Manuc Mârzaian - Dragoman and Bey of the Sublime Porte, Quartermaster , Cupbearer and Bey in the Romanian Countries, Knight in Russia, the "Prince of the Armenians" at the Vienna Congress - was, according to the description of one of his contemporaries - "a smart Armenian and overwhelmingly rich".
Known, rewarded and pursued by all the empires fighting for influence over the Romanian Countries at that time, Manuc Bey was, at the same time, merchant, "banker", entrepreneur, adventurer and secret agent.
Born in 1768 in Rusciuc (today's Ruse, Bulgaria), Manuc learnt the "language and practice of life" from a merchant in Iasi. Energetic, astute and considerate, Manuc had "the gift of speaking, foresight and helped everyone out of trouble".
His shortcut to wealth was Tersenicli Oglu, the bandit-governor of Rusciuc, to whom Manuc gave money based on only one condition - to lend only from him. Since Tersenicli was highly solvable, Manuc made it fast to prime-merchant and treasurer of Rusciuc, Serdar and Cupbearer.
After the assassination of Tersenicli Oglu, Manuc bet and won again - his new protector at high level was Mustafa Bairactar, the "Ayan Haznadar", who would climb spectacularly the Ottoman hierarchy and became the Great Vizier.
After the killing of Bairactar, Manuc Bey didn't lose his luck - the legend has it that he fled with the Great Vizier's gold, hidden in fish barrels, right before his assassination in Constantinople.
Following these adventures, Manuc Bey took refuge north of the Danube and started operating from Bucharest, doing what he knew best: help everybody.
He informed the Russians about the Ottoman movements. He became diplomat of both parties and negotiated for both. He got better terms for the Ottomans. He saved the Romanian noblemen, sentenced to death for helping the Russian army with supplies. And so on, all the time, for everybody.
In 1806, after the Turkish army ransacked Moldova while retreating, Manuc hurried and deflected the retreat of the Turkish army through Wallachia and, thus, he saved Bucharest from safe destruction. Therefore, he was later allowed to buy the land around the former Royal Palace where he would build the Inn of Manuc. In 1810, he was officially rewarded for espionage - Manuc was awarded with the St. Vladimir Cross for the help given to the Russians in war.
With lands in Bucharest and in the mountains, in Predeal, Manuc started to practice "modern agriculture", organized in large properties, protecting the peasants on his lands.
Soon, he got a new idea, even greater. He changed his lands in Wallachia for one in Basarabia - Hâncești. This should be the base for his "life's project": Alexandropol.
The "City of Alexander" (the Russian Tsar at that time) is the name Manuc wanted for a city built from "scratch", located where the Prut flows into the Danube. It should enjoy the same privileges as Odessa and unseen tax exemptions for population, freedom for merchants, religious freedom and colonization freedom.
In 1815 Tsar Alexander proved very favorable to "Manuc's city". The city plans were drawn, the wood for the first buildings was cut, but everything finished two years later. Manuc died on June 21, 1817 in an accident. He was showing some Russian generals some riding tricks from the Orient.
The place where the Inn of Manuc was built had been part of the former Royal Palace, whose land was sold in auctions in the final years of 18th century. There is no information on how Manuc came to buy this place. It could be that the legal restriction forbidding foreigners to buy properties in Bucharest was not applied to Manuc Bey as gratitude for his success in deflecting the army of Manav Ibrahim from the Capital and saving the city and the noblemen.
The Inn, Manuc had started to build, was different from the great citadel-inns from the 18th century. A new form, less severe and more attractive, where the part of construction facing the interior yard was made of wood, with carved arched galleries, arrived at through monumental large stairs, with stucco ornaments above doors and windows and wooden pillars.
The basement sheltered 15 arched cellars; the ground-floor fostered 23 shops, 2 large halls, 10 warehouses, 16 rooms for servants and cooks and tunnel that could fit 500 people; 107 rooms and lodgings were on the top floor.
In the middle of the yard, paved with river stones, there was a café with all its outbuildings and a garden with a water fountain. On the Dambovita banks, 16 or 20 additional shops were built for the Meat Hall.
The Inn of Manuc, ready to welcome its guests since the spring of 1808, started its story very well. Under its master's supervision, it fostered Russian and Turkish officials for 5 months. They concluded the Peace of Bucharest which ended a 6-year war.
"History of Bucharest Inns", George Potra, Bucharest, 1985
In the period after 1810 up to 1830, the newest and most organized inn of Bucharest, it welcomed the most distinguished foreign travelers. After the death of Manuc Bey and his wife, under the leadership of interested and unskilled trustees, the inn lost its fame very quickly. We find out what the Inn of Manuc was around 1860 from the French painter August Lancelor, who visited Bucharest in that period:
"As it is now, it is the meeting place of Transylvanian coachmen, German drummers, petty Turkish, Bulgarian and Greek peddlers, of all poor travelers and nameless people who do not enjoy the light of day.
The galleries faced by the inn's rooms serve as walking alley and common halls. An unseen carelessness and shyness reign there. In front of everyone's eyes (...) everybody feels at home. From where I sat to draw my sketches, I could see a blonde German girl washing some rags (...), a barber razing chins and necks, a gypsy woman dancing before some drunken Turks, a comedian in a faded shirt teaching a ragged monkey some tricks. At the same time, I could hear behind my back the noise of a lute, accompanying a melancholic and sweet voice.
The strange yard showed the funniest and most varied view in the world: camp, warehouse, fair, stock-exchange, zoo - all at the same time; along the walls - tents, cases, tilts, bales of merchandise and, in the back large niches, closed with bars, stacks of fresh hides, wet wool, ox meat....
In this clutter, an endless movement of coaches, peasants on horses, women with bags, unharnessed horses that agitate, neigh and throw their hind legs, whining dogs, big black pigs that honk with pleasure...
This movement, this noise do not bother at all the Turks, Romanians, Bulgarians, Greeks who handled their business peacefully, discussing, bargaining under the supervision of Jews who changed their money on the spot, armed with big round glasses, with stones to check the gold, with scales..."