October 14, 2019

Belgium - Brussels - Sublimation of Form Exhibition

For me Constantin Brâncuși was a genius, so expect a very, but very subjective post.
The Sublimation of Form Exhibition is the flagship event of the Europalia in 2019. An art festival in essence, Europalia celebrates every two years a country's cultural heritage. Established in 1969 in Brussels, the festival has events in all the neighbouring countries from October to January. The festival expenses are shared between Belgium and the invited country, and in 2019-2020 that is Romania.

The Brâncuși Exhibition is the main event of the festival and it is hosted by Bozar - Centre of Fine Arts in the heart of Brussels. It is the first time a solo exhibition will be part of the festival in Brussels as the last Brâncuși retrospective was organised in Paris, 25 years ago.
I hate to start with a critic and normally I do not notice these things, but as offended I am when someone misspells my name, I would have liked to at least at the beginning of the exhibition see Brâncuși written correctly. You have to understand that although a migrant, Brâncuși was Romanian and this is how we write his name, especially in an exhibition organised in part by our country.
I have to admit as a Romanian you feel a bit proud when you see these posters all over Brussels and although I had two attempts to visit the exhibition since it opened, I went to see it with my friends last Sunday. 
The ticket is a bit on the expensive side, 17 euros, but thinking of the massive effort this exhibition must have taken, I would say the price is reasonable. Also the catalogue of the exhibition is 40 euros and compared to others in the museum shop is a bit unattractive.
From the little I've read about Brâncuși, I know he was the master of perfection. His works of art are exhibited on pedestals he created and the art piece and the support form a whole image, he took photos of his sculptures from all angles to see which ones could best showcase the art and his workshop in Paris is left unchanged to present exactly that, he shaped his own imagine, by controlling all the photos of him that made it to the press and by taking something we today call selfies in order to be sure his image was the exact right one. That is why when you see a sculpture by Brâncuși, you don't see just the shaped material, you see a whole concept. So I advise you in Brussels to go around the sculptures and see them from all the angles, you will be surprised that the art pieces are exquisite all around. 
The Brussels exhibition is thought by its curator, Doïna Lemny, from Pompidou Centre, Paris as a parallel between Brâncuși and other artists that lived and created during his lifetime. A way of including Brâncuși in his own time, of understanding him and his art in report to art currents. Along Brâncuși's sculptures there are exhibited pictures of similar entitled works of art created at almost the same time by different artists. To understand this I strongly suggest that you buy the exhibition catalogue, or read very carefully all the labels of the art or get a free audio guide.
Known as The Wisdom of the world, (we call her Cumințenia Pămantului) was part of the biggest public collect of founds done by a government to buy a piece of art own by private collectors. In 2016 the Romanian Government tried to raise 6 million euros from the population that together with their own founds would buy the sculpture. The campaign was unsuccessful and I saw the sculpture in Brussels belonging to the Romașcu family, the descendants of Gheorghe Romșcu who bought the sculpture from Brâncuși in 1911.
The Kiss (Sărutul) is a sculpture I really wanted to see up close. The sculpture in Brussels was one of the first carved by Brâncuși as little by little the forms of the two characters intertwine and their arms and facial features are only suggested by the artist. This art piece along with others were part of a trial intended by the Romanian artist to the United States of America. As the story goes, Brâncuși send by post many of his sculptures in 1913 to be exhibited in USA, but the customs workers opened the crates and considered the abstract sculptures as kitchen utensils and hospital equipment and not art works exempted by custom fees. To free his art, Brâncuși had to pay the equivalent of 2500 dollars in today's money and he sewed the American state. The trial was eventually won by the Romanian sculptor in 1928 and the judge declared the sculptures as modern art and thus exempted from custom fees. Brâncuși vs USA shaped the art of that time and is even today given as example. 
Mademoiselle Pogany, another famous sculpture I was fortunate to see up close in Luxembourg in 2013 in marble, is exhibited in bronze in Brussels. This is one of the five sculptures baring the same name. 
Danaïde sculpture linked with the Greek Mythology, was first carved in limestone and was very different from the piece exhibited in Brussels. Brâncuși rethinks the shape of the sculpture after the Pogany series giving it the distinctive eyes and also a hair bun similar to the first Pogany sculpture. It is sculpted or shaped in bronze and exhibited on a limestone base.

The Sublimation of Form exhibition has many more art works by Brâncuși, but I only focused my article on those four that really impressed me. You can of course see the Măiastra or Bird in Space, Prometheus, Prayer and some early works, you will find difficult to imagine they belong to Brâncuși.

A few words of advice

Do not visit the exhibition on Sundays or during the weekend. Despite the steep ticket price, the exhibition is packed and you will not enjoy it as it should be. Of course coming from Luxembourg it is a bit difficult to visit it on week days, but I have to hope it is less crowded then. 

Buy the tickets from the ticket office on the opposite side of the road from the exhibition location, don't make the same mistake we have, of reaching the middle point of the exhibition without a ticket and having to get back our coats from the dressing room, exit the building, cross the street and purchase the tickets.

The entrance of the Brâncuși exhibition is in front of the name sign from the first picture of this article and not at the end of the hallway. Poorly organised, if you reach the People's Palace shaped of Carpați cigarettes boxes you are on the wrong way and have to go back. You will better understand once you visit the exhibition.

As a personal note, I would have liked that the explanations of the art-works or pictures were written in Romanian alongside Dutch, French and English. It may be me learning about linguistic landscape, but I totally think that Romanian should be present. 

Finally, after seeing the exhibition in Brussels and all the work that must have gone into putting it together, I consider myself fortunate to have seen the 2013 Brâncuși exhibition in Luxembourg. Organised by a small Romanian association, the Luxembourg event, was more intimate, better structured and showcased different art-works. It is great that the Brussels exhibition exists, it is different, but to my opinion, something missed. 

But do go and see it for yourself, it is a great accomplishment for the organisers and for Romania as a country, a different way of showing who we were and maybe still are.

As always if you enjoyed my article as much as I've enjoyed writing it, you can find me and get the conversation going on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

September 27, 2019

4 lessons to 40

Yes boys and girls, I am forty this year. I know I don't look it, but I am. If you've been here a while you already know me, the one writing these lines, little by little you have read my views on life in the past 10 years of blogging, of moving, of changing, of living, so these should not be much of a surprise to you. Still, here are my 4 lessons to 40:

1. Money isn't everything

Yes it is OK to have money to live a decent life, but money should not be a purpose in life. Think about how many experiences you missed while you were gathering money to buy the dream house, think how many things are left undiscovered while you watched your bank account grow, while you slave to gather more money, think about your family, how often you have free fun? I have friends who see things on the opposite spectrum, some have even considered me a hippie, a dreamer. I cherish their views on life, but I have mine. I am fine with sharing a sandwich on a bench at the Belvedere with my husband and Luna, I do not need Michelin Star restaurants with fancy food, I do not need 1000 euros a night rooms at hotels, I am OK with travelling low cost or by car and I gather experiences, I gather happy memories and not money.

2. There is a gap between you and your parents and that is OK

For a long time it bothered me that my parents did not understand what I did, my choices. For them by now I should have bought my own large house, I would have populated it with 2 kids, I would have a steady job at an office so they could be happy knowing I am secure, somewhere. They lived in different times and experienced different worlds than the one I live in. Do not feel the pressure OR if you are a parent reading this, do not force your child to live the life you dream for him or you dreamt for yourself, but somehow missed it. At some point in life there is a switch and you start to know what is best and not your parents.

3. You are an unique and beautiful individual

Run away from comparisons, stop competing for God knows what! As long as on this earth there isn't another women of forty years, married, who studied journalism and communication, who worked in radio and TV, who lived in Iasi, Bucharest, Dublin and Luxembourg and has a dog, I have no one to compare myself with. Your friends come from different backgrounds, they have different views on life, is it worth comparing with them? Your coworkers are as different from you as it is the Sun from the Moon, you are comparing what exactly? Stop running the rat race and just live. You are an unique and beautiful individual with your own path.

4. Life in not over at thirty, it is not over at forty, not even at fifty, it is not over when you miss an exam, it is not over when you have a breakup, it is not over when you have kids, when you are fired, when you loose someone, it is over when it's over. So enjoy life as it is. Is there more to say here?

And one last thing, DO NOT JUDGE, ACCEPT. Your coworker has different, opposite ideas? Believe me, that is a good thing. The parents of your kid's friend see things different? It is ok. Your friends have changed? Not your problem, find new friends if they start to bother you. Do not judge others, you will only loose time and you will only fill your brain with wrong ideas. Accept.

And guys, I don't feel a day older than 18 even though I am twice that age. Age is just a numberdon't let that number define YOU!

September 16, 2019

Brussels - The girl from the rainbow

This article is my plea to you to experience as many international and intercultural acts as possible. We live in these melting pots, Luxembourg, Brussels, Dublin and even Bucharest to some extent, that are buzzing with cultural acts organised by small communities, it is almost a shame to stay within your own bubble and not see at least what they have to say.

We are fortunate enough as small communities living away from our mother countries to be left to express our culturality, by practising our language in schools and at work, by teaching others a little of our way of life at the International Bazar, Festival des Migrations and Schueberfouer, by organising cultural acts, such as theatre plays at the Neumunster Abbey, by screening our movies at the Irish and British Film Festival and CinEast and many more.

And compared to six-seven years ago, when I've first arrived in Luxembourg, things are changing, I can see more and more printed and online press in English, I can watch movies in the same language, enjoy plays in English and Romanian, there are exhibitions by international artists and our little Grand Duchy is more and more familiar this way.
Fast forward to last Sunday when together with my friends we decided to elope our weekend life and see The girl from the Rainbow in Brussels. It is a Romanian play, as it is written in Romanian and despite what I wrote two paragraphs up, I kinda think you have to be a Romanian who lived in Romania to get the full grasp of the topic.

The story-line is basic, a poor prostitute forced into this life by circumstances, tells her story about life on the seats 13 and 14 in the last row at Cinema Curcubeu (Rainbow), the only place she can afford to bring her clients.
What impressed me was the way the actress (Ilona Brezoianu) constructed the part, how easily she could cross from one mind state to another taking you, the audience, with her. She laughs, she cries, she sings, she tells the story, she eats a boiled potato, she uses perfume, she keeps you in your chair for almost two hours and she is only 29. So keep an eye peeled for her in the future.

The play is very well written by Lia Bugnar with masterly language punches, which again you have to be Romanian to understand.

I had the chance to meet the duo at the end and they are Romanians I wouldn't mind calling friends.

So if you happen to be in Romania and see the poster, buy a ticket and you will not regret, you might not understand much, but you will not regret. Remember, Fata din Curcubeu!

September 9, 2019

Luxembourg - 15 fun things to do this Autumn in Luxembourg

Ah Autumn! The schools start, the traffic on the motorway starts, the weather changes, the trees get some colours, the blankets start to be sold again in stores and also the sweaters and jackets. Ah Autumn!

I have to admit it is my favourite season. It is not cold yet so you don't have to wear your warmest jacket, there are a lot of fruits on the market, the forests around Luxembourg look amazing, there are a lot of harvest events as people start coming back from the holiday mood and things are slowly, but surely moving in our little Grand Duchy.

So what is there to do in Luxembourg in Autumn, you ask? Well, here is my list. It is subjective, of course, but it could be a reference to you if you want to have an active autumn.

1. Enjoy Schueberfouer - I know our beloved Schuebi only lasts up to September, 11th, but it is still in autumn and if it doesn't rain enjoying some mules on a terrace, taking advantage of the panorama offered by the wheel and tasting all the little delicious treats that a fair has to offer is still an option.

2. Take a walk in Mullerthal and notice the change in seasons - Autumn is still the season for the nature walks and what is the area everyone recommends? Mullerthal. Have one last hike before the winter season, take your camera and snap thousands of pictures to last a lifetime.

3. Visit the Vianden Castle and take a hike or go by car around it and admire the changing colours of the foliage - the Autumn colours are a spectacle in itself, but imagine all that with Vianden Castle as a backdrop. Taking that perfect picture is a Sunday task in itself.
4. Enjoy a wine tasting tour and try the beaujolais - Before coming to this region I had no idea what beaujolais was. We call it in Romanian, "must" and it is the first wine, it doesn't have that much alcohol and it is sweeter. Most of the Moselle Villages have wine fests in Autumn, search Facebook or the internet for one and prepare your glasses.
5. Take a trip along the Moselle or Saar rivers - See the Saar twisting and turning at the Cloef. I am not a fan of the wooden structure they install recently, but still the views from the Cloef are amazing. On top of that, if you are on a more active side, you can climb up and down the hill through the forest. I did it once, it was fine, never again :)

6. Immerse yourself in the Steam period at the Fond de Gras Steampunk Convention - This is the event to check in autumn in Luxembourg. I've skipped it last year and everyone was talking about it so you have to check it out. It is on the weekend of 28-29 September.

7. Take a final dip in the Upper Sure Lake or go kayaking - It really depends on the weather here in Luxembourg, as half of August was cold, who knows if we will really have that one last dip or kayaking trip, but you may never know.

8. Enjoy the last braderies and open markets in the towns as they will close during winter - What is nicer than walking around the stalls and spotting little treasures? Keep an eye on Facebook as by now they learned how to make those Facebook events and you have all the details there. The Arlon one is called Marche aux Puces and it takes place on the first Sunday of the month till October.
9. Cross the border in Belgium and do a beer tasting accompanied by beer cheese - That is a must if you live in the area. I know there is a war going between beer drinkers in Belgium and Germany deciding which one is better, so why not check them both? While you are in Belgium though, take a cheese plateau when visiting a trappist brewery, you will definitely thank me. My favourite is Lupulus.
10. Take a walk in the forest - any forest will do. As we do not have that many parks in Arlon, walking Luna in the forest is always on our list. And although we tend to go to the same forest, the forest is never the same. Sit there quietly and listen, it is something I always like to do.

11. Enjoy the local produce, autumn vegetables and take a jam making class - That is my plan anyways. I've never made jam in my life and I would like to learn how. Also there are a lot of vegetables I associate with autumn such as pumpkins, mushrooms, cabbages, corn, and a lot of warm dishes to be made from those. Try some!
12. Pick an apple in Steinsel, a pumpkin in Beringen, a plum in Mamer and nuts in Vianden - All those are events I've been to and enjoyed to an extent or the other. It is an experience to pick your own fruit from the trees so gather some friends and have a picking Sunday. You will like it despite the crowds!

13. Decorate your house for Halloween or celebrate the local version of it called Trauliicht, when you can carve a beet lanterns instead of pumpkins. Apparently, in Munhausen they celebrate this local Halloween. As in previous years I've complained as no one celebrates Halloween in the traditional way in Luxembourg, I'm excited to find out what is this Trauliicht all about. If I find the right info I will go and report back here on the blog.
14. Check the Eastern European Movies at CinEast Film Festival - I always like to check out at least one Romanian movie as usual they bring only the latest productions. But, go to the movies, see the differences between countries, enjoy a well organised festival!

15. Prepare yourself for Christmas - The winter lights will be lighted this year in November and also the Christmas Markets will start in the region around the same time. Granted, it is not related to autumn, but it is Christmas. This year I hope to properly celebrate it, as last year I was so busy I've almost forgot about it altogether.

I hope you enjoyed my little article as much as I've enjoyed writing it and as usual, you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

September 6, 2019

Spain - My bits and bobs about a holiday in Spain

Spain was not on our radar for this year. I wanted to rent a caravan and tour U.K. before they leave the E.U., but as faith would have it we ended up "touring" Spain on our way by car from Luxembourg to Almuñécar.

As it was on short notice we decided to save the 49 euros per day we would have used for Luna's holiday hotel and bring her with us. Was it challenging? Sometimes yes, but most of the times was a real pleasure as I feel better knowing where she is at all time and how she is treated. I might be one of those possessive dog persons, but a holiday is not a holiday without her.
Holidaying with a dog in south of Spain

It is not impossible, but it has its moments. We researched the area and the only beach allowing dogs was one in a nearby village (Motril) where we went at first until our friends told us that on all the beaches dogs are not allowed, but are tolerated. So, we ended up on a more private (smaller) beach in Almuñécar, where Luna wasn't just tolerated, she was the main attraction.

We discovered that she is most of the times a well behaved dog, who loves to bits to be near us, so if we went in the water she would want to be in the water, if we were on the beach she would crawl under our lounges, she had clean water to drink at all times and I rubbed her nose with sunscreen, so for most of the days she was more than fine.

She did not like the pebbled beaches and frankly I wouldn't either, but it reminded us of beaches in Ireland especially Bray.

She was allowed on all the terraces we checked out, we mostly travelled by car so I don't know about public transport, but she was not allowed inside monuments and museums. There we had a bit of a problem, as it was very hot to leave her in the car and we wouldn't normally do that anyways. So we took turns in visiting monuments and museums.

The taste of fruits and vegetables

Let's say it was different, but different in a bad way. We are truly blessed to live very close to a Grand Frais and if you are familiar with the concept, you know that there you can find seasonal local fruits and vegetables, which taste as it should with the occasional imported produce. And most of the imported stuff comes from Spain.

So when we went to the supermarket and picked the most appealing tomatoes, the best watermelon and the juiciest peaches, only to arrive home and discover that the tomatoes were yellow inside, the watermelon was unripe and the peaches were good enough to put a nail in a wall, we were confused.

I don't know what had happened, but their fruits and vegetables do not taste like the ones in here. I will not go into the long discussion of them being picked unripe only to mature on the trucks or ships, but for real here they taste different.
Those Spanish people do like to talk, loud talk

I come from a Latin country, so I'm not inexperienced when it comes to loud talking, but they are from a different league. A walk down the promenade was torture, enjoying a meal at a restaurant was an impossible task, relaxing on a beach was nonexistent and all because they all like to talk at the same time, talk all the time and scream at each other and their kids.

I also now live in a semi Latin country, in the Walloon region of Belgium, but for real the Belgians are more quieter, not to mention that I don't know even, 6 years in, if the Luxembourgish people do exist or are just part of myth and legend.

I happen to speak some Spanish, so I did understand they were not arguing with each other nor with us all the time, but man they do like to talk!

They live on a different schedule

The locals would wake up around 10 a.m., go to the beach around 12 p.m. by the time they had breakfast, I was having lunch, they do the siesta in the afternoon, they eat dinner after 10 p.m. and probably go to bed at 12 a.m. as at 11 p.m. they are still on the beach, on a terrace or at a restaurant.

So it took us a while before we adapted to their schedule, but for most of the time we did adapt. I don't know if the same goes if you are on holiday in a more touristic area, such as Marbella or even Malaga, but that was the case in the area we've been to.
They still have some Moorish gems

I was told that all the towns called Al-something were Moorish at some point and I got that feeling. The almost riad style houses with that specific architecture would have me stare at them for hours. The narrow streets and oasis like private gardens, I liked so much. The small towns with a fortress on top, such as Almuñécar or Salobreña and even the Alhambra were places I'm glad I've visited.

The pebbled beaches

I did not get it, but I was told that in the more touristic areas the beaches had sand. It took a short second to get accustomed with those sea shoes, it made sitting on a blanked impossible to bear, but at the end we were fine.

As I've said it reminded me of the Bray beach in Ireland or of the beach on Brac Island in Croatia.

The inexpensiveness of it all

Coming from Luxembourg where in the centre a burger in Oscars is 25 euros and a good beer is 6 to 10 euros, to eat a paella and drink a sangria for 40 euros for two people is very cheap. Also different from Luxembourg you would have free tap water in the restaurant. Here in Luxembourg I think even tap water comes with a price.

I was told that it was not the same everywhere in the south of Spain and that in the touristic areas the prices were comparable, but I was still left with the feeling that everything was cheaper than here.
The joy of life one would get after a holiday there

I am a complainer. I always complain and make comparisons and debate more than it needs to, every situation, every conversation, everything. But Spanish people are more laid back. So what if the beach has pebbles, you go to the Chinese store and buy a beach chair and that's it. So what if it is hot, you stay inside or under an umbrella and that's that. So what if you are hungry, you have a fruit and you wait for the dinner time and that's that.

I think life is much more simpler that way and I don't think it depends on the region, maybe the Belgians are laid-back as well, I was just too fierce to notice.

I couldn't wait to get home to my things and my rituals and my familiar places, but I did manage to enjoy being with friends, being with my family in a nice place. So if you like me join the rat race every day, do allow yourself a holiday in Spain from time to time!

Those are my two cents about a holiday in Spain. As usual you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu