The City of Bucharest is an amazing example of the juxtaposition of old-world communism living side by side with a rapidly advancing, almost voracious capitalism.
I’m old enough to remember the 1989 Revolution, as we witnessed it in the U.S. from the comfort of our homes anyway. I still have vivid images of the orphanages overflowing with emaciated children trapped behind the metal bars of dilapidated cribs. I know it’s been decades, but for many of us born in the Cold War era, some ghosts of the past fade slowly.
On my way here, on the plane I tried to rid my mind of any pre-conceived notions or ideas. I wanted to arrive in Bucharest with an open heart and an open mind.
My first few days here I walked the streets. I do that whenever I travel. I just walk the streets and take in whatever the city has to offer. The strangest thing for me was seeing the behemoths of communist architecture draped or topped with humongous neon signs advertising Coke, T-Mobile, Metropolitan Life, Dove, etc.
It was almost as if when communism began to fall, multinational corporations swooped in and, instead of installing flags to lay claim to new territories, they quickly put up giant billboards and neon signs.
The City is almost like any other big urban center in the world with the exception of its communist era aesthetics. It is a landscape of people moving quickly, with purpose, coffee shops as plentiful as religious institutions and clogged arteries of traffic with vehicles indicating the many socio-economic stratums existent in modern-day Romanian life.
It is easy to see, by the insane number of McDonalds, KFC’s and competing mobile phone services that change has come swiftly and the undeniable appetite of consumerism is taking hold.
As I’m walking around, I’m seeing small, outdoor screens playing previews for current blockbuster movies and commercials for all types of hair and skin products.
This onslaught for immediate economic ascension hasn’t brought with it an equally rapid global socialization.
In an era when technology has supposedly shrunk the world, the oddity is that I am still an anomaly here in the streets of Bucharest. As I walk the different areas of the city I’m witnessing emphatic reactions to my presence. People quite literally stop and stare. A young woman was pushing a stroller and the child, about 3, maybe 4, began yelling and pointing in my direction. As they passed the child leaned out of the stroller, craning to continue yelling and pointing.
I’m beginning to believe that maybe technology doesn’t really bring the world together in the way that I had initially thought.
A few years ago I wrote an article based loosely on Baldwin’s “Stranger in the Village.” I called it “Stranger in the Village Poland.” It covered my experiences in Poland that, I felt, mimicked what he had experienced in Switzerland.
I may need to write a “Stranger in the Village Bucharest” version.
Thus far, the most prominent similarity I can “definitely” say I’m experiencing that Baldwin did is the cold.
To say that it is cold here in Bucharest would be equivalent to saying you might experience a “slight” chill when standing outside naked in the frozen wilds of Alaska. Maybe the years have conditioned me to being a much gentler, softer kinda guy but I don’t think I can ever grow accustomed to losing feeling in my extremities.
Well, I’ll try to get a few more of these blogs out about my daily experiences here.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed with what’s going on in my world.
So, until we meet again, as they say here in Romanian “la revedere!”