Gabby sent photos my friend photos from Sapanta, Romania. Actually, they say Săpânța. We say Sapanta. I publish the photos below.
While in Britany in the summer of 2014, he got word of a collection of hurdy-gurdy player figurines in Romania. He took the overnight train from Paris to Bucharest.
Have we not all always wanted to visit Romania? Images, associations, abound.
Gypsies / Roma people.
Nadia Comăneci in the 1976 Summer Olympics. I took the Bar in the middle of the Olympics. I was pretty impressed with Nadia, but then again – who wasn’t?
And Tyrants. Central-casting tyrants. A bad ending for tyrants.
None of that is especially quirky. But be patient – Gabby found a cemetery in Săpânța that is big-time quirky, certainly quirky enough to justify the trip. It’s just 1200 miles through central Europe from Paris.
Săpânța is a village in Maramureș County.
As you can see, it is just north of Transylvania. Our sense is that the region has a grim view of death. The traditional grave marker among ethnic Hungarians in Romania is a kropjafa. That word is sometimes translated as “Hungarian totem.” I prefer no translation to that one.
Intricate, beautiful, but a little grim. But in Săpânța the graveyard is merry. They say that Stan Ioan Pătraş started the tradition of festive tombstones with naive depictions of the dead enhanced with poetic humor. End of words – beginning of images:
And so on. Many, many images. Merriness in the face of death. What quirk! In Romanian, our “quirky” is translated as “Neconvenţional.” Like the French, this seems to lack the nuance of English is distinguishing eccentric or nonconventional from quirk. But these sure got my attention.
My friend loved the photos. He is something of a geek when it comes to Soviet art and Warsaw Pact art. He had in a portfolio in his room nine posters depicting Romania’s bad tyrants:
“They look like such nice tyrants. Except to Time.”
“Funny that in all of the Warsaw Pact, they were the only ones who ended up on the wrong end of a firing squad when things collapsed. Did you know that 43% of the people of Romania do not believe that Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu are dead? That they had body doubles and that’s who caught the lead?”
I didn’t know that. I tried to navigate back to the cemetery photos. What about them?