The fresco to the left is not a "Madonna and Child," but the Mother of the Madonna and her child, Mary, Mother of God. The church in Bistriţa where I attended both Midnight and Morning services this Easter was the Biserica Sfânta Ana, or The Church of Saint Ana, in the Orthodox tradition, Mary's mother.
It is a church of elegant, understated, domed design in a small greenspace on a main thoroughfare in the middle of the city. At the midnight service the street had to be cordoned off by the police, as the crowd was immense. The service, which lasted two hours, was held on the front steps, immediately beneath the painting shown. I was there with the Mican family, Alexandru and his parents Augustin and Claudia. I was enchanted by the chants, and delighted by the choir, so even after standing for over an hour, holding a lumânare (candle) as a parade of priests, parishioners and children marched three times around the church did not cause my hip to ache. A small miracle.
When we returned to Casa Mican, we were first served a bite of consecrated wine-soaked bread: our communion Host. Then, we ate. Lamb soup, and a marvelous spread of goes-with-its whose Romanian names I was told, but cannot tonight recall. Suffice it to say it had cold cuts and fresh greens and salad, and it was more than satisfying. It was yummy, though a lot to eat just before bed.
We arose (too soon) on Sunday, and dressed in our best for the 10:00 service. Since I could not follow the priest's words, which differed from those of the night before, the highlights of the Easter morning service were the park bench that Alex led me to so I wouldn't have to stand for the 2:15 that this service took, the Romanian girls and young women in their Easter outfits, and the people we met at, and walking by, our bench. Among them was Alex's grade school English teacher, a lovely woman just my age, who graciously accepted my praise of the job she had done for Alexandru, whose English is excellent. Also among them was a small slightly hyperactive boy, who seemed to love everyone, and who gladly jumped onto my knee, and then off, five seconds later. His mother and I met, and chatted awhile. She told me he was diagnosed as having a mild form of autism, and that he is expected to outgrow it, and be normal after a few years. I pray that is so, for he is a sweet kid, and deserves a full life.
After Church, we drove through Bistriţa, stopping to see Augustin and Claudia's two small cosmetics shops. I heard some stories about their business that led me to invite myself back to write a case on this family business that started in 1991, just after the end of the Communist era. Then, it was time for the Easter Feast. More Lamb, mashed potatoes, several salads, home-baked desserts. Again, too much food!
Finally, about 3:30, Alex and I went the two blocks to Casa Faur to see Dora (of Bucovina trip fame), her parents Teodor and Varvara, her lovely 17 year-old sister Mihaela, and Ronny, her 18 month-old West Highland White Terrier. We sat on the back porch looking out on a glorious day, and we spent an hour chatting, while playing with the effervescent Ronny. Dora took a bunch of pictures, so look for them in the days to come.
Oh, the eggs! Remember the "Christ is Risen!" "Indeed, He is Risen!" egg-knocking ceremony from last week at Chicago's? It happened at both houses in Bistriţa. Tradition, indeed. And the eggs were beautiful. Dora uses small spring leaves to make patterns on the Easter eggs, and the effect is striking. Again, I will provide pictures.
It had taken me three hours to drive to Bistriţa on Saturday. Sunday evening, it took under two to return to Cluj, replete with three eggs from each family, and a lovely flask set and small bottle of Celine Dion cologne from Augustin, picked up at his store, which he implied I could use to "water the women" on Monday.
Once back to Cluj, I parked at the Piaţa M. V. lot, schlepped my luggage the three blocks home, lugged them all up 64 steps, unlocked three doors, texted my safe return to Alex Mican, e-mailed it to Shirl, and went to a much-needed sleep.
This morning I awoke to a silent city of Cluj, and learned that Orthodox Easter is three days long in Romania. Yet today has a story all its own. Perhaps I will find time to tell it tomorrow.