The growling of what sounded like a bear made me stop and listen carefully for a few seconds. I looked around me. The forest was young, there wasn’t any chance a tree would have been able to withstand my weight. My next thought was that bears can climb trees and I can’t, so the age of the forest didn’t really matter.

I felt my heart rate going up, the blood going faster through my veins, my knees becoming softer and softer and my stomach filling up with butterflies. I acknowledged fear.

There was this fantastic pool party with wine flowing freely from bottles down the throats, barely stopping for a rest in its way up to the brains. I was dancing with this gorgeous guy, eyes closed, bodies touching, wobbling on slow blues rhythms. Everything else disappeared into this blissful mindfulness eternity. Out of the blue, my hands started a dance of their own on that smooth, warm, inviting skin they were resting on for a while now. They moved with the music, reached imaginary destinations only to to start their slow journey again… and again… until his soft voice whispered in my ear… stop, or it will be too late…

I felt my heart rate going up, the blood going faster through my veins, my knees becoming softer and softer and my stomach filling up with butterflies. I acknowledged lust.

While waiting in my car, in a big line of vehicles, I felt a hit in the back and heard a noise of metal and plastic crashing. I looked back and there was this huge old bus, stuck into the right side of my car. It was just before the Easter holidays, when everything is closed and people are having a great time with their families. I pictured myself spending one week in police stations, insurance agent offices, car repair shops… and…

I felt my heart rate going up, the blood going faster through my veins, my knees becoming softer and softer and my stomach filling up with butterflies. I acknowledged anger.

Fear, lust, anger, and the list could go on, what do all these emotions have in common? That’s right, the physical manifestation was the same, each and every time, yet the brain interpreted this manifestation in a totally different way.

I learned a while ago from an interesting seminar that this is how we function. This is what makes us different from other species, this is what defines us as humans: the ability of recognizing emotions in a series of physical changes in our body.

What if the “interpreter” stops working properly? Would we still be able to cope with our society or would we collapse and get buried in some mental institution or in a maximum security prison? Could we use this to our advantage, to create a life we love?

The Subjective Experience of Interpreting Art

We use this ability to create and understand art. The work of art is just a piece of stone, mud, paper or whatever other material. The artist turns that material into art just like I would describe the physical process of living an emotion, without telling what the emotion was. It is up to you to follow the reverse pathway: look at the work of art, feel the sensations and acknowledge the emotion. You may reach the same interpretation like the artist or you may open new possibilities.

This brings me to a question I found in James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”:

“- If a man hacking in fury at a block of wood – Stephen continued – make there an image of a cow, is that image a work of art? If not, why not?”

I won’t answer this now, but if you want, you can give me your opinion in the comments.

It surely wasn’t fury what guided Constantin Brancusi, the Romanian artist in whose footsteps we are going to walk today, when he created sculpture pieces that sold for $18-$37 million US. Like many great artists of the past, he was long gone when his creation started to be appreciated.

Works of Constantin Brancusi can be found in museums like The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., The Museum of Modern Art in New York and in the National Museum of Art of Romania in Bucharest. You can see some of them here, on the Guggenheim website.
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Brancusi once said as a reaction to critics calling his work abstract:

“There are idiots who define my work as abstract; yet what they call abstract is what is most realistic. What is real is not the appearance, but the idea, the essence of things.”

This is it. Without emotions, bodily reactions would be nothing. Without the idea, a work of art would be nothing.

A Cultural Weekend Trip Idea

If you want to have a great weekend trip with a cultural touch, some mountain climbing and cave visits, here’s a route you’ll enjoy: go visit the house where Constantin Brancusi was born, in Hobita, stop for a couple of hours in Horezu to watch the potters at work and maybe buy some handmade ceramic pots and plates, visit Pestera Muierii or Polovragi Cave, then head towards Transalpina and stop for the night in Ranca.

You can add a religious twist to it and drop by a few of the monasteries in the region. There are lots of them. All you have to do in order to discover them is to pay attention to the brown signs on the road.

Romanian monastery in Oltenia

This is where the nuns sleep. Or the monks. Or maybe they do more praying than sleeping, who knows?

Church in a monastery in Romania

All monasteries have a church like this in the middle.

Cactii Collection at a Monastery

Nuns in this monastery seem to have a big passion for cacti. This was quite a cool collection.

Bronze Vesper Bell

What alarm clock? The vesper bell is more effective, as it can’t be set on snooze when it goes off.

Romanian Monastery in HDR

I can’t resist HDR photography, so here’s another one 😉

There isn’t much to do in the monasteries. You can say a little prayer, light a candle, admire and photograph the buildings and flowers or break your car on the road if you don’t pay attention. If you take the trip on a motorbike, skip Arnota monastery, as the road has pebbles, not asphalt and it goes pretty steep. That’s where I managed to hit my car to the ground in a moment of too much confidence in my driving skills.

The Constantin Brancusi Memorial House in Hobita

The tiny house which is now a museum was closed by the time we arrived in Hobita. We were allowed into the yard of the house, we could sit on the porch and peep through the windows to the basic, almost rudimentary interior of the house. The sunset light was simply beautiful, soft and warm, gently kissing us and the plants in the garden with its last powers for the day. Everything inside and around the house looked very old, but very well-preserved. It was like a travel back in time, in a time I haven’t witnessed but which felt peaceful and happy. Although countryside life in those times must have been tough, it has something romantic to it from the distance of so many years.

Gate of Constantin Brancusi Memorial House

The original gate of the Constantin Brancusi house is still up and looking pretty good for its age and all those harsh winters it had to withstand.

Brancusi Memorial House Porch with Flowers

The welcoming porch with red flowers. Mind the step or you’ll bite the dust.

Sleigh on the Porch of Constantin Brancusi Memorial House

Sleigh in the winter, bench in the summer, now just another piece in the Constantin Brancusi Museum

Brancusi House Museum Hobita - tools shed

Beautiful afternoon light over the tools shed nearby the house

Horezu and Olari, the Potters’ Village

In order to get from Horezu to Olari (Potters’ Village), you need to leave the main road and go up the hill for about 3 km. The road is good, it has asphalt on it and not so many holes. You’ll know when you reach Olari, because you’ll start to see pottery in front of all gates in the village. The whole thing is a bit commercial and touristy, but villagers are friendly and warm, willing to show you around and to let you take a glimpse into their well-preserved trade. If you go there, be nice and buy some pots and plates from your hosts. Prices are way lower than in Bucharest or other big cities and traditional artwork can make an awesome gift for your friends.

Pottery on Old Dacia Car in Olari

Who said a car is only good for taking you from A to B? This old Dacia makes a solid display for clay pots.

Is that a house on fire? Not quite. Let's get a bit closer, see what's cooking in there.

Is that a house on fire? Not quite.

Pottery Burning Oven

Pottery burning oven. The oven is in a shed in the back of the house. It’s a hot day, but nothing compares with the heat inside this shed. If you spend 10 minutes in here, the 40 degrees C outside will feel like a cool breeze.

Clay oven in Olari, Romania

Our host kept on putting wood on the fire while explaining us how clay turns to pottery and how raw pots get baked for many hours in order to become ready for use. She didn’t seem to mind the heat too much, but I had to get out of the shed for several times in order to survive to tell you the story.

Fire wood piles

The backyard was full of fire wood piles. It’s impressive how much wood those people burn every week.

Pottery Maker in Olari, Horezu

This is how pots look just before being put inside the oven.

Traditional Rooster on Horezu Clay Pot

This is how colors change after being burned in the oven. The plate in the middle features the rooster, a traditional pattern for Horezu pottery.

This is one of our hosts showing us how clay cups are made. He offered to train me in his trade next summer. Maybe I’ll take the offer 🙂

This is how pottery is painted:

Targu Jiu

Targu Jiu is where the Endless Column, the Kiss Gate and the Table of Silence are. It’s a neat town, but there’s not much one can do there apart from taking a walk in the park and see the above mentioned monuments.

Endless Column by Constantin Brancusi

Endless Column by Constantin Brancusi

Table of Silence by Constantin Brancusi

Table of Silence by Constantin Brancusi

While you’re there, you can eat some ice cream from the belly of the polar bear.

Ice Cream Dispenser Polar Bear

2 lei for an ice cream, that’s not a bad deal at all!

You can read funny warnings on this fountain in the city center:

No bathing in the fountain

The sign says “No bathing! Danger of drowning and electrocution!”. The water seemed quite shallow, so I guess one has to get electrocuted first in order to drown.

If you want to spend the night in Targu Jiu, you can. There are several hotels, but there’s not much entertainment, so you may prefer to take the road to Ranca and sleep there, nearby the top of the mountains, where there’s fresh air and millions of stars on the night sky.

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