We’re closed

inchis

Hidden amongst the usual crap that masquerades as news on Pro TV last night was a short report looking at how many of Bucharest’s major attractions are closed just when tourists (and locals, we might add) want to visit them: bank holidays. The original Mediafax story the Pro TV report was pulled from can be read (in Romanian) here.

On both Easter Sunday and Monday all of Bucharest’s most visited and essential attractions (the Village Museum, the Grigore Antipa Natural History Museum, the National Art Museum, the Peasant Museum and Casa Poporului) were shut, with thousands of potential, paying visitors left bewildered as to why. (Some of these attractions were even closed on Good Friday and Easter Saturday). It was reported that one group of German tourists were taken on an impromptu tour of Bucharest Old Town’s cafes instead of a planned tour of the Village Museum.

The situation was much the same elsewhere in the country, with Peles Castle in Sinaia and the Brukhental Museum in Sibiu also strangely closed to visitors. It is bad enough (although at a stretch understandable) that most Romanian attractions already close for at least two days per week (usually Monday and Tuesday): it is downright bizarre that they should close precisely when they might have a glut of visitors.

In a not unrelated event, some friends of ours presented themselves at the gondola lift in Poiana Brasov last week (following a heavy snowfall) only to be told that it would not be opening as the skiing season had ended in March. ‘Surely the season ends only when there is no more snow?’ they naively argued, in vain.

As much as we like to pretend that Bucharest (and Romania as a whole) is increasingly geared up to receive foreign visitors, it is these seemingly little, unimportant things – such as ensuring that attractions are open when people might want to visit them – that prove, as much as anything else that it still has a long way to go. You can advertise holidays in Bucharest and Romania as much as you like, but if nothing is open when people turn up then you’re at risk of looking a little stupid.

Romanian TV News Easter Bingo

Si politicienii au luat lumina

Si politicienii au luat lumina

Yes, it’s that time of the year again.

Over the next few days, tune in to the Romanian TV news every now and then and tick off these cliches/scenarios as they get rolled off:

Friday & Saturday

In asteptarea miracolului invierii, there will be a report from a pension in a village somewhere (probably Maramures) where there will be much talk of preparing for the arrival of turistii.

In (insert name of village here) pregatirile pentru Pasti sunt in toi

Turistii will be interviewed in front of a ‘masa belsugata‘ and will say how wonderful it all is.

There will then be a report from a border crossing point, as Romanians working abroad come home for Easter. Bonus points for spotting the phrase:

Masinile Romanilor din strainatate sunt supraincarcate cu cadouri si bunatati pentru cei dragi de acasa

On Saturday, there will be much live reporting from a supermarket, a report which will include the following phrases:

Romanii au format cozi lungi de sute de metri pentru a cumpara cozonaci la promotie

Bucurestenii au luat cu asalt hipermarketurile capitalei inca de la primele ore ale diminetii

Multi Romani au lasat cumparaturile de pasti pana la ultima suta de metri

There will also be a report from a market, where there will be a control by health officials checking the origin of the lamb being sold.

Then, late on Saturday evening, look out for a report about market traders left holding hundreds of unsold lambs.

A report from Otopeni Airport will tell us that many Romanians are spending Easter abroad. Bulgaria, Grecia, Spania si Turcia will be the most popular destinations, but expect to be told that many are heading for ‘destinatii mai exotice, precum Mauritius, America de Sud sau, de ce nu, Statele Unite.’

Sunday

Let the cliches flow.

In the morning, expect reports from Saturday night’s midnight masses. Look out for these headlines:

Romanii au luat lumina

Si politicienii au luat lumina

Regele Mihai a luat lumina

Si catolicii au luat lumina

Miliarde de credinciosi din intreaga lume au luat lumina

Early in the afternoon, expect a report from the Vatican. The following words will be used:

Papa Francisc a vorbit despre (whatever he talks about) si a zis si cateva cuvinte in limba romana (cue Pope saying Hristos a inviat).

Monday

The action will (if the weather is good) move to the parks. Expect to hear:

Bucurestenii au luat cu asalt parcurile capitalei inca de la primele ore ale diminetii

Cue interviews with small kids, who will be asked if the Iepuras (Easter Bunny) brought them any chocolate eggs.

Primii care s-au bucurat de venirea iepurasului au fost, bineinteles, copiii

In Constanta people will be filmed out walking on the pier by the casino, and will be asked what they think of the great weather. ‘Frumos‘ they will reply.

You can also expect to see a report from a field by the side of a road somewhere, where some people will be having a barbeque.

The first person to send us their Romanian TV News Easter Bingo card with all the above phrases ticked off wins a prize.

Scoala altfel

Last week, the last before the Easter holidays, was Scoala Altfel (Another Kind of School). The idea of Scoala Altfel is for schools in Romania to organise a week of non-formal education and extra-curricular activities for all children in classes 0-8.

A legacy of the awful Daniel Funeriu’s disastrous time as Romanian Minister of Education, Scoala Altfel is one of those initiatives which – like just about anything which began life on Funeriu’s desk – looks good on paper but is less than impressive in reality. We have never been fans of Scoala Altfel: either kids are at school, learning formally, or they are on holiday. Do not try and mix the two.

Besides eating up a week of a child’s school holiday, you can probably guess the many other problems with Scoala Altfel. Teachers – already overworked and underpaid – have to come up with a week’s worth of activities, often on a very small or non-existent budget. Add in the current hysteria regarding fondul clasei (funds collected by teachers from parents for exactly this kind of thing) and new requirements for teachers to get all sorts of paperwork before taking children off school premises and you have a recipe for disaster. What’s more, many of Bucharest’s museums were actively saying ‘School groups not welcome’ in the weeks running up to Scoala Altfel.

Fortunately, the Bucharest Life kids have two wonderful teachers who both made an effort to make the week as enjoyable as possible. Daughter of Bucharest Life had puppet shows, origami classes and a quiz amongst much else, while Son of Bucharest Life spent the week learning to… dance. The result was this class flash mob at the Sun Plaza mall on Friday afternoon. Enjoy:

15 Years of Bucharest In Your Pocket

Happy birthday to us.

The first issue of the day job, Bucharest In Your Pocket, was published 15 years ago this month. It looked like this:

Bucharest In Your Pocket Issue 1

We know what you’re thinking: with a cover like that it’s a miracle we made it to issue two, let alone issue 88: our latest, 15th anniversary special.

Usually rather bashful, we don’t mind admitting that we’ve gone to town a bit with the celebrations this time. Inside the guide there’s a six-page feature looking back at the very beginning (six pages of self-indulgent drivel/a fascinating look at the early days of Bucharest IYP: delete according to preference). We also take a look at some of our favourite covers, some of which we have plastered on the new cover itself:

BIYP_88_Cover

Should you care to do so, you can read the 15th Anniversary feature here.

The rest of the guide can be viewed in numerous formats, from PDF here to glorious Issuu:

The print version will be on the streets in a day or two.