Monday, May 21, 2012

Iasi Adventure

OK, I'll help you at the beginning. Iasi is a very important historical Romanian city. The name of the city is pronounced Yash.

We left on a driving trip with Dan, one of the Romanian country managers about 9:30 AM on Sunday. When I arrived the country managers told me they were giving me this trip in return for my driving them around when they come to Minnesota for training. Well, now I think I must drive for the next five years -- because they did far more for me than I have done for them.

As seems usual, the weather was rainy. About one hour north, we encountered a huge black cloud, thunder, lightening, and even some hail. We could see clearer weather ahead and thankfully that happened.

Our first stop was the Botanical Garden. This made me feel quite at home because many of the plants are very familiar. Also St. Paul has a Conservatory that hold palms and tropical plants so they are part of home for me too.

Here are some views.

All of the above should be familiar plants to readers in North America too.

One area of the conservatory has very tall trees -- rather like a rain forest environment. They are housed in this section of the conservatory.

Outdoors we enjoyed some views.

And lovely -- the Romanian word for iris is iris. Now I know perhaps 5 Romanian words!

The rain drops returned so we ran for the car and went to a special building at the university in Iasi. This building has some classrooms in the back; however the front entrance of the building brings one to a ceremonial area.

There is first a long hallway, perhaps nearly 100 meters in length.

Each of the alcoves has a fresco. These were painted in the 1970s. They depict important aspects of Romania history or myths that explain Romanian cultural beliefs or history.
This fresco, for example, refers to the story of the construction workers who were building a monastery. In a dream they learned the walls would only survive hundreds of years if humans were enclosed. The lesson from this myth is that one can not make a lasting change without sacrifice.

Three of the frescoes were repainted about 3 years old. Originally they had displayed the Communist leader, Nicolae  CeauČ™escu. As all know, he fell from power with the changes in 1989-1990. The three panels of frescoes now again refer to genuine Romanian history and culture, repainted by the original artist shortly before his death. 

Then we received a real treat. This building holds an aula, a word used in many European countries for  hall or conference room. It is always a large room that can seat up to hundreds of persons and is used for special events, not usually for classes. 

We were able to have a special tour of this special room. 

The photo above shows the pillars in the balcony railing. I took these photos to give readers an idea of the level of craftsmanship in the construction of this room. My photos simply do not do it justice. 

The above is a picture of the windows on the upper level. This aula was built in the mid-19th century and at times has served as the meeting place for the Romanian parliament. Originally it was heated by wood stoves. Now it is more modern in many ways. The building manager called our attention to holes in the center of the upper level walls. These marked the observation/listening posts for the secret service members sitting behind the ways observing and recording what was said. Obviously, this has all gone away. He went on to tell us students may attend this university for 3-4 years and never see this room. We were indeed fortunate to visit this room.

After our visit at the University we went to see the Orthodox Cathedral. 

Nearby is the Palace of Culture. We could only admire this from the outside, as it is presently closed for renovation. The principal of the school at which I teach is so very optimistic. He told me, "It will be open the next time you come to Romania."

 Nearby a band -- what we in the Midwest U.S. would call a marching band -- was playing certain something similar to a Sousa march. 

We certainly also looked at the all the choices in the market. Pottery caught the eye of the other volunteers. 

I was amused to find Halloween pumpkins in this vendor's booth. 

While the pottery was very lovely  I knew that my small apartment in St. Paul can not hold another thing -- that is until Dan pointed out what he termed very special ceramic work.My piece is part of Cucuteni pottery, which if I understand correctly represents designs nearly 2000 years old., and not commonly found in a market such as this.  I purchased a pendant to wear as a necklace. My apartment can hold that! 

From the market we walked past a cross monument, erected in honor of those is Iasi who died in an effort to regain Romanian's freedom during the 1989-1990 time. 

 Then we walked to St. Nicolas church where a wedding was taking place. We were told it was OK to just walk in. The music for the ceremony was lovely -- a real treat. 

By this time, we were feeling the need for lunch. We went to a food court in a nearby shopping center. Then it was time to head back to Barlad. The sun lighted our way and I really enjoyed the views. The road follows a low part of a valley and on both sides of the road are very scenic hills.

In Romania there appear to be no fences on farm/agricultural fields. Thus, one sees shepherds watching flocks of sheep, goats, and cows to keep them from straying into the road way. When I see horses there are usually only 1-3 and they are tethered to keep them safe.

So Iasi proved to be a wonderful adventure. I'm so glad to have seen it. It is a very important city in Romania history -- back to the time that this part of present day Romania was called Moldova. What is left of this region after the boundary changes following WWII is still also called Moldova on the Romania side of the border.

Now I have a challenge. The battery is my camera quit working. There is a camera store here in Barlad which may be able to help me. The trick is to find time in my schedule to get there. So you all may see only words for a few days!

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