Reason to Believe

An ordinary Wednesday in downtown Bucharest.
2 streets are blocked by a long line of relic-worshippers.
An adjacent street is blocked by flower-vendors.
Gendarmerie, paid from our taxes, guards the line.
I wish our taxes were used to pay for education.

A song to go with it: Ugress, Reason to Believe.


It's all gone. Palmyra

There are no words to describe the absurd horror of blowing something up that was built with such delicacy and skill as the temples of Palmyra.

Temple of Bel. 2004No situation describes the actual times better: a bunch of uneducated fanatics runs around blowing up in a matter of minutes what has been put up more than 2'000 years ago with more skill and craft than we can deliver today with modern machinery.

Great Colonnade at Palmyra, 2004.

Actually, it’s all about looking for hidden treasures to fund warfare and making it look like religious zeal.
The powerful nations keep away, it’s about antiques and therefore not their (democracy-spreading) business. The residents, intimidated and destabilised, begin fleeing towards those very democratic countries, whose governments are then taken aback and don’t know how to react.

A July morning in 2004, 6am

Memories of walking down those majestic streets 22 m wide ten years ago and passing the imposing walls and columns 12m high almost choke me now. I had hoped to come back one day in a month other than July.

Until May 2015, all people passing had respected the work of the ancients. 

The sands would have taken better care of the ruins, had they never been retrieved from it.

The amphiteatre, 2004. 20 people were shot here in May 2015. Ten times more were killed until August, at least one third were civilians..

There is nothing to go back to. Gone are the marvels now. Their guardian died trying to save them from looting and destruction. The valiant head of Antiquities Department in Palymra for 50 years, Khaled al-Asaad, 82, was captured, interogated about hidden treasures for one month and then, for his refusal to cooperate, beheaded last August in front of the very ancient stones he was trying to protect.
Do stop using the word 'execution' for similar acts: there is no ‚lawful penalty’ or ‚state’ or ‚trial’ linked with this kind of attrocity. It is murder.

Altar. Temple of Baalshamin, built in 131AD. 2004.

What happened since last August? The loathed bunch of freaks finances its existence by selling loot. I wonder who’s buying. And who keeps selling dynamite to creatures which ruin in one day what took years to accomplish and stood there for 2'000 years.

A lizard hiding in the altar wall, 2004

Once, under Queen Zenobia, this was a place of both power and tolerance, where different eastern and western cultures interacted. Not even the Mongolian Timurids dared to destroy what survived from the Neolithic times and what the Romans had built under Diocletian.

Destruction in 2015. ©REUTERS/Social Media

Meanwhile, there are 60'000 people trying to flee from this madness - and Europe keeps debating and discussing, trying to sit it out, make it go away.

While everybody sits around yapping and bawling on overpriced devices designed in California and made in China about the rights of borderline cases in countries whose people don't give a flying fart about what happens here.

 Jordan, Za'atari, Syrian refugee camp, 2013. 122'700 people and 5'000 coming in every day. From Wiklipedia

Places are being pillaged and there are more people on the run than after WWII - but nobody seems to care about what Syria is going through or see the great efforts Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon are making right now.

Jordan, Za'atari refugee camp, opened 2012, fourth largest in the world. Photo: Brian Sokol / UNHCR

So many lies everywhere. These are dark times and the end is nowhere near in sight. Let us please at least stop lying to ourselves.

The way in. ©The Economist from August 29th

Update, November 12th, 2015. The refugees are in Europe. Almost everywhere. Not in Romania, where there’s nothing much for them to be found except animosity and poverty.

In generous Germany’s harbours there are 80'000 people waiting for something. And winter’s coming.



The time was early 1982. My dad must’ve taken the picture. We were in Predeal for a ski cup, as you can easily recognize by the numbers on the people’s torsos.
These were his colleagues at the factory where he had landed as an oil engineer.

Times were murky. We’d go skiing as often as possible, because there was no other distraction from the routine. We’d all stay at some villa, which once had belonged to some…bourgeois, before the war. I’ll always remember the spaces as - cold and somehow strange. We’d all sleep huddled together in the same room. In the mornings, us kids would watch the grown-ups trying to fry raw cut in half eggs, which had frozen between the windows over night, on a rather improvised camper heater, attached to a smuggled gas bottle someone had brought along.

1982. People in a distant galaxy, it seems, are shaking their limbs to the sound of MJ’s Thriller. Madonna makes her debut and gets her first contract signed, while everybody’s wearing terry cloth stripes on their wrists and heads, in horrid neon colours. Shoulder pads, acid washed jeans and starry patterns rule the dance floors.
Prince William gets born to Lady Di in June– another one to follow the hairdo- and fashion sins of the moment.

By the time we’re competing in the Carpathians, Argentinian troops invade the British Falkland islands, on February 4th.

Grace Kelly drives off a cliff in Monaco, later that year, in September.
The Delorean motor company goes bankrupt.
Kohl becomes chancellor of Germany in October.
In November, Leonid Breshnev dies in Moscow. Yuri Andropov, former head of the KGB, takes his place as head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Lech Walesa is released in Poland after a year in prison.

The mountains were quiet and peaceful. We’d go there on every possible occasion in winter, because Bucharest had become dark and increasingly menacing. Ceausescu and his lot had started demolishing whole neighbourhoods, in order to build a new stronghold against capitalism.
Excavators were ripping deep trenches in the mud, were once houses stood and kids played on the cobbled streets under age-old trees. The city turned more and more silent, dark and scared. Grocery stores and markets looked emptier every week, while the lines for sugar, eggs, sunflower oil and - even toilet paper - grew. People just stood in lines in front of random stores, hoping some of these products would miraculously show up in the shelves. Gas, water and power shortages contributed to the fight against the imperialist enemy.

The system was keeping everybody busy.

I remember those winters as cold and dark, at best grey. I remember my parents speaking less and looking more tired, worried.
Naturally, I remember feeling protected - a lot more than I feel today.

But…this was because I was a kid, not because times were in any way better. Adults would bear the weight of the worries.
I just used to linger in the staircase and ask ‘When are we leaving for the mountains?’ innumerable times, no matter who’d pass me by.

I might look like some kind of a princess on that pic, but my biggest worry was not loosing that leather bag - and the contest. Instead of feeling protected and surrounded by caring people, I’d compete, in my head, against anyone and everyone, except the tall guy, Gil, whom I always admired.

Dad and his mates would soon go back to working at their factory, which does not exist anymore. I’d start school that next fall - about the time Grace Kelly drove her car off that cliff.

A few years later, the Berlin wall falls and there’s major change in the air all over the world.

It’s been...33 years since then.


On your birthday

On your birthday, I thought of you.

I walked home round 3 am through some darkened alleys, which once were streets.
Now they’re hidden behind some ugly blocks.
I felt spring was in the air and I smelled the river,
as I walked beside its black water skirting the old town.
The streets were seething with Friday night fever.

I passed that huge line of cabs we’d never notice in our endless talks
on the way to my place, on nights like this one.

I’ve missed you so much since you’re gone.

On your birthday, I filled the house with white flowers.

But then I saw the mistletoe you hung over the doorframe.
I remembered your hands, as they were tying it there.
Your voice. Your skin.

You disappeared, as if I menaced your mere bones.

You walk on different streets now, under a different sky.
You carry this shadow around you, selling it off as freedom.
Deep inside you, you know. It’s slow of sale.

Yours must be a sad life.

Otherwise you’d have never come near me, in the first place.


On taming wild beasts

When I was small, people would ask: 'What do you want to be, when you grow up?'

There were always several answers in may head, so I'd need a moment to answer.
'Storm!' or 'a millionaire', I'd say sometimes.

Often I thought I'd like to be a tamer of wild beasts. To understand the languages of many and be able to handle their different ways. I'd be able to talk to owls and falcons, lizards and foxes, tigers and buffaloes...

Time passed by - and I became something else.
I do not want to tame beasts any more, I'd rather prefer to be like one.

A tiger, largely solitary, strong, unimpressed by ants or humans and their small struggle.
Minding his own business. Equally at ease on the ground, as in water.
Sharing food and territory amicably, whenever the case.
Just being.

'You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.' Mary Oliver, Wild Geese