It’s still raining. In the drizzle we are waiting for the shuttle to the airport. In awaitance of, I go down the Istiklal to the fishing area, for a last glance at Topkapi and Aya Sofia and to buy half a kilo of delicious baklava at Gülloĝlu.
We check in at domestic flights because “it doesn’t matter anyway.” Here are some of the classic obstacles when you are traveling with camera men and musicians: is it possible to take a guitar as cabin baggage? Where is the ticket for the extra seat of the gambe (we call it a cello for convenience)? How do we get the harp in the cargo hold? Customs does open the bags with camera equipment. We are really early, so we chill with a latte while tapping on our laptops. We live in a modern world now.
The Bucareşti airport. The harp is behind the glass door, but how will the door open? And behold how a shuttle bus to the city becomes and ordinary busy bus.
After a lengthy check-in at the fancy hotel and the obligatory Facebook updates, the walk to the centre follows: a fashionable shopping street with Ceaușescu bombast, my Novotel and the Orthodox church where I once partly attended an Orthodox Mass. The old city bathes in a Halloween atmosphere: costumes, painted faces, too high heels, kids having fun everywhere. Even our waiters’ faces were painted as clowns.
Dinner at Casa Mama with a high farce degree: the waiters hold to the rule “sois belle et tais toi”, which results in a fairly chaotic operation: beverages come late, Mathijs gets a smaller portion, I have the wrong salad (I donate to Mathijs a grilled pepper – 3 was too much anyway). Thomas never gets his main course and therefore flees to the pizza stall where a beautiful girl feeds him tasty pizza for only 3 lei. The desserts are quite distasteful: spongy profiteroles soaked in dame blanche; 4cm thick crème brulée and cold pancakes (but they do fill you up). Nevertheless, the savoury entrees such as stuffed cabbage leaves and creamy polenta do taste good.
I now also find the time to connect with the Turks, who I met only today. I score with my diligently made sentences, they flatter me with saying that I speak more clearly than themselves. When they are busy with their smartphones, I sneaky read along for educational reasons (Ayten, smiling, turns a blind eye). Mehmet knows something about winemaking, in summer he actually makes his own wine. He first approves the Pinot Noir and afterwards the Cabernet Sauvignon. Occasionally a glass Pálenka passes.
On our walk the nocturnal lights hit me. The weary go to sleep; the real ambitious follow the “tireur de plan” and “master spotter” Dirk to bar Eden (there must be a geçe külübü, a nightclub somewhere). Epic conversations over two bottles of wine and a final beer: why musicians are sent at least 2 times from school (though this never becomes entirely clear)? A purely empirical observation that leads to reflections on sedentary and traveling life, a need for stability and letting go. Stay or migrate.
At the end of the night the waiter confesses that it’s the opening night and asks us if we have any suggestions. “Switch off the spots and just light the large lamps with character,” says our good advice-man, Thomas. The boss unfortunately can’t test it now. Hopefully they will later …
Text written by Steven Van Renterghem, occasional production assistant and tour guide