They say this is the biggest LCD screen in Europe at the moment. It might be true, considering it is a part of the 5-level facade of the Cocor building, located in - or just nearby - Piata Unirii.
The picture was taken back in December 2008, immediately after the LCD screen was inaugurated. Meanwhile, the stores inside was open as well, so you can shop there if you ever come here.
The patron Saint and protector of Bucharest is Saint Demetrius the New, celebrated on October 27th, when tens of thousands of people from all parts of Romania and from abroad come to whisper a prayer next to his coffin. You can find his relics in the Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest (and you have to know that lots of people, especially from Orthodox countries, visit this church every Sunday).
By every standards, Romanians are very religious people. In Europe, they can only compare to the Polish and the Maltese, in terms of religiosity. The problem is that the level of religiosity does not mean automatically that the religious faith is equally strong - as duplicity is an issue in most maters concerning Romanians. But do not be surprised if you find out religion is very powerful in Romania.
I've had a rough schedule lately. This is not an excuse; it's rather an explanation to my recent absence.
Today's post is about my fellow co-nationals. I'll put down what I came to learn about them so far. It costed me a lot to learn these things. A few weeks ago I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown because of one of them. So this was on my mind for a while, recently.
The things I do not like about Romanians, first:
- they are disorganized. This is visible as you walk on the streets. It is also visible if you watch them driving, for instance.
- they are egocentric.
- many of them do not like to work. That being said, there are many who really do, and many who work really hard; the concept of burn-out is not a mystery in Romania. But still, there are many who do not like to work.
- most of them do not like to respect rules. Or to respect the others.
- many have a bad impression about their country, while they have a good impression about themselves.
- they do not like to plan things, and I suppose this is the first thing you may see as you take the first step into the country.
- many have a lot to learn about good taste, as they really like kitsch - a rather common way of life around here, unfortunately.
- the worst thing, the only thing that ever made me consider emigrating, is that many Romanians envy the others so passionately, that their reasoning capacity is diminished. Out of personal experience, I can tell you there were cases when people tried to harm me just because they believed I was richer than them. And they did so even if their action did not bring them any advantage at all. Of course, this is not general, but it is really painful.
What I like about them, instead:
- they are not stupid (unless if they try really hard);
- they began traveling and opening themselves to the world. It basically means that, if you ever come to Romania, you should normally find people with a decent command of basic English, and occasionally other languages, such as Italian, Spanish, German or French. And this is a huge change if you look 20 years behind, as during the communist period only the privileged few were allowed to travel abroad;
- they actually have a rich cultural heritage, thus an identity which, rightfully used, could lead to a very fast and steady development of their country;
- they like to party. This might be actually a sign of superficiality, but to me this represents rather a sign of an easy heart.
You see, most of my co-nationals like to complain about their poorness. And most Romanians are poor, indeed. They will always tell you it is not their fault and they will blame the politicians - which is not primarily true. The Romanian politicians are indeed a disaster at this point, but they are in fact similar to the people they represent. Our main problem is not poorness; it is disorganization. It is not that we do not have money to spend; it is that we waste the (little) money we have and we blame others.
This makes that people who want to change things around here have only two possibilities in the end: they have to adapt themselves to the rest of the society and to appear as normal people, while invisibly trying to walk their way; or they have to quit and to emigrate - which represents their defeat, as well as the defeat of the country itself. Both these things happen today.
And then, there are those few who try to bring change without adapting themselves to the society. You tell me what is right and wrong here.
On Calea Victoriei, on a rainy evening.
Bucharesters love driving, let me tell you that, again and again.
On another key, I invite you to listen to one of the songs included into the national selection for Eurovision 2011. There are 13 songs in the national final, and this is the only one I liked. Enjoy.
I arrived here on Monday morning, after a journey of 12 long hours by train. I decided not to go further west and to spend my week off swimming in hot waters. So far, I can say, it is a good decision.
Oradea is a city of medium size located some 10 kilometers away from the western border of Romania. Budapest, Debreczen and Miskolc are much closer than Bucharest (which is situated some 600 kilometers away), so it is not a surprise that my presence here looked exotic to some. And 20 % of its population is ethnic Hungarian.
It is for the first time that I take contact with Oradea. I have to say I discovered a beautiful city, with a well-established urban identity, as most of the edifices in downtown were here already one hundred years ago.
On the other hand, my surprise was to find out that prices in general are higher than prices in Bucharest, while wages are obviously lower. If you go to the restaurant, to the cinema, to the hypermarket or if you take the cab or the tram, you have to pay more than in Bucharest. So far, there was not a single situation when I could see the prices to be lower here. As about the wages, there are a few people who manage to live well: those who have businesses in tourism, those with businesses in town and those placed in medium and high positions in the local administration. Plus, obviously, those lucky few working abroad. Overall, a small minority - while most of the people hardly manage to get to the end of the month. I noticed many shops where you could buy cheap stuff - generally clothes - made in China. On the other hand, I didn't notice important foreign corporations operating in Oradea. It is to no surprise, then, that many people are angry and hopeless.
I was curious to see more about the cultural/entertainment life of the city. I went to see a movie on Monday, I listened to a concert of a Hungarian rock band yesterday and I went to the Philharmonic tonight. There is also a state theater here, but all the seats for the tonight play were taken, and tomorrow I'll be already on my way back. In the end, I can say there is some cultural life here, but sadly and yet unsurprisingly the cultural offer is not rich. On the other hand, there are some good pubs and a handful of decent restaurants.
As for the historical part, I noticed, before coming here, that there are two synagogues in Oradea and that the Hebrew minority was very important here until a few decades ago, so I decided to ignore a little the relations between Romanian and Hungarian ethnics - which by the way seem rather normal and much better than a decade ago.
The Holocaust - effective in that part of Romania occupied by Hungary during the Second World War - and then the communist dictatorship reduced the tens of thousands to six hundred Hebrew inhabitants of Oradea today (the third largest community in the country, after Iasi and obviously Bucharest). I visited one of the synagogues and listened to the explanations of my guide. I saw the place where people were forced to take the death trains to Auschwitz. The community is struggling to survive as religious community, as most of its members are old and the youth is generally ignorant of the old Hebrew used in religious ceremonies. This is, by the way, a general trend concerning the Hebrew communities in Romania. Their main problem today is to gather the ten men necessary for the daily prayer.
A few words about Baile Felix. Baile Felix is a station located 8 kilometers away from Oradea where one can find hot thermal springs, many outdated two-star hotels built during the communist period - left as such during the last two decades, as they were administered either by the state or, even worse, by the syndicates - and a lot of small mansions. My honest advice is that, if you ever decide to come here, you should avoid the hotels and go to a mansion. I am fully satisfied with the flat I rented this week, and my only regret is that I am alone.
And a few photos.
I did not like very much the club itself - perhaps I was not in my best mood, after all, that night - but the bartender was cool and nice. The image shall tell you more; I recall you there are moments when silence is better than speaking, or writing.
As much as I love Bucharest, there are times when I need to take distance and to do something that has nothing to do with the city.
Within a couple of hours I'll be out of town and hopefully out of the country. That is yet to decide. I'll be back at the end of the week, and I hope my (physical) state will be better then. My hope is that I'll find an internet connection over there, because I'd like to keep blogging during my free time.
The week I had was rather good, though. But the state of tiredness I have is not treatable anymore in the city, with some rest only. You noticed perhaps there were no posts here on Thursday and on Friday - a rough schedule is the reason. I need to figure some things on my own, as well.
I'll be either somewhere in Hungary, either in north-western Romania. Exactly one year ago, I spent some wonderful days in Veliko Tarnovo. I decided not to repeat the experience, as Bucharest is too close. Initially, I wanted to go to Chisinau, but it turned out in the end there's no one there to show me the city, so that plan is also postponed.
Even if I do it by need and less by choice, I must confess I like to travel alone.
In the end, the photo of the day.
Free Press' House, as seen from the Herastrau lake....
The communist name of the building is "House of the spark". Of course, the communist fellows built it - they liked building huge stuff, and that explains its heavy Soviet architectural style.
To be honest, I believe the sunset is the more interesting thing in this picture - taken with my phone, two years and a half ago.