PARADOXES and EMOTIONS
I was born in Bucharest in September 1967. I grew up and lived there until I was 22. December 1989 found me in the streets downtown, among bullets, wounded and dead people, together with many other young people that desperately and fiercely wanted to bring a change in the country. I left Romania in June 1990 and I had no contact with it or the city for the following 4 years. In 1994 I returned and I had to get used to the local reality once again. I lived in Bucharest for the following 20 years. However I never felt I really belonged there. In May 2014 I left Romania and I no longer follow what happens in the city. But I do and shall always remember Bucharest and my life there. I always compare the city with other capitals in the world I travel to as a tourist. I have no idea how Bucharest looks from a tourist’s point of view. Being born there, my opinion is naturally influenced by my personal experience through childhood, adolescence, Communism, the eternal fear of the secret police, revolution, poverty, Americanization or the abrupt and chaotic transformation of the whole society following over 40 years of Communist rule including about 10 years of very strict dictatorial rule.
What I find ostensibly different in Romania compared to other European countries – talking about the status of a capital city – is that almost all other countries have several big cities which could successfully - and equally - represent the country as a capital. At the same time, this is far from reality in Romania. Only the last few years have seen things starting to change. As far as I am concerned, Bucharest is not the most representative big city in the country. The fact that nearly the entire economy and labor market is clinging to Bucharest is a wrong direction that on long term brings harm to the entire country and population. As a fluent German speaker I found it impossible to get a job in other major cities for 10 years. Why? Because most of the foreign investors go directly to Bucharest. It is there that the central authorities lie, it is there that trends are being drafted, it is there that the largest clients crowd and that useful business connections are being made. I see Bucharest more and more like a state within a state in many ways. I hope this situation will change more visibly in the coming years. I think this issue should be a top priority for the authorities.
Back to the city, I find that the far from ideal political and administrative policy of the last 25 years has unfortunately created not at all friendly conditions for the people living there. There are more stray dogs, cats and more vehicles than inhabitants; there are too few natural, green areas. And there is no architectural harmony anymore as nobody would had ever care to take care how the city will be designed and developed. Only the old residential zones still keep the flair and charm of the city which time ago was known as ”The Little Paris”.
I used to go across Bucharest by bike, although the city is not at all cycling-friendly. But this is a different topic. Anyway, starting in June 2009 I gave up using the public transport network. Towards the end of 2011 I started running and from 2012 up to April 2014 I ran in all of the city parks, sometimes for an entire day, running from one park to another one along an approximately 35 km. long route. Such experiences have given me a different perspective on the city I was born in. Depending on the time of the day and season, Bucharest can be quite a lovely city. For instance, wake up on a Sunday morning and go through the city, when only a few cars are in the streets and only a few people walk around. Running through the almost deserted city, devoid of cars and people has given me a different feeling and perspective on Bucharest. I could discover a special, certain flair in the city that, after all, has its share of interwar history.
I for one like Bucharest:
- in springtime (from March to mid May)
- during dry, cold and freezing week-ends, when most of the people stay inside, allowing me to enjoy a long bicycle ride or run through Herăstrău or Carol parks
- on a cold Sunday morning in mid winter, when the thick layer of snow is frozen and the white frost gives one a fairy-tale feeling
- on a cloudy day
Written by myself at the request of an dear old friend who published it on his own exceptional blog about Bucharest, here you are invited to surf into it and to find touristic and non-touristic information collected by a passionate traveler who loves Bucharest very much.
Vienna, May 1, 2015