Filed under: Romania
What’s not to love? We’ve got stuff stretching back to pre-Roman times – the most famous being the Dacian Sarmizegetusa – to cool medieval (that’s Bran above, close to the city of BraÈ™ov), eighteenth and nineteenth century dwellings and official buildings to awesomely picturesque Communist-era beauties.
Yup, you heard me right. I happen to like the Communist buildings.
I was reminded of what glory we Romanians must share with the world, when I read Kit’s post on BucureÈ™ti’s hugging apartments. I have to politely disagree with commentator and designer Iancu* – this is not an abomination.
Here’s a cute little house from somewhere along the Prahova Valley**:
Not only is this single-family home on a coquettish slant, check out the medley of grey walls, white details and green trim, the masterful sense of asymmetry, and those three round windows softening the angular lines of the entire building. I would also like Martha Stewart types to make note of the pine branch hanging on the middle window. This is a great Christmas decorating idea we saw all over Romania.
Let’s move on to the great works: apartment buildings.
From afar, this is what you get:
But it’s not all grey.
They may look the same all over the country to the untrained eye. Yet, strangely enough for those of us who are North American and are used to our architectural individuality being quashed by strata bylaws and landscaping municipal ordinances, these buildings fully celebrate the dwellers’ particular quirks. Here you see two BraÈ™ovean neighbours, the ones in the upper righthand corner, have enclosed their balconies which were, as the other balconies show, originally uncovered.
Similarly, a few hundred kilometres away in Alba Iulia, here’s a seemingly similar facade:
There’s the old-fashioned balcony enclosure, followed by a Termopan balcony, then an almost completely closed-off balcony with a spunky diamond-shaped window, and finally, more Termopan at street level.
This photo shows even more variety:
The best thing about Romanian apartment blocks are the grape vines:
In the summer, those vines flourish with leaves and sour curlicues, shading the apartment during abysmally hot Romanian heat waves. All neighbours, sometimes many storeys up, can harvest the grapes outside their own windows.
Or, if you’ve got a roamer of a cat, how about constructing a ladder to the third floor for it?
It’s also pretty exciting on the inside of these buildings. For example, an exciting door off the stairwell:
Inside is probably last summer’s pickled vegetables, jars of homemade jam, and the odd bottle of plum brandy. Truly a place where you wouldn’t mind being stranded in case of a zombie invasion.
You definitely want to watch your step as you walk down these stairs – the steps vary in size. But this way, thinking about the process of walking, that putting one foot in front of the other, one can appreciate the act of living and its simple attendant details. We have it so easy here in Canada, we tend to take much for granted.
But you also want to watch your step as you gawk at the unexpected beauty:
What icy beauty!
Romanian cities still follow the model of residential zoning mixed with commercial zoning. Need a loaf of bread? Just run downstairs. Ran out of sugar for the cozonac? You can buy it from Mariana’s counter. Every apartment building has stores attached to it.
Here’s a neighbour that turned their living room into a coffee shop, complete with extensions poking out of the main apartment:
Alba Iulia now even boasts townhomes:
Unlike what you’d find in Canada (where you can’t even hang a bird feeder on your balcony or repaint your house another shade of white), Alba Iulia’s townhouses come in an assortment of colours. You can also bet that in two years when I next visit Romania, the white houses will sport new colours to match the owners’ wives handbags.
I am a little snarky about property rights – our strata council threatened to ban gnomes. Suddenly, those weird little garden statues obsessed me and I want to defy any anti-gnome legislation by cluttering our balcony with as many gnomes as possible. I have a model to work from:
*I’ll have to keep an eye on Iancu’s blog. Nice stuff. More photos of BucureÈ™ti, please.
**If any Romanians read this, please let me know if this was in Sinaia or farther along. I edited my photos about two months after passing through and I can’t recall the exact town.
Update: Not only does Kit’s building squashing happen in Romania, it happens in Paris too.Â Polly-Vous FranÃ§ais shows how the Ã‰glise St. Thomas d’Aquin got squashed, or rather “Tetris-ed into the landscape.”
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