The Weathervanes of Bucharest

Weathervanes- a very uncommon architectural detail for the Bucharest cityscape, almost always peculiar to fin de siècle buildings. (©Valentin Mandache)

The Romanian population descends probably from the ancient indigenous stock of inhabitants of the Carpathian region, settled there since the first westward Indo-European migrations about five millennia ago. A consequence of that spatial immovability, coupled with the lack of seafaring activities, throughout most of their history, has made the natives of what is now Romania, quite oblivious to conventional geographical directions such as the cardinal points, which by contrast are part of the usual vocabulary for the populations inhabiting the European coastal areas or those dwelling in the forested regions of north-eastern Europe. Traditionally the Romanians point the geographical directions according to the Sunrise (“Rasarit”) for East, Sunset (“Apus”) for West, Middle of the Day (“Miazazi”- position of the Sun in the afternoon) for the South and Middle of the Night (“Miazanoapte” reffering to the North Star on the sky at night)  for the North. Another common way of indicating geographical bearings is according to the prevailing regional wind directions: Crivat (the winter seasonal wind that blows from the NE, from Siberia; a word of Slavic origin meaning “bender”/ “one who bends trees or houses”) and Austrul (the spring season wind that blows from the SW, from the Mediterranean; a word of Latin origin meaning the “south” or the “southerner”). Those peculiar circumstances of geographical awareness development made the Romanians to largely ignore the weathervanes, the architectural details that point the geographical directions, in their historic architecture. These are rare artefacts that I was so far able to encounter in Bucharest only on Fin de Siècle buildings. They seem to be just standard additions to the architectural design package typical to the French historicist styles fashionable at that period in Romania and do not have the practical role of indicating from where the wind blows. I gathered in the above photomontage and slide show immediately after text, what I believe is a large proportion of the Bucharest weathervanes. The most spectacular one is in the middle of the upper row of the collage and adorns the embassy of Finland in Bucharest, a building in a Scandinavian baroque style, which speaks volumes about the paucity of this architectural ornament in this city and Romania in general.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.


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