Tue 28 Mar 2006
I’m in Bucarest today. It’s my first time in Romania – it’s just for two days but it has been very interesting. It’s still a very poor country and it shows everywhere – even the most important place in the city center, where the government resides and the events of the 1989 uprising started is dirty and caotic. Roads are in bad shape and the way taxi drivers drive makes your hair stand. But the country is now developing very fast and it also shows.
The first thing you see while driving from the airport is a road under construction – and it’s just the beginning. Bucarest is one huge construction site, everywhere you go you see buildings of all kinds in various stages of construction and cranes dot the horizon. In the city center you can even smell it – this particular odor of plaster and cement and fresh walls permeates it.
This must have been a very nice city at the height of its prosperity between the wars in the early XX century. You can still see many nice buildings from the late 19th and early 20th century along lovely, narrow street. It’s what’s left after the massive demolishions ordered by the mad communist dictator, Caucescu, who rulled that country from the sixties until 1989. In place of destroyed old town ugly, huge buildings were built in the „neo-classicist“ style – in fact stalinist style. The huge, depressing People’s Palace in the middle of the town is his biggest achievement. It looks like a decoration from a horror movie – all the negativty of Caucescu’s twisted mind recorded in stone, probably for ages.
Somehow all the dictators, all whose ego is possesed by the will to subdue other minds and eradicate joy have this distinct taste for huge, grim, overwhelming buildings designed to show their unlucky subjects their insignifficance next to the immense power of the state. There is a striking simmilarity in what Speer intended to build for Hitler and what was designed for Stalin, Caucescu, Kim Ir Sen and others.
But buildings are just things. They can be adapted, changed, even demolished. It’s much harder to see the devastation in people’s minds. Judging from what I can see everyday in Poland wounds must be much deeper here. However, Romanians seem to value and appreciate the freedom they gained in heroic, desperate uprising against tyrany in which many lost their lives. Our guide mentioned that a few times as we went on a two hour city tour.
Overall, it’s sad to see how much all the CEE countries were damages by the plague of comminism and Russian influence. Places that were thriving and developed have now to catch up with those who were just lucky to be located far enough from the East. I wish Romanians all the best in their struggle to rebuild their country and their lives but I’m afraid it will take them generations just like everyone on this side of what was the Iron Curtain.