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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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

2 thoughts on “The Weathervanes of Bucharest

  • Thank you for this excellent introduction to the weathervanes of Romania. My husband and I just returned from a 3-1/2 week trip to Scandinavia to research the weathervanes of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. As in Romania, copper weathervanes there peaked in popularity just before the end of the 1900s. The same phenomena occurred in late Victorian England as well as in the United States.

    Perhaps this concurrence was associated with the beginning of industrialization and the attendant wealth it generated, allowing for more ornamentation and the conspicuous display of wealth. A similar revival of interest in weathervanes began in the 1990s and continues today; perhaps a reflection of similar socio/economic conditions????

    An interesting topic to ponder…. Thank you for post and giving me something new to consider. My husband, Ken, and I are makers of handcrafted copper weathervanes and are fascinated by the history of weathervanes. This opens an entirely new avenue to consider. If you are interested, you can see our weathervanes (and hopefully, very soon, photos of the weathervanes we saw on our trip to Scandinavia) at http://www.westcoastweathervanes.com.

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    • Thank you Liz and Ken for reading my article on the weathervanes of Bucharest/ Romania! I am very impressed that you as experts in the field have such nice words about my piece or research. You are right regarding the use of this artefact in this part of the world as a sign of conspicuous wealth in late Victorian period. The lower classes simply could not afford them and also in my opinion did not have the necessary sophistication or traditional knowledge and terminology to understand it. As I mentioned, the normal daily life in the region of Romania, a continental area, landlocked until in the late c19th, did not necessitate precise knowledge about wind directions, because the winds, with the exception of the two alternate winter-spring ones, do not play a significant role in the traditional way of life of the locals. Nowadays the weathervanes are being put by some town dwellers on their newly built houses, but these are mass production examples, noting artistic about them. Probably in the decades or generation to come, as some areas get gentrified, these wonderful artefacts would again be appreciated and the locals will feel the urge to acquire personalised or artistically made weathervanes. Best regards, Valentin

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