Friday, November 13, 2009

Back From Romania: Concert in Bucharest

I'm home in Budapest after spending a week in Romania enjoying the shitty weather and the excellent tripe soup. Di Nayes were invited to play a concert at the Museum of the Romanian Peasant in Bucharest, sponsored by the Austrian Cultural Institute as a series of Klezmer and Jazz concerts. I invited the formidable young fiddler Jake Shulmen-Ment along - he's been living in Paris this fall. After all, if you are playing Klezmer in Bucharest, why not do it right? And since Jake works off the same sources for his music as I do it made for an extremely fun, very Romanian concert.Since we traveled to Bucharest on the overnight train, we had to bring the small portable cimbalom, and I borrowed a cobza from Beatrice Iordan of the band Trei Parale, whose husband and band mate, Florin, actually works at the museum as a folklorist. The Museum Club was a great venue - Romanian folk furniture, tables, very cozy, a great bar. There doesn't seem to be a huge traditional folk music scene in Bucharest - apart from Trei Parale, who focus on flute and historical ballad traditions, and often present their music at early music festivals and rennaisance fairs. When we played within the Moldavian and Transylvanian styles of Jewish music it was pure joy to watch the faces in the audience. They don't often get much Transylvanian string band music down in Oltenia, it seems.
Bucharest is being reconstructed from whole cloth these days, with a lot of major road work disrupting any attempt to get from point A to point B. Bucharestians can be seen carefully dancing their way around all manner of obstructions as they attempt to navigate the streets and sidewalks. if you have to get anywhere, take the Metro. Bucharest traffic at evening rush hour is horrendous. But Bucharest itself has come a long way from the urban hell hole we remembered from the early 1990s. The shops are smart, lots of trendy bars and cafes, good restaurants, definately not the Bucharest I remember from fifteen years ago when all was grey and dreary. Believe me, in the 1990s Bucharest was one of the least attractive cities in the world. That's changing, but it takes an awful big heart to love Bucharest. The dreariest building of all is the former Palace of Nicolae Ceauşescu , now the Palace of the Parliament.
Started by order of the increasingly unstable Nicolae Ceauşescu in 1984, the construction of the Palace required demolishing much of Bucharest's historic district, including 19 Orthodox Christian churches, six Jewish synagogues, three Protestant churches (plus eight relocated churches), and 30,000 residences. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Palace is the world's largest civilian administrative building most expensive administrative building, and heaviest building. But the newer Bucharest is a series of surprises, especially if you knew the old one. On the up side, I found Europe's best hamburger in a small "French" bistro on Piata Romana, a place that advertised itself simply as "Soups and Meats."The bun was a bit tough but the meat was perfect... good beef, medium rare. Hungary doesn't have a single eatery that can produce a burger anything like this... none of us know why... it is so sad... but Bucharest definately takes the blue ribbon for east European burgers. There were non-burger items to try while I was in romania, but more on them later... I never rush a post when discussing tripe soup and ground spiced meatwad products like mici.


Richard said...

Trip soup, yeah.Bukarest, nem.

BUM said...

nem lehetsz buntetlenul jó,

dp said...

What a happy burger I had at this place! It had been a very long time; thanks so much for the recommendation. It's a real treat to be helped along in discovering good food spots in Romania. Come Easter I'm going to visit the Sucevita pensiune you mention in another post. I've been fed well by my Romanian women friends but have never stayed in one's home. I can't wait!