More Impressions of Bucharest.

17 October, 2005

In Bucharest I stayed with the friend who picked me up at the airport, Mihai Guţulan, a double bass player, and his wife Florenţa. I met them in Chicago through Nicolae Feraru, a formidable Cembalom player who emigrated to the US in ’88. Mihai’s generosity knew no bounds, and though he didn’t have money to through around, He wanted to care for me and was always ready to guide me or take me to where I needed to go. Mihai came back to Romania after trying for ten years to get a green card the honest way in the USA.

The city looked bad when I got here, but in a few days I began to adapt my perspective. Bucharest’s appearance belies its reality. Soviet era apartment blocks line the streets, built in the eighties after dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu had historic boulevards bulldozed in a systematic creation of uniform bloc housing. But people do not act as if they live in as bleak a place as it might seem.

In areas of town that were not destroyed by the dictator’s ill advised projects the architecture looks like a distressed Paris. left to founder in time. Grand old buildings have been partially restored but left unfinished, for lack of funds or interest. (see photo.)

Stray dogs of every breed roam the streets, a few missing a limb. None that I met were mean. In the metro children, some carrying babies, beg in the train wagons. Frequently barefoot or wearing plastic bathroom sandals, their parents are likely waiting at a station down the line. They board the train and chant their plea in a rhythmic drone. Some people give, as many Bucharestians are not inured to the frightful condition of these people.

There are people here in Romania who were gravely injured by the change of society that came with the “revolution”. Many musicians, for example, who had been touring the world and who had a high standard of living were suddenly without work. This for some was after a successful career spanning twenty years. Others are those who were finishing their schooling or starting careers, for many of these people the end of government support in their field was a blow that they could only survive through sheer strength of psychological will, and sometimes the result was an apocalyptic view, the belief that for Romania there is no future. Personally I reserve judgment.

next: What I actually did in Bucharest

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