Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 11-13 Oct; Road trip to Sinaia and Orasul Stalin (Brasov)

Thu 11-Oct-56:  Met Artist Union caricaturists
Fri 12-Oct-56:     Sinaia 2:30pm through Ploesti & top of mountain
Sat 13-Oct-56:   Orasul Stalin had picnic lunch just below snow line. Staying at Carpati Hotel [now the Aro Palace]. Cabaret night at hotel

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0050

Thurs, 10 Oct [11 Oct 1956]

Dorothy – I write it that way because I sometimes say it with affection. Tonight I don’t need and dear or darling, to go with it. I say it, the way, maybe seldom, it can be said over your shoulder when you least expect it. When for the simple reason that my barriers are down and I realise that you and Graham are all I have and you are smothered in zut. This corn makes me embarrassed, possibly sick. But there is nothing like a bit of corn at times for sentiment. False or true is for you to decide. I worry about Graham – Are you & he getting on smoothly? I hear roundaboutly that I leave on the 18 Oct. [Unrest was brewing in Hungary and they wanted to get Wep out before the Soviets swept in.] How & in what direction I don’t know but will advise you later. Tomorrow or Friday I am going to Siniai, & other odd centres finishing at Cluj. We are going in a car, which is a real luxury. My stomach has finally rebelled against the excessive quantities of food. I have got to the stage where I could scream for nothing but a plate of bacon & eggs for dinner. I have been treated like one of the ex Arch Dukes – nothing is too much for the Institute to arrange. Tonight I met about 6 – 8 newspaper cartoonists in their Artists Union Palace. All very trying at first, but finished up like newspaper men anywhere else in the world. They gave me, on behalf of the Union about 6 massive volumes on Rumanian Art. I shall have to trust to chance with the Rumanian post or charter another plane to bring them all home. Their ignorance of Australia is abysmal, as is ours of Rumania. Am dreading the plane trip back, but am looking forward to being home. How Beryl Whiteley, manages to stick all this time away, is beyond me. Just near the pub is the gallery [The National Museum of Art of Romania], where this afternoon, I found 3 Rembrandts, I was disappointed in, 2 Brueghels, so, so. But all in all there are so many artists who speak a message across the years. That is something of the sublimity of the human spirit. No one is alone if they can see & feel what other humans (with all the same problems) have managed to transmit through the ages, since they were conceived. It is a direct contact with any other, possibly, important being, but most of all, a human trying to communicate something of wonder, & mystery, of being. The newspaper artists have asked me to do a drawing for the paper. I shall oblige in the morning. I have met no artists (fine) of any sort. If I don’t report the good gen on Rumania it is not my fault. I have done my best to find out what Socialist Realism means to these people. I believe I have arrived at an approximation of the truth. Once again, spare the mother, and spoil the child. I’m 12,000 miles away, thinking of you, & your nicest points – of Graham, and his unknown problems, and of what Sydney is looking like. Goodnight my dear folk,


The Rumanian People's Republic, Political and Administrative Map, Rumania Today, No 2, 1961, p2
The Rumanian People’s Republic, Political and Administrative Map, Rumania Today, No 2, 1961, p2
Peles Castle, Sinaia, Romania; 12 October 1956
Peles Castle, Sinaia, Romania; 12 October 1956
Peles Castle, Sinaia, Romania; 12 October 1956

Sinaia 11pm [Fri 12 Oct 1956]. I am up in the hills where King Carol & such dynasty had one of their 142 castles. Socially, it would be like Moss Vale or Bowral. You know the palace & all the wealthy hangers-about. Many fine & expensive homes all in the most appalling taste – the palace [Castelul Peles (Peles Castle)] probably being the worst – a bastardised mixture of Tudor & Renaissance with many statues & stairways onto the lawns. All horribly expensive – and rather sad when you think of the draining out of the peasant lives that went to its building. I, perhaps thinks only that way because it was late in the afternoon, getting dark, & the forest surrounding, silent & sombre in its autumnal death. Just now a train whistle blew & its echos resounds in the valley – even the initial blast was nothing like ours – Quite different – like a high pitched squeal.

Seby Havy (via Flickr) Picture taken in Predeal (see on googlemaps today's location: www.google.ro/maps/@45.4819932,25.565765,3a,75y,22.36h,79...)
A stop at Predeal, Romania; 12 October 1956
A stop on the way from Sinaia to Predeal, Romania; 12 October 19
A stop at Predeal, Romania; 12 October 1956
Seby Havy (via Flickr) - I am not 100% sure (let's say 98%) but the photo is taken in Predeal (see googlemaps for nowaday's location: www.google.ro/maps/@45.5083145,25.5754042,3a,75y,108.78h,...). In the right, just behind the walking man is the railway road Bucharest-Brasov. I am also suspecting the sheds from right and from left (that's one is for sure) belonged to CFR (Romanian National Railway Society)
A stop at Predeal, Romania; 12 October 1956
Cabana Cioplea, Predeal, Romania; 12 October 1956
Cabana Cioplea, Predeal, Romania; 12 October 1956
Stefanie Rotaru outside the Cabana Cioplea, Predeal, Romania; 12
Stefanie Rotaru outside the Cabana Cioplea, Predeal, Romania; 12 October 1956
Bill Pidgeon (Wep) outside the Cabana Cioplea, Predeal, Romania;
Bill Pidgeon (Wep) outside the Cabana Cioplea, Predeal, Romania; 12 October 1956

The driver took us further up the mountain this afternoon – and we visited an hotel [Cabana Cioplea near Predeal, now the Complex Verona Predeal Hotel] for the worker built at about 4,000 ft. Wonderful skiing country. Even this afternoon there was lots of snow around the building & on the road & pines leading to it. Higher, the mountains were completely covered – It was very beautiful – Sinaia, below in the valley, the fine crisp air & the trees all gold & red – with pines still holding snow.

The palace [Peles Castle] is now a museum.

Palace (Hotel), near Strada Octavian Goga, Sinaia; 12 October 1956
Behind the Palace (Hotel), on Strada Octavian Goga, Sinaia; 12 O
Behind the Palace (Hotel), on Strada Octavian Goga, Sinaia; 12 October 1956
Casino Sinaia, 2nd Carol I Avenue, Sinaia, Romania; 12 October 1956
[Bucarest, Romania 1956]
Wep’s painting of Casino Sinaia, Romania, which he painted in 1957

This very big hotel [Hotel Palace Sinaia] is full of workers on a free holiday. The very fine casino [Casino Sinaia] across the park from my window – now a clubhouse for the proletariat. All rather funny & just somehow. The peoples who were pressed to build these really quite amazing flamboyancies are now roaming around all over them like flies. As yet, they don’t look like they belong. More piercing whistles from the trains – sound rolling down & around the mountains like wine on the palate. After dinner I sat and watched the crowd dancing on the marble floor to the accompaniment of a dreadful German dance band played back on tape recorded from a German broadcast. Later a Russian band music – which, anyway was better to dance to because of its less sentimental quality. During the re-playing a Russian (people mixer) dance called a Pearinita was played. Jolly to watch – somehow charming – they are all in a moving ring & one person in the centre has a handkerchief which he or she places before one in the ring. The one chosen drops out and both kneel with one knee on the handkerchief & kiss. The partner chosen then chooses someone else – and so on.

Was lovely to see & walk on the snow – These Carpathian Mountains are beautiful – Its all like a dream – but the flaming dysentery I have copped for the day spoilt it a bit. I miss you both very much – even the lovely cool (cold to some) weather, hardly makes up for it all. Tomorrow I hope to take some photographs of the village. The way up did not seem real – It is the first I have really seen of European dinkum country – All somehow most intangible – & strange – something for the memory to hold.

Saturday night – (Orasul Stalin) [13 Oct 1956]

Orasul Stalin (Brasov), Romania; 13 October 1956
Orasul Stalin (Brasov), Romania; 13 October 1956
Brasov Council Square (Piata Sfatului) viewed from behind the Bl
Brasov Council Square (Piata Sfatului) viewed from behind the Black Church (Biserica Neagra), Orasul Stalin, Romania; 13 October 1956

Dear Girl. These cities look so nice by night – all the lovely silhouettes of the churches & ex municipal Halls have an unreality of sight. When you have a perfect half moon & 1,000 ft of mountain coming straight up your backyard things are not the same. I am in Orasul Stalin, nee Brashov and I don’t care for it. Most depressing. Not so much the town as the inhabitants. It’s a thing I can’t get accustomed to. During the day the inhabitants look like something out of the tip. In the evening they dress up & look & act normal enjoyable folk. I shall work it all out with your help. This place is only about 80 miles out of Bucharest yet the people are different in appearance & attitude. It’s like going from Sydney to Marulan and being in another country. Here, mostly Hungarian or German is spoken and the people have a different look. The hotel orchestra, for one thing, is sharper & keener & so is the service in the pub. I am on the eighth floor of this place & have a beautiful room with bath, etc. All these places seem to be mad with the horror of cold air. Despite the fact that winter temperatures get below 20°F zero they put on woollies. Sheepskin coats, overalls & eiderdowns when the temperatures are only 56° – 60°F cool (that is). Why do I try to keep on beefing out information about this trip. It is obvious to you I cannot cope with the multitudinous aspects. I will remember this night sitting in the best of rooms in the pub [Carpati Hotel] of Orasul Stalin (Brashov) mostly because it is cool & I can see the lights of the city and there are absolutely no motor headlights and I needed you here to keep remembrance with me. I fear that there may be some sourness between me & the driver & interpreter. I have been not arrogant. Manners may be mistaken. Wendy could be just the same. They are not old enough to realise the impoliteness of speaking their own tongue amongst their colleagues who can speak English too. That is when    I can’t it simply at the moment!

I came over the Carpathians (Alps) today & struck quite a bit of snow. Took some pictures but doubt if they will be any good. I got a couple taken of me just to prove that I have been here.

At a rest stop whilst crossing the Carpathian Mountains between Ploesti and Sinaia on the way to Orasul Stalin (Brasov), Romania; 12 October 1956
Bill Pidgeon (Wep) at a rest stop whilst crossing the Carpathian Mountains between Ploesti and Sinaia on the way to Orasul Stalin (Brasov), Romania; 12 October 1956
At a rest stop whilst crossing the Carpathian Mountains between Ploesti and Sinaia on the way to Orasul Stalin (Brasov), Romania; 12 October 1956
Wep’s interpreter, Stefania Rotaru, and possibly their driver at a rest stop outside the Hotel Cota 1400, Sinaia whilst crossing the Carpathian Mountains on the way to Orasul Stalin (Brasov), Romania; 12 October 1956

You know, it’s very odd to think that I am sitting in the 8th floor of a hotel in Orasul Stalin (which no one in Australia has heard of) & the room is over steam-heated (I have all the windows open) and there is an occasional horn blowing & probably quite a few people walking around somewhere – and all this rather dreary & old world city is the centre of many lives & deaths & aspirations & frustrations that one has never heard of, and that in Djataka [Jakarta?] in Java, the same relationships between failure & success, (as in Singapore & Rome & Venice) are all going on – and what does one do about it? Or can, for that matter? Millions of them living, hoping, and failing and dying, – some of them blessed with one who abides, many of them so completely alone. It does matter. I am convinced that the problem of living is dreary, anywhere in the world. People are the important units. The landscape is adaptable & suits all types. God, so much of this country looks like Australia. But the mountains are covered in autumn trees, golden & yellow leaves everywhere & whole thing like a photograph of it. It is all so bloody park like – give me the bush with its hard & mystic quality. The more I see of this park land the more I would like to suddenly transport its natives to beat the impact of our aridity & subtlety of colour. Dear Girl, I don’t expect how, to get any letters from you. But I hope you are getting along happily with Graham. I don’t speak much of him, but he is constantly in my thoughts. I know you understand. I wish you were with me. It would be very gay and sympathique. Much love & absence make the heart grow fonder; to you and the squab.

XXX with love,


Oil well near Ploesti, Romania; 12 October 1956
According to an acquaintance who grew up in Romania (Mona), the paint on the trees was to stop rabbits. Wep did a painting based on this scene
Near Peles Castle, Sinaia, Romania; 12 October 1956

[Romanian village]
[Romanian village near Peles Castle, Sinaia]
[Romania 1956]
[Romanian village near Peles Castle, Sinaia]

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