Iași, capitale culturelle

Iași, capitale culturelle

Avant de quitter la région de la Bucovine roumaine, nous allions faire un arrêt dans la ville de Suceava, ancienne capitale des voïvodes (titre qui désignait au départ un commandant d’une région militaire, et devenu par la suite un titre de noblesse dans les pays slaves et roumains).  Notre but était de ne pas manquer de voir l’impressionnante forteresse médiévale faisant partie du système de fortifications érigé en Moldavie à la fin du 14e siècle, à cause de la menace des envahisseurs ottomans. 

We spent more time reading than walking about the fortress on this nice late winter morning. We learned about the dynasty of the House of Mușat, establishing the historical region of Moldovia. And we focused our reading particularly on a 25 year family feud, from the death of Alexandru cel bun (Alexander I, the Good) in 1432 after a busy family life with four legal wives and at least three concubines, 17 daughters and 24 sons.  Six of those sons fought bitterly amongst themselves to have their time on the throne.  Adding to the chaos, Iacob Heraclid, a medieval version of a con artist, originally from Greece, fabricated himself a genealogical tree and with connections in the Habsburg Monarchy and Polish nobility,  was able to credibly claim the throne of Moldavia, which he managed to hold on for 2 years.  And what drew us to pay attention to his story, is that he was known as Voivod Despot (Despot Voda). The title “despot” was historically awarded to senior members of the imperial family in the late Byzantine Empire, and claimed by various independent or semi-autonomous rulers in the Balkans (12th to 15th centuries). But for us, we only knew that it refers to a ruler with absolute and tyrannical power.

Nous quittons donc la campagne de la Bucovine pour se diriger vers Iași.  En fait, Iași est une belle continuation dans l’histoire de la Moldavie puisqu’elle est devenue sa capitale entre 1564 et 1859, après Suceava. Une ville qui nous semblé plus sympathique pour des marcheurs et où le transport public semblait bien utilisé. Il faut dire que Iași avec sa population étudiante d’environ 60,000 pour une population urbaine d’environ 320,000, doit bien l’entretenir son système.

L’édice le plus imposant de Iași est sans contredit le Palais de la Culture (tellement impressionant que j’en ai oublié d’en photographier la facade).  Bien que sa construction débuta en 1906, la première guerre mondiale en arrêtera les travaux et ce n’est qu’en 1925 qu’il fut terminé dans sa présente forme de style néo-Gothique. Son maitre d’oeuvre est le Roumain Ion D. Berindey qui a completé ses études d’architecte à Paris.

Photo by Dids from Pexels

As Iasi has received the honorary title of cultural capital, this Palace is proudly hosting four different museums : Romanian Art, Moldovian History, Ethnography of Moldova and a Technical and Scientific museum.  Not taking away from the 3 first areas which are very well presented, the display and variety of “Mechanical musical instruments” will remain most memorable for me. My common knowledge of those instruments stopped at their pianos.  But around the 1910s, those evolved to incorporate other instruments (with the addition of kettle-drums, side-drums, cymbals and triangle). And later, violins! Here is a video of this instrument playing Hupfeld Phonoliszt Violina player piano orchestrion.  

We did much walking around in Iasi, looking at amazing churches and people in cafes. Also thanks to Instagram (my go-to inspiration for travel locations), we went on a search for a fabulous looking university library.  It took us a little while to find the right staircase of the Gheorghe Asachi Technical University but it was worth the search. It is still functional and holds an impressive amount of one million volumes. At the time of our visit, most volumes from the upper area had been brought down to the desks for inventory. I was kind of hoping to stay longer for a book sale.

Leave a Reply

18 + eight =