After the work
in Vurpar and Sibiu we decided to enjoy a train ride back to Bucuresti,
the capital. It was comfortable, relaxing and very interesting.
In our compartment
were four Romanians engaged in a lively debate. One was a college
student, one a young banker and the other two a retired couple.
It was a debate on the future of Romania. The older couple criticized
the changes in the country, specifically from their perspective:
prices had gone up, their pension had stayed at the same level,
their buying power was destroyed and they were sinking daily deeper
into poverty. They fondly remembered the Ceausescu times. They were
not alone. Throughout Romania we heard the same refrain, in the
Ceausescu times at least there was stability and systems worked.
The younger people asked what the alternative should be? Should
the country return to a centralized, planned, closed, police-state
economy. They argued that Romania was paying for years of mismanagement
and corruption and that they preferred the freedom, in spite of
the degrading poverty.
In fact, we
heard of a poll that noted that a majority of people in Romania
thinks the Ceausescu era was a better time, but an almost equal
majority said that they did not want to go back to those days. It
is transition time in Romania.
In Sibiu, Bucuresti,
and Vurpar, our small sample area, we saw significant changes over
the past visits to the country. The attitude toward service had
changed markedly. When we bought a case of beer the clerk carried
it to the car. That was a change from the old days when indifference
reigned. At hotels clerks were actually friendly in almost an American
sort of way, again a remarkable change. People smiled and offered
to help in restaurants, clubs, hotels, stores, and so many places.
On the streets
I noticed that more people were smiling, or engaged in relaxed conversations,
or walking with their heads up, rather than focused downward, avoiding
the eyes of others.
On the streets
we saw better-dressed people. There was style and, occasionally,
elegance. The Dacia is now making way for Mercedes, Peugeots, BMWs,
Land Rovers and Fords. Buildings are beginning to feel the paint
brush for the first time in years. A gathering of Dutch tourists
ambled by intent upon rooflines and cornices. Restaurants, in general,
were clean and hospitable, except for the clouds of smoke. In fact,
in Casa Moraru in Sibiu the service matched the exceptional fare.
In La Turn in Sibiu trendy young people argued, discussed, laughed
and generally acted like they could have been anywhere in Western
There was once
a letter-to-the-editor in the International Herald Tribune that
chided the west for expecting too much from the former communist
countries. The writer noted that it had taken the west hundreds
of years to develop democratic institutions and an involved populace.
He questioned how we could expect East Europe to make the same strides
in just ten short years. His question was good, but Romania's progress
has been better. On top of all that we observed, we also noticed
that business (Romanian and others) people are beginning to invest
in Romania bringing the two things the country lacks, capital and
we will be on the road again to Romania with 25 Lions Club members
and more. Keep an eye on the site for a report on that trip and
what we learn.
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