The actress shared pictured with her followers on Instagram.
The actress shared pictured with her followers on Instagram.
‘Wow, it’s … it’s Nevermore Academy!” There are delighted gasps from younger members of my tour group as we enter the TV set courtyard at Bucharest Film Studio, known as Buftea, after the small town it’s in, just outside the Romanian capital.
“They don’t listen to my educational stuff,” sighs our guide. “They just want to see the Wednesday sets.” Under gothic-looking stone arches built for Netflix’s smash hit series, it’s selfie-geddon.
Since the show’s release last November TV tourism has, to borrow the name of Wednesday Addams’ scuttling sidekick, become a “Thing” in Romania. Much of the series, partly directed by Tim Burton and starring Jenna Ortega as the titular teen, was filmed here, utilising its abundance of gothic mansions plus the Buftea facilities.
Expedia reported a 55% increase in searches for Bucharest hotels around the show’s release. Buftea, which as well as Nevermore (a kind of emo Hogwarts) hosts the show’s Pilgrim World amusement park and Jericho town sets, has started marketing its studio tours at families and individuals rather than school parties, as demand has risen. Since filming location guides appeared online, fans have doorstepped buildings used in the series, peering expectantly through stained-glass windows.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula came from Romania, and castles tenuously linked to the Transylvanian vampire have dominated tourism here for decades. Now a younger, gothy fictional icon, with an even more withering demeanour, is drawing a new crowd.
I start my Wednesday pilgrimage with the tour at Buftea, where it becomes clear how deeply the series resonates with children. In front of the Jericho set bandstand, a boy of about six is writhing on the grass, shouting in an American accent (spoiler alert): “I’m the mayor! I just got run over!” Nearby a girl is diligently sketching the exterior of the Weathervane cafe.
From Harry Potter tours in London to chasing locations seen in The Beach in Thailand, “set-jetting” isn’t a new phenomenon, but this fervent level of telly interest is completely new to Romania.
“Even within the country, a lot of people forgot that Buftea exists,” says Gabriel Gheorgiu, a tour leader at the studio, which is usually used for adverts and reality shows rather than iconic series. “This shows the world that Romania is not just a poor country ruled by communism for a long time. Everything here was built by Romanians. It makes me proud.”
In Bucharest I chat with a man running a burger van outside Palatul Monteoru, an 1874 stone building with pillared front that was once headquarters of the Writers’ Union of Romania. He says at least three or four groups of Wednesday fans arrive every day, trying to see inside. It was used for scenes such as Wednesday’s staircase descent to Nevermore’s Raven ball.
On Fridays and Saturdays, Palatul Monteoru becomes the Gradina Monteoru nightclub, so members of the public can attempt to throw some shapes similar to Wednesday’s, albeit to techno rather than the Cramps. Nearby is the French neo-gothic Casa Niculescu-Dorobantu, also used for interior scenes: it’s more dramatic than Palatul Monteoru, with stone griffins leering from its rooftop. Wealthy prospective buyers might be allowed inside – it’s on sale for €4.5m.
The building used for Nevermore’s main exterior is more actively embracing Wednesday tourism. Cantacuzino castle, about 90 miles north of Bucharest, has boards around the grounds detailing various filming locations, mannequins dressed as characters, and runs a Wednesday cosplay competition.
The castle says visitor numbers “more than doubled” after Wednesday’s release. While I’m there, busloads of schoolchildren arrive, passing under a black sign reading: “Welcome to the filming place of Wednesday.” Fans from as far as Taiwan and China have visited Cantacuzino, which normally struggles in the shadow of nearby Bran castle, marketed as “Dracula’s castle”.
Kurt Neuschitzer, Cantacuzino castle’s owner, says Wednesday has had an “unbelievable positive effect in terms of tourism advertising for the entire [of] Romania. We are, of course, hoping the second season will be filmed again here, at the Nevermore Academy, as it would highlight Romania and Prahova county on eastern Europe’s tourism map.”
I’m joined at Cantacuzino by Alina Baidoc, co-founder of tour company Authentic Romania, who is also pleased about the boost. She recently announced a Following Wednesday tour in response to interest from across Europe and the US.
For Baidoc, Dracula and Wednesday both offer a chance to enhance her country’s image as well as its economy. “People often don’t regard Romania as safe,” she says. “We’ve had German travellers whose families told them they will get robbed. But they’re impressed to see it’s a beautiful country.”
Nearby is Sinaia railway station, used as a set for Jericho town, which Ortega jokingly said appeared “Photoshopped” because it was already so beguilingly Burton-esque. Back in Bucharest, I take a dip at Bucharest’s huge Dinamo swimming pool, honoured to visit the water where Wednesday unleashed a school of piranhas.
But it’s at Bucharest Botanical Garden that I feel most transported to Wednesday’s world. The show’s greenhouse scenes look humidly beautiful, and the venue doesn’t disappoint. I walk among bulbous cacti and greenery tangled around staircases spiralling towards sun-shot ceilings. Beyond the flora, the fauna seem to get the spooky nature of my assignment: a black cat brushes against my leg before stalking a black bird flitting around a window.
The greenhouse room where Wednesday’s horticulture classes were filmed is officially closed to visitors, but I sneak in through a staff entrance. Horticultural engineer Maria Raicu tells me this room was designed by Belgian architect Louis Fuchs around 1890, so the roof is considered too unstable for public access. She adds that when filming here, Tim Burton was a “gentleman” and “very organised”.
Raicu isn’t sure if he’ll return to Romania, though. A second Wednesday series is confirmed, but there are rumours that it may be filmed elsewhere, because Romanian companies allegedly ripped the crew off for things such as camera hire.
Even if that happens, with Buftea having no plans to dismantle the sets and fans continuing to arrive, the jet-black shot Wednesday injected into the arm of Romania’s tourist scene won’t wear off quickly.
Pablo Picasso sits on a bench in Málaga’s Plaza de la Merced. Staring ahead, notebook in hand, elderly and made of bronze, he is as much a part of the city as the sea. It’s a wistful work. Picasso spent almost all his adult life – and died – in France, but no 20th-century artist is more Spanish than Picasso, with his bull motif, machismo, defining image of the civil war and fondness for Málaga wine.
“Living abroad,” he said, “one becomes even more Spanish.”
To mark the 50th anniversary of his death (on 8 April 1973), exhibitions are being held around the world throughout 2023. Spain is the country with the most, and a selection can be combined with a wander through the Spanish destinations that inspired him for a multiperspective, and therefore rather cubist, portrait of the maestro.
Born in Málaga in 1881, Picasso spent 10 years living in one then another of the tall, green-shuttered houses flanking Plaza de la Merced, now with street-level bars and tables and umbrellas out front. The Museo Casa Natal in his first home contains books, furniture, and works by his art professor father, José Ruiz y Blasco. A stroll through the city, taking in the light, street life and doves, provides more insight into ways his birthplace shaped his vision, and it’s easy to picture him sketching outside a cafe on Plaza de la Constitución as he did on later visits.
Between Plaza de la Merced and the cathedral, the Museo Picasso Málaga has a permanent collection that spans his Blue and Rose periods, surrealism and cubism – including paintings, sculptures, illustrations and ceramics – and is unbeatable for an overview.
Among the temporary exhibitions, Picasso as seen by Otero (until 23 April), which has notes from conversations and fly-on-the-wall photos of the artist at work and play, is a real snoopy treat.
When the family moved to the north-western tip of Spain, Picasso complained that it never stopped raining, there weren’t any bulls and he missed Málaga, but later acknowledged that La Coruña – full (until the civil war) of artists and intellectuals – “awoke his senses”. He studied at the School of Fine Arts where his father was teaching (Picasso’s school reports are displayed in the foyer), and held his first exhibition at Rúa Real, 20 – then a furniture shop, now selling shoes. A review in the local paper confidently predicted he had a bright future.
About 100 pieces from – or influenced by – this Galician period have been loaned for an exhibition at Museo de Belas Artes da Coruña, until 25 June. A self-guided Picasso route (available from the tourist office) takes in Orzán beach and the Tower of Hercules for views that inspired the works (reproductions) on display alongside his father’s at the small but illuminating Picasso House Museum.
Picasso arrived in Barcelona as an impressionable teenager in 1895 and moved to Paris full-time in 1904. El Raval’s shady streets, drunks, beggars and emaciated sick appeared on his Blue period canvases, while the bohemians, politics, absinthe and modernisme he found in the bars from the age of 17 had a similarly catalytic effect.
It’s said he (and Dalí and Hemingway) drank at the London Bar, though it opened after he left; and at Bar Marsella, which can’t have changed too much. El Raval is neither as wretched nor as stimulating as it once was.
Across La Rambla in the Gothic Quarter, Carrer d’Avinyó, the street of brothels that inspired Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, is full of shops: the site of his first studio is a boutique hotel (Serras), and a nerve centre for arty intellectuals; Els 4Gats is a well-restored upmarket bar and restaurant.
Occasionally stops on self-guided Picasso routes produce a frisson. For those who know Picasso’s The Passeig de Colom, painted from the balcony of Hotel Ranzini while staying there with future wife, the ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova, a pause outside number 22 is haunting, even if – perhaps because – the view is mainly of the road, and the hotel is now a courier company office.
The painting can be seen – along with 4,250 others – at the Picasso Museum, which occupies five gothic palaces. This is the most comprehensive collection of art from his formative years, so good shoes are advised.
According to Picasso, he learned all he knew in this village midway between Barcelona and Valencia. A first trip spawned traditional landscapes of farmhouses and fields, and pictures of donkeys. A decade later, visiting from Paris (with a lover who caused a stir by sharing his bed and playing dominos in the bars like a man), he captured and immortalised Horta in early cubist greats. The Picasso Centre has reproductions and interesting paraphernalia from both trips. Picasso travelled by train to Tortosa, walking the last 40km with his luggage on a mule; by more conventional car, it’s two and a half hours from either city.
At 16, Picasso spent a year at Madrid’s august Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. Superb for Goyas and its cool marble in summer, the academy will be showing the world’s most important private collection of Picassos: the Nahmad collection, until 2 July.
Picasso skipped most classes, preferring to copy the works of old masters over at the Prado Museum. The Prado’s Picasso – El Greco (13 June–17 September) presumably touches on the merits of that.
Elsewhere on the Paseo del Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum has Picasso: the Sacred and Profane (4 October-14 January 2024), and the Reina Sofía gallery, Picasso 1906: The Great Transformation (14 November-4 March 2024), plus the almighty Guernica on permanent display.
Picasso stayed in a pensión in Lavapiés during his time here, and the building (Calle de San Pedro Mártir, 5, near the top of El Rastro) is an eyecatcher with ceramic murals featuring Picasso young and old, and a few of his works.
If walking there from Reina Sofía, pause at La Casa Encendida to catch work inspired by the artist’s final decade in Picasso: Untitled (19 May-7 January 2024 – it’s a bonus offering in an inspiring space with year-round shows, concerts and courses, and an excellent cafeteria run by Pum Pum Café.
The Guggenheim Bilbao is an appropriately muscular sculptural venue for Picasso Sculptor: Matter and Body, which transfers after five months in Málaga (29 September-14 January 2024). And, 30km east and accessible by train, there’s Guernica. While of huge cultural importance to the Basques, Guernica is better known globally as a painting not a town, and visiting can be anti-climactic. The masterpiece, produced in response to the April 1937 aerial bombardment by German and Italian forces in support of Franco – which left 2,500 dead or wounded, and flattened almost everything but the Assembly Hall – is a visceral depiction of agony. The town, rebuilt, is a little dull.
However, in addition to an exceptional Monday market, Guernica does have the Peace Museum, which details the attack and a ceramic version of the other, more famous Guernica, done to scale.
Just an hour’s drive north from Madrid up the A-1, or a bus ride from Plaza de Castilla, this picturesque village with medieval castle and walls built by the Arabs, tucked in the crook of a river, boasts a uniquely personal Picasso collection. Villager Eugenio Arias met Picasso while living in France and, for the last 26 years of the artist’s life was his friend and barber. He bequeathed many of Picasso’s gifts of lithographs, ceramics, posters, sketches, books and photos to the town hall, which now houses the Museo Picasso-Colección Eugenio Arias.
Links to information on all Picasso-themed action are available at España Es Cultura