Bucuresti: The Linden Tree Inn (Hanul cu Tei)

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The Linden Inn – a caravanserai from the old Bucharest
 

The Linden Inn is located in the Old Town of Bucharest on Lipscani Street at number 63. There is a passage secured with iron gates that are the entrances inside the inner court of The Linden Inn, built in 1833 – 1834 by two merchants, Anastasie Hagi Gheorghe Polizu and Ştefan Popovici “with the entire expenses divided in two, as brothers”. Each one of them had 14 shops with iron shutters, placed over deep, spacious cellars, on each side of the courtyard. Nowadays the ground floor is home to many art galleries selling paintings and antiques, art supplies stores and a cellar bar. The inn was turned in the 1970s into this bunch of interesting antique and art shops. Especially the painting shops are interesting, while the whole inner yard, that used to provide a welcome break from the city bustle outside, has nowadays been turned into a fancy cafe, and the contrasts between past and present are captivating. The upper floor is worked in wood and covered by glass panels as was typical at the time. It was restored between the years 1969-1973 by the architect professor Joja in the same inspired fashion he used for Manuc’s Inn.
 
The Linden Inn is one of the few caravanserai in Bucharest that preserved its original shape (another one perfectly preserved being the Manuc Inn). The inner courtyard links streets of Lipscani with Blănari. The inn has at the entrance from Blănari Street, above the entrance gate, the seal of the two merchants that had it built with their initials, A.P. and S.P. Together with buildings on Șelari and Lipscani streets, the inn provides a good introduction to the Wallachian glass covered facade which can still be admired in Bucharest, Craiova and in some other cities Romanian cities.
 
Bucharest was once full with inns like this one, where travelers could enjoy a meal and a drink and secure shelter for the night. Unfortunately many of the old inns are lost or are in ruin. Even The Linden Inn changed its destination and today it houses an art gallery, but you can still get a feel of the 19th century atmosphere.
 
A caravanserai, or khan, or fondouk (han in Turkish), also known as caravansary, caravansera, or caravansara in English or Sarai in Indian subcontinent was a roadside inn where travelers could rest and recover from the day’s journey. Caravanserais supported the flow of commerce, information, and people across the network of trade routes covering Asia, North Africa, and southeastern Europe, especially along the Silk Road.
 
These were found frequently along the Persian Empire’s Royal Road, a 2,500 kilometer long ancient highway that stretched from Sardis (capital of the kingdom of Lydia in Asia Minor) to Susa (imperial capital of Elam) according to Herodotus: “Now the true account of the road in question is the following: Royal stations exist along its whole length, and excellent caravansaries; and throughout, it traverses an inhabited tract, and is free from danger.”
 
Most typically a caravanserai was a building with a square or rectangular walled exterior, with a single portal wide enough to permit large or heavily laden beasts such as camels to enter. The courtyard was almost always open to the sky, and the inside walls of the enclosure were outfitted with a number of identical stalls, bays, niches, or chambers to accommodate merchants and their servants, animals, and merchandise.
 
These buildings provided accommodation and other amenities for the merchants and stabling for their animals and also water for human and animal consumption, washing, and ritual ablutions. Sometimes they had elaborate baths. They also kept fodder for animals and had shops for travelers where they could acquire new supplies. In addition, some shops bought goods from the traveling merchants.
 
Trade across Turkey in medieval Seljuk times was dependent on camel trains (kervan, anglicized as caravan), which stopped by night in inns known as kervansaray or caravanserai, literally ‘caravan palaces’. Caravanserais were first seen in Central Asia during the times of Caravans, Ghaznavids and the Great Seljuk State. They were building fortresses called “Ribat”. These buildings, first constructed as small buildings for military uses were later developed and changed into larger buildings and were used for both religious purposes and as inns for travelers.
 
Romania is not a first thought when the old Silk Routes are mentioned. Still, it was an important stopping point, a gateway into Europe. Bucharest boasted fine caravanserai inns, offering restaurant both in the inner courtyard, and in shelter when needed. The architecture of these structures has remained constant over country boundaries. The large square design, two stories on the outer walls, large usually single gate entry, tall and wide to accommodate loaded camels, a well, areas for praying, rooms all around, and accommodations for royal travelers as well as those on pilgrimage.
 
These took money and organization to sustain: unending need for fresh straw, filled ewers of liquids, even wines for the European trader heading east? There would be a scribe at the entry, recording your identity, your goods, your route, how many livestock. The idea dates, probably, from the 5th Century BC, although there are references in Middle Eastern tales, such as Gilgamesh, to a traveler finding accommodation, an inn, 3000 b.Chr. Inns, rather ramshackle, called “pandochions”, accepted all commerce as well, and the Good Samaritan of Bible Story, left inside the wounded travelers with no financial possibilities.

Hanul cu Tei – un caravanserai din vechiul Bucuresti
 

Hanul cu Tei se afla in Centrul Vechi din Bucuresti pe strada Lipscani la numarul 63. Este un pasaj strajuit de porti de fier care reprezinta intrarile in curtea interioara a Hanului cu Tei, construit in 1833 – 1834 de doi negustori, Anastasie Hagi Gheorghe Polizu si Ştefan Popovici “cu intreaga cheltuiala impartita in doua, ca fratii”. Fiecare din cei doi aveau cate 14 magazine cu obloane de fier, amplasate deasupra beciurilor adanci si spatioase, pe fiecare parte a curtii interioare. In prezent parterul adaposteste mai multe galerii de arta care vand tablouri si ustensile pentru pictura sau obiecte de arta vechi, o casa de licitatii si un bar amplasat in unul din beciuri. Hanul a fost transformat in anii ’70 in acest amalgam interesant de magazine pentru comercializarea artei si a lucrurilor vechi. In special magazinele dedicate artei sunt interesante, in timp ce intreaga curte interioara, care era folosita odinioara pentru a oferi o pauză binevenita de la agitația din afara orașului, a fost transformata in prezent intr-o cafenea de lux, iar contrastul intre trecut si prezent este captivant. Etajul este lucrat in lemn si acoperit cu panouri de sticla dupa cum era specificul in acea perioada. A fost restaurat in anii 1969-1973 de profesorul arhitect Joja in acelasi mod inspirat pe care l-a folosit pentru restaurarea Hanului lui Manuc.
 
Hanul cu Tei este unul din cele cateva caravanserai-uri din Bucuresti care a fost conservat in forma sa originala (un altul perfect conservat este Hanul lui Manuc). Curtea interioara uneste strazile Lipscani si Blănari. Hanul are la intrarea din strada Blănari, deasupra portii de la intrare, sigiliul celor doi negustori care este incrustat cu initialele lor, A.P. si S.P. Impreuna cu celelalte cladiri de pe strazile Șelari si Lipscani, hanul reprezinta o buna reprezentare a fatadelor cladirilor de odinioara acoperite cu sticla din Valahia, cladiri ce pot inca fi admirate in Bucuresti, Craiova si in alte orase din Romania.
 
Bucurestiul era odata plin cu hanuri ca acesta, hanuri unde calatorii se puteau bucura de o masa calda si gaseau de baut sau adapost peste noapte. Din pacate multe din vechile hanuri au fost distruse sau sunt in prezent in ruina. Insasi Hanul cu Tei si-a schimbat destinatia si in prezent adaposteste galerii de arta, casa de licitatii sau cafenea, insa o parte din atmosfera de odinioara din secolul 19 inca mai este prezenta.
 
Un caravanserai, sau han, sau fondouk (han in turceste), cunoscut si sub numele de caravansarai, caravansera, sau caravansara in engleza sau Sarai in subcontinentul Indian era un han aflat de-a lungul drumurilor comerciale unde calatorii se puteau odihni si reface dupa drumul parcurs in timpul zilei. Caravanserai-urile sustineau fluxul comercial, informatiile, si oamenii aflati in parcurgerea retelelor de drumuri comerciale care traversau Asia, Africa de Nord, si sud est-ul Europei, in special celebrul Drum al Matasii.
 
Aceste hanuri puteau fi gasite frecvent de-a lungul Drumului Regal din Imperiul Persan, un drum vechi si lung de 2.500 kilometeri care se intindea din Sardes (capitala regatului Lidia din Asia Mica) pana la Susa (capitala imperiului elamit) dupa spusele lui Herodot: “Acum, adevărata calitate a drumului în cauză este următoarea: statii regale exista pe toata lungimea drumului, precum si caravanserai-uri excelente; si pe toata lungimea drumului, se traverseaza o zona locuita, si care este libera de orice pericol.”
 
Cel mai specific pentru un caravanserai era cladirea de forma patrata sau dreptunghiulara cu pereti exteriori, cu o singura poarta de intrare suficient de larga pentru a permite accesul animalelor mari si încărcate cu marfuri, cum ar fi cămilele. Curtea interioara era aproape intotdeauna deschisa catre cer, iar peretii interiori ai incintei erau dotati cu mai multe boxe identice, bai, si alte spatii specifice sau camere pentru gazduirea negustorilor si a servitorilor acestora, a animalelor, si a marfurilor.
 
Aceste cladiri ofereau gazduire si alte facilități pentru negustori si grajduri pentru animalele acestora precum si apa pentru consumul uman si animal, pentru spalare, sau pentru diverse ritualuri de purificare. Uneori aceste hanuri aveau bai complexe. De asemenea, aici erau păstrate furaje pentru animale si existau si magazine pentru calatori de unde acestia puteau sa se aprovizioneze cu noi provizii. Mai mult chiar, unele magazine cumparau provizii de la negustorii care calatoreau.
 
Comertul in intreaga Turcie in perioada medievala Selciuk era dependent de caravane de camile (kervan, anglicizat ca si caravan), care opreau pe timpul noptii in hanurile cunoscute ca si caravanserai, sau literal ‘locuri pentru caravane’. Caravanserai-urile au aparut pentru prima oara in Asia Centrala in vremea Caravanelor, a Ghaznavizilor si a Marelui Imperiu Selciuk. Erau cladiri fortificate numite “Ribat”. Aceste cladiri, construite initial ca mici cladiri cu scop militar au fost ulterior dezvoltate si schimbate in cladiri mai mari pentru a fi utilizate atat in scopuri religioase cat si ca hanuri pentru calatori.
 
Romania nu este prima tara care vine in minte atunci cand este vorba de vechiul Drum al Matasii. Totusi, era un punct de oprire important, o poarta de intrare in Europa. Bucurestiul se mandrea cu caravanserai-uri rafinate, care ofereau facilitatile unui restaurant atat in curtea interioara, cat si in spatiile de cazare atunci cand era necesar. Arhitectura acestor structuri a ramas aceeasi ca si in tarile invecinate. Curtea mare interioara, de obicei patrata, doua etaje catre zidurile exterioare, de obicei o singura poarta mare de acces, inalta si larga pentru a putea primi camilele incarcate cu marfuri, o fantana, spatii pentru rugaciune, camere de jur imprejur, si cazare pentru calatorii regali precum si pentru pelerini.
 

Aceste hanuri incasau banii de calatori si faceau de obicei parte din organizatii pentru a se putea aproviziona: cine putea satisface nevoia nesfârșită de paie proaspete, umple canile pline de tot felul de lichide, chiar si cu vinuri pentru negustorul european care se indrepta catre est? La fiecare intrare intr-un caravanserai exista un registru unde era trecuta identitatea calatorilor, erau descrise bunurile transportate, ruta, sau numarul animalelor. Ideea dateaza, probabil, din secolul 5 d.Ch., chiar daca exista mentionari in povestile din Orientul Mijlociu, cum ar fi legenda lui Gilgames, despre un calator care a gasit gazduire, intr-un han, in anul 3000 i.Ch. Hanurile, destul de șubrede, numite “pandochion” acceptau orice tip de comert insa de multe ori, ca si bunul Samaritean din Biblie, permiteau si accesul calatorilor raniti dar lipsiti de mijloace financiare pentru plata gazduirii.

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