Andrei Şerban

Andrei Şerban (born June 21, 1943, Bucharest) is a Romanian-born theater director. A major name in today's theatre, he is renowned for his innovative and iconoclastic interpretations and stagings.

As a child, he was presenting puppet shows at home and staging mock battles with his friends in Bucharest's Grădina Icoanei. From 1961 to 1968, he studied at the Theatrical and Cinematographic Art Institute in Bucharest. As a student, he directed Julius Caesar, which he now calls his "most daring production ever". Set in the Japanese Kabuki style, with a flower bridge built over the audience, and with Caesar's death performed in slow motion created an enormous scandal. After that, it became very hard for him to find a job in Romania.

In 1969, Şerban emigrated to the United States, with the help of Ellen Stewart, and a grant from the Ford Foundation. In 1970, he went to Paris to study at Peter Brook's International Center for Theatre Research. In 1971, he staged Medea at La MaMa, E.T.C., the experimental theater club in New York City. Three years later, he directed Fragments of a Greek Trilogy (Medea, The Trojan Women, and Electra), also at La MaMa. For more than two decades, Şerban has been associated with the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At the A.R.T., he has directed Lysistrata, The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew, The King Stag, Sganarelle, Three Sisters, The Juniper Tree, The Miser, Twelfth Night, Sweet Table at the Richelieu, and Pericles. While at Columbia, he has directed the Oscar Hammerstein II Center for Theater Studies, and the M.F.A. Acting program. He has also taught at Yale University, Harvard University, Carnegie Mellon University, Sarah Lawrence College, University of California, San Diego, the Paris Conservatoire d'Art Dramatique and the American Repertory Theatre's Institute for Advanced Theatre Training.

As a director, Şerban has also worked at the Circle in the Square Theatre, the Yale Repertory Theatre, the American Conservatory Theatre, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City, Seattle and Los Angeles Operas, at the Paris, Geneva, Vienna, and Bologna Opera Houses, the Welsh National Opera, Covent Garden, Théâtre de la Ville, the Comédie Française, Helsinki's Lilla Teatern, and with the Shiki Theater Company in Tokyo. From 1990 to 1993, he headed the National Theatre Bucharest. He has received grants from the Ford, Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations. Since 1992, he is Professor of Theatre at the Columbia University School of the Arts. In 2006, he published his autobiography, written in Romanian.

Andrei Şerban is the recipient of the 1974-75 Obie Award for Trilogy. In 1999, he received from the Boston Theater Critics Association the Elliot Norton Award for Sustained Excellence. The same year, he received from the Society of Stage Directors & Choreographers the prestigious George Abbott Award, honoring artists who have made a major impact on theatre in the twentieth-century. Also in 1999, the Romanian National Foundation for Arts and Sciences, together with the Romanian Academy, awarded him the newly-founded Prize for Excellence in Romanian Culture.


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Matthias Corvinus (Part II)

Matthias gained independence of and power over the barons by dividing them, and by raising a large royal army, Fekete Sereg (the King's Black Army of mercenaries), whose main force included the remnants of the Hussites from Bohemia. At this time Hungary reached its greatest territorial extent of the epoch (present-day southeastern Germany to the west, Dalmatia to the south, Eastern Carpathians to the east, and southwestern Poland to the north).

Soon after his coronation, Matthias turned his attention upon Bohemia, where the Hussite leader George of Poděbrady had gained the throne. In 1465 Pope Paul II excommunicated the Hussite King and ordered all the neighbouring princes to depose him. On 31 May 1468, Matthias invaded Bohemia; however, as early as 27 February 1469, he anticipated an alliance between George and Frederick by himself concluding an armistice with the former. On 3 May the Bohemian Catholics elected Matthias king of Bohemia, but this was contrary to the wishes of both pope and emperor, who preferred to partition Bohemia. George however anticipated all his enemies by suddenly excluding his own son from the throne in favor of Ladislaus, the eldest son of Casimir IV, thus skillfully enlisting Poland on his side. The sudden death of Poděbrady in March 1471 led to fresh complications. At the very moment when Matthias was about to profit by the disappearance of his most capable rival, another dangerous rebellion, headed by the primate and the chief dignitaries of the state, with the object of placing Casimir, son of Casimir IV, on the throne, paralysed Matthias's foreign policy during the critical years 1470-1471. He suppressed this domestic rebellion indeed, but in the meantime the Poles had invaded the Bohemian domains with 60,000 men, and when in 1474 Matthias was at last able to take the field against them in order to raise the siege of Breslau, he was obliged to fortify himself in an entrenched camp, whence he so skillfully harried the enemy that the Poles, impatient to return to their own country, made peace at Breslau (February 1475) on an uti possidetis basis, a peace subsequently confirmed by the congress of Olomouc (July 1479).

During the interval between these pieces, Matthias, in self-defence, again made war on the emperor, reducing Frederick to such extremities that he was glad to accept peace on any terms. By the final arrangement made between the contending princes, Matthias recognized Ladislaus as king of Bohemia proper in return for the surrender of Moravia, Silesia and Upper and Lower Lusatia, hitherto component parts of the Bohemian monarchy, till he should have redeemed them for 400,000 florins. The emperor promised to pay Matthias a huge war indemnity, and recognized him as the legitimate king of Hungary on the understanding that he should succeed him if he died without male issue, a contingency at this time somewhat improbable, as Matthias, only three years previously (15 December 1476), had married his third wife, Beatrice, daughter of Ferdinand I of Naples.

The emperor's failure to follow through on these promises induced Matthias to declare war against him for the third time in 1481. The Hungarian king conquering all the fortresses in Frederick's hereditary domains. Finally, on 1 June 1485, at the head of 8,000 veterans, he made his triumphal entry into Vienna, which he henceforth made his capital. Styria, Carinthia and Carniola were next subdued; Trieste was only saved by the intervention of the Venetians. Matthias consolidated his position by alliances with the dukes of Saxony and Bavaria, with the Swiss Confederation and the archbishop of Salzburg, establishing henceforth the greatest potentate in central Europe.

In 1471 Matthias renewed the Serbian Despotate in south Hungary under Vuk Grgurević for the protection of the borders against the Ottomans. In 1479 a huge Ottoman army, on its return home from ravaging Transylvania, was annihilated at Szászváros (modern Orăştie, 13 October 1479) in the so-called Battle of Breadfield. The following year Matthias recaptured Jajce, drove the Ottomans from northern Serbia and instituted two new military banats, Jajce and Srebernik, out from reconquered Bosnian territory. In 1480, when a Ottoman fleet seized Otranto in the Kingdom of Naples, at the earnest solicitation of the pope he sent the Hungarian general, Balázs Magyar, to recover the fortress, which surrendered to him on 10 May 1481. Again in 1488, Matthias took Ancona under his protection for a while, occupying it with a Hungarian garrison. On the death of sultan Mehmet II in 1481, a unique opportunity for the intervention of Europe in Ottoman affairs presented itself. A civil war ensued in Ottoman Empire between his sons Bayezid and Cem; the latter, being worsted, fled to the knights of Rhodes, by whom he was kept in custody in France. Matthias, as the next-door neighbour of the Ottomans, claimed the custody of so valuable a hostage, and would have used him as a means of extorting concessions from Bayezid. But neither the pope nor the Venetians would accept such a transfer, and the negotiations on this subject greatly embittered Matthias against the Papal court. The last days of Matthias were occupied in endeavouring to secure the succession to the throne for his illegitimate son János; Queen Beatrice, though childless, fiercely and openly opposed the idea and the matter was still pending when Matthias, who had long been crippled by gout, expired very suddenly on 6 April 1490, just before Easter.

At times Matthias had Vlad III Ţepeş, the Prince of Wallachia, as his vassal. Although Vlad had great success against the Ottoman armies, the two Christian rulers disagreed in 1462, leading to Matthias imprisoning Vlad in Buda. However, wide-ranging support from many Western leaders for Vlad III prompted Matthias to gradually grant privileged status to his controversial prisoner. As the Ottoman Empire appeared to be increasingly threatening as Vlad Tepes had warned, he was sent to reconquer Wallachia with Hungarian support in 1476. Despite the earlier disagreements between the two leaders, it was ultimately a major blow to Hungary's status in Wallachia when Vlad was assassinated that same year. In 1467, a conflict erupted between Matthias and the Moldavian Prince Stephen III, after the latter became weary of Hungarian policies in Wallachia and their presence at Chilia; added to this was the fact that Matthias had already taken sides in the Moldavian conflicts preceding Stephen's rule, as he had backed Alexăndrel (and, possibly, the ruler referred to as Ciubăr Vodă), deposing Petru Aron. Stephen occupied Chilia, sparking Hungarian retaliation, that ended in Matthias' bitter defeat in the Battle of Baia in December (the King himself is said to have been wounded thrice).

In the course of his expansion, Matthias strengthened his state's diplomacy. Apart from his regular network of relations with his neighbours, as well as the Pope and Kingdom of Naples, he established regular contacts with France, Burgundy, Switzerland, Florence, most German states, Russia and, occasionally, with Persia and Egypt. Matthias's empire collapsed after his death, since he had no children except for an illegitimate son, János Corvinus, whom the noblemen of the country did not accept as their king. The weak king of Bohemia, Ladislaus II of the Polish/Lithuanian Jagiellon line, followed him – Ladislaus nominally ruled the areas Matthias conquered except Austria – but real power was in the hand of the nobles. In 1514, two years before Ladislaus's death, the nobility crushed the peasant rebellion of György Dózsa with ruthless methods. As central rule degenerated, the stage was set for a defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. In 1521, Belgrade fell, and, in 1526, the Hungarian army was destroyed by the Turks in the Battle at Mohács.

Matthias Corvinus (Part I)

Matthias I (Romanian: Matia Corvin, Hungarian: Matyás Király, also known as Matthias Corvinus or Matthias the Just; February 23, 1443 – April 6, 1490), King of Hungary.

Matthias was born at Kolozsvár, Kingdom of Hungary (present-day Cluj-Napoca, Romania) in the house currently known as Matthias Corvinus House, the second son of John Hunyadi (Romanian: Iancu de Hunedoara), a successful military leader of Hungarian and Romanian descent who had risen through the ranks of the nobility to become regent of Hungary, and Erzsébet Szilágyi, from a Hungarian noble family. His tutors were the learned János Vitéz, bishop of Nagyvárad, whom he subsequently raised to the primacy, and the Polish humanist Gregory of Sanok. The precocious Matthias quickly mastered German, Italian, Romanian, Latin and principal Slavic languages, frequently acting as his father's interpreter at the reception of ambassadors. His military training proceeded under the eye of his father, whom he began to follow on his campaigns when only twelve years of age. In 1453 he was created count of Beszterce, and was knighted at the siege of Belgrade in 1456. The same care for his welfare led his father to choose him a bride in the powerful family of the Counts of Cilli. Mattias was married to Elizabeth of Celje. She was the only known daughter of Ulrich II of Celje and Catherine Cantakuzina.

After the death of Matthias's father, there was a two-year struggle between Hungary's various barons and its Habsburg King, Ladislaus Posthumus (also king of Bohemia), with treachery from all sides. Matthias's older brother László Hunyadi was one party attempting to gain control. Matthias was inveigled to Buda by the enemies of his house, and, on the pretext of being concerned in a purely imaginary conspiracy against Ladislaus, was condemned to decapitation, but was spared on account of his youth. In 1457, László Hunyadi was captured with a trick and beheaded, while the king died suddenly in November that year (rumors of poisoning were dispelled by research in 1985 which gave acute leukemia as the cause of death). Matthias was taken hostage by George of Poděbrady, governor of Bohemia, a friend of the Hunyadis who aimed to raise a national king to the Magyar throne. Poděbrady treated Matthias hospitably and affianced him with his daughter Catherine, but still detained him, for safety's sake, in Prague, even after a Magyar deputation had hastened thither to offer the youth the crown. Matthias took advantage of the memory left by his father's deed, and by the general population's dislike of foreign candidates; most the barons, furthermore, considered that the young scholar would be a weak monarch in their hands. An influential section of the magnates, headed by the palatine László Garai and by the voivode of Transylvania, Miklós Újlaki, who had been concerned in the judicial murder of Matthias's brother László, and hated the Hunyadis as semi-foreign upstarts, were fiercely opposed to Matthias's election; however, they were not strong enough to resist against Matthias's uncle Mihály Szilágyi and his 15,000 veterans.

Thus, on January 20, 1458, Matthias was elected king by the Diet. This was the first time in the medieval Hungarian kingdom that a member of the nobility, without dynastic ancestry and relationship, mounted the royal throne. Such an elections upset the usual course of dynastic succession in the age. In the Czech and Hungarian states they heralded a new judiciary era in Europe, characterized by the absolute supremacy of the Parliament (dietal system), and a tendency to centralization. At this time Matthias was still a hostage of George of Poděbrady, who released him under the condition of marrying his daughter Kunhuta (later know as Catherine). On 24 January 1458, 40,000 Hungarian noblemen, assembled on the ice of the frozen Danube, unanimously elected Matthias Hunyadi King of Hungary, and on 14 February the new king made his state entry into Buda. Matthias was 15 when he was elected King of Hungary: at this time the realm was environed by perils. The Ottomans and the Venetians threatened it from the south, the emperor Frederick III from the west, and Casimir IV of Poland from the north, both Frederick and Casimir claiming the throne. The Czech mercenaries under Giszkra held the northern counties and from thence plundered those in the centre. Meanwhile Matthias's friends had only pacified the hostile dignitaries by engaging to marry the daughter of the palatine Garai to their nominee, whereas Matthias refused to marry into the family of one of his brother's murderers, and on 9 February confirmed his previous nuptial contract with the daughter of Poděbrady, who shortly afterwards was elected king of Bohemia (March 2, 1458). Throughout 1458 the struggle between the young king and the magnates, reinforced by Matthias's own uncle and guardian Szilágyi, was acute. But Matthias, who began by deposing Garai and dismissing Szilágyi, and then proceeded to levy a tax, without the consent of the Diet, in order to hire mercenaries, easily prevailed. He recovered the Golubac Fortress from the Ottomans, successfully invading Serbia, and reasserting the suzerainty of the Hungarian crown over Bosnia. In the following year there was a fresh rebellion, when the emperor Frederick was actually crowned king by the malcontents at Vienna-Neustadt (March 4, 1459); Matthias however drove him out, and Pope Pius II intervened so as to leave Matthias free to engage in a projected crusade against the Ottomans, which subsequent political complications, however, rendered impossible. On 1 May 1461, the marriage between Matthias and Poděbrady's daughter took place.

From 1461 to 1465 the career of Matthias was a perpetual struggle punctuated by truces. Having come to an understanding with his father-in-law Poděbrady, he was able to turn his arms against the emperor Frederick. In April 1462 the latter restored the holy crown for 60,000 ducats and was allowed to retain certain Hungarian counties with the title of king; in return for which concessions, extorted from Matthias by the necessity of coping with a simultaneous rebellion of the Magyar noble in league with Poděbrady's son Victorinus, the emperor recognized Matthias as the actual sovereign of Hungary. Only now was Matthias able to turn against the Ottomans, who were again threatening the southern provinces. He began by defeating the Ottoman general Ali Pasha, and then penetrated into Bosnia, capturing the newly built fortress of Jajce after a long and obstinate defence (December 1463). On returning home he was crowned with the Holy Crown on 29 March 1464. Twenty-one days after, on 8 March, the 15-years-old Queen Catherine died in childbirth. The child, a son, was stillborn.

After driving the Czechs out of his northern counties, he turned southwards again, this time recovering all the parts of Bosnia which still remained in Ottoman hands.

The Teleki Library

The Teleki Library, also known as Teleki-Bolyai Library and Bibliotheca Telekiana, is a historic public library and current museum in Târgu-Mureş, Romania. One of the richest Transylvanian collections of cultural artifacts, it was founded by the Hungarian Count Sámuel Teleki in 1802, at the time when Transylvania was part of the Habsburg Monarchy, and has been open to the reading public ever since. It was among the first institutions of its kind inside the Habsburg-ruled Kingdom of Hungary.

Teleki inherited the 17-18th century Baroque building in which the library is housed from the Wesselényi family. Inside the wing built between the years 1799 and 1802, books are still stored in accordance to the original guidelines.

The founder of this library, Count Sámuel Teleki de Szék (1739-1822) was one of the most learned book collectors of the time. From the very beginning, he intended his collection as a public library, and developed it throughout his life; he remained a committed and active bibliophile despite his time-consuming administrative career — he was Chancellor of Transylvania from 1791 until his death — building on his relations with all important European printing and publishing houses, and purchasing all important works published between the invention of the movable type and the early 1800s. In order to publicize his library, Teleki compiled and published a four-volume catalogue (Vienna, 1796-1819), divided according to general topics. Teleki's own instructions concerning the operation of the library are also presented in the catalogue (Volume II).

According to the surviving accounts of the librarians, which contain the names and professions of the readers, as well as the authors and titles of the books read, the facility was attended by a sizable portion of the 6,000-7,000 citizens Târgu-Mureş had at the time. It provided them access to European scientific life and to Age of Enlightenment ideas.

Upon his death, Sámuel Teleki left the library to his heirs as an entailed property; they were bound to keep the library open and running and were supervised by the High Board of the Reformed Church. Nevertheless, book acquisition became unsystematic soon after his death. For the following century, the Bibliotheca Telekiana was more of a book museum than a library. It was only towards the end of the 1800s that systematic research was initiated.

In 1951, the Library was nationalized by the Communist regime, and, in 1955, the Teachers' Library of the Protestant College (now known as the Bolyai Library) was moved into the building (the two collections merged under the name of Teleki-Bolyai Library). In 1974, the unified collection has become a branch of the Mureş County Library. Today, the continuously growing book collection is focused on scientific subjects, especially in history, local history, cultural history, and social sciences. The museum is visited by thousands of tourists a year. It houses over 200,000 volumes, of which many are rarities, constituting a comprehensive scientific database. The book collection is divided into several smaller libraries, of which the two main donations are the original 40,000-volume Teleki Library and the 80,000-volume Bolyai Library; the rest, grouped as the Miscellaneous Collection, is made up of several private libraries, volumes previously held by religious schools and those of a Franciscan monastery. Overall, the library constitutes a collection of most traditional types of Transylvanian book.

Târgu Mureş Culture Palace

The symbol of the city of Târgu Mureş, the palace was built between 1907-1913 in Transylvanian Secession style (the Lechner school) after the plans of Komor Marcell and Jakab Dezső. At the present, it houses the Philharmonic Hall, the County Library, the Art Galleries and the History Museum. It is the most important achievement the municipal administration in the period before the first world war. It is the embodiment of the local taste, revealing the desire to show the enterprising genius of the Town Council, that supported the idea of modernization, urbanization and enlightenment of the town and it is to this process that we owe many public edifices for education, culture and social-political life. Inside the Palace of Culture in Tirgu Mures, besides the institutions we have already mentioned above, the City Cinema (1913-1957), the first Romanian Theater School (1934-1940), the State Theater (1946-1973), the Fine Arts and Music Secondary School (1949-1970), the Academy of Fine-Arts (1932-1949) and the County House for Guidance of the Folkloric Creation functioned (1950-1999).

As a monument of architecture, the Palace of Culture belongs to the Secession style. This fact is proved by the way in which both the details and the ensemble were solved, as well as the materials that were used: stone, marble, bronze, wood, brick, enamelled ceramics, wrought iron. Considering the different way in which the facades from one floor to another are designed and the way in which the windows and the doors are disposed, the monumentality and originality of the building are assured. Fine arts with their range of techniques and trends were subordinated to this aim. The result was a crowd of motifs that shock the unwarned visitor who is unable to grasp that the relation between decorative and architectural has many shortcomings on the whole but not in detail. Nevertheless the Palace of Culture remains a spot of interest, a mirror of an epoch, this being the reason for which many financial efforts have been made to keep and consolidate it as a valuable monument of Romanian architecture, art and culture.

That is how they came to represent the historical past of the city in frescoes, mosaics and stained glass windows, emphasizing the ethnographic and folkloric values of Transylvania. The Palace impresses both through its external and internal decorations. In the harmonious aspect of the whole, the Majolica roof manufactured at Zsolnai factories in Pecs, Hungary, as well as the monumental inlay carried out according to the plans of painter Korosfoi-Kriesch Aladar stand out; further, the bas relief's executed by master Kallos Ede dominating the front of the building, as well as Korosfoi-Kriesch Aladar’s frescoes inside, and the stained glass windows of masters Nagy Sandor and Thoroczkai-Wigand Ede, worked by Roth Miksa. The hall from the ground-floor, made of Carrara marble, is flanked by Venice mirrors and embellished with two frescoes displaying mythological scenes. The ante-room is 45 meter long.

The concert hall with 776 places forms the central part of the building. It is multifunctional and its height corresponds to the three levels of the building. At the beginning it was a concert hall for the Academy of Music of the town, which was founded in 1908 and moved in this building in 1913.The hall has an organ, the 1800th piece of the famous Rieger firm of Jagendorff. At that time, the organ was one of the biggest in Europe. Its movable console with three manuals, pedals, 63 registers; functions on the electro-pneumatic principle of. Fr. Dexler type and it has 4663 tubes. On the stage there appeared personalities like Pablo Cassals, Jan Kubelik, George Enescu, David Oistrah and Bartók Béla.

The Small Hall was and is used for special programs: conferences, vocal instrumental concerts, chamber-music concerts, recitals, rehearsals, meetings, scientific and literary manifestations. It is very beautifully decorated, with floral motifs on the walls and the stained-glass windows are perfectly integrated in the geometrical architecture of the hall, as a requirement of the Secession style. We can mention here the central stained-glass window that represents "Gabriel Bethlen among the Scientists," a work belonging to Roth Miska, a painter from Budapest, the author of the most important stained-glass windows.

The Mirrors' Hall follows the Entrance Hall, the most interesting and visited part of the architectural ensemble of the Palace of Culture, improperly called that way. In fact this hall would have been called "The Stained-Glass Window Hall" as the 12 stained-glass windows are by far more valuable then the two triptychs of mirrors with big frames and semicircular vaults richly adorned, mirrors that are placed on the lateral walls, each of them having above a panel folkloric and eth­nographic inspiration. The "Stained-Glass Window Hall" as we call it, is situated on the first floor and it extends over the whole Entrance Hall, covering the space bordered by the 12 bays of the main facade. Its floor is strengthened by reinforced concert. The length of the hall is emphasized by the mirrors that were placed according to the laws of parallel mirrors, lending to the whole a fascinating impression of infinite. This impression was partially broken, aggressively, by replacing the two strips of scarlet carpets that were laid along the hall from one mirror to the other, with other carpets that spoiled the unity of the composition.

The Topolniţa Cave

Peştera Topolniţa (the Topolniţa Cave), not far from the hermitage with the same name, is situated in the central part of the Mehedinţi Plateau, in the Sohodol Valley, between the villages Marga and Păuneăti, clustered beneath the earth, have carved this picturesque cave, the 2nd longest in the country and the 17th in the world.

The Topolniţa Cave is actually a system of caves, loosing streams, and resurgences, so the plural is actually correct. The whole system is called sistemul carstic Topolniţa (Topolniţa hydrokarstic system). The main structure is a river which enters a cave, flows underground for some 600m and reappears in a spring called Gaura lui Ciocârdie (Ciocârdie's Hole), which is actually a narrow gorge or roofless cave. There are other streams entering the system and various caves.

The Topolniţa Cave was declared a natural protected monument. From the point of view of its galleries’ length (25km) this cave is the second after the Vântului Cave (the Wind’s Cave). The galleries of the cave are situated on four levels. The cave displays rich concretions (stalactites, stalagmites, curtains, stone pearls), halls, waterfalls, lakes, guano deposits. Inside the cave skeletons of cave bears (Ursus spelaeus) were found. The galleries have 12,000 m, on 5 floors, among which the gallery “Emil Racoviţă” is 1,570 m long. Inside the galleries there are spectacular shapes, called accordingly, as The Great Candle, and hosts species specific to the Southern climate. In the vicinity of Păuneăti village there is the Borovăţ Forest (56 hectares) with black pine mixed with beech and shrubs specific to the area.

The Elisabeta Palace

The Elisabeta Palace (Palatul Elisabeta) is the official residence in Bucharest of the Royal Family. The architectonic ensemble was designed in 1930 by the young architect Marcu, its structure being harmonious as well as loaded with symbols of both the past and present. The Palace was built in 1936, for Princess Elisabeta, the former queen of Greece and sister of King Carol the second. In one of the rooms of this Palace, the King was forced to sign the abdication papers on the evening of December the 30th, 1947.

From 2005, by a Parliament bill, King Michael and his wife, Queen Anna, lifetime rights to use the Elisabeta Palace, a former royal palace in Bucharest. Their eldest daughter, Princess Margareta, and her husband also have lifetime rights to use the palace. King Michael and his wife, Queen Anna, lifetime rights to use the Elisabeta Palace, a former royal palace in Bucharest. Their eldest daughter, Princess Margareta, and her husband also have lifetime rights to use the palace.

Here you will find a virtual tour in this splendid residence, and here a photo gallery.

Ioan Cantacuzino

Ioan C. Cantacuzino or Ion Cantacuzino (November 25, 1863 - January 14, 1934) was a renowned Romanian physician and bacteriologist, a professor at the Romanian School of Medicine and Pharmacy and a member of the Romanian Academy. He was the founder of the fields of microbiology and experimental medicine in Romania, and creator of the "Ioan Cantacuzino" Institute.

Born in Bucharest as a member of the Cantacuzino family, he graduated from the University of Paris' Faculty of Sciences and Faculty of Medicine and worked at several hospitals in Paris, obtaining his doctorate in 1894, with the thesis "Recherches sur le mode de destruction du vibrion cholérique dans l'organisme". Later in the same year, he began his academic career as a deputy professor at the University of Iaşi, and returned to Paris after two years to serve on the staff of the Pasteur Institute, where he worked under the direction of Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov.

His view of the life phenomena was a materialistic view. He was against finalism and a fervent adherent of the biological determinism, while being a declared Darwinian. In 1901, Cantacuzino was assigned a teaching position in Bucharest, where he became a major influence on a generation of scientists. His discoveries were relevant in the treatment of cholera, epidemic typhus, tuberculosis, and scarlet fever. As a disciple of Mechnikov, he devoted part of his research to expanding on the latter's field of interest (phagocytes, the body's means of defence against pathogens, as well as the issue of immunity and invertebrates). He invented the notion of contact immunity, the anti-choleric vaccine (the Cantacuzino method) and discovered the agglutination of microbes (the Cantacuzino phenomenon).

During the Second Balkan War, Cantacuzino was appointed head of the staff combatting the cholera epidemic in the ranks of the Romanian Army stationed in Dobruja; he was assigned to the same position during the Romanian campaign in World War I, in the fight against typhus. He founded and led the scientific magazines Revista Ştiinţelor Medicale and Archives roumaines de pathologie expérimentale, and regularly contributed to the literary magazine Viaţa Românească (replacing Paul Bujor on the editorial board). A collaborator of Constantin Stere, he was noted as a Poporanist disciple of Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea.

The Checkered Tulip

Fritillia meleagris is an endangered species who lives in a few areas in Romania and Moldova Republic.

The species is protected by law. The plant is perennial, endemic, and lives in wetlands, near the forests; it grows 20-30 cm high and flourishes for a few days in May. In Romania, the plant is named also laleaua pestriţă (the spotted tulip), bibilică, căldăruşă, coarmă and flourishes in Luduş area (Gheja, Grindeni, Tăureni, Zau de Câmpie), Turda Gorges, Şesul Orheiului, Fersig, Olt meadow, Comana forest and some other restricted and protected places.

Mircea Lucescu

Mircea Lucescu (born July 29, 1945, in Bucharest) is a former Romanian football player and one of the most successful Romanian football managers.

Lucescu played 362 matches and scored 78 goals in Romanian First League. He started his football player career at Dinamo Bucharest, one of Romania's top teams, where he played for 15 years; he played also for Politehnica Bucharest and Corvinul Hunedoara. Lucescu appeared 74 times in Romania's National Team. As a player, he won 7 times the Romanian First League and 1 Romania's Cup, with Dinamo Bucharest.

In Romania, Mircea Lucescu managed Dinamo Bucharest, Corvinul Hunedoara, Rapid Bucharest. After coaching Romanian national team, had a long career in Italy, at Pisa, Brescia, Reggiana, Inter Milan. He had a brilliant start with Galatasaray, winning the European Super Cup against Real Madrid. Under Lucescu's managership, Galatasaray qualified to quarter finals in the UEFA Champions League in the 2000-01 season for the first time, but in the quarter finals they lost to Real Madrid. The same year, he lost the Turkish League title to rivals Fenerbahçe. Next year, Gala qualified to second phase in the UEFA Champions League and won Turkish League title under his managership. (2001-2002 season).

Lucescu was disappointed to be sacked despite winning the league champion title. In June 2002, he signed a contract with rival Beşiktaş J.K.. It was a very important season for Beşiktaş since, in 2003, the reputable Turkish club was celebrating her 100th foundation year. In this atmosphere, Beşiktaş made a great work under Lucescu's management. They won the Turkish title by having only one loss, and collecting 85 points; a record for Turkcell Super League as the maximum points collected in a season. So Beşiktaş was able to succeed by winning the championship in 2003, in their first century fest. In the 2002-03 season, Beşiktaş reached the quarter final of the UEFA Cup, only to lose to Lazio. 2003-04 season started very well for Lucescu and Beşiktaş. The team could not qualify from a difficult Champions League group, but was able to get a ticket to UEFA Cup by holding the 3rd position in the group. In the second half of the season, the team's performance declined drastically. Lucescu could not stop the decline. He blamed Turkish Football Federation for one-sided decisions by the referees. After a disastrous second half, Lucescu decided to leave Turkey blaming that his championship was stolen.

He is currently the manager of Shakhtar Donetsk, he won the last 2009 UEFA Cup Final (May 20, 2009) against Werder Bremen 2-1 after extra time. His son, Răzvan Lucescu, is now managing FC Braşov and the Romania national football team.

The Yellow Tulip of Cazane

In scientific reserve bordering the Danube - "Cazane", located in the perimeter of 115,655 hectares of Iron Gates Natural Park, flourishes the yellow tulip (Tulipa hungarica Borb.), a species of tulip unique in the world, declared a natural monument and protected by law.

The species was described for the first time in 1882, by Vincze Borbás, in an areal on the steepness of Romanian Great "Cazane" of Danube. Two years later, in 1884, a Serbian scientist reported the same plant on the coast of an almost inaccessible peak, Veliki Strbač in Serbia. Today, the only place in the world in which this tulip can be found is in Romania, on the Danubian "Cazane", in Serbia this plant finally disappearing in the 1940'.

The species is endemic and flourishes from April to May.

Photos: Sretco Milanovici.

Helmuth Duckadam

Helmuth Duckadam (born April 1, 1959 in Semlac), former Romanian football goalkeeper, dubbed "the hero of Seville" due to his heroics in the 1986 European Cup Final.

Duckadam started his career playing in the regional league of Arad county, before moving to UT Arad in 1978 to become professional. In 1982 played twice for Romania and, as a result, was signed by country giants FC Steaua Bucharest.

The Romanian goalkeeper leapt into the folklore of both the club and European competition by saving all four penalties taken by FC Barcelona during the shoot-out that won Steaua the European Champion Clubs' Cup on May 7, 1986, at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in Seville. Duckadam became a hero by saving from José Ramón Alexanko, Angel Pedraza, 'Pichi' Alonso and Marcos Alonso. Only two of the eight penalties were converted as the Romanian side won the shoot-out 2-0 after 120 minutes of football had failed to produce a goal. Steaua won the main European trophy for the first time, and much of the credit for the surprise victory was given to Duckadam.

"I always had a dream about reaching a final and being the decisive player," said Duckadam in an exclusive interview for UEFA's 50 Years of European Club Football commemorative book. "In Seville l had the chance to turn the dream into reality. It was all down to me in the shoot-out. Alexanko took the first penalty. I chose to move to the right and he shot to the right and so I managed to save it. The second one was less simple. I tried to think like Pedraza. He would be thinking that when I’d made one save to the right then I would dive to my left. So he shot to the right and I managed to save the second penalty as well. The third one by Pichi Alonso was simpler. Any goalkeeper who has made two saves to his right is bound to go left for the third one. He shot to the right and I moved right again and saved the third one as well. With the fourth penalty I had a problem. I was seriously wondering what Marcos would do - whether he would copy the other three or shoot to the left. I decided to change side and moved to the left. Marcos also chose that side" - and that was how Helmut Duckadam saved four penalties.

On 25 March 2008, Duckadam was decorated by the president of Romania, with The Sportive Merit" Order class II, for his part in winning the of 1986 European Cup.

The bearded eagle

The zăgan or the bearded eagle (Gypætus barbatus), is a very rare species of eagle, considered to be extincted in Romania in 1929, 80 years ago. In April 2009, some hunters had identified a pair of bearded eagles in Mehedinţi County, near Topolniţa Cave.

The zăgan have habitats in the Alps, Crete, Pyrenées, Caucasus, Pamir, Altai, Tibet, Himalaya. It can live up to 50 years; although the female makes two eggs and cares them for 55 days, only one eaglet survives. The bearded eagle has a wingspan of 2.8 meters, plumage color is dark orange and dirty white, and under the beak has some black feathers, which look like a beard, from which it draws its name. It flies to an altitude of 4,000 meters on an area between 200 and 400 square kilometers, but returns each time in the place where it was grown.

The Steppe Peony Reservation

The steppe peony (Paeonia tenuifolia), has a height of 10-30 cm, with bright red flowers.

Zau de Câmpie is a commune in the Mureş County, Romania. Here, on Bota Hil, in the Northwest of the village, is the only place within the Carpathian arch where the steppe peony plant grows and is the northernmost point in Romania where this species is found.

The first data about this steppe peonies were published in 1846 in Vienna.
The Steppe Peony Reservation from Zau de Câmpie was founded in 1932 by the academician Alexandru Borza, the founder of the Romanian school of botany. The natural reserve area had 2.5 hectares. The area was saved by Marcu Sâncrăian, the "father of the peonies", a passionate villager who protected voluntary the peonies from 1923 (!) to 2006, the year he died. He also fought to include the reservation in Romanian Academy's patrimonium and managed to increase the surface of the reservation at 3.5 hectares.

In the blossoming season (May), that last exactly ten days, the beautiful meadow attracts many lovers of nature;

Dimitrie Cantemir

Dimitrie Cantemir (October 26, 1673 – August 21, 1723) was twice ruling Prince of Moldavia (in March-April 1693 and in 1710–1711). He was also a prolific man of letters – philosopher, historian, composer, musicologist, linguist, ethnographer, and geographer. His name is spelled Dimitrie Cantemir in Romanian, Dmitri Konstantinovich Kantemir in Russian, Dimitri Kantemiroğlu in Turkish, Dymitr Kantemir in Polish and Demetre Cantemir in several other languages.

Born in Silişteni (renamed Dimitrie Cantemir and now located in Vaslui County, Romania), Dimitrie was the son of Moldavian Voivode Constantin Cantemir (and brother to Antioh Cantemir, himself Prince), of the low-ranking boyar Cantemireşti family. His mother, Ana Bantăş, was a learned woman of noble origins. (Cantemir never forgot his paternal ancestry, but while in Constantinople because of his name similarity locals inspired him to pretended to descend from Khan Temir, an early 17th century khan of the Budjak Tatars). His education began at home, where he learned Greek and Latin and acquired a profound knowledge of the classics. Between 1687 and 1710 he lived in forced exile in Istanbul, where he learned Turkish and studied the history of the Ottoman Empire at the Patriarchate's Greek Academy, where he also composed music.

In 1693, he succeeded his father as Prince of Moldavia – in name only, as the Ottomans appointed Constantin Duca, favoured by Wallachian Prince and, despite many shared goals, forever rival of the Cantemirs Constantin Brâncoveanu; his bid for the throne was successful only in 1710, after two rules by his brother (whom he represented as envoy in the Ottoman capital). He had ruled only for less than a year when he joined Peter the Great in his campaign against the Ottoman Empire and placed Moldavia under Russian suzerainty, after a secret agreement signed in Lutsk. Defeated by the Turks in the battle of Stănileşti (July 18–July 22, 1711), Cantemir sought refuge in Russia, where he and his family finally settled (he was accompanied by a sizeable boyar retinue, including the chronicler Ioan Neculce). There, he was awarded the title of Knyaz (Prince) of the Russian Empire by Peter the Great and received the title of Reichsfürst (Prince) of the Holy Roman Empire from Charles VI. He died at his Dmitrovka estate near Oryol in 1723 (on the very day he was awarded the Roman-German princely title). In 1935, his remains were carried to Iaşi.

In 1714 Cantemir became a member of the Royal Academy of Berlin. Between 1711 and 1719 he wrote his most important creations. Cantemir was known as one of the greatest linguists of his time, speaking and writing eleven languages, and being well versed in Oriental scholarship. His oeuvre is voluminous, diverse, and original; although some of his scientific writings contain unconfirmed theories and inaccuracies, his expertise, sagacity, and groundbreaking researches are widely acknowledged. The best known is his History of the Growth and Decay of the Ottoman Empire. This volume circulated throughout Europe in manuscript for a number of years. It was finally printed in 1734 in London, and later it was translated and printed in Germany and France. It remained the seminal work on the Ottoman Empire up to the middle of the 19th century – notably, it was used as reference by Edward Gibbon for his The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Afterwards, the work was largely contested, for some of its sources were doubtful.

In 1714, at the request of the Royal Academy in Berlin, Cantemir wrote the first geographical, ethnographical and economic description of Moldavia, Descriptio Moldaviae. As many of his books it circulated first in manuscript and was only later published in Germany (first in 1769 in a geographical magazine, and then in 1771 the first edition as a book). Around the same time he prepared a manuscript map of Moldavia, the first real map of the country. It contained a lot of geographical detail as well as administrative information. Printed in 1737 in the Netherlands, it has been used by all cartographers of the time as an inspiration for their own maps of Moldavia. Other writings: the first critical history of Romania as a whole, under the name of Hronicul vechimii a romano-moldo-valahilor – aprox. "Chronicle of the durability of Romans-Moldavians-Wallachians" (1719–1722); the first Romanian language novel, the cryptic Historia Hieroglyphica (1705), to which he furnished a key, and in which the principal persons are represented by mythological beasts; A philosophical treatise, written in Romanian and also in Greek, translated into Arabic, under the title Divanul sau Gâlceava Înţeleptului cu lumea sau Giudeţul sufletului cu trupul (Iaşi, 1698) ("The Divan or The Wise Man's Parley with the World or The Judgement of the Soul with the Body"); an introduction to Islam written for Europeans, and a biography of Jan Baptist van Helmont. Due to his many esteemed works he won great renown at the high courts of Europe. His name is among those who were considered to be the brightest minds of the world on a plaque at the Library of Sainte-Genevieve in Paris, next to those of Leibnitz, Newton, Piron, and other great thinkers.

The Transfăgărăşan

Built as a strategic military route, the Transfăgărăşan (trans + Făgăraş) or DN7C is the highest and most dramatic paved road in Romania. It runs North to South across the tallest sections of the Carpathian Mountains, between the highest peak in the country, Moldoveanu, and the second highest, Negoiu. The road connects the historic regions of Transylvania and Wallachia, and the cities of Sibiu and Piteşti. The road was constructed between 1970 and 1974, during the rule of Nicolae Ceauşescu. It came as a response to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union. Ceausescu wanted to ensure quick military access across the mountains in the event the Soviets attempted a similar move into Romania. Consequently, the road was built mainly with military forces, at a high cost both financially and from a human standpoint—roughly 6 million kilograms of dynamite were used on the northern face, and about 40 soldiers lost their lives in building accidents.

The road climbs to 2,034 meters altitude. The most spectacular route is from the North. It is a winding road, dotted with steep hairpin turns, long S-curves, and sharp descents. The Transfăgărăşan is both an attraction and a challenge for hikers, cyclists, drivers and motorcycle enthusiasts alike. Due to the topography, the average speed is around 40 km/h. The road also provides access to Bâlea Lake and Bâlea Waterfall. It has two traffic lanes of 92 kilometers long, more tunnels (a total of 5) and viaducts (27) than any other road in Romania; in the vicinity of the highest point, at Bâlea Lake, the road passes through the longest road tunnel in Romania (884 m).

Among the attractions along the southern section of the road, near the village of Arefu, is the Poienari fortress. The castle served as the residence of Vlad III the Impaler, the king who inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula character. There is a parking area and a path to the ruins. The northern section is used as a part of yearly cyclist competitions Tour of Romania. The difficulty of this section is considered to be very similar to Hors Categorie climb (literally beyond categorization) in Tour de France.

The road is usually closed from late October until late June because of snow. Depending on the weather, it may remain open until as late as November. It may also be closed, at times, because of weather conditions (it occasionally snows even in August). There is a sign at the town of Curtea de Argeş that provides information on the passage. Travelers can find food and lodging at several hotels or chalets along the way.

The Seven Ladders

The Seven Ladders Canyon is a stunning destination near Braşov and it is one of the main attractions for the tourists hiking the rocky paths of the Piatra Mare (Big Rock) mountain. Its waterfall - the Seven Ladders Waterfall - is the second in Europe as length.

If magic is not what makes you tick, maybe knowing that the Seven Ladders (sometimes translated as Seven Stairs - an ad-literam of the Romanian Şapte Scări) waterfall is the second in Europe as length with a level difference of cca. 120 m. The name Seven Ladders comes from the seven consecutive waterfalls that form this amazing structure.

The Seven Ladders are located in the middle-western part of the Piatra Mare Mountains, at an average altitude of 980 m, not far away from Valea Timişului (Dambu Morii), on the Seven Ladders River, the left-side affluent of Şipoaia Creek. These are the greatest and the most spectacular gorges of the whole Piatra Mare Mountains. The first ladder of the gorges, going upwards, has a height of 8 m, followed by another 6 ladders; the longest one has a height of about 12 m. The Seven Ladders gorges are carved in Jurassic calcites, which register the traces of the recent evolution of the entire mountain. The accelerated epigenesis had lead to the creation of the river, first in cretaceous aggregation layer and then in Jurassic calcites layer. This had conducted in the hill breaks (the seven cascades) that follow on the river bed (2.5-15 m heights) and have marmite as base.