Vurpar, Romania
Vurpar Street
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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 Europe.

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 business acumen.

In mid-August 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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