The cableway was an especially popular and emblematic instrument of the former Soviet tourism. Where a mountain loomed around a popular resort place, there sooner or later also appeared the ropeway, the monument of Soviet industry, providing at the same time the illusion of the subjugation of nature, of consumption, and of a kind of materialized and allowed mysticism. In Yalta they built even two, and we are going to try both of them. The first one lets the tourist fly to Ay-Petri, the mountain of Saint Peter, rising 1.200 meters high immediately at the seashore and offering a dizzying spectacle over the city. And the second one, the cable car taking you directly from the corso to Darsan Hill in the city center, was the focus of the key scene of Assa (1989), the cult film of the Soviet change of regime: by getting on it, the lovers rise above the stifling Soviet reality and their own fears, with the most magical song of the late 80s, the Golden City sounding in the background, about which we have written in detail. For the former viewers of Assa to enter the cable cabin also means a time travel: over twenty-five years the scene has not changed much, maybe just the domes of the Alexander Nevsky Catheral were regilded.

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Akvarium: Город золотой (Golden city). Mosfilm recently does not allow the embedding of this video, but you must necessarily lsten to this song together with the video taken from the film. See here the lyrics and its translation.

However, the most spectacular realization of Soviet cableway is tied to a city which is not golden at all, which at those times knew no tourists, and even today it is still not easy to get there. The city of Chiatura in the Imereti region of Georgia was at that time the main source of manganese production not only in the Soviet Union, but in all the world. The narrow inner part of the city lying in a deep canyon is completely filled by the manganese mine and the Stalin Baroque city center, so the workers living in the socialist blocks of houses built on the top of the cliffs were transported down there and back by an intricate network of aerial tramways. Seventeen of the aged cableway lines still work, offering such a post-apocalyptic dimension of their symbolism as a monument of Soviet industry, which its builders in the heyday of manganese mining probably did not have in mind. A photo report on these was published earlier at the Russian Livejournal, but the pictures of the excellent New Zealand photographer Amos Chapple, which appeared just a few days ago in The Atlantic, emphasize more dramatically this dimension.

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Interestingly, right next to Chiatura works the other cableway that maximizes the other symbolic value of the Soviet cable car, the experience of the metaphorical elevation associated with the material ascension. The romantic appearance of the Katskhi Cliff invites sublime associations, so it is no wonder that Father Maxime from adolescent age – “when I used to drink with friends in the hills around here” – longed to someday live on its top as a lonely stylite. After lengthy detours – “I drank, sold drugs, everything” – he eventually realized this dream. The needs of the body are provided for by the comfortably furnished cell and the food regularly sent up via ropeway by the monks living in the monastery below, while the maintenance of the soul’s constant level of elevation by the unique view. “It is up here in the silence that you can feel God’s presence”, points out Father Maxime with satisfaction the fast way of mysticism. And the Georgian national tourist administration, to cater this spiritual experience to a possibly large public, plans to build a cable way for passenger transport from the valley to the hermitage on the cliff.

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These photos are by Amos Chapple, too. But some further good photo series on the cliff can be also found at Russian photo bloggers, like masterok or cyxymi. And the unknown blog author at even managed to meet with Fater Maxime himself, who often descends to the monastery to live some social life:

“As I arrived at the monastery, I was offered buckwheat porridge and three glasses of «Odessa» wine, and they said that if I wish to settle there permanently, I am welcome at any time. And then suddenly appeared Father Maxime, whose portrait below I managed to capture for the history. He posed to me two or three polite questions. And then something very strange happened. I gathered my things, and headed toward the exit. Two boys came with me, and at the gate they gave me 10 lari (about 5 USD). «Father Maxime asked us to give it to you», they said.

Mysterious. I would have willingly talked to him a bit about this long and terrible journey. But in the end I did not talk. From his point of view I might have been just a banal tourist with a large camera.”

El atlas de Crimea

Sobre Crimea, una de las regiones más hermosas de Europa, apenas hay fuentes de información fuera de Ucrania o Rusia. Ahora, mientras preparamos nuestro viaje, empezamos a colocar una serie de materiales de interés. El primero es este doble mapa detallado de la zona. Al clicar sobre cualquiera de las imágenes se abrirá la sección correspondiente en una ventana aparte. Las secciones del mapa que abarca la península entera (3-16) se abrirán en una escala de 1:300.000, mientras que para las de la región meridional, más turística (17-23), la resolución es de 1:60.000. En las secciones 3-16 unas pequeñas estrellas rojas indican los monumentos históricos y los lugares naturales más importantes. En breve colocaremos cada sección individualmente –empezando por las más atractivas 14-15-16, que son el escenario principal de nuestro viaje– de modo que pasando el puntero por encima de cada estrella aparecerá una imagen junto a una breve descripción en una ventana flotante. A continuación seguirán los mapas de las ciudades de Crimea. Volved pronto a comprobarlo.

Crimea por secciones

Las ciudades de Crimea

The atlas of Crimea

As about the Crimea, one of Europe’s most beautiful regions there are almost no sources outside of Ukraine and Russia, now as a preparation for our journey we start to put up here some helpful materials. We start with the detailed map of the Crimea. By clicking on the two overall maps, the sections open in another window, those of the whole peninsula (3-16) in a scale of 1:300,000, and those of the touristically most interesting southern coast (17-23) in 1:60,000. In the sections 3-16 small red stars indicate the most important historical monuments and natural attractions. Soon we will put up the individual sections – beginning with the most exciting 14-15-16, the main theater of our journey – so that by moving the mouse above the red stars, their thumbnail photo and short descriptions will appear in a floating window. This will be followed by the maps of the cities of the Crimea. Look back soon.

The Crimean Peninsula by sections

The cities of the Crimean Peninsula

Vámonos a Crimea

Entre el 27 de octubre y 3 de noviembre (de domingo a domingo), invitamos a nuestros lectores a acompañarnos a la península de Crimea, una de las regiones más bellas y más elegantes zonas de ocio del antiguo imperio ruso. Llegaremos en avión desde Budapest, pasando por Kiev, a Simferopol, la capital de la región autónoma de Crimea, y desde nuestras dos bases de operaciones, una pensión familiar tradicional tártara en Bajchisarái y luego otra rusa en Yalta, viajaremos en autobús alrededor de aquella península de inmensa diversidad étnica, rica tanto en antiguos monumentos como en fascinantes bellezas naturales. Exploraremos la Bajchisarái tártara, visitando el Palacio del Khan, veremos las históricas ciudades de cuevas, Chufut Kale, la capital de los judios caraítas con su cementerio medieval, Eski Kerman, el antiguo centro en la montaña del kanato tártaro, y Mangup, capital del reino medieval gótico de Crimea. Iremos hasta el puerto naval ruso de Sebastopol, entrando en la vieja base secreta de submarinos, los lugares de la Guerra de Crimea, la fortaleza genovesa de Balaklava, la capilla votiva de la familia imperial en la montaña que domina la playa de Foros, y las ruinas del antiguo Quersoneso griego, cuna del cristianismo ruso. Peregrinaremos a los monasterios-cueva, fundados en su mayoría en época bizantina y renovados en el siglo XIX, de Inkerman, Mangup, el monasterio de la Ascensión, la iglesia de San Cosme y Damian, lugar de peregrinación en la montaña, el monasterio armenio de la Santa Cruz. Recorreremos los palacios de verano de la familia imperial y de la aristocracia rusa, desde el Palacio Vorontsov en Miskhor al Palacio de Livadia en Yalta, donde tuvo lugar la famosa conferencia de 1945. Y haremos varias excursiones más a las montañas, desde las pintorescas columnas de basalto de Demerdzhi pasando por el pico de Ai-Petri que sube hasta los 1.200 metros desde la playa, hasta las formaciones rocosas de la costa del Parque Natural de Karadagh.

Hasta el día de nuestra partida vamos a ir presentando la península en detalle en una creciente entrada donde recogeremos la información sobre Crimea.

Coste previsto: 460€, incluyendo alojamiento, autobús y la visita guiada. Fecha límite de inscripción y pago: jueves, 29 de agosto. El precio mencionado no incluye el billete de avión, que ahora, si lo compramos con antelación, es de unos 200€ (Budapest-Kiev-Simferopol y vuelta). Puede inscribirse y solicitar más información en Será un placer poder atenderle en persona y darle todos los pormenores del programa completo.

Come with us to the Crimea!

Between 27 October and 3 November (Sunday to Sunday) we invite our readers to the Crimean peninsula, one of the most beautiful region and most elegant recreation area of the former Russian empire. We arrive by plane from Budapest through Kiev to Simferopol, the capital of the autonomous Crimea, and from our two headquarters, a traditional Tatar family pension in Bakhchisaray and then a Russian one in Yalta we travel by bus around the ethnically diverse peninsula, which is rich both in ancient monuments and in fascinating natural beauties. We walk around the Tatar Bakhchisaray, visit the Khan’s Palace, go to see the historical cave cities, Chufut Kale, the capital of the Karaite Jews and their medieval cemetery, Eski Kerman, the former mountain center of the Tatar Khanate, and Mangup, the capital of the medieval Crimean Gothic kingdom. We go to see the Russian naval port in Sevastopol, enter the once secret submarine base, the sites of the Crimean war, the Genoese fortress in Balaklava, the votive chapel of the imperial family on the mountain above the beach of Foros, and the ruins of the ancient Greek Chersonesus, the birthplace of Russian Christianity. We make pilgrimage to the cave monasteries, mainly founded in Byzantine times, and renewed in the 19th century, of Inkerman, Mangup, the Ascension monastery, the St. Cosmas and Damian mountain pilgrimage church, the Armenian Holy Cross Monastery. We visit the summer palaces of the imperial family and of the Russian aristocracy, from the Vorontsov Palace in Miskhor to the Livadia Palace in Yalta, where the famous conference of 1945 was organized. And we make many trips to the mountains, from the bizarre basalt columns of Demerdzhi through the peak of Ai-Petri rising 1200 meters high right on the beach to the seashore rock formations of the Karadagh Nature Reserve.

Until departure we try to present the peninsula in detail on our ever expanding Crimean collection post.

Planned costs: 460 euro, which includes lodging, the bus and the guided tour. Final deadline of registration and payment: 29 August, Thursday. The above cost does not include the price of the plane ticket, which now, if we buy it in time, is about 200 euro (Budapest-Kiev-Simferopol and back). You can register via the usual, where we will also provide more information and full program.

Béla Bartók: Danzas populares rumanas

Béla Bartók con su fonógrafo, registrando canciones populares de campesinos eslovacos de Zobordarázs (hoy Dražovce, parte de la ciudad de Nitra, Eslovaquia), 1907

En 1909 Béla Bartók comenzó a recoger música folclórica rumana en los alrededores de Belényes / Beiuş animado por su amigo rumano y maestro de la zona János Buşiţia. Continuó el trabajo de recopilación al año siguiente, y también en los años 1912-1913, realizando varias giras en diferentes regiones rumanas de Hungría Oriental (actual Rumania). Basándose en el material recolectado compuso en 1915 la pieza para piano Danzas populares rumanas, que dedicó a su amigo de Belényes. En 1917 también la arregló para orquesta, y en 1925 Zoltán Székely hizo una logradísima transcripción para violín y piano.

La pieza de sólo cinco o seis minutos de duración consiste en seis movimientos, seis danzas distintas. La 1 Jocul cu Bata (Danza del bastón) la obtuvo de dos gitanos –un violinista y un violista popular– en Mezőszabad / Voiniceni; la 2 Brâul (Danza en ruedo) y 3 Pe loc (Pisando), danza de pareja, de un gaitero de Egres / Igriş; la 4 Buciumeana (Danza de Bucium), con un tiempo de tres por cuatro, de un violinista gitano en Bucsony / Bucium; la 5 Poarga Românească (Polka rumana) de un violinista rumano en Belényes / Beiuş, al igual que la 6 Mărunţelul (Pasos cortos), danza rápida de pareja.

Cientos de versiones de la obra están disponibles en la red. La complejidad y diversidad de las estructuras rítmicas que se desarrollan dentro de una estricta base rítmica, la rápida sucesión de diferentes estilos de baile de Europa del Este unidos a otros temas más orientales, ha inspirado numerosas versiones y ha hecho que estas Danzas rumanas del compositor húngaro hayan sido sentidas como propias por distintas culturas y pueblos. Con tantas versiones se ha convertido en una especie de melodía errante, de manera similar a aquella Melodía otomana, hace tiempo escuchada, que fue adoptada por todos los pueblos desde Anatolia, atravesando los Balcanes, hasta el Mediterráneo. A continuación reunimos algunas de estas versiones.*

Bálint Vázsonyi and Oliver Colbentson

Versión original para piano, interpretada por Bálint Vázsonyi (1936-2003) con la energía que requieren las danzas originales.

Arreglo para violín y piano, con similar fuerza que la anterior, en interpretación de  Oliver Colbentson (1927-2013) y Erich Appel.

La Banda Gitana Rajkó, Budapest, 2004

The Klezmer All Star Clarinet Gang, 2006. Arreglos del mandolinista, Avi Avital

El Atem Saxophone Quartet, italiano. Civitanova, Marche, 20 Aug. 2011

El cuarteto de clarinete Macedonia

El argentino Brian Caballero al bandoneón

Liu Fang (pipa = laúd clásico chino) y Michael O’Toole (guitarra). Catedral de Waterford, 29 de Sept. 2008

Ma Xiaohui (erhu = violín clásico chino de dos cuerdas) y Tim Ovens (piano). Shanghai

El conjunto de metales italiano Ottomanìa, versión llena de soluciones originales, Roma, Palazzo Barberini, 19 de junio de 2011. (YouTube no permite colocar aquí el vídeo, puede verse en su web.)

Dos interpretaciones de niños progio del lejano oriente, de Corea (Shin Sihan, violín, Jan Hoitjink, piano) y una niña japonesa de ocho años (piano solo), ambos tocan con una sensibilidad brillante esta pieza
de una cultura tan lejana.

Y por último, una versión orquestal de la Academia de Música de Budapest, a cargo de la Orquesta Danubia dirigida por Domonkos Heja, donde antes de cada movimiento el grupo de música tradicional Muzsikás reproduce las versiones populares originales tal como fueron registradas por Bartók. El video de arriba contiene l’introducción por Muzsikás con los dos primeros movimientos, mientras el de abajo la versión orquestal con el resto.

Las danzas en las originales grabaciones del campo por Bartók, de los archivos del Istituto de Musicología de la Academia Húngara de Ciencias. Gracias al cargador original y a Kip W, que llamó nuestra atención a ellas.

Béla Bartók: Romanian folk dances

Béla Bartók collecting folk songs with phonograph from Slovakian peasants in Zobordarázs (today Dražovce, part of Nitra city, Slovakia), 1907

In 1909 Béla Bartók began to collect Romanian folk music around Belényes/Beiuș, encouraged by his local Romanian teacher friend János Bușiția. He also continued collecting in the following year and in 1912-1913, making several tours in various Romanian regions of Eastern Hungary (now Romania). Based on the material collected, in 1915 he composed the piano piece Romanian folk dances, which he dedicated to his friend in Belényes. In 1917 he also arranged it for orchestra, and in 1925 Zoltán Székely made of it a highly successful transcription for violin and piano.

The only five or six minutes long piece consists of six movements, six separate dances. The 1 Jocul cu bâtă (Stick Dance) was collected from two Gypsies – a violinist and a folk viola player – in Mezőszabad/Voiniceni, the 2 Brâul (Round Dance) and 3 Pe loc (Stamping) pair dance from a piper in Egres/Igriș, the 4 Buciumeana (Dance of Bucium) with a three-quarter time from a Gypsy violinist in Bucsony/Bucium, the 5 Poarga românească (Romanian Polka) from a Romanian fiddler in Belényes/Beiuș, just like the 6 Mărunțelul (Short steps) fast pair dance.

Several hundred versions of this piece are available on the net. The complexity and diversity of the rhythm structures within the tight basic rhythm, the rapid alternation of the different dance styles, the Eastern European and even more oriental tunes have inspired many adaptations, and the Romanian dances of the Hungarian composer were felt by many cultures and peoples as their own. By way of these versions it became a kind of a wandering melody, similarly to the formerly heard Ottoman melody, which has been adopted by every people from Anatolia through the Balkans to the Mediterranean. Below we present some of these versions. *

Bálint Vázsonyi and Oliver Colbentson

The original version for piano, played by Bálint Vázsonyi (1936-2003) just as energetically as the original dances must have been.

The violin-piano transcription in the similarly powerful performance by Oliver Colbentson (1927-2013) and Erich Appel.

The Rajkó Gypsy Band, Budapest, 2004

The Klezmer All Star Clarinet Gang, 2006. Arranged by the mandolin player, Avi Avital

The Italian Atem Saxophone Quartet, Civitanova, Marche, 20 Aug. 2011

The Macedonia Clarinet Quartet

The Argentine Brian Caballero on bandoneon

Liu Fang (pipa = Classical Chinese lute) and Michael O’Toole (guitar). Waterford Cathedral, 29 Sept. 2008

Ma Xiaohui (erhu = Classical Chinese two-stringed violin) and Tim Ovens (piano). Shanghai

The Italian brass band Ottomanìa, a version full of original solutions, Rome, Palazzo Barberini, 19 June 2011. (YouTube does not allow the embedding of the video, you can see it on their site.)

Two Far Eastern prodigy child performances, from Korea (Shin Sihan, violin, Jan Hoitjink, piano) and an eight-year-old Japanese girl (solo piano), both of them interpreting with a brilliant sensitivity this piece from a remote culture

Ad finally an orchestral version at the Academy of Music of Budapest, by the Danubia Orchestra conducted by Domonkos Héja, where before each movement the Muzsikás Folk Ensemble plays the original folk versions with their own decorations. The first video is the introduction by the Muzsikás with the first two movements, the second one the orchestral version with the rest.

The dances in Bartók’s original field recordings from the archives of the Institute of Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Thanks to the original uploader and to Kip W, who called our attention to them.