The last of the wheat was still standing


We slept on stiff pillows in a guesthouse not far behind Dresden. In the fields, the last of the wheat stood tall. The Hungarians were somewhere among sunflowers and watermelons. Every field was rich with some sort of crop, and even the summer paths between the front gardens were brimming with flowers. Our Romanian friends in Germany had told us: „Hungary's a beautiful country. That will be wonderful, driving through Hungary.“ In Budapest, a student radio station pumps out electronic music. Pancakes are carried across the yard.

Dark clouds gather as we approach Romania. It's Saturday night and the eve of Assumption Day.

We go over a mountain pass and enter a world of carved farm gates. People with panniers, scythes and pitchforks are going home. The cows find their own way back. Onions are drying on large stacks of wood. A young man, pretty as a sailor in his Sunday best, lolls in a doorway. Women wear knee-length pleated skirts. Thomas drinks schnapps and I overdose on garlic.


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About that which we are told of Romania
„Show something that you liked about Romania, but show something positive“

In the Neustadt vicarage
I have two friends. They are twins and both are beautiful. (more)

The Casa Poporului and greaves in Bucharest (more)

Switzerland and Berne greet the city of Iasi

Map (large file!)

In Maramures





About that which we are told of Romania

„Show something that you liked about Romania, but show something positive,“ was my order, or: „Take a picture on a sunny day. There are already enough of those dreary November reports.“
Romania, say Florian and Cristina, does not only consist of the very rich and the very poor, the Mafia, beggars and people of unaccountable wealth, or people like the man who built an imitation Southfork ranch, or another who bought the plot of land in front of his splendid new house for the sole purpose of demolishing the house on it, as it blocked the view others could have of his house, although he and his family actually preferred to sleep behind the house in a tent. There is more to Romania than stray dogs and street kids. In fact most people here lead utterly ordinary lives, going to work, looking after their children and going on holiday, they tell me.
Rares Kerekes presents me with a drawing. It is a picture of a church, something nice I could show people, he says. I should also tell people, he adds, that it is perfectly OK to trust a stranger offering guest rooms, and it isn't necessary to look further afield. Rares rents out a room in Sighisoara. He bought it for 200 dollars after the fall of Ceausescu and was able to pay it off in rates of 2 dollars a month. He is embarrassed about the fact that Ceausescu and his wife were executed on Christmas Eve of all days, he says. Rares is very young. Aged sixteen, he was sent off to work in a forestry school in the back of beyond, to become a forester like his father and his cousin. He learned to smoke there. Once someone felled a load of trees in the section of forest his cousin was responsible for. His cousin reported him to the forest administration, which did not reply, but made the cousin pay the damage out of his miserable wages at the end of the month. That's the way things are here with corruption and the Mafia, he says. We also talk about the hunters that like to come here from Germany, Austria and Spain. We saw big groups of them at the border. They come here to shoot chamois says Rares. Shooting chamois is forbidden, but it is permissible to organise a chamois hunt. A friend of his and a man who knows his way around the mountains sometimes go hunting chamois with these men. Once the hunters took the horns, but denied the leader of the group the right to take the meat. They thought the meat was unappetising, seeing as the chamois are a protected species.

I don't know how we got talking about fortune telling, but Rares told me a story about the Romanian President who consulted a fortune teller about when Romania would join the European Union. „When pigs can fly, “ the fortune teller is said to have told him.


Resort in the Bran area





In the Neustadt vicarage

I have two friends. They are twins and both are beautiful. Their names, as they like to say, were given them in honour of Gerd Müller and Uwe Seeler.
Gerd and Uwe come from Neustadt near Kronstadt. Gerd has told me to look out for the bears that eat out of the bins of Kronstadt every night, a new tourist attraction apparently, and to visit the black church with its Turkish carpets.
The carpets were brought here by merchants from the Orient in the 17th century. Their journey was fraught with dangers. In the cities of the Orient, they used to buy a carpet with the promise to give it to the church upon their safe arrival home. Some people, however, objected to this practice, maintaining that Turkish carpets had no place in Protestant churches. But the spiritual leaders rose to the challenge, declaring that the many years they had hung in the churches had sufficiently christianised the carpets.


We slept in the Neustadt vicarage, in high beds by the tile stoves. It's easy to find, Uwe said, as it has always been the nicest house on the square. Some vicarages offer guest rooms. The guests are almost all Transylvanian Saxons who have since moved to Germany but come back to visit. Hatto Müller sends us up to inspect the belfry. He used to play there with his brass band every year on Reformation Day, he tells us. Eine feste Burg sei unser Gott and Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe were two of the hymns they used to play. They were twenty men and twenty instruments, and very cold it was too, at 8 o´clock in the morning of Reformation Day. Ms. Porr stayed in Neustadt at the time when all the others left, to nurse her father-in-law, who was sick and old. „We haven't had any confirmations or baptisms here for twenty years now,“ she says. Her daughter left too, although she had been about to get married, with the pigs fattened and 600 litres of wine amassed in the cellar. Ms. Porr also talks about what life was like in the village during the socialist era. Every single man and woman had a job in industry. Motorbikes were built in Kronstadt, for example. Horse power four, and two of them drunk, according to Hatto Müller. Collective fieldwork occupied the afternoons after work in the factories, in addition to which people also had their own gardens, chickens and pigs to tend to. Despite that, we like to remember the old times, says she.

A beautiful sentence stands written in one church: „This church was completed with God's help in the year 1488, as a heavy snowstorm broke the fruit trees on St Gerhard's Day.“
Rarely have I felt so Lutheran as in Transylvania.
„Piety is good for everything.“





Tina und Nicu Olteanu sent us to Casa Poporului, the famous palace that Ceausescu had built in the eighties when the Romanians could only buy food on food ration cards and the population was suffering as no other in any socialist country did, as the Romanians say. Nuns embroidered the curtains. The palace has a balcony from where Ceausescu wanted to speak to his people. He died before he could use it. So Michael Jackson was the first one to do this. „Hello Budapest!“ was what he said, our guide tells us.
Tina wanted us to pay attention to the the light switches that in most cases are not installed straight.


Nicu Olteanu is from Videle, a small town west of Bucharest. Oil is produced around Videle. At noon the town is dozing in the lowlands. Shortly before the elections the mayor of Videle got a stretch of marble sidewalk and an entrance adapted for the needs of the disabled for the building of the municipality. Tina an Nicu consider this to be typical for Romania, this absurd grandeur at an absurd place.


The men in front of the municipality prohibit me from photographing the building.
I take a secret marble-floor-image.

In the Neustadt vicarage we were given greaves, a piece of bacon fat and red onions. We drove to Bucharest. It was very hot. Our lunch in the hotel room was bacon fat, greaves and onions.




Switzerland and Berne greet the city of Iasi

In Iasi, we meet artists and graphic designers, philosophers, NGO staff and students of sociology. It is a beautiful city with trams and booksellers on the streets. Most of the trams have German slogans on them. Some say: „Switzerland and Berne greet the city of Iasi.“ The people of Berne, I presume, were not sure whether the people in Iasi would know exactly which country Berne is in, and so they chose this phrase when they sent their trams to Iasi. The Swiss trams, at any rate, have the poshest messages. German trams just advertise a DIY superstore just in front of Halle, or the lottery: „Lotto - and suddenly you're rich“.
Iasi has a large university. When I am ill, I am taken to one of their institutes and treated by a very trustworthy committee of physicians, biologists and doctors in large, dark rooms. I like the lady doctor best. I imagine that Nadja Comaneci was taken care of by just such a person.
I give a lecture to a group of young people in the vector gallery. The gallery is managed by Matei Bejenaru, and he also organises the biennial called periferic, which will take place next year for the seventh time. I am given two lists with recommended websites. A student writes a letter about lesbian love and the rejection she experiences in Romania. Unfortunately, she writes, this is not only the case in Romania, and so she can't say that homophobia is peculiar to her country. „In essence, we are all the same and we all want to be free and happy.“

I give a second lecture in the Goethezentrum. It's pouring with rain outside and the cellars are flooding. Two old men are sitting in the first row. One is the representative of the Jewish community, and the other is the representative of the German circle. I pour out some glasses of Riesling wine to accompany my talks. I am presented with a beautiful blue bowl and two bottles of Moldavian dessert wine in return, for „you can't possibly go home with less than you brought.“

Links by Oana Felipov und
Aurel Cornea

Links by Catalin Gheorge (first international biennial for contemporary art, Iasi) (magazine for for contemporary art, Cluj) (first virtual magazine for for contemporary art, Bukarest) (independent location for art, Timisoara)