Word goes between the South African students that when the fragrant Jacaranda trees bloom in Pretoria it is time to start studying for the end of year exams…
They are in flower nowadays and this week we happened to drive along some pretty dressed up streets in Pretoria.
The Fragrant Jacaranda Trees of Pretoria – and their bitter-sweet story
The fragrant Jacaranda trees with their purple – blue flowers (they can bloom white buds too) are not indigenous to South Africa, but were imported from South America (namely Argentina and Brazil) around 1880.
Jacaranda means fragrant in the Tupi–Guarani dialect of South America. The Tupi–Guarani were the very first tribe to come in contact with the Europeans who joined Christopher Columbus in his travels. Sadly, the European ways imposed on them and probably the Jesuit invasion that followed forced hundreds of Guarani men, women and children to commit suicide. The Tupi are the Indian peoples living in the valleys of Brazilian rivers, especially the Amazon.
And a pawpaw for Halloween
The Fragrant Jacaranda Trees of Pretoria is my contribution to Becky’s incredible October Squares #KindaSquare blog feature. Do have a look 🙂
I am telling you, time stands still in Romania – or in any other place in the world, if one was born there. So let’s all take kindly to it.
We have snapshots saved in our mind, of trees in autumn or summer sunsets peeking between traffic, of old buildings and tramway rides, snapshots accompanied by scents and sounds. Lindens in bloom, snow crunching underfoot, hot summer dancing over asphalt, the first tram echoing in rhythm each morning. Easy to remember, yet forgotten until we spot the same place again, hear the same chime, or a scent washes over us, two decades later. Time stands still in the spot where one was born.
A Romanian saying goes like this: eternity was born in a hamlet. And how much truth lies in it…
A hamlet, the simplest form of rural settlement whose population measures its life between sowing and plowing, its spirit still tightly woven in its ancestor’s web of traditions and beliefs. Here, life is an oasis of peace and eternity.
Sure, 21st century arrived in the form of a train station – soon abandoned for no one got off and nobody ever left. And the modern lifestyle came in the form of a cellphone tower too. For whose benefit is still a mystery, since locals don’t use such modern technology and no tourists set foot along their main road either. Only the cows stir its dirt in the morning, and again in the evening when each one knows exactly through which gate to push to arrive home.
With kerchiefs over their heads, a habit they picked it up as children, and blouses with hand stitched flowers motifs, spirals and crosses too, women here smile a lot, speak little, cook finger licking, simple meals, and worry and pray. And their men look after them, and after their crops and their herds, are quick in temper, yet soft in the look they give you, guarded by thick eyebrows.
And, with their cows coming and going, with the sun rising at the rooster’s call and setting in the hushing of the leaves and the singing of the crickets, these people live for today.
For today is eternal, as much as the clouds are overhead and the land underfoot. Yesterday is gone like the storm, taking its thunder with it. Tomorrow might never come, although it is a promise from God. And He always keeps His word. But today, today is eternal, and because of this time stands still in a hamlet in Romania.
I snapped the picture above while we drove from Sinaia to Bran. Very near this spot was the medieval border of Bran Castle, close to the Bran Pass, that was the 14th century toll gate between Transylvania and Wallachia.
It was through here that caravans loaded with merchants’ goods passed between the two principalities. The mountainous and rugged terrain, the relatively narrow pass and the vast coniferous forests, made the route quite risky for caravans.
But Bran Castle was also a point of defense – especially against Turk invasions – and therefore the establishment of a border point here was necessary and soon became profitable for the entire area.
Prince Mircea the Elder, Voivode of Wallachia, was the one who, through a privilege granted to Brasov merchants, established the customs of Wallachia in 1413 atTurciu (today Bran). The medieval Bran customs point was defended against robbers by guards that were backed-up by guards from Bran Castle. Due to their importance, the customs buildings will be rebuilt and consolidated over centuries. It was at the end of the 15th century that Bran border point became the responsibility of merchants from Brasov, Transylvania.
Just imagine, it was through these woods that Vlad Tepes and his brave men, his Viteji, rode back and forth.
It took almost eighteen years for our kinda pink, kinda magenta, yet (almost) always sunny Bougainvillea to grow from a small plant till it covered an area of approximately nine square meters.
I guess growing a bougainvillea flower (called bracts) is a matter of faith, although it is a drought-tolerant vine. For at least five or seven years after plating it, the bougainvillea was just a brown stick with leaves. But we hoped, forgotten about it, then hoped some more.
Until the first flowers bloomed. Each year more, its branches stretching over the fence, towards the sky, lavishly, luminous pink when they open, then turning magenta and fiery red as they mature.
And these days in our yard it even kinda snows with pink bougainvillea flowers 🙂
Bougainvillea originate from tropical South and Central America (native of coastal Brazil), where they are called paper flowers. And the famous purple Jacaranda trees Pretoria is famous for also originate from South America.
The bougainvillea was first noticed in 1768 in Rio de Janeiro by French naturalist Dr. Philibert Commercon. He named it thus after his good friend and ship’s admiral Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, who commanded the ship La Boudeuse that sailed around the world from 1766 to 1769.
But only in early 19th century did bougainvillea landed in Europe, and from there it sailed to Australia and South Africa.
Did you know that color pink is named after a flower of the same name? A tiny flower with five, fringed petals.
Kinda Pink and Sunny Bougainvillea, is a contribution to Becky’s incredible October Squares #KindaSquare blog feature. Do have a look 🙂
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Corvin Castle, view from the noble’s main kitchen and its arched door towards the White Tower. If you look closely you can see the stone wall at the bottom, and the later built wall above, consisting of bricks and even plaster.
Next you can admire another access door into the kitchen with more building timeline easy to notice on the wall. First stones were brought from Zlaști River nearby in 1299. Construction and repairs went on till the 17th century, with more renovations afterwards.
Next is the Corvin Castle – bolted door of its renaissance lapidarium, guarding more secrets. It was locked, believe me 😉 A lapidarium is a place where stone (Latin: lapis) monuments and fragments of archaeological interest are exhibited. Bones too, but this is a story for another time.
More historical doors opening from the outside Gothic gallery of Corvin Castle, facing the main courtyard:
Corvin Castle a well courtyard stone door and looking from the into the Inner Courtyard:
I will leave with one of Corvin Castle’s secret doors, one well hidden. But is it out of use? and… the door to the torture tower:
Corvin Castle, Kinda Historical Doors, is a contribution to Becky’s incredible October Squares#KindaSquare blog feature.
Also for Thursday Doors Norm’s weekly feature, allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Create post and share your link anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time).
I discovered this picture I took looking out of the Kinda Old, Corvin Castle, and remembered the question that haunted me, what story do these old stones tell?
‘Follow the main tunnel,’ he’d said, ‘the widest one. Do not set foot into any of the side shafts,’ and he’d let the trap door fall. Blindness shrouding them.
She smelled wet earth, almost agricultural, the freezing temperatures blocking any other foul odors. Her stomach recoiled, a physical sign that her hippocampus, the primitive region of her brain and mother-nature’s GPS system, the same one that helped Homo sapiens navigate and orientate in space by collecting data and building a cognitive map, was protesting. She remembered reading about it, about the human brain’s natural fear of being lost, of losing all receptive signals from the sun, the moon, the stars, even from one’s shadow or the wind. Period. Of not being able to tell ahead from behind, up from down. No horizon. Only gravity to rely on.
She knew her body was telling her she was neurologically ill-equipped to be here. In an underground tunnel. Without a map to navigate by. Without cellphone reception. Only eerie silence. And darkness beyond the flashlight’s shaft. Her field of view blinkered, never reaching beyond the next twist or kink. Down here there was no way to tell time and she did not want to check her wrist watch and discover that time stood still.
No one could tell exactly what these tunnels had been used for. Nor did anyone know for sure how many such tunnels were, scattered underfoot the town. And those who did know, were long reduced to bone. Meanwhile, for centuries the tunnels had been buried. Their gaping mouths filled in after locals complained of smell, their caverns used as underground landfills. But before human junk touched them, no one knew what they’ve been used for. Oh, artifacts had been found and there were plenty of legends too. Legends told by ghosts.
The next step she took, darkness sealed her in. She shook the flashlight, hit it against the rocky wall, yet no light came through. Thoughts accelerated inside her head. She tried to slow them down, but they wouldn’t listen, racing for a way out. The tension in her neck spread to her face and she heard a wheezing noise not realizing it was her shallow breath coming in short, rapid puffs. Her limbs felt heavy to move, although her heart was racing. Like a rabbit running for its skin. Racing to find a way out. Through the dark tunnel, as far as possible, as fast as possible, till it found the exit.
She remembered a moth caught inside her bathroom, at night. Banging against the white walls when she had switched on the light. In an attempt to escape, giving into the primal surge to flee. Till it moved no more, in a corner of the bathroom wall. Dead, yet freed in its own mind, freed from the confined space.
She felt her mind spinning, like an athlete sprinting during a marathon, using all the energy his body could muster, leaving none for later. Life mattered now.
Forward was a black passage and so was backwards, but who knew if forward wasn’t backwards and back wasn’t front?
She let her legs gave way in an attempt to slow down her mind, she felt her body drop to the ground like an inanimate object.