“The Illustrated London News” – 01st of April 1865
“BUCHAREST, THE SCENE OF THE LATE DESTRUCTIVE FLOODS.
The city of Bucharest, the capital of the United Danubian Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, has just been visited by a great misfortune. The Dimbowitza, a rivulet so unimportant in size that it can easily be forded in summer at almost any part, has been swollen by the enormous masses of snow which fell in February to such incredible proportions that the city now appears situated, not upon the banks but in the centre of a mighty stream like the Danube itself. Nearly one half of the straggling extent of Bucharest is submerged, and the houses seem ranged less in streets than upon the borders of canals. Many of these houses continue to fall, as the waves dash huge bergs of ice and half-melted snow against the yielding walls. The disaster has chiefly overtaken the poorer class of the population, whose wretched huts border the banks of the river and constitute the low-lying quarters of the town, while the palaces and massive houses of the wealthy in the upper districts are comparatively safe. All the bridges are submerged, and intercourse with the sufferers (who have taken refuge in the upper stories of their houses, or, where these do not exist, have fled to the roofs) is only possible by means of boats and rafts. It is to be regretted that no precautions were taken by the Government to avert this misfortune.
The unusual quantities of snow which fell last month rendered inundation certain, provided, as actually happened, the snow was succeeded by rapid thaw, with warm showers of rain. Nevertheless, when the first flood took place, upon the evening of the 13th, there was not a single boat or even a raft in readiness; but these means of escape had first to be hurriedly fetched from the dykes at Mogurelli and Magoschoi. On the other hand, it seems that after the disaster every possible means were taken by the Government, the military, and the whole population to render assistance. -Prince Couza, with an Aide-de-Camp, rode in person through the streets, to see where help was most required. M. Margiloman, the Prefect of Police, has exhibited an indefatigable activity in organising measures for the rescue of the sufferers. The troops, especially the artillery and engineers, are employed upon rafts roughly put together, under the orders of their officers, in saving lives and property, and also in bringing provisions to those who cannot or will not leave their homes. Bread, meat, wine, and spirits are readily and voluntarily furnished by the wealthier inhabitants of the upper districts, and the unfortunate people who have been dislodged are received into the houses and palaces of the richer classes. Men of all classes and parties vie in the benevolent task of assisting their fellows. This is the only relief in the gloomy picture which presents itself to the observer who stands upon the brink of the torrent and sees ruins of houses, furniture, property, the corpses of men, and the dead bodies of animals borne rapidly past him by the flood.
We publish on this occasion a View of the city of Bucharest in its ordinary aspect and a few Illustrations of the costumes of different classes of the population. They are engraved from photographs by M. Szathmari, of that city, for which we are indebted to an English resident, Dr. Mawer.
– iced water seller
Bucharest itself—which name, in the Rouman language, means the City of Joy—is situated about forty miles from the’ banks of the Danube. It is built in a hollow, surrounded on every side by hills, and has at a distance a very pretty appearance, the houses being nearly all detached and having large courts and gardens belonging to them. The visitor must descend before he can realise the wretched state of the ill-paved streets, the dust, and the noxious odours but too often prevalent in an Eastern city. The public gardens, of which there are two, are exceedingly pretty, tastefully laid out. and well kept. The Chaussee garden, which is about half a mile beyond the barrier, is the public drive and promenade of the aristocracy, and on a summer’s evening there are few capitals which can vie with this in the elegance of the equipages and the dress of the ladies: indeed, their dress rather exceeds what good taste would warrant. The Wallachians, as a nation, are quick, lively, and joyous. They are well educated, and, generally, good linguists, speaking French, German, and Greek with equal facility; but French is the language of the Court and upper classes. The Rouman or native language very much resembles the Italian, and evidently has the same Latin origin. The Wallachians claim to be an ancient Dacian colony of Rome. Their religion is the Greek faith, and there are said to be in Bucharest alone 365 churches. One of the greatest attractions is a pretty opera-house, and a tolerable troupe of Italian singers during the winter months; there is also a Wallachian and German theatre. The climate is in winter very severe, and there is often three months’ continuous sledging; but the summer is warm, marking 85 deg. in the shade ; this heat is compensated for by the quantity of fine melons and delicious, grapes, which are to be had at a very moderate price. It is contemplated to introduce railways, English machinery, and many other improvements into the country; so that we may hope the day is not far distant when the streets will be tolerable for pedestrians, and the daily wants of a city numbering more than 150,000 inhabitants more quickly and easily supplied. The chief public buildings of Bucharest are—the palace of the ruler, Prince Couza, which is situated, with the metropolitan church, in a spacious square in the centre of the town—the ” Fire Tower,” which commands a view of the whole city, and where a watchman is continually stationed to give warning of the outbreak of any conflagration- the churches, hospitals, monasteries, and a college of five hundred students. The picturesque and half-Oriental appearance of the figures shown in our smaller Illustrations will not escape the reader’s eye.