Silent Sunday, or almost, light and shadows on the beach, the golden hour – a 100-word story.
The laziness of a summer’s day lingers in the ruddy beams of the chaise longues, still stretching, ever hoping to dip their feet in the cool waves. Alas, perhaps tomorrow.
The thoughts abandoned upon them, now shadows, will hide with the night, without disappearing, hopes for the new day. And the day that’s gone, soon darkness and dreams, will join the rhythm of the waves, coming and going, departing and returning with the sun.
Only the umbrella stands above, out of sight, yet all-seeing, all-knowing. Fearless. Until the wind arrives. ‘What took you so long?’ she asks. He only sighs.
Window shutters painted in dreamy blues adorn an authentic house from 1885 Tulcea, that dips its shores in both the Danube and the Black Sea. You can visit it now, on my blog, or at the Village Museum in Bucharest, Romania.
We have a Romanian saying, Omul sfinţeşte locul, in English it carries the same meaning as “a good farmer makes a good farm.”
I spotted the bright blue shutters from afar. I quickened my step. I wanted to know who lived in a house with such cheerful windows, and such treasures painted on its doors. Who were they? What was their story?
They say that one should never start work, or a journey, on a Tuesday for it won’t end well. The year 1654 started on a Tuesday, and it is the year when the great Russian Patriarch Nikon decided to re-examine the church books, for “the Greeks should be followed rather than our own ancients.” The schism that followed affected many during the following century, but especially (as always) the masses. Those who sicked to their old believes, the starovery, were forced to pay higher taxes, wear special clothing that will make them stand out… if not burned at the stake.
I have to pause and draw a parallel between the choice the starovery from the Tsardom of Russia were forced to make in the 17th century and the Romanian population of Transylvania who was forced by Hungarian authorities, during 15th – 16th centuries, to convert to Calvinism, “the true faith.”
Thus, the starovery migrated. Some reached as far as Alaska, others loved the serene land around the Danube and, being fishermen by skill and having the sea in their blood, settled in Dobruja, Dobrogea, at the beginning of the 18th century. Today they are known as Lipovans, or Flipovans(after their leader’s name).
The Lipovans brought along their personal style, the men wearing long beards, the women dressed in bright reds, greens and blues, like the feathers of the birds, and the spring shoots, and the ripples of the rivers.
Do you see the thatched roof? The way it extends low over the narrow porch? They are distinctive architectural features, as are the wavy eaves:
The house, built as a home in 1885, came to the Village Museum (piece by piece and reassembled here) from the Jurilovca village, siting at the mouth of Razelm Lake – a freshwater lagoon on the shores of the Black Sea in Tulcea County, Romania.
The Lipovans who lived here painted the tree of life, “as in Heaven, so on earth“, on their door:
Originally painted in 1885, perhaps as a blessing on the threshhold of their new life, in a new land, and a new home:
And because it meant so much to them, the Lipovans painted it again. I like the wavy movement of the greenery depicted above and how the flowers appear to sway in the breeze.
The Symbology behind the Tree of Life – Art in Romanian Folklore, Patterns
The tree of life can be spotted painted on a door, such as above. But more often we glance upon a diminutive symbol of it (such as the branch of a fir tree, flowers in a pot, shoots of wheat or rye, or mere leaves), be it carved on the wooden pillar of a home, on a piece pottery, or embroidered by hand in a Romanian peasant blouse, ia.
The tree of life, or its symbols, they all stand for the biblical image of Jesus Christ, and of the His everlasting spirit.
The leaves, symbolize immortality and resurrection.
It is a cheerful house, and I hope the Lipovans led a happy life in their new home in Tulcea County, Dobruja, by the Black Sea.
For nearly four centuries the Giant of Table Mountain watched over the only Cape Sea Route connecting the Mediterranean Sea, past Cape Town, South Africa, with the Indian Ocean.
Table Mountain and the Legend of the Querulous Giant Adamastor
Ancient Greece was not only a time where culture and philosophy flourished but a time of great tales too. Such were the Greek Myths, stories about gods, goddesses, and their daily rituals. According to the ancient Greeks, Uranus, meaning sky or heaven, was their greatest god, and his wife was Gaea, or Gaia, meaning land, or earth. Uranus and Gaia had many children, some being the twelve Titans who ruled the earth. One of the Titans was Cronus, who later fathered Zeus…
Zeus, eventually, with the aid of two of his brothers, Poseidon and Hades, won the war against the Titans – which were rather tyrannical uncles – and banished them to three places around the world. One such place was the dark and gloomy underworld of Tartarus. The second place was a British Island in the far west, probably the Outer Hebrides, or the Island of Strangers, or even Western Isles, in Scotland. The third place, where poor, old Adamastor was imprisoned, was situated at the southern end of the world, at Table Mountain.
Although… Adamastor appears to be a mythological character created much later, and by the Portuguese poet Luís Vaz de Camões who lived in the 16th century and is, to this day, considered the Portuguese language’s greatest poet. Still, let’s hear his account as it explains superbly how the Cape of Storms, or Cape of Good Hope, near the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula (located in today’s Western Cape province of South Africa), received its name.
So, back to Adamastor, restricted under Table Mountain…
After a few hundred years of being locked away Adamastor was feelings rather bored. There he was, a strong giant once leading a busy life, now confined to a small stony place covered with shrubs and fynbos… not even mighty trees! So Adamastor, to give some purpose to his days, decided to take action and do something good: protect! Yet guard not only the area where he’s been locked up but the entire continent of Africa.
This was around the time when the Portuguese navigators first sailed along the west coast of Africa all the way down… and Adamastor saw them arriving, out of the corner of his eye. He grunted but said nothing, did nothing, just kept an eye on them as one would with naughty children. Waiting for the navigators to do something wrong, and knowing well that they will. The Portuguese sailed on; busy on their route that took them for the first time through these foreign seas, further south they floated, approaching the southernmost tip of Africa. Adamastor said nothing, again, but grunted, rumbled and crossed his arms, I am watching you, and a strong wind swelled the Atlantic Ocean. Still, the navigators kept sailing on, their sails swelling with the gale, their ships angled. When they eventually attempted to approach the land, for fresh water, fresh fruits and maybe some eggs too, Adamastor had had it. He coughed and he puffed so much, that the waters of the Atlantic AND the Indian Ocean swelled, especially along the line where they meet, by the southernmost tip of Africa.
So Bartolomeu Dias, the first Portuguese sailor to attempt sailing down the west coast of Africa, around its tip and up its east coast, towards India – to buy the precious spices (ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, clover – the great Bartolomeu Dias dared not sail further, but turned back his ships and set his compass to home.
It was but a few years later when another Portuguese navigator, Vasco da Gama, showed no fear. He had seen the storm approaching, so he thought, really hard, what he can do next. He weighed his options. Run for cover, or head out to open water for some sea room? If he ran for cover, the preferred choice, the danger lied in being caught in the storm closer to shore, with no room to maneuver or runoff. Smashed against the rocky shored he could end. But if he sailed away, towards the open ocean, he could very well sail towards the middle of the storm.
So when Adamastor raised the winds, Vasco da Gama lowered his sails. When Adamastor swelled the waves, da Gama kept speeding on, aiming for flat spots of sea between the giant breakers, all the time making sure he kept the land to his left, staying on his initial course of rounding the Cape.
Da Gama did a great battle with Adamastor. Storm after storm Adamastor threw at the Portuguese ships, terrifying the sailors who were already scared for they had reached the dreaded Cape of Storms and were nearing the place where Dias had given up. And although his sailors were ready to cut a deal bargain with Adamastor, Da Gama wanted to prove that he was not Dias, and he was not superstitious either.
But Da Gama was clever, not only brave and stubborn. He promised Adamastor a better name for his southernmost rocky spot, one that will bring more visitors over, thus increasing Adamastor’s kingdom. He shall name it the Cape of Good Hope.
Finally, a deal was struck and Da Gama sailed past and reached India, thus establishing the first sailing route there from Europe, the Cape Sea Route. And Adamastor got his large kingdom, to protect.
The Cape Sea Route below Table Mountain after the Suez Canal opened
The Cape Sea Route was in high demand until 1869 when the opening of the Suez Canal provided a much shorter route from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean, thus rendering the long trip around Africa inefficient… Until the Ever Given cargo ship, a 400 meters long Megaship, got stuck in the Suez Canal due to strong winds (perhaps it was Adamastor?) and a sandstorm and blocked the Suez Canal in Egypt, when it ran aground diagonally on March 23rd 2021.
Etymology: The name Adamastor is an adaptation in Portuguese of the Greek word for “Untamed” or “Untameable” (Adamastos) (which the Portuguese did tame eventually).
Fynbos, a small belt of natural shrub-land or heath-land vegetation located in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa.
I hope you enjoyed my tale about Table Mountain and the Legend of the Querulous Giant who Blasted the Cape Sea Route Free.
Discover more legends and read about Cape Town and about a beloved Great Dane, the first dog to be enlisted in the Royal Navy during World War Two, in my book Joyful Trouble (available as an eBook, paperback, large print and hardcover).
I invite you to travel to Romania via a few amazing photos because Romania is a country that deserves to be seen. Not many know, but its brave people have watched over the central and western Europe for centuries, acting like a breathing barrier against the Ottoman and Russian powers.
Alone and awake, Romania is a guardian of the world, coming from the eternity and sure to remain in the pages of history. Romania has views that last, a heart that beats proudly to the rush of its streams; and slowly, to the rhythm of its sunsets; a mysterious spirit in tune to the song of its forests.
Travel to Romania via a few amazing photos that will show you the peaceful shades of its landscape, the endless poetry of its shadows, the smile of its innocence, or the islands of silence that punctuate the song of its birds.
See the kneeling of the twilight, Hear the hesitation of a footstep at dawn, Admire old landscapes, Growing young with the joy they give. A light that calls Through history, Stories that perpetuate, For each one of us Is a facet of their reflection.
Where do our thoughts escape to? The wondrous one that sneaks out while we languidly watch the sea change its colors? The pressing ones that run away as soon as our mind got caught in the seagull’s wing. The long forgotten ones that elope us before we even blink the sun away. Where do they go? Join me in Looking at the Sea.
A World Class Capital City, Bucharest
In the period between the two World Wars, Bucharest’s elegant architecture and the sophistication of its elite earned the capital city of Romania the nickname of ‘Paris of the East’ or ‘Little Paris’.
This past holiday I chose to look up, towards the sun, the sky and the buildings’ roofs. I discovered some surprising sights that put a smile on my face. Lamp posts can have intricate designs while bordering past and present – which side would you choose? Let’s look up together, in Bucharest.
Brasov is a town that’s sure to enchant you, whether you visit during summer or winter. Brasov, Corona in Latin or Kronstadt in German, is a historical and cultural city found in the heart of Transylvania, in the heart of Romania, and not far from Sighisoara. It was first mentioned in 1235 and, not many know, it was the birth place of Katharina Siegel, the only woman Vlad Tepes (Dracula) is said to have ever loved.
Let’s move on. Let’s travel to Romania via some more amazing photos of…
Exploring Romania’s Top Movie Locations: Peles Castle – Peles Castle belongs to Hohenzollern Family, a German ruling dynasty. The castle was built between 1873 – 1914 in Neo-Renaissance style, at the order of King Carol I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. King Carol I was the monarch of Romania between 1866 – 1914.
Corvin Castle is a fairy-tale castle of Gothic-renaissance architecture, built on an old Roman fortification and a stunning sight – read more about it here.
The Sculptural Ensemble of Constantin Brâncuși at Târgu Jiu is an homage to the Romanian heroes of the First World War. The ensemble comprises three sculptures: The Table of Silence, The Gate of the Kiss and the Endless Column. The ensemble is considered to be one of the great works of 20th-century outdoor sculpture.
A contemporary of Auguste Renoir, next to whom he trained as a painter, Grigorescu took part as war painter in the Romanian War of Independence of 1877 against the Ottoman Empire. Grigorescu is considered one of the painters who established the Romanian modern art.