Thursday, June 13, 2013

Crossing the River, Part 4: Celebrating the Opening of a New Bridge Between Bulgaria and Romania

photo from Wikipedia Commons, Danube Bridge 2, taken March 2013

We build too many walls and not enough bridges.
Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton's words certainly ring true, both literally and figuratively, and here at The Alien Diaries building bridges between cultures is one of the main reasons for this blog.

I find bridges fascinating because I grew up in New York City, a city linked together by hundreds of bridges. One of my childhood nightmares involved a drawbridge that opened when I was halfway across, and one of my favorite memories was summer nights in one of New York's waterfront parks.  We often stayed late enough to watch the bridge lights come on.

Many years ago I had won tickets to the 100th Anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge.  It was a beautiful, festive ceremony that I will never forget.

Today's post celebrates the official opening of Danube Bridge 2, (Bulgarian: Дунав мост 2, Romanian: Podul Vidin-Calafat), connecting the cities of Vidin, Bulgaria, and Calafat, Romania.

You can get information on Danube Bridge 2 from its official website: Click on one the flags to read about it in the language of your choice.

Until Danube Bridge 2 was completed in 2013, there was only one bridge crossing between Romania and Bulgaria; the Giurgiu–Ruse Bridge, completed in 1954. This made things especially difficult for truck drivers and other commercial traffic; they had to deal with long waits at ferry crossings, since one bridge couldn't accommodate them all.

The Giurgiu–Ruse Bridge was also known as the "Friendship Bridge" during socialist days, a term used for propaganda purposes. There couldn't have been too much friendship going on between the two countries.  The dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania, had his country under lockdown.  The situation in Romania became so bad under his regime that people risked their lives swimming across to Bulgaria to escape oppression.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, things have changed in Eastern Europe for the better. Hopefully.

Because The Alien Diaries is a music and dance blog (among other things), the first video is a dance piece, Sârba de la Calafat. The notes on the video a describe a course for accordion video lessons. (If you're interested click here:)  The accordionist here does an excellent job, he has learned his lessons well.

Unfortunately, there is no dancing in this video, if you want to see some Sârba, click this link. It is a very energetic and lively dance, especially when it's done by people who've had a little too much booze.

This colorful group of costumed dancers performs Vidinsko Horo.  Energetic dances like this are typical of the Severnjasko (northwest) region of Bulgaria.

Diko Iliev, a Bulgarian composer who lived from 1898 to 1984 wrote a very well-known piece which has almost become the second national anthem of Bulgaria.  It's played during celebrations, especially at the start of the New Year.  This is Iliev's Dunavsko Horo, which was most likely written while the composer lived in Oryahovo.  If you look closely you can see a photo of Iliev at center stage.

And now we come to the water underneath that bridge.  The composer of this waltz (yes, they play waltzes in the Balkans!) was of Serbian origin and he made his home in Romania.  His name was Ion Iosef Ivanovici, and he was a bandmaster in the Romanian army who composed music in his spare time. He was quite prolific, having written over 350 dance pieces.

His compositions was quite popular at the end of the 19th century, but unfortunately he was pretty much forgotten after his death in 1902.

According to the article here, Ivanovici was influenced not only by the music of the Austro-Hungarian empire (they and the Ottomans held sway over this part of the world in the late 19th century), but also by Romanian traditional music. He wrote several hora pieces, hora being the national dance of Romania.

This is his best-known piece, Waves of the Danube.  If you read the Wikipedia article, you'll find it has undergone several  incarnations such as as The Anniversary Song in the United States and in Korea as the Psalm of Death (how morbid!)  This is the original orchestration, and like many other pieces on The Alien Diaries, it has an odd time signature.  This one is in 3/4, and played in true Romanian style. Note that the conductor is Korean, but the orchestra is from the town of Bostusani, in northern Romania.

By the way, the waltz is listed on the video under its German name, Donauwellen. There is also a cake with the same name!

If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy the rest of the series Crossing the River Parts 1, 2 and 3. Part 3 is where you'll find the links to the earlier posts.

The "Flavors" of Romanian Sirba and The "Flavors" of Romanian Hora (the most popular Romanian folk dances).

The River of Many Names, parts 1 -6. (you can find the links from 1-5 in Part 6.  If you like Close Encounters of the Danubian kind, you will love this series.

Classical Composers inspired by Balkan Folk Dances.  This post includes the Enescu Romanian Rhapsody #1.

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  1. Yeah for new bridges and what prospects they bring! :)

  2. The mid-wife who brought me into the world was an Ivanovich, according to my mother, which may or may not be reliable info : -) But yes, tres cool, Katley!

  3. Thanks so much Tracie and Fiocle for the read and the comments!

    That was an interesting tidbit about the midwife's name. My guess is that the surname Ivanovich is quite common in Slavic counties. It means son of Ivan (John) in English.

  4. Yes, I guess it's the same as Smith in England or Murphy in Ireland... :)

  5. Is there such a thing as a bridge too far... I suppose as long as we're getting somewhere

  6. Marquis, as long as this isn't Sarah Palin's "the bridge to nowhere,", we're good. Thanks for stopping by!