Mircea Dinescu on Port Cetate
The Culture Port Cetate rose from the ashes of the former port of grains which had come into existence around 1880, back in the days when wheat couldn’t sprout out of asphalt the way it does today, and the Viennese croissant was baked with the very flour coming by paddle-steamer all the way from Cetate.
In 1945 the port was closed down and its offices converted into barracks for the border patrol, while the wheat grain unexpectedly changed its adventurous course Moscow-wards. The grain merchants registered with the port, about one thousand of them, including large numbers of Greeks and Jews, took their cue to emigrate or alternately languished away in communist prisons.
After the revolution of December 1989, the main office building of the port, designed by Italian architects, was vandalized by the locals and demoted to a shed accommodating twelve porkers and two cows.
That’s what it looked like when I happened to stumble across it—sans doors, sans glass, sans roof, sans everything, with the forlorn looks of a dame of noble birth gone to seed and uttering a mute protest bringing to mind the lament of a Romanian prince’s wife ravished by Sinan Pasha’s bashi-basouks: 'Alas, alack, the heathens have disgraced me!'
With the money I made by selling the shares I owned in a political satire magazine going by the name of 'Academia Caţavencu', where I used to contribute a weekly editorial for eight years running, I was able, in 1997, to purchase the ruin and have it transformed into a haven for the arts. In the absence of grain, we’ve been trying to fill our barns with sculptors, writers, painters and musicians, and, as in the year 2000 the Romanian government was all set to market the idea of a theme park in Transylvania—Dracula Park—we retaliated polemically, for the sake of argument, by starting an Angel Park on the banks of the Danube, an area strewn with statues of angels, assuming that Romania was not the exclusive seat of the devil—angels, too, must have haunted it, at least marginally.
The people of Cetate, located just across the river from Bulgaria and only a few kilometers’ distance from Serbia, claim that local cocks crow in three languages—Serbian, Bulgarian, and Romanian—which makes the idea of a multinational port of culture fit the location like a glove.
Our pottery kilns are competing with ovens where rams are roasted, courtesy of the farm run by a poet who’s lost his wits to husbandry, while the heated tirades of foreign authors invited to participate in the debates are quenched with the wine coming straight from Dinescu’s vineyards. All things considered, next to Rimbaud the slave merchant, Dinescu the wine merchant is but a babe in arms. So have no qualms about gracing his humble abode with your presence.
I do assure you that all artistic events taking place in Cetate will be faithfully attended, as customary, by the neighbouring woods, the river Danube, the sparrows and the crows—whose propensity for culture is already proverbial.