At the end of the 19th century, Bucharest was an elegant and cosmopolitan city, where the good people rode around town in luxury carriages. These carriages were ordered in Vienna, Paris, or made by famous foreign coachbuilders who lived in Bucharest.
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The carriages were made of the finest materials, such as hardwood, leather and silk, for the absolute comfort of the aristocrats, who were the only ones who could afford to travel in such conveyances.
In turn, the interior was lined with velvet or silk, and the cushions were soft and comfortable, perfect for a proper journey. The carriages were drawn by purebred horses, which were dressed in elaborate harnesses.
Nyka, the woman who started it all
One of the most famous women of high society in Bucharest at the end of the 19th century was Nyka, the daughter of the rich landowner Nenciu. She had already been married three times and was known to be very adventurous, but she was also a woman of consummate elegance, courted by many, as is natural.
She had an attendant and a footman at her disposal. Perhaps even more interestingly, the woman used to change the color of her dress every day to match the lining of her carriage.
Luxury carriages were a symbol of social status and wealth at the time and were obviously not only used for leisure but also for special events such as weddings, christenings and funerals, for each event the means of transport taking on another aspect, according to the occasion.
The Muscals, the birjars who made history in Bucharest
The Muscals were the birjars who came to Bucharest together with the Russian armies, in 1828. At first, they worked in the service of Russian officers, but, in a short time, they became preferred by wealthy Romanians as well.
They were known for their carriage driving skills, but also for the elegance with which they were dressed, wearing uniforms of overwhelming beauty, for the clothing fashion of those years.
The Muscali have played an important role in the social life of Bucharest since the end of the 19th century. They were present at all important events, from weddings and christenings, obviously, to funerals.
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The Scopites, a mysterious religious sect
Most Muskals were also known as “Scopists”, who were members of a religious sect founded by the Russian peasant Kondraty Selivanov.
Within this sect, castration was promoted as the main way of salvation. They believed that by castration they would be freed from their sins and that they would obtain the spiritual salvation they desired. Even so, they were persecuted in Russia, but not in Romania.
Most of them lived on a street near today’s Obor area, which was named Birjarilor street. What is known about them is that they were gentle and peaceful people, abhorred violence and did not drink alcohol under any circumstances.
The sect of the Scopites eventually disappeared, but their story remained a part of the history of Bucharest, even if, nowadays, it is not known by many.
Obviously, given Nyka’s morals, the fact that his chariots were driven by muscalis was an assurance that he could keep his “lusts” in check, considering the sacrifice they used to make in the name of spiritual purity.
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