bucharest for their goods. These foreign merchants had to have places to stay and to store their goods. Of course, the first inns must have offered very poor accommodation and storing conditions, and it took a while before they ended up offering a minimum of comfort and certainty to travelers, to keep their goods. The first Bucharest inn mentioned in documents was built by Manole and his wife Maria, close to the St. George Church garden. A document says Manole built houses and inns for himself and "kept them in good peace, until the days of Prince Antonie," who began to rule in the early months of 1669, so the mentioned houses and inns are older. (…) The purpose and function of the great Bucharest inns were complex enough. Unlike small, marginal inns, in slums, or those grouped in the Outer City, which played host to out-of-Bucharest producers and their wagons full of goods for immediate sale, the great downtown inns, erected around the three Bucharest fairs, offered shops, cellars, and even accommodation to foreign and domestic merchants. The large yard in the middle of the inn allowed the great wagons with imported goods to come in and stay, to be unloaded, so the goods were arranged in shops to be sold, or in cellars to be kept. The shops and cellars of those inns, built out of thick, brick vaults, offered unmatched conditions of security against thieves and fire,7 and they were rightly considered fortresses of trade.8 In difficult times, when the city was robbed by Tartars or Turks, when foreign armies stopped here, and even when plague haunted the city, many people took refuge inside the great inns. In such circumstances, their strong walls served as a hard to conquer citadel. So, in September 1716, when Prince Nicolae Mavrocordat ran away from Bucharest, many of the city's inhabitants left their houses, fearing the Turks, and they sought refuge in the Şerban Vodă Inn, in the St. George Inn, and in the Cotroceni Monastery.9 And, in 1806, when the Russians entered Bucharest, 300 Dalmatians of Cattaro locked themselves in the Radu Vodă Inn, planning to put up a resistance against the Turks,10 with the three cannons they had. In the plague epidemics of 1795, when city dwellers looked for salvation inside inn walls, a custom was developed to hire doorkeepers of the Gypsies who had been ill and did not die, and they were ordered not to let anybody in. But they were easy to win over with money ad gifts, and they opened the doors. To halt this, Prince Alexandru Moruzi ordered on 15 May 1795 the Gypsies chased out and replaced with incorruptible people, who would protect the inn entrances very thoroughly, until the disease went away.11 In the early 18th century, when Italian del Chiaro was the Secretary of Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu, the two princely inns that existed in 1710 had shops downstairs with all kinds of goods, while upstairs, there were rooms.12 The Italian writer tells us nothing about any cellars, but they existed, no doubt, for goods storage. (…) Some of the great Bucharest inns had churches inside their inner yards, with priests and chanters, where the usual religious services were held, with all people who lived at the inn participating. Sometimes, inns emerged as annexes to churches, built by clerics to increase incomes, to be used for the maintenance of the churches and for priests and monks to make a living: the Greci and the Colţea inns were that kind. Some other times, the inns were built at the same time with the church, like the St. George Inn, the Şerban Cantacuzino Inn, and the Prince Constantin Inn. There are inns that were built before the church, like the Stavropoleos Inn. (…) By the end of the 18th century, many of the great Bucharest inns, especially the aristocratic and merchant ones, began to be leased entirely. In that case, the lease holder replaced the owner, and he made the deals with the tenants. The inn supervisors, be they clerics, aristocrats, or merchants, owners or just lease holders, were accountable to the government and its servants for good relationships with tenants, keeping the order, and other aspects the rulers were interested in. When the great Bucharest inns began to offer accommodation to all kinds of people – merchants, missionaries, travelers for pleasure, or for hidden interests, political informants, spies, etc. – especially just before or during the many wars of the 18th century, the Wallachian Government began to check carefully the persons that came to the inns. Supervisors began to get instructions and orders on the government's interest in surveying all those who stayed temporarily or who lived at inns permanently. (…) How many inns were there in Bucharest? This is a question that is probably impossible to answer, not even now, having the current documentary material, or later, when this material could increase, with everything in archives and document storage places. Many of the small Bucharest inns were evanescent, and disappeared in the many disasters this city has known, others were modest, away from the living rhythm of trade, so no notes about them survived. In the early 18th century, a few inns were close the four Bucharest fairs. Their number kept growing, following the speed of the city's economic development. A few of the great inns, solidly built and carefully maintained, resisted in time and through disasters, and their lives went on, into the next century. Others, less solid, built to respond to temporary needs and bring high profits, were unable to endure. Earthquakes and fires were the greatest enemies of the Bucharest inns. Most of them collapsed under those repeated, powerful blows. Of course, every epoch had its own leading inns, plus some others, added to them. The Colţea Inn had its time; so did the St. George Inn, the Zlătari Inn, and the Constantin Brâncoveanu Inn. In the 19th century, the Manuc Inn was the most famous. L. Kreuchely13 , Prussia's Agent to Bucharest in 1822, says there were seven great inns without churches in Bucharest, in his time; Filipescu, Golescu, Manuc, Papazoglu, Prince Constantin, Zamfir, and Gabroveni. Apart from those, there were 28-30 smaller ones, much less important than the large ones. For the researcher who studies the question of Bucharest inns in time, the number of less known ones is important, it could be higher than 70-80, up to 100. But, no matter how many we know, their number will never be certain. The 18th and 19th centuries will still hide inns we know nothing about, and which we will never be able to know anything about. 1 The Dictionary of the Modern Romanian Language, Bucharest, 1958.2 Architect G.M. Cantacuzino, Hanurile [The Inns], a conference delivered on the radio on 10 November 1932, published in the Miscarea newspaper of 17 November 1932, pp 1-2.3 Vasile Netea, Timotei Cipariu si Gheorghe Baritiu, calatori prin Tara Romaneasca in 1836, note pe marginea unui text inedit [Timotei Cipariu and Gheorghe Baritiu, Travelers in Wallachia in 1836, Notes on a Previously Unknown Text], in "Studii," a history magazine, volume XI, 1958, no. 1, p 128. 4 Architect Grigore Ionescu, Istoria arhitecturii romanesti [The History of Romanian Architecture], Bucharest, 1937, pp. 418-419.5 Architect G.M. Cantacuzino, op. cit.6 Foreign Travelers…, op. cit., pp. 63-68.7 Anton Maria del Chiaro, in Calatori straini despre Tarile Romane [Foreign Travelers about the Romanian Lands], volume VIII, Bucharest, 1983, p 373. 8 D[imitrie] Berindei, Bucurescii [Bucharest] in Revista Romana, volume I, Bucharest, 1861, p 350.9 Anton Maria del Chiaro, op. cit., p 394.10 N. Iorga, Istoria Bucurestilor [The History of Bucharest], volume V, Buhcarest, 1893, p 433.11 V.A. Urechia, Istoria romanilor [The History of the Romanians], volume V, Bucharest, 1893, p 433.12 Anton Maria del Chiaro, Revolutiile Valahiei [The Revolutions of Wallachia] (translated by S. Cristian, Foreword by N. Iorga), Iasi, 1929, p 25.13 Constantin Moisil, Bucurescii vechi [Old Bucharest] in Boabe de grau, 1933, p 419; N. Iorga, Istoria romanilor [The History of the Romanians], 1939, p 234.

by George Potra