26 mai

„Frumoasa si Bestia”, scria The Telegraph despre tara noastra.” Transilvania este cu adevarat un loc frumos, mistic si magic. Iar Sibiul este unul din cele mai frumoase orase”.


Jurnalistul de la The Telegraph a descoperit insa ca tara nostra are si locuri care nu-i fac cinste.

„Departe de perlele din Transilvania, Sibiu, Sighisoara si Brasov, multe zone din Romania nu sunt atractive. Desi este in UE, tara ramane saraca, iar drumurile desfundate”.

Cel mai urat i s-a parut la Bucuresti, pe vremuri Micul Paris, unde Casa Poporului este descrisa un monument „brutal si grotesc”.

Romania: beauty and the beast
Adrian Bridge looks at the best and worst of Romania, from the Western Carpathians to the communist-era eyesores.



The road from Timisoara to Sibiu skirts the rim of the Western Carpathians (the Transylvanian Alps). It’s a glorious autumn day and the leaves are just beginning to turn. I pass field after field of golden wheat and corn and sunflowers and villages where gnarled old men sit under trees and stare and chat.

A man in a passing horse and cart waves; elsewhere cows and oxen are being walked home along the street. I double-take. Is this really part of the European Union? 2009? Never mind the past 20 years of capitalism, did communism ever happen?

This is truly another country, another age. Michael Palin called the former Eastern Bloc the New Europe, but to me this looks like old Europe, a Europe that still moves to ancient, simpler rhythms. This is Transylvania: the “land beyond the forest”. It is indeed a beautiful, mystical, magical place.

It is also a place that has long been fought over. In the 13th century, marauding Tatars used to like to come and make themselves very unwelcome. The indigenous population, helped by an influx of Saxon Germans, built fortified towns and cities to keep them at bay.
Sibiu is one of the most beautiful. Named European Capital of Culture in 2007, this art-filled city of churches and cobbled streets and houses with curious slanted windows that look like eyes has been restored to its glorious best.

Even under communism this place was a bit special (Ceausescu’s playboy son, Nicu, made it his base). But the dull greys of that era have been replaced by sky blues, reds, apricots and greens, and today it positively thrives. I check into a new addition: the Sibiu Hilton, head to the spa and move firmly back into the 21st century.
…and the beast

Away from the Transylvanian pearls of Sibiu, Sighisoara and Brasov, a lot of Romania is not so pretty. Despite being in the EU, the country remains poor and its roads bumpy. In towns and cities, beggars can be intrusive. As elsewhere in the region, there are communist-era eyesores.

Nicolae Ceausescu took the erection of such eyesores to another level. Though dead almost 20 years, his is still a towering, terrifying presence in Bucharest – a city once termed the “Paris of the East”.

Inspired by the grandiose architecture of North Korea, Ceausescu decided in the Eighties to refashion Bucharest completely by building a vast “civic centre” district dominated by the “Palace of the People”, at the head of the “Boulevard to the Victory of Socialism” to be modelled on (but slightly longer than) the Champs-Elysées. To do so he ordered the demolition of a quarter of the city’s historic centre.

It was brutal, monumental architecture taken to the extreme and was a huge drain on the country’s resources and manpower (more than 1,000 people died during construction).

Although the project was not quite complete at the time of Ceausescu’s downfall, it was well past the point of no return. Today, the palace, the second-largest building in the world after the Pentagon, is home to the country’s parliament and the city’s leading tourist attraction.

I join a tour around just a fraction of the more than 1,000 rooms and reception areas spread over 14 floors, and am shown vast glittering chandeliers and staircases (all fashioned with Romanian crystal and marble). I see the His and Her wings (Nicolae’s wife Elena had by the end become a mighty power in her own right). I also stand on the balcony from which Ceausescu had intended to address a grateful nation.

It is grotesque, but utterly compelling. It shows once again what can happen when power goes to the head of one man: especially a short man who wants to feel big.


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