Everyday filth. The cleanliness of the capital until the middle of the nineteenth century

For a long time, the cleanliness of the capital was synonymous with the order that every inhabitant tried to preserve within the confines of his court. From the 18th century onwards, responsibility would be shared with the authorities.

Usually, when the compost piles prevented the boyar carts from moving or when the smell of mountains of garbage became unbearable, the piles were moved in the fields, on the banks of the Dambovita or directly into the river, a kind of landfill in Bucharest. The People’s Square, the area around the shops, or any vacant land also fell into the hands of the “dirty man”. Everyone in Bucharest was responsible for this situation, from the more modest Mahalagio to the “caustic brilliance,” Casa Filipsco Ciziano wrote on the museum’s Facebook page.

The spectacle of perpetual misery did not bypass any social status and the “food chain” maintained by the decaying rubbish, endangered the health of the population. At the time of cleaning, yesterday as well as today, there were very few people. In the Phanarian century, garbage, not yet isolated outside the city, caused many shortcomings of the capital: fires, floods, “sticky diseases”, etc.

Of all of them, the most destructive was the periodic flow of the waters of Dâmbovia. The construction of floodplains (mills and bridges), especially the tailings that no one was afraid to throw to the river bed, contributed to the exit of the river from the river at the time of heavy rain or sudden melting of snow: bones, horns and other filthy “livestock” slaughtered by butchers at the water’s edge, and “dirt” from stables, toilets, etc. The situation became more alarming as the accumulations narrowed the uterus from year to year, setting islands and, in extreme cases, around the watercourse, threatening to collapse the beaches.

“Gardens were inundated, crops and fruit trees were destroyed, bridges were cut down, cattle were drowned, […] The needy little houses, built of cobwebs and fenced with earth, collapsed under the weight of the rushing water.”

After the mud flood! And I stayed in the city streets, spreading the fermentation blow. When dirt in squares and nooks got in everyone’s way, “it caused a great deal of disgust and stench.” The waste crept “under the wooden cabinets that paved the streets” and “rotted all year round”. The mud that was preserved was a source of infection, because “the filth, […]Mudslides attract sticky diseases, “diseases also mentioned by foreign travelers:

„The main diseases that usually affect Wallachia, especially in Bucharest […] There are colds due to the bulging of swamps and stagnant water abundantly ”(Constantino-Guglielmo Rudolf);

“The people of Bucharest are forever haunted by intermittent, yellow, and contagious colds” (Thomas Thorton).

Since the reign of Governor Alexandru Ypsilanti, the city cleanliness will be occupied by Epistășia Podurilor with the help of Agie. Implicitly, they carried out the monumental task of “fighting the machinations rooted in the mentality of the Bucharest people”. At the dawn of the Phanarian Era, other rulers would be concerned with the common good. In order to carry out sanitation services in Bucharest, they provide embodiment, compose compositions, and levy taxes (“bridging”). First of all, he is looking for a “safe place” to transport the tanneries and butchers on the bank of the Dâmbovița, a fate which they will share with other profitable activities, such as: boyars, bakers, taverns, etc.

Then, in order to “protect the city from drowning”, I propose innovative solutions, a “mihani” (car), similar to those in Sarigrad, to clean the riverbed. Documentary sources do not specify whether this car was ever purchased. Despite all the bans, during the reign of Gregor Ghika, the authorities were still fighting with the tenants of Manoc’s “as well as the owners of the boxes afterwards”, who “threw rubbish, bricks and stones into the waters of Dambovia”.

I have repeatedly instructed the ginner not to leave pigs and dogs on the road, sweep in front of their house, hit in front of shops and yards, give snow in front of the house and open trenches. “Let all the streets be clean and tidy, free of rubbish, no dirt, no stink, no filth.” But most of all, throw garbage out of the city “away”. In desperation, he cut gutters and gutters from buildings that leaked onto the street. And when nothing works, he threatens the inhabitants, through agents of Agia, with stinging fines, forced stay until they clean up, and sometimes “brawl with beatings”.

Armed with brooms and shovels but reluctantly, Mahalagiii joins the barns and prisons, agreeing to clean up the mess once a week. Boyars send their gypsy slaves to baldness”[…]To clean bridges near places and homes where they will be and to collect mud or rubbish together or with carts. […] of real estate or with wagons they will have in their yards, and charge him to get him out of the (city) police.”

During the organic organization, the newly established commission for the beautification and straightening of the city was set up, consisting of the former great lugos Alexandro Felipescu (chief), the potter of the Bomer engineers, the great Aga Konstantin Cantacuzino, the great governor of the city the stables and stalls that were on the banks of the Dâmbovița, as well as the mills “must Cut it so that the river gets free flowing and will no longer cause inconvenience to the police.” The capital’s streets were cleaned twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the garbage collected together by 50 rented carts was taken from the town hall and taken out of the city.

„Four places for storing garbage have been fixed: in the sand pits on top of Ulița Târgoviște (Calea Griviței), near the Ion Scufa park; at the bridgehead of Targoloy de Afari, on Via Focșani, on the left side; at the head of the Șerban Vodă bridge, behind the Brâncoveanu money park; At the head of the Chalis Bridge (Kalia Rahovi), behind the vineyard of General Konstantin Varlam “. The activity of butchers (for example between the garden of the slug Alexandro Vasca and the garden of Otivan Greco).

In 1839 Petrash Poinarro, director of Eforiei Școalelor, presented an impressive project to the governor, which was to put an end to the flood problem in the capital once and for all. Unfortunately, due to lack of funds and political instability, his proposals to wait for more favorable times.

Author: Alexandra Russo / Casa Felipesco Siziano

Above image: Amedeo Preziosi, Bridge over Bucharest, 1869, pencil, watercolor and ink on paper (Source: Directorate of Digital Heritage – CIMeC)


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Tudor Dinu, Bucharest Phanariot, Vol.II, Ed. Humanitas, Bucharest, 2017. George Potra, from Bucharest of yesteryear, Scientific and Encyclopedic Publishing House, Bucharest, 1981.
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