The Italian Church in Bucharest

The Italian Church "Our Blessed Savior" is a Catholic church, built between 1915-1916 in Bucharest. It was consecrated by bishop Raymond Netzhammer in 1916. The funds were donated by King Victor Emmanuel III, the Vatican, the Italian Embassy and the Italian community in Romania that in 1915 numbered about 7000 people. An Italian journalist of the time launched an appeal to his compatriots: "Italian citizens, rather than cross the ocean to America and you experience surprise that the tycoons will not integrate you and die of hunger, better come in Romania, which is a rich country and has a very welcoming people of Latin origin, as us!"

The church is located on the busiest boulevard in Bucharest, Nicolae Bălcescu, and is owned by the Italian government. Architects were Mario Stoppa and Giuseppe Furaboschi. It was built after the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazzie in Milan, built in old Lombard style. The church in was built in order to recreate the typical atmosphere of Italian churches, with Romanic and Renaissance influences. The church parsonage was built in 1924 and for a time hosted the Italian school. The campanile is 27.75 m high and is equipped with four bells. The apartment buildings surrounding the church were built in the thirties, changing the atmosphere around the church. The earthquakes in 1940, 1977 and 1986 seriously affected the Italian Church, being further consolidated and restaurated.

Photo from here.

The first parish priest, Antonio Mantica, served here by the end of 1949 when he was arrested and forced to leave Romania. The second priest, Clemente Gatti, served until March 1951 when he was also arrested, sentenced to 15 years in prison and deported in April 1952. The church was closed until 1968, when it was reopened during the visit to Romania of the Italian Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani. It remained opened only for occasional services such as Easter, Christmas, Feast of Our Lady, etc.. The church was reopened after the Romanian Revolution of 1989. The Italian church hosts organ concertos, and Baroque music concertos.

John Houseman

John Houseman (born Jacques Haussmann, September 22, 1902 – October 31, 1988) was a Romanian-born British-American actor and film producer. Academy Award-winning actor John Houseman's main contribution to American culture was not his own performances on film but rather, his role as a midwife to one of the greatest actor-directors-cinematic geniuses his adopted country ever produced (Orson Welles) and as a midwife to a whole generation of actors as head of the Julliard School.

Houseman was born in Bucharest, Romania in 1902, the son of a British mother of Welsh and Irish descent and a Jewish father of Romanian ancestry who ran a grain business. He was educated in England at Clifton College, became a British citizen and worked in the grain trade in London before emigrating to the United States in 1925, where he took the stage name of John Houseman. He became an American citizen in 1943.

He directed "Four Saints in Three Acts" for the theater in 1934. Houseman joined with Orson Welles (whom he affectionately called "The Dog-Faced Boy") in 1937 to mount startling productions of the classics in their avant-garde Mercury Theater. Their most important success was a modern-dress version of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," in which the spectre of Hitler and Mussolini's Fascist states were evoked. The Mercury Theatre on the Air subsequently became famous for its notorious 1938 radio adaptation of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, which had put much of the country in a panic.

As a producer assigned to Unit 891 of the Federal Theater Project funded by the government's Works Progress Administration, he produced the legendary production "Cradle Will Rock," a musical about the tyranny of capitalism. On Broadway, apart from the Mercury Theatre and the WPA, Houseman directed "The Devil and Daniel Webster" (1939) and "Liberty Jones" and produced "Native Son" (1941). During World War Two, Houseman went to work for the Office of War Information and was involved in broadcasting radio propaganda for the Voice of America. After the war, Houseman returned to directing and produced Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's 1953 version of Julius Caesar (1953).

Toward what looked like the end of a long career, when he was 66 years old, Mr. Houseman helped establish the school of drama at the Juilliard School and also became the co-founder and longtime artistic director of the Acting Company, the touring repertory group whose alumni include Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone. He resigned as artistic director last summer.

He helped establish the acting program at New York's famous Julliard School for the Arts, where he influenced a new generation of actors. Ironically, he had appeared in only one major movie, in a supporting role, before being tapped to replace James Mason in The Paper Chase (1973). He won an Oscar for the role and began a 15-year career as a highly sought after supporting player (Three Days of the Condor, Rollerball, The Cheap Detective, Ghost Story, My Bodyguard, Naked Gun, Winds of War, Noble House, and many others). Houseman, who wrote three volumes of memoirs, Run-Through (1972), Front and Center (1979) and Final Dress (1983), died in 1988 after making major contributions to the theater and film.

Simona Noja

Simona Noja (born March 9, 1968 in Huedin, Romania) is the Executive Director of the Vienna State Opera Ballet School, and former soloist, dance instructor and co-founder of the ballet school "dance arts" in Vienna. She is known as "the Maria Callas of the ballet".

Noja received training in the Olympic gymnastics team of Romania and studied ballet at the Art Academy in Cluj-Napoca (Romania). She completed a degree in linguistics (Romanian-English) at the University "Babes-Bolyai" in Cluj-Napoca in 1994. Between 1986 and 1991 she was soloist dancer at the Romanian Opera in Cluj-Napoca, and from 1991 to 1995 Soloist at Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Düsseldorf. She joined Vienna State Opera as a principal dancer in 1995.

Simona Noja had acclaimed performances as principal dancer ​​at the Ballet Estable del Teatro Colon (Buenos Aires), Teatro Municipal (Santiago de Chile), Ballet de Cuba (Havana), Bolshoi Theatre (Moscow), La Scala (Milan), Balletto dell'Opera (Rome), Dresden Opera, Teatro San Carlo (Napoli), Royal Swedish ballet (Stockholm), Finnish National ballet (Helsinki), Stuttgart Ballet, Frankfurt Ballet, Bavarian State Opera in Munich.

In 2002 she founded the cultural foundation "Simona Noja," and in 2006 the dance school "dancearts" in Vienna along with her husband, Boris Nebyla. Between 2006-2009 she was a guest teacher at the Vienna Festival ImPulsTanz. In 2009 she founded the company & dance studio theater RenaissDance. Since 2010 she was appointed Executive Director of the Vienna State Opera Ballet School.

Simona Noja won the Silver Medal at the dance competition in Jackson, USA (1990), was voted Best Dancer of the Year by the magazine "Danza e Danza" (2001), and received the Star of Romania (title: Chevalier) (2002) and the Austrian Honorary Cross for Science and Art, First Class (2008).

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Ileana Sonnabend

Ileana Sonnabend (née Schapira, October 28, 1914, Bucharest, Romania - October 2007, New York City) was a dealer of 20th century art.

Her father, a successful businessman, was the financial counselor of King Carol II of Romania. Sonnabend was, for many years, married to Leo Castelli who she met in Bucharest in 1932 and married soon after. The couple had a daughter, Nina Sundell. They went in 1935 to Paris, then she and her husband left Europe in 1941 and settled in New York City.

In 1957 she opened her first art gallery in New York, where exhibited works by Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg. She promoted new artistic trends as Neo-Dada art and Pop Art, showing works by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and James Rosenquist. She ran a contemporary art gallery in Paris during the early 1960s. After leaving Paris, she opened a Sonnabend Gallery in New York City in 1971, at 420 West Broadway, in SoHo, and will make a habit of promoting new forms of art (Minimalism, Arte povera, Conceptual art, Performance, Transavanguardia, Neo-Expressionism, Neo-Geo, New photography) both on Europe and America.

In the late 1999s, the gallery moved to Chelsea and continued to be active until Sonnabend's death. After the death of Ileana, some work in Sonnabend Collection were traded in two auction sales which totaled $ 600 million. The event is considered "the largest private sale of art ever (NY Times)".

Fortress Valley Cave

Peştera Valea Cetăţii (the Fortress Valley Cave) is located near Râşnov, Braşov County, Southeastern Transylvania, Romania.

The cave was first opened in 1949, when a hydraulic blowup removed a rock and caused a huge flood in the Fundata valley. In 1954, a group of young from Râşnov managed to enter the cave through the opening. Margareta Dumitrescu and Traian Orghidan conducted the first study of the cave complex in 1958 and published a description and a sketch of the cave, indicating its length of 270 m. In 1981, a team from "Emil Racoviţă" speleological club in Bucharest have mapped 857 m with a 36m level difference. In 1988 and 1989 were mapped another 63 m, respectively 38 m, with a level difference of 38.5 m and a development of 958 m. The cave has undergone a continuous process of destruction due to uncontrolled access to various visitors.

Since February 2010, the protected natural area of ​​the Fortress Valley Cave is in the custody of a firm. From this time, the damage of the karstic formations was fortunately stopped, and the cave was set up using the latest technology. The cave was opened for visiting by the public in December 2010 after a titanic work of restoration. Due to the amazing acoustic of the cave, it used also for classical music concerts.

Photos from here

The Eye of the Noisy

Dofteana is a commune in Bacău County, Moldova, România. The commune is situated around confluence between the Trotuş and Dofteana rivers, in a beautiful natural place. It was first attested in a document of 1436, issued by the hospodar (voyvod, ruling prince) Ştefăniţă, who donated to his adviser Babor Plopescu six villages on the Trotuş and Tazlău valleys, one of which was Dofteana, called Dohtana in that period.

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Ochiul Huitorii (approx. The Eye of the Noisy) is located behind the Dofteana rail station. It is a niche in a wall of salt that attracts moisture, a natural barometer announcing weather: when moisture in the air increases, on the rock it forms a trail of water and the locals are sure it will rain.

Dan Lecca

Runway photographer Dan Lecca is the undisputed king of the runway. He reigns supreme towering above the other photographers, a modern day Moses on the Mount, graybeard, stern and imposing. At just about every fashion show, when he walks up to the podium, the others part for him as the Red Sea did for Moses. "Dan Lecca is a gorilla in a group of monkeys" (Jason Riffe).

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He was a Rock and Roll star in Romania. His group was called Choral and was #1 in Romania in 1968. Dan left Romania in 1970. He went to Rome where his wife's parents were and worked for 9 months until they got enough money to go to the States. He came here not speaking a word of English. Lecca took a job as a short order cook and eventually landed in a textile studio as a 'man Friday', answering telephones and running errands.

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In 1976, he went to Puerto Rico for work and bought a Cannon FTB with a normal lens for $170. He loved 3 of the slides so much that he became immediately hooked. The camera became his tool to do something artistic. At first, he had no idea what he was doing. He bought a long lens and a wide lens. The camera went everywhere with him: to work, to lunch, on the streets. He had become a shutterbug. Some English clients told him he should go to the Paris Vision fabric show. He had some time to kill, so he went to a couple of shows and snapped pictures. It wasn't difficult to get into fashion shows then like it is today. Lecca met John Duka (one of the founders of KCD) at one of these shows. At the time, he was working for New York Magazine and bought some of his pictures. He also met a Texan, Terry Weir, at the shows. He offered him a job as an assistant at his studio. He was setting up to shoot something for Saks (Fifth Avenue) when Dan made a comment about the lighting in front of the client. Maybe the client heard him, because the next day, Linda Gaunt (who now works for Armani) called Lecca and offered him the job for the next month. He rented the studio from Terry.

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That was the beginning of an astounding career. Dan is shooting runway for some of the biggest newpapers and fashion magazines in the world. His client list includes: Harper's Bazaar, Allure, Town & Country, Marie Claire, The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine among others. In addition, Dan is currently the house runway photographer for many of fashion's best known designers including Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Celine, and shortly Louis Vuitton. His wife is shooting for The New York Times. "Do you remember in National Geographic where you see the top monkey ruling the pack? That's Dan, he's the top monkey on the runway scene. Everyone follows his lead, he has that kind of domineering personality. It's an unwritten law that he oversees the runway scene and straightens-out any problems happening up there" (Bill Marpett).

Anybody can be a hero

Following the campaign Anybody can be a hero, Discovery Channel made 10 short documentaries about the stories of some Romanians who can be considered "Discovery heroes", thanks to their passion, curiosity and adventurous spirit. The films were seen for the first time, at Transylvania International Film Festival (TIFF), on June 6th, 2011. An international jury chose Laurenţiu Şerban as The Discovery Hero of 2011.

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Laurenţiu Şerban (33) is a soldier by 13 years. During a mission in Afghanistan in 2006, a Romanian night patrol was attacked and he was badly injured, losing a leg and having 9 surgical interventions at a hand. The tragedy changed its vision on life, making him stronger. He married and he has a daughter, he fully lives his life - flying with a paragliding, climbing, running, go on a high speed motorcycle, and building itself everything from an engine to a gate.

Moreover, the hero wants to go back to Afghanistan, considering that "what does not kill you makes you stronger!" and this statement apply to everyone. This days, his dream become true and he returned in mission in Kandahar.

The Dragons' Garden

Grădina Zmeilor (approx. The Dragons' Garden) is a geological nature reserve that offers a spectacular landscape by the messy placed huge rocks - blocks, towers, poles, animal shaped rocks. It is located in Northwestern Romania, Transylvania, Sălaj County, near Galgăul Almaşului village, on Meseş Mountain. This remarkable nature reserve is considered unique in Europe.

The "garden" was formed by a broader phenomenon of collapse and destructive erosion, developed in the Sânmihaiu sandstone. This is a lower Miocene sandstone, relatively weak cemented, consisting of characteristic intercalations of gravel and conglomerate layers.

Photos from here.

700 posts

This is our 700th post. Many thanks to our followers and supporters, we expect your suggestions for our future posts... Stay tuned, more to come!

Buzău Folk Art Collection

The city of Buzău is the county seat of Buzău County, Romania, in the historical region of Wallachia. It lies near the right bank of the Buzău River, between the south-eastern curvature of the Carpathian Mountains and the lowlands of Bărăgan Plain.

The Vergu-Mănăilă house is the oldest surviving building in Buzău. Erected in the 17th or 18th century and attested since 1794, the house belonged to the Vergu and Mănăilă families, personalities of the town at the end of the 18th century. The building was nationalized in 1948 and became derelict; it was restored between 1971-1974 (but it’s inside structure and it’s outside look were kept) and since then it hosts a museum of ethnography and folk art.

The museum hosts seven exhibition halls in which inside textures, ornaments, clothes and accessories, household objects were exposed. Also, women clothes can be admired, special outfits and traditional shirts (specifically to our area) and man clothes; a great variety of towels, wedding handkerchiefs, sheets, old carpets painted with natural colors; floral silk veils; different colored blankets of a variety of textures.

One of the rooms was decorated as what was called the “big house” stile, which represents the quest chamber which used to be part of each peasant house in the Romanian countries. The collection also contains objects that are specifically to different jobs: potting, fishing, hunting, viticulture and sheep-breeding.

Images and info from here

Zugreni Gorges

The Zugreni Gorges are formed by Bistriţa River between the Giumalău Massif and the Pietrosul Bistriţei Massif. Zugreni Gorges are located in the central part of the Eastern Carpathians, Suceava County, on Crucea commune territory, at ca. 20 km north-east of Vatra Dornei town. This natural reserve is distributed in the forestry wards of Vatra Dornei and Crucea (Latitude 47'24', Longitude 25'3 1'). With a surface of 100 hectares, the area was declared a geological and floral reserve in 1973.

The Bistriţa River is crossing down this reserve on a length of ca. 2 km, making there those gorges relief type. The nature reserve is located on the northern slope of Pietrosul Bistriţei summit (made of gneiss) and on the southern slope of Rarău-Giumalău massif (made of limestone and crystalline schist, belonging to the Jurassic age). According to Koppen, that region has a boreal climate (type Df), with cold, wet winters, and unstable and chilly summers. The average temperature is +4.2 OC per year. The most frequent winds are those from the west (31.7%), while those from the east have a frequency of 9.4%. Those western winds raise the degree of soil humidity by their raining contributions. One can remark the fact that along the Bistriţa river, the winds have a smaller intensity, being channelized by the passage of that valley.

Wilderness of rocks, flora, scenic beauty, make this area a sight of great interest. The first mentions over the flora of that region have been made by D. Brândza (1889); later on, D. Grecescu (1898), A. Procopianu-Procopovici (1906) made other mentions. The Queen flower is found here in the lowest area in the country and is a natural monument, is found here in the lowest state in the country. Also here was detected the presence of endemism Pietrosia levitomentosa (syn. Andvyala levitomentosa), housed in an inaccessible area (on Pietrosul Bogolin summit, at ca. 1750 m.s.l.).

  • Can be seen here Carpathian endemites (in general): Aconitum moldavicum ssp. hosteanum, Campanula rotundifolia ssp. polymorpha, Cardamine glanduligera, Festuca carpatica, Symphytum cordatum, Leucanthemum waldsteinii, Melampyrum saxosum, Poa rehmannii, Campanula carpatica, Phyteuma vagneri;
  • Romanian Carpathian endemites: Aconitum moldavicum ssp. moldavicum, Scabiosa lucida ssp. barbata, Silene nutans ssp. dubia, Dianthus tenuifolius, Eritrichium nanum ssp. jankae, Thymus bihoriensis;
  • Eastern & Southern Carpathian endemites: Gentiana cruciata ssp. phlogifolia, Primula elatior ssp. leucophylla, Ranunculus carpaticus, Hepatica transsilvanica.
  • Some plant species into the natural reserve of "Zugreni Gorges" are pretty rare, such as: Matteuccia struthiopteris, Pinus mugo, Arnica montana, Avenula compressa, Corrallorhiza trijida, Doronicum columnae, Elsholtzia ciliata, Epipogium aphyllum, Ligusticum mutellina, Lilium martagon, Rhodiola rosea, Telekia speciosa, Euonymus nana, Leontopodium alpinum (this last one is situated at only 740 m.s.1. there).

Zugreni is one of the most beautiful and exciting areas of Romania, very popular for spending active holidays or free time (fishing, trekking, hiking, rafting).

AG Weinberger

Attila Weinberger (aka AG Weinberger, born August 30, 1965 in Oradea) is a Romanian blues guitarist, singer, and producer.

In the mid eighties, Weinberger made ​​the transition from rock to blues, then promoting this genre. In 1986 he began his career as a bluesman, setting up with Harry Tavitian (piano), Corneliu Stroe (drums) and Cătălin Rotaru (bass) the first blues band in Romania - Transylvanian Blues Community. Ignoring the communist censorship, the four managed to make tours in the country with a great success.

After 1990, Weinberger toured in Germany, Switzerland, Israel, Turkey, Hungary (where in 1992 sang in the opening of the concert of the famous guitarist Al Di Meola). In 1991, he established his own blues band - Weinberger Blues Machine. He released the first blues album in Romania - Good Morning, Mr. Blues (1996), followed in 1997 by Standard Weinberger. The release of this album concert was televised and had the merit of removing the blues from underground, giving it public. However, the album won the prize for Best Jazz Disc of 1997.

A.G. Weinberger - I Heard It Through The Grapevine

A.G.Weinberger - Take Me To The Highway

A.G. Weinberger - Spoonful

AG Weinberger - Break The Man

Further, the musician produced and presented two weekly radio shows, on radio stations Radio Contact and Romania Youth. In 1998, he established the foundation BlueSylvania and he sang at the festival Bluestock in Memphis, Tennessee (being the only non-American singer accepted). At the end of 1999, Weiberger released his 3rd album - Transylvania Avenue. Between 2000-2004 he was in a "cultural exile" in the U.S., singing in Chicago, New-York (at Decade, Bitter End, Red Lion), Las Vegas, and touring over 30,000 miles across U.S. In July 2006, Weinberger released the 4th album, Nashville Calling, a first for the music market in Romania: the first blues album by a Romanian artist recorded and produced entirely in the U.S. Followed Guitar Man vol. 1 & 2. For now, Weinberger produces and presents a successful show on a Romanian public TV channel, The Lollipop.

Norman Manea

Norman Manea (born July 19, 1936) is a Romanian writer and author of short fiction, novels, and essays about the Holocaust, daily life in a communist state, and exile. He is a Francis Flournoy Professor of European Culture and writer in residence at Bard College. He currently lives in the United States.

Norman Manea was born in Suceava, Bukovina, Romania, in 1936. As a child he was deported to a Transnistrian concentration camp in the Ukraine with his family and the entire Jewish population of the region. He returned to Romania with surviving members of his family in 1945. Manea graduated with high honor the "Stephen the Great" high school in his home town, then he studied engineering at the Construction Institute in Bucharest and graduated with master’s degree in hydro-technique in 1959, working afterwards in planning, fieldwork and research.

He published his first work of fiction in 1966, in the avant-garde literary magazine "Povestea Vorbii" (The Story of the Word), an avant-garde and influential magazine that appeared in the early years of cultural “liberalization” in communist Romania and was suppressed after six issues. He became a freelance writer in 1974. Until he was forced into exile (1986) he published in Romania ten volumes of short fiction, essays and novels, among them "Anii de ucenicie ai lui August Prostul" (1979; Engl: The Years of Apprenticeship of Augustus the Fool), "Octombrie, ora opt" (1981; Engl: October, Eight O'Clock, 1992) and "Plicul negru" (1986; Engl: The Black Envelope, 1995).

Critics have compared his complex narrative strategies to Kafka, Joyce and Musil. In 1979 he was awarded the Literature Prize of the Bucharest Writers’ Association. Two years later, in an interview with the literary magazine "Familia", he pleaded for a democratic opening up of the country as well for greater integrity of writers, sparking off a hostile official media campaign with anti-Semitic undertones. In 1984 he was awarded the Literature Prize of the Romanian Writers’ Union but was then denied the award under pressure from the state's cultural authorities. His work was an irritant to the authorities because of the implied and overt social-political criticism and he faced a lot of trouble with the censors and the official press. At the same time that sustained efforts were made by the cultural authorities to suppress his work, it had the support and praise of the country’s most important literary critics. "Plicul negru", the last novel published in Romania before he decided to leave the country, provoked a sharp and prolonged conflict with the State's censors, which the author went on to describe in his essay "The Censor's Report" in the volume "Despre clovni: dictatorul si artistul" (1997; Engl: On Clowns: The Dictator and the Artist, 1992).

Even before any of his books came out abroad, in 1983 Heinrich Böll urged for his work to be published in the West. The first publication in Germany, "Roboterbiographie und andere Erzählungen" (Engl: Robot-Biography and Other Stories) appeared in 1987, when Manea was a guest of the DAAD. He then went on to the USA on a Fulbright scholarship and has been living there ever since. After the collapse of the Ceausescu dictatorship, several of his old and new books started to be published in Romania. The publication in the Romanian democratic press of his essays Happy Guilt, appeared in the US (The New Republic, August 1991) on Mircea Eliade and his former fascist connection provoked a big scandal in the entire Romanian press and hysteria in the nationalistic newspapers. Echoes of this scandal can be still be found in some articles of the current Romanian cultural press. Meantime, in the United States and in the European countries, Norman Manea’s writing was received with great acclaim. Over the past two decades he has been proposed as a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature by literary and academic personalities and institutions in the United States, Sweden, Romania, Italy and France. Important contemporary writers expressed admiration towards the author’s literary work and his moral stand before after the collapse of communism: the Nobel laureates Heinrich Boll, Gunther Grass, Octavio Paz, Orhan Pamuk, as well as Philip Roth, Claudio Magris, Antonio Tabucchi, E. M. Cioran, Antonio Munoz Molina, Cynthia Ozick, Louis Begley and others.

In his memoir "Întoarcerea huliganului" (2003; Engl: The Hooligan's Return, 2003), for which he was awarded the French Prix Medicis for Foreign Literature 2006, Manea chronicled his visit to his native country in the late nineties, his experience of exile and life under two totalitarian systems, fascist and communist. He has received many honours, among them the MacArthur Fellows Award, The Guggenheim Grant, the Literary Lion Medal of the New York National Library, the National Jewish Book Award and the International Nonino Prize for Literature. In 2005 Manea was Holtzbrinck Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. Elected member of the Berlin Academy of Art (Germany) 2007 – Finalist, The Latinity Prize by the Association of Latin Countries 2007 – Awarded the Order of Cultural Merit (in rank of Commander) by the President of Romania (Romania) 2008 – Honorary Degree in Literature, University of Bucharest (Romania) 2008. His work has been translated into 15 languages. Norman Manea is a member of the American PEN Center. He teaches European Literature and is Writer in Residence at Bard College, north of New York City. He lives with his wife in Manhattan.

Info from here and here.

"Franz Binder" Museum

The "Franz Binder" World Ethnographic Museum is set in Sibiu, 11 Small Square, is the only museum in Romania that specializes in non-European ethnology, and, due to the exceptional value of its patrimony, represents an important department within the 'ASTRA' National Museum Complex - that also includes other subdivisions such as Romanian, Saxon or Roma ethnography. The museum is named after Franz Binder, a merchant and a diplomat who spent more than 20 years in Africa at the middle of the 19th century.

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The museum premises are a historical monument. The existing Hermes House, initially called The House of the Small Handicraftsmen's Association (Burger- und Gewerbeverein-Haus) was built between 1865 and 1867 and inaugurated on November 24, 1867, thus, becoming the administrative centre of this Association as well as a place where various activities took place (club, library, school for journeymen, exhibition room for handicraft products). Then, this building had several destinations and, only in 1990, it became the premises for the new ethnographic museum, regaining its true purpose of popularizing the authentic values of material and spiritual civilization.

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The museum collections were established in the 19th century through donations and acquisitions that belonged to travellers and collectors of such objects: Franz Binder, Andreas Breckner, Karl Meliska, Carl F. Jickeli, Arthur von Sachsenheim, Herman von Hannenheim, Gustav Adolf Schoppelt, Alfred Capesius, W. Schonhut, A. Schwabe, G.A. Seraphin, Emerich Schuleri, Hans Mallik, Rudolf Nussbacher, Christine Schuster, Helene Fischer, Wagner von Wetterstadt a.s.o. Most of them were members of the Transylvanian Society for the Natural Sciences (Siebenburgische Verein fur Naturwissenschaften), which carried on its activity between the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.

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The exotic collections of the museum fall into two categories: the old collections constituted between the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century as a result of the Transylvanian Saxon travellers' donations to the Transylvanian Society for Natural Sciences from Sibiu; and the new collections established by exchanging collections, distributions, donations, acquisitions a.s.o. Thus, the exotic ethnographic patrimony of the museum, starting with the Egyptian mummy (donated by the Austrian-Hungarian consul in Egypt in 1907, Hermann von Hannenheim) and ending with the latest handicraft acquisitions, can find its place within a very diverse historical, geographical, ethno-cultural, and anthropological background. Originating from various parts of the world - northern Africa and the springs of Nile, China, Japan, Oceania, Asia Minor, Brazil, Lapland, Australia etc. - the objects belonging to the 'exotic collection' entered into the patrimony of the Natural Sciences Museum, forming a cabinet exhibition that was opened in the museum building until 1957.

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The collections were enriched after 1990 through successive acquisitions, exchanges or donations: the Zairean collection purchased from Violeta and Catalin Rang from Bacau, the ex-presidential collection of presents, comprising objects of extra-European origin (over 400 pieces donated from the gifts fund donated to the Romanian Presidency between 1965 and 1989), Japanese traditional toys obtained through an exchange of collections with the Museum of Toys from Hyogo, the national minority costumes collection donated by the Embassy of the People's Republic of China at Bucharest a.s.o.

"Emil Sigerius" Museum

The "Emil Sigerius" Museum of Saxon Ethnography and Folk Art in Sibiu was established in an attempt to fill a gap, presenting the role of the Transylvanian Saxons ethnic group in Transylvanian culture.

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The museum's collections are based on the Karpatenmuseum (the Carpathians Transylvanian Museum, or MSVK) collections opened in 1895 by the Siebenbügishen Karpathenverein Association. The first exposition was inside the Museum of Natural History building and was organized around the collection of Emil Sigerus, the most important collector of Transylvanian Saxon Folk Art at the end of the 19th century. In 1920 the museum's collections were included in the Brukenthal Museum and they were displayed in a new space inside the Brukenthal Palace; from 1950, they were included in the Folk Art Section.

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After the establishment of the new Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization in 1990, the Saxon collections were given over to the new establishment along with all other ethnology-related collections. In 1997, the Emil Sigerus Museum was opened in a building adjacent to the Franz Binder Museum in the Small Square. After the end of the restoration project restoring the House of the Arts in the Small Square, the museum will have a more appropriate space to exhibit its collections of over 2,700 ceramic pieces, including the permanent exposition of decorative tiles, over 4,000 objects in the classifications of costumes, textiles and embroideries and over 400 wooden, metal, or bone objects out of which over 150 are painted furniture items. Its heritage includes over 7,000 items from Transylvania from the 14th - 20th centuries. The most relevant belonged to renowned collectors such as Emil Sigerus, Julius Bielz, Wilhelm and Gisela Richter, Carl Engber and Erwin Ulbrich, completed by the acquisitions made by the museum specialists.

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The museum heritage comprises three collections - costumes-textiles, pottery, wood-bone-iron, each of them including extremely valuable pieces, representative for the culture and civilization of the Transylvanian Saxons and especially for their contribution to the growth and enrichment of Romanian and world culture. The permanent exhibition "Transylvanian Store Tiles (15th - 19th centuries), located in the pavement of the building in 12 Huet Place, is a unique original attempt of presenting one of the representative crafts of the Saxon community - the manufacturing of store tiles (the store tiles collection is considered to be the most complex valuable collection of this kind in the country and one of the richest in Europe; it was first presented within the permanent exhibition opened in 1998). The archaeological excavations conducted in 1996 revealed that in the place of the current building there was a wooden house, dated on the basis of a coin from the reign of King Bela IV (1235-1270). The building was raised on a trapezoidal surface, with a pavement, two storeys and an attic. Both fronts, the one facing Small Place and the other one towards Huet Place, with identical decoration, were restored by the end of 1997. The vaulted cellar, 3-3.5 m high, was inaugurated as exhibition hall in 1997, and since the autumn of 1998 it has housed the permanent exhibition of the "Emil Sigerus" Museum of Saxon Ethnography.

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The House of Arts (attested as the Butchers Hall since 1370) is considered the oldest guild house in Sibiu. In the 15th century, the building had only the ground floor, divided in 11 butcher shops with 8 open arches in front. The first floor was added later as a warehouse or meeting hall for butchers' guild. The building was used for a time by the sheepskin makers guild; in 1765 the first floor was used as show room. In 1789 was added the town coat-of-arms on the facade; in the 19th century the arches were closed and the ground floor was divided in small shops. Between 1967-1972 the building was restored and since 2002 it became property of the "Astra" National Museum Complex and was restored again. In 2007 the "Emil Sigerius" Museum moved here.

Petru Poni

Petru Poni (b. January 4, 1841, Săcăreşti village, Iaşi County - d. April 2, 1925, Iaşi) was a chemist, physicist, educator, mineralogist and Romanian politician, pioneer of chemical education in Romania.

He followed the primary school in Tâgu-Frumos and then the Central Gymnasium in Iaşi (1852-1859). He received a scholarship in Paris specializing in physical chemistry and mineralogy at the College de France and the Sorbonne. Poni returned in Romania in 1865 and in 1866 he taught at the Military School of Sciences. In 1878 he became head of the Department of Chemistry at University of Iaşi, where he taught for 33 years. Here he founded: the first laboratory of Chemistry (1882) and the Department of Organic Chemistry (1891). In 1897, Petru Poni and Anastasia Obregia inaugurated in the new building of the University of Iaşi a chemistry laboratory, after the German model. In 1903 Prof. Petru Poni introduced a new course, The chemical study of the oil.

In June 30, 1879 he was elected member of the Romanian Academy and in 1889 he was appointed Commissioner of the Romanian government at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. He collaborated on the establishment of scientific societies in Romania: the Romanian Society of Sciences (1890), the Society of Sciences (1900), and was a member of the Society of Natural Sciences in Moscow (1910).

Petru Poni is noted as one of the prominent members of the National Liberal Party (PNL). He was elected several times as deputy or senator. He also served as mayor of Iaşi in 1907 and 1922. He served three times as Minister of Religious Affairs and Education (July 21 to November 26, 1891, October 4, 1895 - November 21, 1896; October 24 to November 29, 1918).

He studied over 80 minerals collected from various parts of the country and even discovered two minerals he called Broştenite and Badenite. Petru Poni studied the action of nitric acid of various concentrations on paraffinic hydrocarbons isolated in indigenous oil. He studied the country's mineral waters and made meteorological observations in Moldova. He was one of the pioneers of Romanian Chemistry is considered the founder of the Romanian school of Chemistry. Currently, the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry of the Romanian Academy bears his name.

Unique flora in Retezat Mountains

The Retezat Mountains National Park, founded in 1935 and considered by Greenpeace the last intact forest landscape of the Europe, has over 38,000 hectares. A third of this surface is represented by virgin forests and wild areas unaffected by human intervention. Retezat Mountains is famous for the floral diversity, accommodating nearly 1190 species of higher plants of over 3450 known in Romania. The existence here of more than a third of Romania's flora is one of the reasons for which was declared a National Park. To these are added about the same number of inferior species.

Very important for plant conservation in Retezat are over 90 endemic taxa of the 127-400 total endemic taxa accepted by different authors for Romania. The first reported endemic plant is Draba dorneri, discovered in 1858 by Heuffel. Here can be found 130 plants rare or vulnerable listed on the "Red List of higher plants in Romania" published in 1994.

Draba dorneri

In florogenetic terms Retezat Mountains are the genetic center for the genus Hieracium, which includes 257 taxa here, some endemic as Hieracium borzae, Hieracium nigrilacus, and that for the genus Poa, which includes 31 taxa. Also, a whole series of taxa and infra-taxa have their place here, like Barbarea lepuznica, Centaurea pseudophrygia ratezatensis, Oxytropis jacquinii retezatensis, Hypochoeris maculata var. carpatica, Festuca rupicola var. retezatensis.

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