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Romania - Simply Surprising!
Pros: beautiful buildings
Cons: none

Bucharest, Romania

Saturday, Feb 12, 2005 13:47

A visit that was primarily made to facilitate at a conference turned out to be much more than that...

“Romania, truly mania”
This is how an Asian friend described Romania. She obviously took it from Malaysia’s tourism campaign – ‘Malaysia, truly Asia’. I never quite understood it. Actually I still don’t but at least I tried by visiting the land of the Dracula – Romania.

Actually the catch line promoted by Romania’s tourism department is ‘Romania – Simply surprising’. Based on my experience there I can only agree with this statement. Even though it wasn’t because of the country but my time in Romania was simply surprising.

I was there along with the rest of my team in February 2005 to facilitate at the second biggest international conference. It’s a conference where the current and elected national presidents of over 90 countries come together to elect the new AIESEC International team and create a global plan that guides our activity for the next 2-3 years. Interestingly I was responsible for global planning – a responsibility I unwillingly accepted. I was told that it’s a matter of pride to be asked to coordinate global planning. I didn’t feel any pride but the thought of making 150+ individuals agree and create a prioritized plan for the entire association was daunting to say the least! ‘Surprisingly’ it went off very well!

The direction recommended by us for the association was accepted without major surprises. It was the addition of a sixth additional director that surprised most of the delegates but more about it in my personal notes! :o)

Unlike previous presidents’ meetings, this one had happening parties with people boogying till late at night. I decided not to miss any party and joined in the fun.

As a country, Romania didn’t surprise me a lot. I was expecting it to be similar to other central-eastern European countries where people who know you are extremely cordial while the people who don’t know you are vary of you - often mistaking me to be a gypsy. I must say that I had the right expectations. Like other central-eastern European countries, not knowing the language was another big handicap. The good part was my ability to spend my Dutch salary here. Romania is very cheap as compared to the Netherlands but in my excitement I ended up spending as much as I usually spend in the Netherlands. Since the currency is extremely devalued, everyone gets the pleasure to be a millionaire in Romania. 30 euros will get you over 1 million Romanian currency.

My stay in Romania was limited to the city of Bucharest. Its also known as the little Paris. It was hard for me to understand the reasoning behind it but if you are initiated in French architecture then you might agree. In the downtown Bucharest, French architects or Romanian architects tributary to the French school designed entire neighborhoods and some results are still here with us today. I must say that I did notice a few statues of babies in the balconies. That makes it a little Parisian it not entirely! :o)

Most of downtown Bucharest follows no single rule in terms of urban design. There is no obvious delimitation between styles or periods, as there is no delimitation between people. The people here live in so different conditions that the poles are two worlds apart. The Communists have of course left their mark as always! A lot of houses are near ruin because of neglect. It's obvious to anyone that they won't last very much time from now. I'd contend that the whole country resembles these houses: beautiful yet ready to collapse. But things have changed since the Communists were thrown out and they are moving in the positive direction.

I saw a number of beautiful buildings – the names of which I don’t remember. The food was in some way similar to Slovakia including the sparkling water. A note of warning: never ever try this traditional side dish made of corn. It’s called Mamaliga and it’s like a hard yellow coloured disc that can easily be used as a good replacement for a Frisbee. Obviously you shouldn’t mention your dislike to Romanians as they might insist that you try the “home made version”. I have personally decided to never try it again irrespective of the version. I’m ready to start a worldwide campaign to prevent gullible foreigners from falling into the trap of trying anything that looks and feels like a Frisbee.