Our more than hospitable hosts t00k us (both the jurors and the actors who had been accepted into the festival) to a huge salt mine on Sunday said to be the biggest in the Moldavian region. A huge bus took us into the gray and white veined cavern, where we found an Orthodox Church, dedicated to the patron saint of salt mining, whose columns were made from salt. Beautiful chants were heard in the church. Romania as a whole is a very religious country with the majority of people being Orthodox Catholics. As we drove into the foothills were the salt mines were located, there were quite a few small glass or plexi “houses” containing either a statue of an icon of a saint or Jesus or Mary. There were also people in carts being pulled by horses! I think Romania is unique in that 18th century lives check by jowl with the 21st century of CDs playing in the car with the driver wearing a blue tooth device for his cell phone as we passed them. This is Justin sticking his head into a cut out of a salt miner.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The salt mine is so large that it contains not only the church but a playground for children as well as a snack bar area for drinks and coffee as well the gift shop. In the gift shop you not only were able to buy salt from the mine but other trinkets and souvenirs including a Native American dream catcher and items from China! When I point it out to my other main translator, Justin (a young actor with the theatre company), he laughed and said that maybe it was teleported from America. Another wonderful trait of the Romanians is their delightful senses of humor! After the salt mine we all piled into cars and headed higher into the foothills where we were to visit a church near a nunnery there and then get some lunch. This was the Sunday before Orthodox Easter (which generally falls the week after Catholic and Protestant Easter) so a service of the blessing of the branches was being performed with more beautiful chanting and singing. Like Palm Sunday for Christens, the Orthodox bring the branches home and place near icons. Dr. Daria Dimiu, a reviewer for a national cultural journal and another English speaker, told me there was another holy day in the fall where other branches are blessed and then replaced the ones from Palm Sunday. The area surrounding the church was a resort area close to natural hot mineral springs which are free and open to the public. There were large buildings for what looked like dances and concerts with small snack bars and even a casino!?! I hadn’t realized that gambling was legalized there. The gardens were beautiful even in their early spring and there were busts of famous Romanian artists, poets, writers and politicians. These folks are so wonderful in that they realize the value of the arts and honor artists as well as political figures. I had thought our lunch spot was somewhere there, but we had to get into the cars again to travel even further into the foothills where we stopped at what looked to be something like a bed and breakfast house with a large yard and BBQ and many picnic tables set out with food! On this Sunday before their Easter it’s traditional to eat fish that day. Many kinds of smoked and pickled fish were offered along with bread and two types of homemade brandy – one of blueberries and another more of a “white lightening” type of drink. This was just a prelude to another course of BBQed trout caught that morning and polenta along with a homemade white wine served in glass pitchers. Sunday evening was very important as it was the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Bacovina City Theatre Bacău. First was the revival of a farce by Nae Cosmescu and Sorin Petrescu called “In a Suburb of Bacău”. Although it was in Romania Justin sat with me up in the balcony/box area of the theatre and translated key passages for me. It was a very funny comedy played by the actors who first did it 20 y ears ago. After the show, there was a ceremony honoring these actors for the work they had done as well as honoring other older actors that were not in the show. There was one woman who was 75 who performed beautifully that night. I hope that I will be able to do the same! As each actor was presented with an award, you could feel the audiences’ love and respect flow onto the stage.