Balance of a hundred years


The Art historia blog offers one more photo by Nicolae Ionescu, but in a separate post, as do we. The picture from the 1920s shows the public scale set up in Bucharest’s old town, on the St. George Square working to full capacity. Who knows why it was so popular? Slender build was no fashion at that time yet, and anyway, it is only men standing in queue to it, soldiers, students, idlers mixed.

But the most interesting thing is that the scale has been running continuously ever since. True, not exactly in this place. The blog author, Radu Oltean found it a few hundred meters further, in the Cişmigiu Park, on the shore of the boating lake. According to his research, it has been running there since its setting up, for nearly a hundred years. They had to switch it ten times for different coins, but to repair never. Fortunately, since most probably there would be nobody to do the job.


“Almost nothing has survived from the street furniture of inter-war Bucharest” – writes Oltean. – “The destructive fury of the Golde Age [i.e. the Ceauşescu era] cleaned off virtually every street sign, bench, advertising column, curb or news-stand. This scale is one of the few survivors.”


Blog readers also found it out that the scale was made by the Max Sielaff Maschinenfabrik in Berlin’s Neukölln, around 1900 according to the catalog of the Jeger Automatensammlung. Its colleagues still operating in the Berlin subway stations are shown in a complete flickr photo series.


The Cişmigiu Park was established at mid-1800 as a walking park around the lake laying at that time at the edge of the old town. Between the two wars it was already embraced by the city, and it has become a boating lake, a favorite place of entertainment for the people of Bucharest, and the scene of several popular novels. Here stood the famous Thierry restaurant, which was demolished after the communist takeover, and a large number of amateur photographers offered their services around the lake.


The visitor is caught by an Oriental feeling at the mere hearing of the name, since its origin, the Turkish ceşme, “fountain” is a Persian loan word which originally means both “source” and “eye”. The Cişmigiu is the only remaining eye of Bucharest. The other, once adjacent one, of which only the name – Parcul Izvor, Fountain Park – recalls the former lake, was annihilated in the 80s, during the building of the “White House”, together with the greatest part of old Bucharest.