The dogs and I… strolling in Copou Park

Getting in Iași at around 5 o’clock in the afternoon, through the main entrance, which is the road coming from Bucharest (and is supposed to be a highway, but it’s not), is like trying to get inside Bucharest back in 2006. The fact that I’m staying in a new place than I usually do, didn’t help at all and navigation didn’t help either in this particular case. The reason for that is the fact that this building is an old merchant house which somehow survived through the communist “reshaping” of the neighbourhood and is now situated between concrete blocks of flats. One way street between them and a hell of a poor GPS signal between them.

Sprouts of history between socialist architecture

I parked the car after I managed to get rid of that fucked up “you’re in the car with a foreigner that also is somehow your boss and you’re wondering if the booking you have made really exists” feeling that you get when you go around in circles.

Weird accommodation for us, the “6 floor, standardised rooms hotel” guys. But this time I couldn’t find anything else available so I went with the idea that I’d rather pay the money to somebody who gives a fuck about conserving architectural history than to a former communist hotel that is asking for twice the money. This place is a jewel, I tell you.

You get that cosy feeling ever since you enter, that you’re staying in somebody’s house, but in a good way, you know? I mean the VISA/MASTERCARD POS told you from the small lobby that they are not living inside the eighteen hundreds. Iași is set out on different little hills and this area is one of them. Back in the 19th Century, this city used to be a big trading outpost for the far Eastern border of “the Old Continent”, facing Mother Russia but a wealthy land none the less. This particular area of the city was the main artery that, before communists, was coming down from this hill, passing through the University quarter, going further down until it entered the Palace Square. Full of gardens and houses of the old bourgeois in the area (old, Romanian families), the area was a playground for the damn communist’s architects when they came to power. So the fact that this house really survived between the concrete systematisation of the place, standing tall in front of the “comrades will”… well, chapeau bas to that!

Ghosts of century past

Close by to our accommodation there’s the Copou Park. To our national literature and culture, that’s the main point because this park stands equal to the name of “the National Poet”, as we call Mihai Eminescu. It’s really a coincidence that today should be his birthday… We grow with his poetry and during school, we are bombarded with his opera. He is a must in our curricula and one of his poems (which name it’s impossible for me to translate appropriately) is 98 verses long and is the longest love poem in the world… or so they say, I never took the time to check out for love poems around the world. Somehow this is hard to believe because there are so many published poems around the world, in different languages, that I think it’s an impossible task to read them all or at least check out their length. But this serves as an example of how we were indoctrinated (and still are) with this guy’s opera. And I’m not even saying that he shouldn’t be studied but we haven’t really studied his real life, the end of it (the uglier part, I mean) and all the political intrigues around his person, especially as he represented a pillar in the literature of some revolutionary times (end of 19th Century).

So venturing into this park, in the dead of the night, was a feat I had to accomplish.

But not before passing along a nice BMW advertising video chat and the huuuuuge benefits you can get from it. I guess the doctor recommends it as well eh?

Am I the only one in the park or did I get in on a secondary entrance? What’s this “crowd”? I could see no souls on the dark alleys of the park and the fact that the lights in it are not very powerful, I started thinking that maybe walking around at 23 hundred hours is not the normal thing to do. But then again, I’m not the normal kind of guy and I’m not looking for the normal kind of photos.

This is an old park and things of old, dating back to before communists, can be found all around the place, like the stair and bridge above, made from that type of cut stone that you don’t find anymore. Imperfect in its cutting but so rigorously made with human hands not machinery precision. That’s the overall feeling of the place as the trees were protected for a centuries now, by every administration that came to power. That’s why the park holds a fauna that is locally recognized because of the many types of plants (but especially trees) that one can find here, strolling, without being in the Botanical Garden (which is not far away from here, by the way).

That’s the thing with the central tree here, a lime tree.

We call it “the lime tree of Eminescu” (the poet from before) and he mentions this tree in his poems. Mostly he mentions it with the connection to the girl he made an obsession about and I guess there were a lot of “unorthodox” things being done in this park by the two of them, sincere love being only a small part of it. But, like all the big loves of the big poets that have to write big poems, the girl left him. Like with Adele, that was probably the best thing she could’ve done, not for him, but for his whole audience who enjoyed and still does his love poems and the writings he laid down as a result of this “love disaster”.

Still not a soul in sight… and the sight is pretty narrow as well because these damn park lights are made only to look good in photos but do not offer a lot of info about what is behind the next bush. Fortunately for me I visited before the vegetation started dying as a result of incoming winter so I still got to take some interesting shots depicting fauna still alive…

All around the place the small but elegant statues, coming back from the past of the park, make a good impression and they set out a bohemian atmosphere. There’s this thing that you can see (and feel, if you touch) in old stone, especially the one that has been carved to depict different things. It gets porous under the constant rain and it starts taking in its own characteristics, developed by nature… like in alive beings. Stone gets a personality in at least 100 years and that is why I hate the concrete monuments of the communists… they are new and together with the lack of authenticity that this feat that comes out with time is a bringing to the table, it’s like the cherry on top a very bad cake.

Even though the park was clearly totally empty, I could feel some presence in the back of my head. I constantly turned my head around to check out the vegetation around and its contents. After all, at such a late hour, rumbling around with a 1000 euro camera around my neck, could transform me in a sure “5 minute victim”. Nobody there though. No movement but constant sounds, like someone or something is stepping on leaves.

It was not sooner then when I reached the other side of the park, that I realized that I was heading on for the “dog’s den”, a place close to some concrete, chess tables, now left to be a good support for birds’ shit. That is why I was hearing small footsteps all around me, in the bushes: I was closing in, together with some pooch, their part of the park. The risen heads, as in trying to find if I’m a friend or a foe, made me not lose my time to find out. They were too many and I was carrying one too many cameras with me in order to be able to really sprint my best.

As I was exiting the park, through the main gate, I managed to meet the first souls, damned as me, going IN the park, for God knows what reason.

There are dogs over there you know…

Yeah, we know them, don’t worry” the fellow told me with a Moldavian accent.

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