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viernes, 18 de diciembre de 2009

Carajillo español

"Carajillo"= coffee with brandy, explosive mixture to have at a cafeteria in the mid-morning break (trad.) [Pereulok's Academy Dictionary of Spanish language]

This morning, while I was having breakfast, I noticed a peculiar commercial: Spanish assotiation of alcoholic drinks promoting a reasonable consumption of alcoholic drinks in this merry period we are about to begin, not to get drank but to keep on the "typical Spanish" way of being happy, sociable, amiable...Publicity on alcohol and tabacco is now so heavily banned that campaigns are surrealistt; this commercial sounds exactly like a "no drink, no traffic accidents" one, I would have mixed the message, had not been listening with attention.

But three hours later I really began to see their point. I was killing time before a meeting, having a coffee at a "Café & Té". One of those chains of cafeteria there's everywhere now, regardless the thousands of common cafeterias this country has, "cafés de barrio", "cafés de viejo" (neighbourhood ones, old ones). One of those chains I usually avoid if I can, out of principles and nonsense (specially Starbucks, the worst coffee in a totally faked supposedly cosy envirnoment), out of small pocket reasons (1,60 euro for a plain, no magic, coffee with milk? Did they think we're in Russia, or what?).

One of those chains that are decorated the same in Madrid's Gran Vía Avenue and Bilbao's Gran Vía Avenue, in Spain, Italy, London, Germany, Tokio and Timbuktu. But then I noticed a shelf just above the coffee machine: a metallic shelf with a bottle of Bayleys, another of Gin, three brands of Rum, two of Whiskey, two other vodka ones... And the Soberano Brandy one, of course!

Ten, twelve half-empty bottles, waiting for the morning carajillos, the early evening drinks of people beginning partying right after coffeeing... and, most probably, the early morning drinks of the groups of crazy ones that end up their party night at 7am, 8 am, and have an alcoholic breakfast before going to bed at the only place that is open at that early hour... The serious cafeteria working during daylight.

Would a fancy "give me a capuccino with a special topping for 5 euros" coffee shop abroad also have that impressive row of alcoholic drinks so clearly display? I'm not so sure. But hey, yep, probably that commercial was right, Spain is Spain... and business is business.

domingo, 23 de agosto de 2009

Este Sudeste 2.0 (Edu. In Memoriam)

Empieza una nueva etapa; después de tres meses de readaptación, he decidido volver a retomar mi blog, aunque ya no esté en Rumania, desde este Sudeste de Madrid en el que habito, y desde el cual sigo mirando el mundo que me rodea con bastante perplejidad y cierta dosis de cabreo.

Así como tantas otras veces antes en mi vida, medito unos meses, me reorganizo, me recoloco, guardo los recuerdos que merecen ser guardados y agradezco al mundo que siga girando. Y, subida a esa rosa de los vientos en la que me colgó acertadamente Blanca Gómez, sigo mirando y opinando, espectador participante, para todos aquellos que están lejos.

Aquellos que están lejos... Algunos tan condenadamente lejos.

Como Edu, sincero (sincerísimo) y parco en cumplidos, al que le gustaba mi forma de escribir. Un grandísimo honor para mí. Edu, que comprendió pronto que la vida no debe ser un valle de lágrimas, sino un juego y una fiesta, y supo poner sus propias reglas a la partida que le tocó vivir.

Recordaré los buenos consejos que me dio durante este último año en los momentos más duros de mi experiencia rumana (qué bendición es a veces ese Messenger tan denostado). Porque la vida no hay que tomarla con filosofía: hay que tomarla con humor. Con humor, pero por los cuernos. No lo olvidaré.

Echaré de menos su presencia intermitente en mi vida, y echaré de menos también sus ausencias, su vida paralela a la mía, sus alegrías y sus fracasos.

Edu, el hombre Martini de nuestros veinte años, de sonrisa irónica y lengua afilada, testarudo y voluble, perezoso y esforzado. Lástima que sus pulmones no estuvieran a la altura de su corazón ni de su espíritu.

... Y el mundo sigue girando. Pero más lento.

viernes, 1 de mayo de 2009

Jewish Romania: fading memories

Last summer, when I was planning a trip to the Bucovina painted monasteries, I decided to spend the night at Gura Humorului, a town with little touristic interest, but situated at a crossroads, and thus a perfect operations center. I was also interested in the information I read about Gura Humorului in Wikipedia: it was, in origin, a Jewish peasant settlement, a shtetl whose Jewish population was mostly deported during Second World War (3.000 people), while the rest (500 people) left for Israel in late 1940s, early 1950s. No matter that the current population of Gura Humorului (16.000 people) is non-Jewish, I was curious to see if there was something of the old shtetl left, like in Toledo or Girona historical centres, where some narrow streets reminds still of medieval Jewish communities, five centuries after Jewish were expelled from Spain in 1492.

But I noticed nothing special there. It may be not so strange, in any case, as it's logical that in small rural spots, where both streets and non-wooden buildings are relatively recent phenomena, the history doesn't make such a permanent imprint as medieval towns that Jewish helped to build and get relevance in Spain. Jewish peasant communities, inexistent in Western Europe (where most of kingdoms forbade land ownership by Jews) were frequent in Eastern Europe until Second World War, but their memory is probably disappearing, as there are little descendants to keep memories alive on the spot (those who weren't killed have fled) and there is no buildings, no "stones" to be cherished by history-of-art lovers.

Cities should be different. History is more intensely felt in urban landscapes, and, besides, most of the Jewish community that survived Shoah (Holocaust) and decided not to leave Europe stayed in urban areas, having children, telling stories, keeping record of past events and both lost and surviving customs. But no. I was very surprised when I commented with some Romanian friends of mine that I wanted to visit the Jewish museum at Mamulari Street, located in an old Sinagogue, one of the few buildings left of the old Jewish quartier that was completely destroyed by razzia/progroms that took place in Bucharest during Second World War. Not only they knew little of the Jewish prosecution during Second World War, but even less of the role of the Jewish community in Romanian history. In 1904, 50.000 Jewish lived in Bucharest, more than one sixth of total population; Jewish quartier started at the back of Unirii Square (wher Carrefour is) and continued up to Muncii Square (Boulevard Decebal, Calarasilor Street...). 750.000 Jews lived in Romania in 1930 (4% of total 13 million Romanian population): 430.000 were left by 1947, and nowadays there's less than 10.000, many of them of old age, according to the Centre for Jewish Studies of Bucharest University.

I come from a country, Spain, that, certainly, cannot boast about having a historical trackrecord of religious tolerance; I always say that is very easy to say that we Spaniards are not anti-Semitic at all, considering that we had none left by Catholic Kings. However, 5 centuries have passed in our case: it is eerie to see how the memory of Jewish influence in Romanian history has already faded so much in just three-generations time, and that even the local Holocaust is so little known here. What I know of Romanian Jewish community life and downfall (Holocaust) come mainly of external sources. On 27th January, The International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I attended a quite interesting conference on Jewish community in Romania before Second World War... organized by the Italian Institute of Culture. The Romanian content was provided by the Romanian collaborators of a historical memory project with its origin and main drive in Austria and Hungaria, Centropa. Not existing big museums or memorials dedicated to this issue, and if Lonely Planet tourist guide (whose Romanian volume is quite disappointing as a whole, by the way) makes some mentions and reference is, in fact, due only to its buyers: Lonely Planet Guides always include references to Jewish history or Gay life, amongst other issues, being Jews or Gays two kind of tourists that editors consider to have, let's say, specific interests and needs while traveling.

I first knew of Romanian Holocaust while reading "Balkan Ghosts, A Journey Through History", by Robert D. Kaplan. This book, first published in early 1990s, focus in the most violent elements Balkan history, considering Romania, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. Based on the personal experience of this journalist, that travelled around that area in late 80s and early 90s, it was writen just when Yugoslavian war had started, and its focus reflects the wish of seeking an explanation of that violent outburst in a region that was considered civilized and peaceful. A one-sided account, but a very interesting one, though to be added up to other equally one-sided ones in order to build a comprehensive idea of this region.

I remember very well the chapters dedicated to Romania. A country that, after Ceauşescu, opened to the world again as if waking up of a bad dream. A peaceful and quite cultivated society able to sudden outbursts of rage, showing to the world its most terrible and cruel side: the way the Ceaucescu couple was killed and their corpses desecrated in 1989, the brutal repression of demonstrators in Bucharest by misled miners (the Mineriad)... the killing of Jewish during Second World War: the Pogroms in Iasi (10.000 deaths) and Bucharest (where Jewish quartier was destroyed and a brutal slaughter took place at the municipal slaughterhouse), the death trains that deported thousands of Jews in such conditions that many of them didn't arrive to the camps.

Museums are not, as one could think, cold places with no feelings. A museum is organised in order to tell us certain story the way their curators intend it to be told. Museums have a soul; they must have a soul. And, despite this recent and terrible history of hate and the thousand of deaths, what I liked best of the Jewish museum at Bucharest it was that the collection, organised chronologically, focused in life, more specifically in proving how the Jewish community developed in Romania and how, above all, it was a part of Romania. How the first Jews settled following the invitation of local kings and princes. How they gained Romanian citizenship. How they collaborated in creating XIXth-Century industrial Romania. How they involucrated in Romanian society and state not as a detached group but as Romanian citizens, participating in political life, and defending their country as soldiers in the First World War. How the Holocaust didn't destroy a community living in Romania, but a part of Romania. The Museum is called, as a matter of fact, "History Museum of Jews from Romania".

It is a modest museum, maintained by the aging local Jewish community, when they are able to and how they are able to. That's why it has, I suppose, such strange opening hours: from 10 to 13 every dat but Saturday (sabbath). When I asked about a pretty new Hasidic sinagogue that I had seen near my house (far from old Jewish quartier in Bucharest), the old lady that surveilled the museum the day I visited it told me: "oh, it's new, it's not from our people, we don't attend there".

So I left the museum wondering if they will be capable to keep it open. This small Jewish community of Romania, guardian of memories, surrounded by a Romanian society is forgetting its communist past as fast as it seems to have forgotten the Jewish heritage and the Holocaust shame. This local Jewish community with a support from Jewish international lobbies that I suspect to be quite feeble, as this "we the Jewish Romanians" spirit is not the kind of Jewish memory they are more interested to preserve.

sábado, 25 de abril de 2009

Sponsoring Romania

During my last days in Romania there was a lot of debate on the change of country slogan: "Romania, simply surprising" has recently become "Romania, the land of choice", although only temporarily, until the national tourism brand will be ready.

A silly change, a silly issue? Well, nothing is so silly when talking of such a lucrative industry as tourism, that implies also decisions on the strategy and discourse of a country when it decides to promote itself, and that is clearly underdeveloped in Romania. I'm sure that any of us who have lived a little bit over there, and our visitors, will agree at least on that.

Nothing is so silly when:
  • The new slogan was launched in a concert of Bosnian Goran Bregović in Mamaia. OK, maybe a manele concert would have not been a right start, but they could have been chosen some fine local artist to become the voice of the campaign... By the way, it is funny for me that they chose a Balkan singer, no matter how great he is, as in Romania, certainly a crossroad, they stress the "Latin" heritage, forget the Slavic and Turkish ones and reject to be considered "Balkanic". Little Paris wants to be considered not only European but part of the heart of Europe. God knows what the hell that heart contains, though.
  • The national tourism brand, financed by European Funds (FEDR, POS CCE), will cost a lot, 75 million of Euros. An international auction has already been launched (or maybe I should say at last, because that funding started to be operative by the beginning of 2008), and the company in charge will be selected during the spring. A lot of money, and, so I heard by the radio, a previous story of dubious actions related to this contract, not exactly corruption but what in Spain we call "amiguismo" ("friendshipness").
National tourism brand? What is Romania nowadays? What does Romania want to be?

A few weeks ago I was in Constanţa while Romania and Serbia played there a classification match for the World Football Cup. I don't pay much attention to football, but when I bump into a match (and its supporters) in that way, I usually pay my compliments, so I did watched this match at TV (Romania lost). What I noticed is that during this match the Romanian footballers wore a T-shirt with the logo of ALL the sponsors printed on it, not the clean one that is sold as merchandising, where only Adidas logo on it, not the clean one that was used last year at the UEFA EURO 2008.

There are quite a few, so the footballers looked like multi-purpose banners. But the sponsors, that can be checked also at the Romanian Federation of Football, are also quite significative:
  • Adidas. Sport clothes.
  • Ursus. Romanian brand of beer, controlled since 1990s by the breery SABMiller plc.
  • Raiffeisein Bank. Austrian Bank with a wide presence in all Central and Eastern European countries.
  • Pepsi. Refreshing drinks.
  • Dacia. Romanian brand of cars, currently part of Renault group.
  • Carrefour. French supermarkets that are spreading all over Romania.
  • Samsung. Corean brand of electronic equipment.
  • Gillette. Shaving razors.
  • Bigotti. Italian brand of clothes.
  • Konica Minolta. Photographic cameras
I would stress four of them: Ursus, Raiffeisein Bank, Dacia and Carrefour. Romanian flavours, financial markets, cars and hypermarkets. Modern, transnationalised Romanian consumer society. "National pride" (national team) supported by foreign investors, through their own brand or through Romanian ones they control.

But I suspect that if I take a deep look into other countries' symbols of pride, I would also find interesting situations...

martes, 21 de abril de 2009

My dear Bucharest: some great and humble photos

Today, after finishing some issues I had far far away from Bucharest city centre, I did a strange, not-at-all straight way back home, a good-bye trip by my working-days Bucharest, in this quiet Tuesday after Easter, the "third Easter day" in Romanian, when you here everywhere "Hristos a inviat" instead of "Good morning", and you must answer "Adevarat a inviat" also... (Christ has risen - He has truly risen). Romania really IS a religious country, speaking of cultural habits, that makes Spain seems an atheist one! (And believe me, it is not).

As always, lost my track... So I bumped into a great but very humble photo vernisaj at Metro Station Dristor 1, organised by Bucurestiul meu drag (www.orasul.ro), called Cele două lacuri.

Why great? Well, just go and watch the photos; why humble? Not big frames or expensive enlarged photos printed in pretty poster boards, but DIN-A3 prints that can be unnoticed any other day in this busy common metro station.

An exhibition done with love and care.

Photos will be exhibited from 13th April until 26th April. If you can, pass by, and enjoy Bucurestiul meu drag (my dear Bucharest)! If not, check the photos at the website!

jueves, 16 de abril de 2009

Strada Verona, Bucharest (April 2009)

The "organizers" of this heavily stenciled and graffitied street that begins behind Cartureşti library at Magheru Avenue gather ideas for political posters, and choose every month the one that like the best to be shown in this pannel.

To whom it might interest: panoularthurverona_at_yahoo.com

Some previous pannels: October 2008 and December 2008.

I don't know really which group or movement leads this Strada Verona thing (the pannel but also the photos on the windows apparently abandoned buildings, the stencils, graffitties and so on). I'd love to find out, but... Couldn't manage so far.

lunes, 13 de abril de 2009

Reviewing the 2006 TVR list of great Romanians

I found in Wikipedia a list of "the 100 greatest Romanians", created in 2006 after TVR (Romanian TV) conducted a popular vote, in a version of a similar show made by Brittish TV. I will use this list to assess my general knowledge of Romanian,"environment", let's say, and how it changed after spending almost one year and a half in Romania, as a curious outsider.
B = I knew who he/she was before arriving to Romania ---> 9
A = I know who he/she is now that I've spent some time in Romania (at least I can say if this person was a writer, a politican of a footballer) ---> 22
a = this name rings a bell now that I've spent some time in Romania (it could just be the name of a street I've passed by, though) ---> 25
? = still unknown ---> 44
[The Wikipedia article includes a brief description of the people included in the listing. I don't include it here, just in case anyone wants to repeat this exercise and this could influence the answer]

1. Stefan cel Mare .... A
Carol I .... A
Mihai Eminescu .... A
Mihai Viteazul .... a
Richard Wurmbrand .... ?
Ion Antonescu .... A
Mircea Eliade .... B
Alexandru Ioan Cuza .... a
Constantin Brâncuşi .... B
Nadia Comăneci .... B
Nicolae Ceauşescu .... B
Vlad Ţepeş .... B
Gigi Becali .... A
Henri Coandă .... a
Gheorghe Hagi .... B
Ion Luca Caragiale .... A
Nicolae Iorga .... A
Constantin Brâncoveanu .... A
George Enescu .... A
Gregorian Bivolaru .... ?
Mirel Rădoi .... ?
Corneliu Zelea Codreanu .... A
Nicolae Titulescu .... a
Ferdinand I of Romania .... A
Mihai I .... A
Decebal .... a
Traian Băsescu .... A
Gheorghe Mureşan .... ?
Ion I. C. Brătianu .... a
Răzvan Lucescu .... ?
Nicolae Paulescu .... ?
Iuliu Maniu .... a
Iuliu Hossu .... ?
Emil Cioran .... B
Avram Iancu .... a
Burebista .... a
Regina Maria .... A
Petre Ţuţea .... ?
Corneliu Coposu .... a
Aurel Vlaicu .... a
Iosif Trifa .... ?
Nichita Stănescu .... a
Ion Creangă .... A
Mădalina Manole .... ?
Corneliu Vadim Tudor .... A
Traian Vuia .... ?
Lucian Blaga .... a
George Emil Palade .... a
Ana Aslan .... ?
Adrian Mutu .... a
Florin Piersic .... ?
Mihail Kogălniceanu .... A
Iancsi Korossy .... ?
Dimitrie Cantemir .... a
Ilie Năstase .... ?
Gheorghe Zamfir .... ?
Gică Petrescu .... ?
Elisabeta Rizea .... ?
Bulă .... ?
Amza Pellea .... ?
Matei Corvin .... ?
Mircea cel Bătrân .... A
Titu Maiorescu .... ?
Toma Caragiu .... a
Mihai Trăistariu .... ?
Andreea Marin .... ?
Emil Racoviţă .... a
Victor Babeş .... a
Nicolae Bălcescu .... A
Horia-Roman Patapievici .... ?
Ion Iliescu .... A
Marin Preda .... a
Eugen Ionescu .... B
Dumitru Stăniloae .... ?
Alexandru Todea .... ?
Tudor Gheorghe .... A
Ion Ţiriac .... A
Ilie Cleopa .... ?
Arsenie Boca .... ?
Bănel Nicoliţă .... ?
Dumitru Cornilescu .... ?
Grigore Moisil .... ?
Claudiu Niculescu .... ?
Florentin Petre .... a
Marius Moga .... ?
Nicolae Steinhardt .... ?
Laura Stoica .... ?
Cătălin Hâldan .... ?
Anghel Saligny .... a
Ivan Patzaichin .... ?
Maria Tănase .... a
Sergiu Nicolaescu .... ?
Octavian Paler .... ?
Eroul Necunoscut - the Unknown Hero .... B
Ciprian Porumbescu .... a
Nicolae Covaci .... ?
Dumitru Prunariu .... ?
Iancu de Hunedoara .... a
Constantin Noica .... ?
Badea Cârţan .... ?

lunes, 6 de abril de 2009

Welcoming spring

Welcoming Spring (Phase 1): Martişor Remnants

Martişor, Romania (1st March). As in other cold countries, the joy of having spring coming begins early, when the snow starts melting down: some years, like this one, is already quite warm and there's no snow down the valleys (it mught snow again, though), some other years with cold, long winters there's still snow in March, and it's freezing, but the sun light gets warmer and days become longer anyway, that's unstoppable. And the first wild flowers sprout: in Romanian, that's the ghiocel.

First week of March is the week of early celebration of spring in Romania, is Martişor. Apart from ghiocel, women get small presents tied with white-red ribbons to wear that week as lapel pins: those are the martişoare. After that week martişoare are tied in trees, tokens calling for the spring to come.

These ones at Cişmigiu certainly succeeded!

Welcoming Spring (Phase 2): Palm Sunday

Catholic and Orthodox Palm Sunday, Romania (5th April and 12th April). The flowers to be offered and blessed in such a date are beautiful, brief symbols of early spring: fragile narcisus and this brownish branch with cotton buttons that I've seen both here and also in Russia, but always in bouquets... So I still don't know which bush or tree is, and which kind of flowers or fruits are born after that soft shoots.

Welcoming Spring (Phase 3): Easter

Orthodox Easter, Romania (still to come -19th April-).

1. Painted eggs. They still keep the tradition, no fake. (Well, not only fake...). This craftmade one is pretty, but maybe the funniest thing I've seen here is a common tray of eggs with painted ones at Carrefour. Perfect for busy Mommies and Daddies!

2. Lumina. On Holy Friday night, you go to the church with a candle. The Pope bless the first fire and then the light passes from one people to the next, in a lighting row that is worth seeing. You have to keep it lit until you get home, and let it to extinguish by itself: your house will be blessed the whole year. The rite starts at midnight more or less, but Mass goes on all night, so you can get your light at any time. And the next morning there's some holy breakfast, also... What I liked the most last year was the mixture between religious fervour and pagan joy, between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve: praying and quiet people near the Pope, inside the tiny churches, and noisy families and young people waiting outside, chatting and eating seeds, waiting their candle to be lit to go home and then, in the case of young people, to go out and party.

sábado, 4 de abril de 2009

Maneaua ucide (Manea can kill)

I can't leave Romania without dedicating a post to Manele (sg. manea), a musical trend that is, in relation with Balkan folk music, the same as Reggaeton in relation with salsa. And both Manele and Reggaeton are social fenomena that go well beyond the music to create around them a subculture, a way of dressing, a way of thinking and a scale of values.
Loud and gross taxi music usually is much more than music, and Manele certainly is loud and gross.

Manelişti (Manele singers) are as recognizable as hip hop singers are. Men usually wear bright unbottoned shirts, gold chains and rings, coulour suits and sunglasses.
Men and boys, I should say, because there's quite a few "baby singers": eight, ten, twelve -year-old Manelişti minunaţi (wonderful Manele singers) singing stories on power, money and sexy girls... and dancing surrounded by that very sexy girls in videoclips that are everything but for children.
So there's Manele singers of all ages... I think the oonly thing that changes in their loooks with the time is the growing beer belly.
And there's also femenine Manele stars, not only sexy chorus girls. Both the sexy chorus and the singers have a similar look: straight hair, long and frequently dyed white blonde or crow black; huge earring hoops on the ears; blinding clothes with broad necklines; tiny miniskirts or tight pants. I would say that singers usually are dressed in a more modest way than chorus girls (that is, they show less of their boobs).

Manele videos have a karaoke, home-made style. Banknotes, cars and girls are frequent motifs, sometimes in a verz popular environment (country roads and Romanian villages), sometimes in luxurious saloons and pools.

And lyrics? Well, apart from love (that is a recurrent theme in every musical genre), I would say that Manelişti sing mainly about success and/or community values: pretty girls and nice cars.,on the one side, and community life and happiness at home, on the other. Quite a mixture...
There's quite a few of songs that talk about easy success: the singer boasts about being rich without working, for example.
And, as it happens to rap lyrics, manele lyrics are very much influenced by current events; songs about emigration (about coming back rich, about getting rich there without working, about prefering to stay in Romania to leave the country), and there's already more than one manea on the financial crisis... So you can't say that manele is not dynamic!

But I think it's better to let the images to speak by themselves. No matter if you don't understand the lyrics: myself, I began to be amazed by this videos when i couldn't understand a word...
Just some examples, but in Youtube you can find videos enough to entertain yourself a long time... So you can become a manele fan abroad, no matter if you don't have access to the Manele TV channels that exist in Romania!

Nicolae Guta
The most popular manelist. A couple of songs: "You haven't got courage" and a fragment of "European Gipsy" ("even if I go on holidays I make money from the distance...").

Criza financiara, by Stefan & Narcis
"They say that there's a financial crisis, but I don't care, as it doesn't affect me..."

Mihaela Minune & DJ Willy
"Be careful, the wolf comes...". Sung in duet together with a rapper; manele is, above all, a party, and duets are frequent, between manele artists but also with hip hop and reggaeton ones.

Adrian, Copilul Minunat / Adi de Vito
Adrian, "the wonderdul child" got older but not taller... So he changed his artistic name to Adi de Vito (because of his Danny de Vito looks) and went on singing.

Babi Minune & Denisa
"The wonderful baby", the current heir of so many Manele children, such as Copilul Minunat or Copilul de Aur (The Golden child). Here you have a love song with worrying difference of age between lovers...

jueves, 2 de abril de 2009

Estereotipos regionales

Me resultan muy curiosos los estereotipos nacionales; como el horóscopo, aunque no me los crea está bien conocerlos. Y realmente, si conoces los estereotipos nacionales entiendes mucho mejor el país o determinadas reacciones de la gente, o aspectos de cultura general. Cuatro ejemplos rumanos que me vienen a la mente:
  • Los gitanos. Los mismos estereotipos que en España, pero más acusados, o más verbalizados. Resulta paradójico estar en un país en el que se insiste muchísimo en trazar la línea entre gitano y no gitano, mientras que su imagen país en el exterior se asocia altamente con el sector más marginal de los gitanos, a pesar de los miles de rumanos no gitanos y gitanos no marginales que viven en España, Italia...
  • Los húngaros. La verdad es que no me ha quedado claro todavía qué significa ser húngaro en Rumania... Recuerdo un comentario que me hicieron sobre el anterior ministro de Obras Públicas y Desarrollo Local, László Borbély, en una conferencia: "pero ten en cuenta que es húngaro". No me quedó claro exactamente cuál era el peligro, pero había un peligro... El tono era negativo. El origen de esta mala vecindad está, claro, en la historia y el territorio: húngaros en todo el norte de Transilvania y dejando huella en Cluj-Napoca y Targu Mures, y rumanos en el sur de Hungría.
  • Los habitantes de Argés. Protagonistas, junto con las rubias, de los chistes sobre tontos, llevándose la palma, por tanto, las rubias de Argés.
  • Las moldavas (de República de Moldavia). Muy guapas, dicen unos, muy putas, dicen otros. Similar al estereotipo de las ucranianas en Rusia, y a esa gradación "mediterránea" que puntúa a portuguesas, italianas, españolas y francesas según grado de "frescura"...
¿Y los moldavos? [Antes de continuar, debo aclarar que Moldavia es el nombre de un Estado independiente, y también de la región rumana que colinda con él, a la que me refiero ahora mismo, y en referencia a la cual la franja lingüísticamente rumana de Moldavia, reclamada por los irredentistas, se denomina Besarabia]

¿Y los moldavos? Recientemente estuve en Iaşi, una de las tres ciudades (Timişoara, Cluj-Napoca y Iaşi) que se disputan el puesto en el ranking de principales ciudades de Rumania, después del indiscutible primer lugar de Bucarest. Iaşi, la ciudad de los tilos, las 365 iglesias y las 7 colinas, el segundo centro universitario después de Bucarest, es una ciudad con mucha historia, sede del patriarcado de Moldavia, sede del gobierno rumano durante la Primera Guerra Mundial y lugar donde se firmó la unidad entre los tres principados rumanos (Valaquia, Moldavia y transilvania). Pero es también la principal ciudad de Moldavia, que es la región más pobre de Rumania, y que presenta peores indicadores macroeconómicos y un peor (si cabe) de las infraestructuras de comunicaciones. Por eso, contándole a un conocido rumano lo mucho que me había gustado la ciudad, que tiene algo del caos de Bucarest pero un encanto especial en sus calles, le comenté también lo que me había sorprendido el dinamismo de la ciudad, no sólo a nivel de calle, sino de las reuniones y entrevistas de trabajo que había mantenido. Y mi conocido me respondió con un "normal, son moldavos"; cosa que a mí me sorprendió, ya que asumía un estereotipo similar al de los andaluces (Iasi-Sevilla), reservando la seriedad y el dinamismo a la parte "que funciona bien", la sajona Timis y la húngara Cluj (Cluj-Barcelona).

Pero no, resulta que el tópico, que mi conocido me explicó, es que:
  1. los valaquios son "viva la virgen" y caóticos (yo les aplicaría el estereotipo de balcánicos...).
  2. los de Cluj (¿transilvanos, húngaro-transilvanos?) no acaban de concretar, hablan mucho y hacen poco.
  3. los moldavos no son muy listos pero trabajan con perseverancia y sacan las cosas bien y rápido.
Me resultó muy curioso este tópico, que no corresponde con una situación política o socioeconómica de base que habitualmente es el punto de partida que se distorsiona y del que se hacen extrapolaciones y simplificaciones, igual que los mitos surgen de la hechos históricos.

Pero recuerdo a todas esas viejas de ochenta años yendo en bicicleta cuesta arriba que vi por los pueblos de Moldavia en verano, y bueno, la verdad es que la perseverancia, ciertamente, la cultivan...

domingo, 29 de marzo de 2009

Some Romanian street cuisine / Gastronomía callejera

One sunny day you jump out of bed and to the streets, meet some friends, wander around, not willing to stop to eat long in any place, going from here to there, recovering your strenght with little bits of this and that... Let me introduce you some typical Romanian these and those:

Un domingo soleado te levantas de la cama con ganas de tomar las calles, llamas a algunos amigos y os dedicáis a pasear sin rumbo, tal vez a hacer alguna foto, a bromear y observar, sin ganas de parar a comer en ninguna parte y romeper el ritmo, picando alguna cosa aquí y allá. Dejadme que os cuente algunas de las cosas curiosas que puedes comer por la calle sin pararte mucho:

It's a piece of salted bread similar to the german pretzel. You can find it at street stalls of in small shops calles "covrigerie". No wonder that the best ones can be found at villages, cooked using the oil from frying sausages... You can buy a whole ring-shape buch of them, tied with a cord, or sometimes bigger lace-shape ones, by units. They can be sweet, but the good ones are salty.
Se trata de un pedazo de pan salado y aderezado similar al pretzel alemán, que se vende o bien en puestos callejeros o en pequeñas tiendas "covrigerie". Como todo en esta vida, los mejores son los que se venden en los pueblos, cocinados reutilizando el aceite de freir chorizos... A veces se hacen circulares, y se venden atados con una cuerda, como un collar; otras, tiene forma de lazo y se venden por unidades. Pueden ser dulces, peor los buenos son los salados.


The Romanian doughnut: usually no hole but filling. Sold, amongst other places, in a "gogoşerie"... Romanian sweets are quite good, try placinta cu mere sau branza (apple or cheese pie), revisited chocolate cakes of German or French inspiration, the different kinds of the sweet bread called cozonac... And of course, the a fried cheese doughnut called papanaşi (plural, as it's served in pairs); this one is a hot dessert, though, not a street one, that takes 20 minutes to be ready. One important thing is that the Romanian bakery shops selling home-made products look like industrial bakery shops to an unaccostumed eye... No matter how ugly might be the shop, if there's a laborator propriu sign, you might give a try...
El donuts rumano, aunque más a menudo relleno que con agujero. Se vende en las "gogoşerie", pero también en panaderías y p[astelerías en general. Los dulces rumanos son bastante buenos, desde los pasteles de manzana o de queso (placinta cu mere / cu branza) a estupendas tartas de chocolate de inspiración germana o francesa pero con un toque local, o plumcakes llamados cozonac. Probablemente el postre más especial son los papanaşi, unos donuts calientes de queso que se sirven en parejas; aunque este es un postre caliente que tarda 20 minutos en hacerse y no se encuentra en puestos callejeros, lógicamente. A la hora de compra dulces es importantes saber que en Rumania las buenas pastelerías no son necesariamente las bien arregladas, más bien todo lo contrario; las pastelerías artesanas parecen, para el observador no habituado, tiendas de bollería industrial. Así que, aunque ka tienda sea fea, si tiene un cartel de laborator propriu, merece la pena probar...

Mici (cu bere/limonad):

Mici are fried minced meat prepared with cylindrical shape... Appart from restaurants, during summer, you can try them in every park, river side or terrace. They can be very tasty or awful, as it happens with this kind of food... specially as they cointain a very particular "secret" ingredient that if abused is everything but easy: sodium bicarbonate. A fresh local beer (Ursus, Ciuc, Silva...) suits them very well. Or a lemonade... That great Romanian lemonade, with honey instead of sugar, an upgraded recipe that will come with me, for sure, in my way back home...
Son unas albóndigas de forma cilíndrica que puede pedir no sólo en restaurantes, sino en cualquier terraza en el verano, en parques, plazas o lagos. Como suele pasar con este tipo de comida, pueden estar muy sabrosos o terrioblemente malos... Especialmente si se tiene en cuenta que uno de sus ingredientes es el bicarbonato sódico, que será bueno para la digestión, pero cuidado con la dosis... Como acompañamiento, no está mal una buena cerveza local (Ursus, Ciuc, Silva...), o una limonada con miel. Parecerá una tontería, pero echar miel en vez de azúcar a la limonada ha sido un descubrimiento que no olvidaré, y que viajará conmigo de vuelta a España...

jueves, 26 de marzo de 2009

Algunos cables imposibles / Some impossible cables

Bucharest city, anywhere, anytime....
Bucarest, en cualquier sitio, en cualquier lugar...

Around 80% of all these cables are Telco-related (Telephone, Internet, Cable TV): good news! You won't get electrocuted!
Aproximadamente el 80% de estos cables son de transmisión de datos (telefonía, Internet, televisión por cable). Son buenas noticias, ¿verdad? ¡Al menos no corres peligro de electrocutarte!

The project of burying all cables in the Sector 1 City centre was in the programme of the former City Mayor; that is, it was supposed to be implemented in 2005-2008. I've been told by different sources that this is THE year. I've been told by vaious sources that the works DID START. Y haven't seen them with my own eyes yet, though.
El proyecto de sorterrar el cableado fue una promesa electoral del anterior equipo municipal quedebería haberse llevado a cabo entre 2005 y 2008, pero no fue así. Me han dicho varias personas que durante 2009 se llevar;á a cabo por fin. Me han dicho que ya han empezado los trabajos. Yo no los he visto todavía con mis propios ojos, no puedo confirmarlo.

City centre, Sector 1... And beyond?
Centro ciudad, sector 1... ¿Y más allá?

miércoles, 25 de marzo de 2009

Comentario de textos

Queriendo hoy hablar un poco sobre política rumana, estoy casi obligada por la actualidad a hablar del escándalo Baneasa que acaba de explotar esta mañana, con un toque de especulación inmobiliaria, políticos de todo tipo salpicados, ricos en la sombra sin foto en los periódicos, implicación de los servicios secretos, Gigi Becalli adornando el pastel, esta vez desde el otro lado de la barrera...

Pero la verdad es que quería hablar de otra cosa, porque no he hehco los deberes esta semana, y llevo desde hace una semana un recorte de prensa en el bolsillo, una noticia que me dio mucho que pensar, y me confirmó bastantes cosas.

La noticia, del 20 de marzo, informaba de la destitución por parte del Ministro de Agricultura de 60 directores regionales de la APIA, la Agencia de Pagos e Intervención en Agricultura, encargada de hacer efectivas las subvenciones estatales y europeas al sector agrícola.

Aunque no sigo la cuestión de la política agraria con la atención que he seguido la absorción por parte de Rumania de otros fondos europeos, hace tiempo que sospechaba que no debía estar funcionando la cosa muy bien, porque no era normal que no me hubiera encontrado anuncios o noticias al respecto. Así que la noticia, aun con un titular tan pesado, me interesaba, esperando poder leer algunos datos al respecto... Pero no me esperaba leer tanto entre líneas.

La razón de la destitución, efectivamente, tenía que ver con la incapacidad de gestionar los fondos... ¿O no? Dice el ministro, Constantin Sarbu, que ha destituido los 60 directores de la APIA "porque no han respetado el plazo establecido el 15 de marzo para empezar a pagar las subvenciones por hectárea. Les hemos dado cuatro días, pero me han dicho que necesitaban tres semanas". No sé quién tiene la razón, pero o bien acabo de encontrar un contubernio judeo-masónico de los que le gustaban tanto a Franco, o bien hay algo que no funciona, ya sea la decisión política (cuatro días siendo un plazo imposible de cumplir) o el engranaje administrativo. Pero en este último caso, ¿no habría que resolver el problema estructural de funcionamiento, y no despedir a 60 cargos directivos de carácter técnico?

Sigo leyendo, y pensando, y me encuentro con un párrafo explosivo, en el que se cuenta lo siguiente que el director de la APIA dimitió el 12 de febrero debido a "ingerencias políticas en una actividad estrictamente técnica", y que esta semana se va a abrir el segundo concuros para la selección de su sustituto, ya que el primero, que tuvo lugar a finales de febrero, quedó desierto, ya que no se presentó ningún candidato.

NINGÚN CANDIDATO. Si me quedaba alguna duda de la posible injerencia política, este dato es absolutamente esclarecedor: qué cantidad de veneno contendrá un pastel que nadie se atreve a probar...

El detonante de todo, efectivamente, ha sido la pérdida de parte del dinero asignado por Europa en esta materia, y basta con conocer los datos que se muestran en el último párrafo del artículo. Cada año se deben hacer efectivas antes del 30 de junio las subvenciones por hectárea correspondientes a la anualidad anterior, perdiendo Rumania el dinero que no se capaz de distrubuir antes de esta fecha. Rumania fue penalizada por un valor de 8,4 millones de euros por las subvenciones correspondientes a la anualidad de 2007 que no fue capaz de hacer efectivas antes de 30 de junio de 2008... ¿Qué pasará con la anualidad de 2008, tras tres meses de parálisis política y administrativa entre las elecciones parlamentarias de principios de diciembre y la aprobación de los presupuestos generales del Estado ya entrado marzo? Los pagos no han empezado a hacerse efectivos... ¿Acelerará el proceso la destitución en masa de cuadros directivos? Lo dudo.

Y lo más grave es que no es un caso aislado. Recuerdo ahora mismo dos casos de dimisiones significativas. La primera, la más pública y flagrante, que llegó a tener reflejo en medios internacionales, fue la renuncia de Teodor Stolojan a presentarse a la investidura como Primer Ministro tan sólo cinco días después de haber sido anunciada su designación (11-16 diciembre de 2008). Más víboras de las previstas debían vivir en el nido... La segunda dimisión fue la del Ministro del Interior, Liviu Dragnea, el 2 de febrero de 2009, dos semanas después de su nombramiento el 20 de enero del mismo año. Liviu Dragnea basó su decisión, fundamentalmente, en la imposibilidad de asumir y llevar a cabo sus proyectos como ministro con la baja financiación asignada al ministerio; sin embargo, la mención también de las tensiones en la coalición de gobierno asociaba a su decisión también un elemento de injerencia política en la puesta en marcha de un programa que, es de suponer, diez días antes, en el momento de su nombramiento, alguien había respaldado, pero ya no.

No hay declaración pública del gobierno actual en la que no se mencione, antes de entrar en temas más actruales, en los errores del gobierno anterior y la carga que suponen para éste. La oposición no ha dejado al gobienro actual los 100 días de rigor al gobierno actual antes de iniciar su ataque. La maquinaria administrativa sólo en marzo ha retomado la marcha, lentamente, tras tres meses de parón; el ambiente político no se ha enfriado, ni se va a enfriar en los próximos meses, ya que hay elecciones presidenciales en otoño.

Este año pinta mal en Rumania, y una legislatura que pierde un año difícilmente se recupera, y el reloj 2007-2013 sigue su curso. Van pasando esos seis años que se le ha dado a Rumania para recorrer el camino que otros países recorrimos en 15 ó 20 años...

domingo, 22 de marzo de 2009

Prosperidad y trabajo

Fin de semana en Madrid, paseando por la calles, disfrutando de unas tapas, disfrutando de algo de sol. Como siempre, admirándome ahora de escuchar en todas partes fragmentos de conversaciones en rumano que antes me pasaban desapercibidas, de maravillarme de lo absolutamente indistinguibles que son los cientos de miles de rumanos que viven en Madrid, que en el imaginario colectivo español, lamentablemente, se representan habitualmente con la apariencia y actitudes de los gitanos zíngaros mendicantes.

Imaginarios colectivos. Envidia, celos, amargura, falsos culpables. Gitanos zíngaros mendicantes.

En el vagón del metro, como es bastante habitual, entra una muchacha zíngara con un niño en brazos, rostro moreno y tiznado, pelo despeinado, falda amplia y colorida, jersey desparejado. Inicia su cantinela: no-ten-go-ca-sa, no-ten-go-tra-ba-jo, no-ten-go-di-ne-ro, soy una chica pobre-ci-ta, ayúdenme...

Recorre el vagón y se queda en la puerta esperando la siguiente parada, justo al lado de la fila de asientos en la que estoy sentada. Se acerca un español de unos treinta y cinco o cuarenta años, que también va a bajarse en la siguiente estación, y dice:

- ¿De donde eres? ¿Rumana, no?
- (...)
- Pues ahora hay más trabajo en Rumania que aquí.
- (...)
- Sí, te lo digo yo, hay más trabajo en Rumania. Porque nos habéis arruinado. Hay más trabajo. Rumania es ahora más próspera que España.

Se abren las puertas, y se baja la gitana mendicante, con su niño y su falda, igualita a la zíngara mendicante que se sienta todos los días a pedir cerca de mi casa en Bucarest, camino del mercado de Piata Amzei. Igual de igualita que las otras gitanas rumanas lo son a las otras gitanas españolas, como las gitanas que viven en la parte vieja del centro histórico, con sus matas de pelo negro, sus aros dorados en las orejas y sus vaqueros embutidos que me recuerdan a la gitanas de barrio españolas cuando gritan a sus niños desde las ventanas del último piso para que dejen de jugar y trastear y suban a casa, hagan recados, obedezcan... Igual de igualitos a los españoles que son los rumanos que evitan a unas y a las otras, y le dicen a sus niños que "no hagan gitanadas" (nu faceţi ţiganie). Dos comunidades viviendo en paralelo como nosotros en España, si bien es cierto que en España ya no está bien visto decir cosas que en Rumania se afirman sin ningún rubor.

Y se baja el hombre preocupado por la crisis, amargado, probablemente algo aliviado de poder echarles la culpa a "ellos", reclamándoles a "ellos" que devuelvan su parte del pastel que nos repartimos todos en tiempos de bonanza. Bonanza que también "ellos" ayudaron a construir.

Y yo me quedo pensativa y melancólica... Porque ojalá, por qué no, Rumania fuera más próspera, o al menos igual de próspera que España.

Pero me temo que para alcanzar la prosperidad se necesitan muchos años de abundancia de trabajo, y bastantes otras cosas... Entre otras, confianza en el futuro del propio país, una cosa que, lamentablemente, los rumanos no acaban de adquirir. Y sin ella, construir la prosperidad es muy difícil.

jueves, 19 de marzo de 2009

Separación de residuos

Rumania es un país maximalista, que lo quiere todo y ya, lo que en la peculiar forma de caos burocrático en la que se opera aqui a menudo, puede resultar en no obtener nada y nunca. Esto de ser maximalista les pasa, pienso a veces, a casi todos los países que alguna vez fueron imperio, sea en el siglo III a.C., XV o XX, queda en el subconsciente colectivo la idea de que se puede obtener todo, una idea construida sobre un espejismo.

¿A que viene esto? Bueno, esta semana en concreto me vino la idea a la cabeza con el tema del reciclado de desechos. Resumo el contexto de forma muy breve: en Rumania no se reciclan los desechos, no hay plantas de tratamiento de residuos urbanos ni de tratamiento de aguas. Hace un par de semanas la Unión Europea publicó una comparativa a nivel europeo en estos temas y Rumania estaba en la cola en todos los rankings. Pero tranquilos, sólo hay que confiar en las previsiones del gobierno, que no he visto, pero sospecho que, como en todos estos temas de integración europea (estadísticas sobre inclusión digital o kilómetros de la red de infraestructuras de comunicaciones), consistirán alcanzar la media europea para 2013 y rebasarla para 2025.

Y ahí estan el Plan Operativo Regional, con una porrada de dinero procedente de fondos FEDER dirigido a la financiación de infraestructuras públicas (25.000 millones de euros entre 2007 y 2013), entre ellos infraestructuras medioambientales. Y ahí están los lobbies político-empresariales de turno, dificultando algunos de estos proyectos, si no se sitúan en un suelo de propiedad "adecuada"... (Otros no están saliendo por problemas de gestión y de inercia... como a pesar de mi tomo soy optimista, espero que la rueda empiece a girar d eun momento a otro...)

¿Reducción de la producción de residuos? Hace alrededor de un mes se ha impuesto a las bolsas de plástico una tasa de 0,20 bani de obligado cobro al cliente que las quiera. No tengo nada que objetar, me parece bien; aunque tanto aquí como en el resto de Europa estoy esperando a que prohíban (y no promuevan) empaquetar los alimentos en miles de capas como si fueran muñecas rusas (un plástico que rodea 3 cajas de cartón de galletas, cada una con una bolsa de plástico que rodea 10 paquetes de plástico de 5 galletas cada una).

Y luego está el tema de la separación de residuos para su futuro reciclado. No sé en Timisoara o en Cluj, pero en Bucarest hace menos de un año que han aparecido contenedores municipales para cristal, plásticos y cartones. Ya sé que no se recicla (¿se recicla en Madrid ya? durante años separamos basura que se mezclaba luego en el camión para ir acostumbrándonos, y la verdad es que to personalmente estoy domesticada, pero no sé si finalmente sirve ya por fin para algo). Bueno, como he dicho, yo estoy domesticada, así que cuando vi los contenedores relativamente cerca de mi casa me dio un vuelco el corazón y se me quitó la culpabilidad medioambiental de contaminar por 2,5 planetas o más. Y nada, allí fui yo tan feliz con mis bolsas, para encontrarme que los contenedores de cristal y de plástico tienen unas ranuras redondas en la tapa de un tamaño tal que los tarros de cristal y los desechos de plástico irregulares no hay manera de hacerlos pasar. Ni siquiera un botella de 2 litros de plástico pasa... Así que abandoné el reciclaje, y ahora sólo reciclo el papel.
Respecto a tirar un embalaje, un electrodoméstico de pequeno tamaño roto, un mueble... Lo único que se puede hacer es dejarlo en la calle y esperar a que el camión de la basura se lo lleve cuando pase. No he visto contenedores de escombros, de esos que a veces se aprovechan (incorrectamente, lo sé) para eso ni siquiera en todas las obras de construcción. La basura en algunos bloques también se baja y se deja apoyada en una farola hasta que llegue el camión; el problema es cuando no tienes claro qué día de la semana pasa... En ese caso se trata de fijarse, y cuando las bolsas de basura empiezas a aparecer como setas, bajar la propia Yo de esto me libro, porque mi casa tiene "tobogán": una tubería por la que se tira la basura de cada piso al contenedor, que está abajo y que alguien se ocupa de sacar. En ruso se llama "tubería de basura", en España no he visto nunca una, así que no sé si tiene nombre.

Aun así, son maximalistas, y ponen unas normas imposibles, para que sean cumplidas en el Bucarest ideal de sus sueños. Así que esta semana la administradora de mi bloque ha puesto el siguiente cartel en la puerta de cuarto de basuras (o mejor dicho del balcón de basuras, que da al tobogán):
Estimados vecinos: no introduzcan en el tobogán
  • Objetos voluminosos, embalajes grandes.
  • Cartones, diarios, revistas.
  • Botellas de plástico.
  • Piezas de madera.
  • Botes y botellas de cristal.
  • Bolsas de plástico con mucha basura o con objetos diversos.
  • Escombros.
  • No vuelquen líquidos.
¡Sean limpios!

No taponen el edificio con basura.

Todas estas normas son para la salud, el bienestar y el confort de todos nosotros.

Muchas gracias,
La Administración
Y ahora me pregunto qué demonios se puede tirar por el tobogán, y qué demonios harán mis vecinos con su basura, que supongo que será, como la mía, totalmente irregular y con bastantes elementos que no permitidos en el tobogán y que no caben en las ranuras de los contenedores de reciclado. Aunque a lo mejor no sólo genero 2,5 planetas de basura, sino que encima se trata de basura especialmente poco civilizada...

Pero es que son maximalistas. O todo o nada. O nada con apariencia de todo.

martes, 17 de marzo de 2009

Let's go parking (your car)!

Bucharest lacks parking places, a recklessly handled situation that brings, as consequence, that cars are in fact parked everywhere, in every corner and on every inch of the pathways, and we pedestrians are thrown to the roadway. Piaţa Victoriei, the heart of the city, is in fact a huge parking lot that is only cleared of cars when some kind of festival or screen event (the European Football Cup, for example) is organised in it. Bicycle pathways (full of holes in most sections anyway) are blocked by parked cars, and therefore useless.

But despite this chaotic parking, there's still parking problems, and in some spots you find quite orginal "privatized" parking places. You can use, for example, some kind of box to block "your" place in front of the shop you own, or the office you work at. Or you can write your car's plate number on the pavement.
And be careful, because if you ignore reserved parking places and you park anyway, you could have your car removed, using the "Bucharest way". They won't calling a car crane (has anyone seen a crane around here, by the way?), but they will warn you by raining the windscreen wipers. If you ignore that signal, or just didn't notice because didn't use your car in a couple of days, you'll find your tyres slashed.

Chaotic city... Sometimes it's not even clear why one car, like this red one at the photo, deserves slashing while others in the same situation, like are consider "well parked". Misteries of urban life.

sábado, 14 de marzo de 2009

Taxi driver

I don't like taxis very much, I never did, but I must take quite a few around here, for work. Yesterday, while I was paying a 9 lei ride with a 10 lei note a receiving my change back, I thought I should write something about taxis in Bucharest here. Taxis, in any place, in any city, are often a headache and many times also a curiosity and a source of anecdotes. Bucharest doesn't stand out of this rule.
Yes, you that live in Bucharest and know what's this post about, you read it right: I received my change back. I might be the only person in Bucharest that has no much struggle with taxi drivers, appart from a couple of airport-related experiences of little importance.

First of all, you must know that Bucharest taxi cabs are yellow, abundant and cheap.

Secondly, you must know that there's hundreds of taxi companies with names such as Taxi 2001, Taxi Leone, Modern Taxi, Taxi Fly, Taxi Cris, Apolodor Taxi...
Each of them can be called dialling the Bucharest city code (021) plus a 4-digit number. So we can assume there's less than 10.000 companies, if my high-school probabilistic calculus are right :)

As I already said, taxis are cheap, at least compared to Madrid; I would say even affordable, being of common use, and not of exceptional use, as it happen in Madrid, where many people (including myself) would only use them during working hours and the cost is going to be assumed by your company, or if it's late night and you count it as a leisure expense). However, one must check the tariff every time, as they are established by each company and, sometimes, by each taxi driver. Taxis have a taximeter, and the tariff is calculated by lei/km, and it's writen at both sides of the cab; something in between 1,45 to 1,95 lei/km is reasonable, except for taxis coming from the airport, that uses a 3,5o lei/km tariff. In Bucharest, then you experiment the following absurd situation: going to the airport from city centre cost 50% less than doing the same ride from the airport [with regular traffic, 15 euro to go from Uniri up to Otopeni, but 30 euro to come back).

Finally, taxi drivers tend to round off the bill. On the one hand, because that's inevitable; the taximeter establishes the exact cost to bani level (1 lei =100 bani), when you won't be seeing a 1 ban coin in Romania ever, unless you're clearing your bank account, and I doubt that you'll be given it even in that situation. On the other hand, because they tend to self-tip the ride with no comment at all, or "no-cash available" comments. Why I always get my 1 lei/2 lei/5 lei change back, it is a mistery to my acquaintances.

The companies themselves are, in general, trustworthy. Yet to avoid problems, you must check the cab before taking it, as if you where under threat:
Step 1. Verify the tariff at the door. You can often see 3,50 tariffs in the city, placed on a sticker that the taxi driver put on the regular tariff (see in the photos above, both 1,95 and 3,00 tariffs are stickers); these taxi drivers usually park the car where "defenseless" customers are (hotels, outside Romexpo -Bucharest exhibitional centre-, restaurants at night...), speak you in Italian or English if you take a look at the car, and act deranged and/or offended if you go away then, pointing out that you decline their services because they try to cheat on you...
Step 2. Verify that the taximeter is using the same tariff that it's written outside.
Step 3. Check if you have change in your wallet. I not, comment that to the taxi driver (nu am marunte) when you're leaving, to avoid unnecessary arguing afterwards.

Some extra advices:
Advice 1. Don't use taxi cabs without taximeter, which are very often, parked for example, at Otopeni or Baneasa airports. Although you may think that the negociated tariff will be better than the official 3,50 lei/km Taxi Fly there, in practise you don't get much a bargain, and some of them will try to renegociate the tariff during the way. A mess... P.S. The same when they offer you "to stop the taximeter"; sometimes it's a good deal, most of the times not.
Advice 2. Some taxi drivers will offer you their mobile to call them directly. It is a good idea, in most cases, although I have been told also anecdotes about "mobile" taxi drivers that weren't so trustworthy after all...
Advice 3. If you don't like much taxi chatting, don't sit at the front, they talk a lot more to you then... And besides, non-taximeter taxi drivers get too confortable and very often start the renegociating strategy.
Advice 4. If you try to wear the seat belt, most of them will make some funny comment such as "no need, you're not in Spain now". Don't be so stupid as myself, who doesn't wear the seat belt in Romania, some kind of mass follower impulse I have, but will certainly regret in case I have an accident. (Like the Pop Star Teofil Peter, killed in a "taxi accident" with political consequences in 2006).
Advice 5. Try to forget about the very often careless driving style and enjoy the trip! Despite advice 3 stated above, I had some funny taxi drivers here, and good conversation. And the taxi decoration itself is quite special, with many crosses and icons hanging, and all kind of car toys around. In fact, many Romanian cars show a profussion of religious, supersticious tokens, toys... Some taxis I've been in, very modest from the outside, have even a tiny DVD screen near the rear view, in order to watch movies, video clips or football matches while waiting the next customer (once, while driving the customer... I didn't like that one...).

The last taxi a took from the airport was, I swear, a Romanian revival of Willy Montesinos taxi in Almodovar's 1988 comedy Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown:

I'm shy... Didn't dare to take a photo.

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