Saturday, April 30, 2011

spinning, rushing history

I was talking to someone today and I've been hearing a lot lately about how ugly Bucuresti can be, all the blocs, compared to some other European cities. To be fair, I suppose that's true in the sense that much of the city is not aesthetically pleasing, not the way you'd see the architectural crowns of Europe. These buildings with air conditioners sticking out and colors like rust and brown. I'd like to have seen it before Ceausescu razed a quarter of it to the ground.

There is something beautiful to it to me, though. Maybe not the blocs, but the whole city. Maybe I'm just still taken in by the fact that I live in Europe. Because it isn't the pollution, it's not the dog poop or the blocs. The churches are beautiful, the National Theatre and the monuments to the Revolution or Stefan cel Mare or the one for the unknown soldier at Parcul Carol. The view from the top of those steps, the People's House off to the left. It's a sweep of it all.

That walking toward Universitate and then to Unirii, the buildings stand against stark blue sky, I think, this is Wilmington sky if I quiet everything else for a moment, and it's also a sky over Europe, one full of a vast history. I think of the wars and the farmers and the hills rolling into flat places, green Europe, gray Europe, a placid sky that reaches over so many centuries rolling into one another the way history does.

I think, south of me, not so far even, Paul walked dusty Roman roads and the world was changed. North of me, Poland invaded and bombed out, Warsaw rubble.

Recently a friend was telling me about studying in Prague, this feeling of a shared human history, a rootedness in that. My own Wilmington has its history, and is even the only city in the States to have had a coup. The racial tensions run deep, run old. But it seems to me on the margins and that here I am so close to the center, in a place that holds so much. Imagine the tree, its farthest branches stretched out to a brand new country still shooting off new branches--the US feels this way to me--and closer to the trunk is Europe. Thicker, solid branches, ones with lines reaching out and tangling all of it, so much passing through one place.

And meanwhile life goes on here, riding the bus in a city with 2 million people, "American Woman" playing over the bus speakers. The farmers are still doing what farmers do, and it's still the same sky. We have somewhere to be, and we are city-people so we go there quickly. But it's still new enough to catch me off guard--the lines of this Eastern European city, its buildings and crowdedness stand against something that will watch it all press by, in a hurry, and then will still be there. It's this, I feel that I am in the middle of a spinning, rushing history, one that is also powerful and rooted deeply, and you see it in the outline of blocs against sky. It's beautiful in this way.


  1. Bucharest doesn't have history... it's a young city compared to Brasov, Timisoara or Cluj. I don't like Bucharest... it doesn't have much history, no natural scenery, it has 9 times more crime than Brasov, Timisoara or Cluj, it doesn't have a public transportation as good as Brasov and it's too far for everything nice (eg. mountains, sea, rivers, lakes (other than those pounds in Bucharest))

  2. In response to the proudly ignorant comment above

    (I'm talking about the last entry)