Ziua Aviației Române și Forțelor Aeriene

Slava eroilor aerului!

The 20th of July is designated as Romanian Aviation and Air Forces Day. The day was chosen because it is actually the Day of Saint Elijah the Prophet, the patron saint and protector of aviators.  Why Elijah as the patron saint of aviators?  For lack of a better description, he “flew” into heaven when God raised him there directly from Earth.   Therefore, a more apropos saint you probably could not find.

Each year, there are several events around the country to celebrate the day.  The largest of these is presumably in Bucharest, but the celebration itself is rather modest.  The streets around Monumentului Eroilor Aerului (The Monument to the Heroes of the Air) are closed off to traffic, and the top brass from the military, a military band, former and current members of the Air Force gather with a small public crowd for an official ceremony.

The ceremony is marked not only by the traditional political and historical remarks which you might expect to hear at a government event, but also–owing to the religious association of the event–by a blessing from several Romanian Orthodox saints.  Incense is swung with the thurible, and a group of priests chant and sing blessings.

A flyover follows with a few different airframes which the Romanian Air Force has in its inventory.  The Soviet-era MiG-21 (right) is their current fighter jet, though they are in the process of replacing that with the F-16 beginning this year.  (Oh yeah, here’s a picture of me sitting in one in early June.)  The arrival of their first F-16s later this year will mark a very significant moment for the Romanian Air Force and Romanian military as a whole.

Lastly, a seemingly never-ending procession of wreaths are laid at the base of the statue.  Everyone from the president and the military service chiefs to representatives of the commercial aviation industry pay their respects by laying a wreath at the base of the monument.  All in all, I think more than twenty wreaths laid.

The overcast skies stuck around just long enough to prevent sunburn, but broke in the end to allow a beautiful day.  The ceremony was a success, and an appropriate celebration honoring Sfântul Ilie.

La mulți ani, America! 4th of July – Ziua indepenenței Statelor Unite

La mulți ani, America!

I’ve had the good fortune of being able to celebrate the 4th of July in four different countries.  (That’s counting the good ol’ US of A.)  Moreover, I’ve been able to celebrate them in relatively grand style at our embassies abroad.  I’m certain that I’ve never been to as nice a 4th of July party in the States as those that I’ve been privileged to attend overseas.  This year was no exception.

As opposed to the other embassies I’ve worked at, Embassy Bucharest has made it a point to *not* hold their 4th of July party on the date itself (if at all possible/practical) in order to allow us to have an actual three-day weekend.  I suppose that’s kind of nice.  So our party this year fell on Friday, 1 July.  It was a big deal, with over five thousand people receiving invitations.

The embassy’s 4th of July party is usually one of the marquis events in the city each year.  Of course, the Romanians have some pretty remarkable events, but among the embassies, you’d expect that the US has one of the larger National Day parties.  And I don’t think we disappoint.  Among the companies sponsoring the event were McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Starbucks, KFC, Jack Daniel’s…jeez, there were more, but I’m forgetting them. All these are available throughout Romania, so it was not really a surprise to find them at the party, but it certainly made for welcoming surroundings–and food–for the night.

Also different from other embassy 4ths I’ve been to, this event had a theme: Preserving National Parks.  Not just American national parks, but encouraging similar conservation amongst the Romanians, as well.  As such, the embassy was decorated with gigantic murals of the different national parks, with smaller homages/information areas dotting the grounds.  They even had one for Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes (!) thought I can’t find a picture of it.  (Of note, the Ambassador, Hans Klemm, claims Michigan as at least one of his homes.  He spent some of his youth in the Commerce Twp / Milford area.  Anyone remember graduating with any Klemms?)  He was happy to point out that display to me as we crossed paths early in the evening.

There were some Romanian A-listers there, chief among them being their actual chief: the Romanian President, Klaus Iohannis.  As the guest of honor, he made some remarks about our cooperation and all that nice diplomatic stuff, which I was able to get a snapshot of:

IMG_20160701_200559
Ambassador Klemm (a Michiganian!) at the podium

IMG_20160701_200553

A previous winner of the X Factor Romania, Florin Răduță, sang both the US and Romanian national anthems.

Of course there are lot more pictures–and better ones, I might add–which were taken by professionals and available at the Embassy’s flickr page should you have any interest.  Regrettably, I’m not in any of them 🙁

All in all, it was a great time.  The weather held out for us, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.  Hope everyone back home enjoyed their version of the 4th!