The best things pop up unplanned. The gems that come out of nowhere and serve the dual purpose of immediate pleasure, and a forever memory of a great time. When Steve and I were in Romania, there were a bunch of these, but our second day in Bucharest gets star billing.
It started with a visit to a Romanian law firm where we were taken to lunch at La Cantine da Nicolai and I had the fall off the bone veal knuckle. The conversation touched on work, but the topic that animated the discussion was music and what would we take with us if we were stranded on a desert island. Beethoven’s Ninth won hands down, (albeit I did try to make the case that Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue should be included in the suitcase).
We parted our hosts and Steve and I wandered around Bucharest, past the Palace of Parliament through the Old Town, and into the National Gallery of Art where I think we viewed every single icon painting. We were walking over to check out the Romanian Atheneum, when a sign caught my eye.
I could translate it enough to see that there was a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth on that night at 7:00 at the Atheneum. Here we had been talking about that symphony at lunch and by pure serendipity, we had a chance to hear it played that evening by the George Enescu Philharmonic. We found the box office, secured tickets and walked inside the Atheneum, an art work in itself with its confection of color, curving lines, sinuous sculptures, and floor to ceiling decorative flourishes.
Compared to New York City concert halls, the space is diminutive. Steve looked at the stage and doubted the orchestra could deliver the power of the symphony, let alone hold a full chorus for the “Ode to Joy”.
But the orchestra packed a wallop. The acoustics gave Carnegie Hall a run for its money. Amidst the standing ovations I knew I had seen one of the best performances ever in one of the most special venues ever. Both of us loved the coincidence of the afternoon’s conversation being played out in real time. It unfolded so perfectly and unexpectedly that it will never lose its status as a gem surprise. But it was not the last of that day.
Right before the concert started I checked my emails and saw that our friends, whose trip to Bulgaria and Romania overlapped ours, had written to say that they were going to be in Bucharest for dinner. Emails were exchanged, but no firm arrangements made. Steve and I decided to stick to our game plan of eating dinner at this highly recommended restaurant Caru Cu Bere which is located in the Old Town. We are standing in line waiing to get in and someone taps Steve on the shoulder. It was a fabulous surprise.