Gica Contra moves on to Hala Matache

Much fuss being made of late by the Dorobanti glitterati about the forthcoming demolition of Hala Matache, an old Bucharest market hall which stands in the way of Bulevardul Uranus, a much needed thoroughfare that will link the north and south of Bucharest, creating a new traffic flux to relieve pressure on Bulevards Balcescu, Magheru and Ana Ipatescu:

[mappress mapid=”9″]

Around a third of the route of Bulevardul Uranus is new, while the rest requires the widening of the existing Strada Berzei. It is here that buildings, including Hala Matache, are having to be demolished.

Hala Matache

Unlike a number of infrastructure projects planned for Bucharest, Bulevardul Uranus makes real sense, and is supported by a large majority of the city’s population. You can read about some of the other projects (in Romanian) here. The Mihai Bravu flyover – on which work began last month – seems particularly pointless, especially as there is so much congestion just a kilometre or so further south, at Piata Sudului, where there is a real need for a flyover or underpass.

As usual, however, a reactionary minority is opposed to Bulevardul Uranus, and, having seen the back of the Dambovita Centre (which will now not be built following the utterly predictable collapse of the developer) has focussed its efforts at protest on Hala Matache, which dates from 1887.

To us, it hardly appears to merit the effort. It is no great architectural beauty, and in our experience – we once lived nearby and used to shop here – was always a frightful place, rife with pickpockets and speculators. It was not a great market at all. It is an ordinary building on an ordinary street, which was surrounded by derelict houses and buildings – most of which have now gone. They will not be missed.

Of course, in an ideal world Hala Matache would not have to be demolished. But this is not an ideal world: this is a growing metropolis which needs to meet the needs of its inhabitants.

But for those enemies of rationalism who oppose any and all projects which offer very real, practical solutions for the needs of the people of Bucharest, that is not really the point.

  • My only question is “Who is Gigi Contra in this story?”

    • The reactionary enemies of progress!

    • Mr Rearguard

      Gigi Contra is a fella who is always against something even though he knows it is right.

  • Radu

    Dear Craig, you’re probably right about this, but you need to be more careful how you talk about and to these people. Bucharest has suffered great trauma under Ceaușescu and many people are now very sensitive about any kind of demolitions or destructions of any kind ( see e.g. Roșia Montană ). Considering the apathy that allowed the horrors of the ’80s to happen in the first place, this is mainly a good thing, notwithstanding the occasional exaggerations. Also, if I were you, I would stop projecting unto Romania all this pathological British obsession with social class. It doesn’t work in Romania, at least not the way you seem to think it does. In fact I think it’s harmful even in Britain. In Romania we have our own divisions and fault-lines, but it takes time to understand them. It’s certainly a flabbergasting experience to read that the friends of Hala Matache are in your opinion ‘Dorobanti glitterati’. I have no idea where you got that from. Quite the opposite in fact, they are often the shabby young left-wing type with intellectual pursuits, many idealist ‘alternative’ students, Occupy wannabes etc. Even if they were wealthy, please don’t blame people for presuming to have both money and high ideals, it’s nasty. Criticise people for their ideas all you want, but don’t criticise their backgrounds.
    As for the project itself, it obviously has to go forward now, there’s nothing to be gained from having both the neighbourhood demolished and the boulevard works halted forever. But you must admit that Oprescu’s vision for solving the traffic problem is hardly a vision at all, just a near-sighted way of muddling through. Bucharest is a fast-growing city, with a number of cars that keeps going up and up ( driven by most people’s own near-sighted vanity ). Demolishing a whole neighbourhood and building a new boulevard buys us a decade perhaps, at best. Then what ? Demolish another neighbourhood ? It lulls people ( men especially ) into a false sense of security about car ownership: ‘It’s fine, we have a mayor who’s looking for practical solutions to the traffic problem’. This only encourages more people who don’t own cars to buy them, thus completing the vicious circle. The only solution is to limit access by car to the city centre by imposing a fee, but like most direly-needed solutions to this city’s problems (e.g. killing the feral dogs), it doesn’t win any votes and therefore no one wants to do it.

    • Parmalat

      They’re not Dorobanti glitterati. In fact, Dorobanti glietterati don’t give a fuck about what’s happening around them.

      Those who oppose the modernizing of Bucharest are youngsters who either don’t have an occupation or they do photography, who listen to rock music, who don’t give a shit about the way they dress, who had voted for Nicusor Dan (and in the absence of Nicusor Dan – they voted for Traian Basescu) and who prefer dogs instead of cats.

      It’s a social class that had been around for a while, descendants of the ones who took some bats on their humpbacks from the miners in 1990.

      Back in 1990 it was the same thing: a bunch of brainless and useless youngsters made panarama in Piata Universitatii and the whole world was staring at us. The society had to take some attitude cause a handfull of people were blocking the evolution of the country.

    • Some fair points well made.

      I can certainly understand how memories of the screwed up modernisation projects of the 1980s – both urban and rural – generate negativity towards progressive policies today; it’s a natural reaction.

      I also think, however, that the whole systemisation programme is often used by some anti-growth/development groups as a bit of a catch-all argument. Mention how the countryside needs to be developed and some will reply ‘well Ceausescu wanted to do that…’

      As for the class issue, in my experience the most vocal opponents of projects like Strada Uranus and – especially – Rosia Montana are relatively well-off, urban intellectuals who are often not even personally affected, and yet whose actions will impact deeply on the less privileged members of society. To see wealthy people who have never done a day’s manual labour in their lives campaign against the creation of jobs for unemployed miners is tragic.

      • There were beautiful buildings there, some XIXth century houses that were brought down to make room for the new boulevard…. I pitty that, as a well-off, urban, left wing intellectual who hasn’t done a day of manual labour (except when gardening my David Austin Roses). Am I supposed to feel ashamed for that??? Well, I am not. Surely, driving on the new route will be simpler, more efficient bla bla bla. The thing is they have put down some great architecture. I grew up in that neighbourhood and it brought tears to my eyes to see the whole place mutilated. All the charm is not lost….

        • And on the Rosia Montana issue, my point is very clear: nobody is against creating jobs for the miners but many are very much against destryoing a unique area because some idiotical politicians lobbied for a certain corporation and negotiated a lousy deal for Romania. If you go to Majdanpek in Serbia (I did) you could see with your own eyes what it looks like. The job argument is totally irrelevant if you look in perspective. Romania is not Africa.

  • bucaresthandbook

    Amis des halles Matache,

    Vous êtes dans une situation critique et vous en avez parfaitement conscience.
    Votre action envers les halles ne doit être qu’un début. En tant qu’architecte, nous voulons vous soutenir et apporter une démarche complémentaire:

    Le projet prévu strada Berzei suit la même démarche que le boulevard Unirii et ce qui faisait autrefois le Paysage de votre quartier disparaitra, effacé par des barres de 15 étages masquant et bloquant toute transition. Ensemble, nous devons le préserver et conserver sa manière de vivre.

    Matache est un point sensible de ce projet en train de se faire.
    Mais pour en bloquer la brutalité, il faut agir sur le DERNIER point subsistant de votre quartier, avant la blessure d’une nouvelle route, déjà avancée.

    Nous devons réactiver votre identité et arrêter ce processus, inverser la tendance, investir ce lieu pour dire STOP!
    Révoltez-vous, opposez-vous, concertez-vous.

    Allez sur la strada Parcalabul Baldovin, entre le n°22 et le n°24, et regardez…

    Tenez-nous au courant,

    Friends of Halla Matache,

    You are in a critical situation and you certainly understand it.
    Your action for Halla must be only the Beginning. As architects, we want to support you and bring a complementary approach.

    The project that is programmed for strada Berzei is the same approach than, that one witch made happen Boulevard Unirii. Everything that made the image of your neighbourhood will die, erased by the blocs of 15 stairs high, they will bloc all transitions you had before. Together we have to preserve it and let it alive.

    Matache is a sensible point of the project under construction. But to bloc it’s brutality,
    We have to react in the LAST point of your neighbourhood, that still survive, before the injury of the new road progress more.

    We have to reactivate your identity and stop the process, reverse the trend, invest this place to say STOP !

    Revolt you, oppose your self, consult together.

    Go to strada Parcalabul Baldovin, between n°22 and n° 24, and look …

    We look for a word to hearing from you, …

    • Parmalat

      Go away man, the utilities bill for November just arrived…

  • gaggi

    i didn’t go through all the comments made before, so sorry if i repeat something, but 22 has released an interesting interview concerning the legality of the whole boulevard project and also the way the people living in the demolished houses are “recompensated”:

    of course, one can still debate about the necessity of the project as it stands, but i can’t help but get the impression that debate is not exactly what happened beforehand. and apparently, even though the project as it stands may be a step towards the right direction, laws are being violated by the administration; and i dare to doubt that illegal demolitions and constructions really are what bucharest needs most at the moment to solve its problems.

  • Ioana

    @ Anon >>> moving the churches – found this, has a photo gallery and they give details about the buildings on Stefan cel Mare as well

    • anon

      Thanks Iona,
      Awesome engineering there, totally mind blowing that they could move entire buildings like that.

    • Drachi

      Matache…? MATACHE…! WTF! I thought this was a post about MUSTACHE! Nice job, Turp. You fooled me again, tu egiptean câine fără păr!

  • Ayce

    Word from the momunents’ commision is that they won’t authorize it’s demolition, but there is a viable moving plan:

    (for more CTUAT meetings, see: )

    Matthew Hardy: The infrastructure must be relatively complete to start reducing car usage. Bucharest’s is in pieces due to various reasons.

    • anon

      was moving it not the plan originally?
      Anyway now that it’s going to be moved and not demolished, we shall see who’s worried about a building, and who just doesn’t like the idea of a road being built.

      Slightly OT, but I remember seeing some photos on Piata Romana of buildings that were moved in order to make room for new projects back in Ceausescu’s time. Bloody impressive feat of engineering to do what they did.

      • anon

        Checking the date on the first link you posted, it seems that this plan has been around since December at least.
        We are seeing the opposition’s movement to this work being reduced to just not liking a road aren’t we?

        • Ayce

          Most of the people that oppose the widening are BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) people. Others are well intentioned, but misguided.

          OT: They did move 2 apartment buildings on Ștefan cel Mare to widen it. It was all done while the residents continued living inside with working utilities.

          • anon

            That’s quite impressive…was this a recent move or from the communist days?
            I’d be interested so see any picture or maps of the move if you have them

            • Ioana

              they also moved 8 churches. some on few meters, but there was case when they moved 300 meters. or rotated them. they were built between 1600 – 17xx something. hided them behind blocks-of-flats. preparations for such works took months, but the act itself had to be done practically overnight.

            • Ayce

              Communist (80s), as no buildings have been moved in Romania since 1989 – and it was 3 buildings actually:


              Another similar move at Iancului:


              Most of the moved buildings were actually churches, to make way for boulevards and their corridor style apartment buildings.

              • anon

                Thanks Ayce, absolutely incredible. Hopefully they will do the same thing with Hala Matache…I’d love to see that first hand.

  • What is sad about this proposal is that the proponents of the road believe it will solve a problem, rather than just induce even more traffic choking the heart out of Bucuresti. No other European city still has an active inner-urban road-building programme.
    There’s a wealth of evidence out there now that building roads generates even more traffic. There isn’t ever enough space in cities for cars. That’s because each car needs hundreds of square metres of space, compared to pedestrians, bicycles, buses and tramways – and other modern forms of movement.

    • And I agree. I would fully support any and all moves to reduce the amount of cars entering the centre of Bucharest each day. A congestion charge would be a sound idea: but before that can happen the centura needs to be upgraded to motorway status so that people can avoid transiting the city. More metro lines need to be built, bus services improved, dedicated bus lanes introduced, vast pedestrian-only areas designated. But I see none of these things happening. Even Lipscani – which was a few years ago designated car free – now sees loads of traffic because so many people ignore the rules.

    • anon

      Bucharest never underwent the same kind of modernisation as say Paris or London for example. There is a need for more car accomondation, a large ‘Bucharest orbital’ would go along way to getting traffic out of the city, and as for inside the city, more parking is needed, way more parking. If they charged for the parking it would eventually pay for itself. The car park by Hard Rock Cafe has parking charges, which end up being less than what you would give the menacing people who squat the ‘free’ places in the city center so they don’t key your car.

      The metro is not exactly adequate, it needs waaaay more stops, the buses and trams need modernising, cleaning, and some security as they are plagued with pickpockets.

      • anon

        That and road laws REALLY need to be enforced. I’ve been stuck at intersections for ages where there has been gridlock because some twats don’t get the idea that intersections are not supposed to be blocked.

  • Ioana

    an alternative:
    this is what i found on a site, with a link at the bottom of the page, redirecting to a pdf document of 67 pages. it’s all written in romanian
    i don’t have time to read it now, but while i scrolled down i noticed there were students which proposed stuff even from 2000, for their dissertation.
    i was hoping for more simulations and more visuals

    • I will read this with interest.

      • anon

        ha this is going to tax my Romanian lanuage ability…I’m having lessons, but argh!

        Def needs more “it could look like!” CGI/photoshopped images. It needs something eye catching to entice the stupid masses to plod through that report.

      • I don’t know if you found the time to read the document but for me it is useless: in 67 pages I didn’t find a single schema of how they think to redesign this area. There are only some images taken from Bing maps and some pictures from other cities. But I want to see how exactly they want to design things.

  • Ioana

    Architects and urbanists are supposed to have INITIATIVE and VISION and be able to predict the needs of a growing city. Right?
    Not wait until is too late.
    It looks like this project was in stand-by for years, so the area is threatened for years and yet???
    What did the Union of Architects, what did the Order of Architects to protect it? I’m sure they already have a good plan, but they keep it secret yet.
    In one of the posts below I suggested traditional commerce because I think it’s outrageous to boil polenta, carnati&fasole and sarmale in front of the National Art Musuem each time there is a folk event. And also – the blue plastic tents with souvenirs and honey-cake blocking the view in Lipscani.
    All these traditional stuff !!!! GO in a proper place !!! – let the classical buildings breathe.
    Matache is not so posh – that’s why it can accommodate all this stuff.
    And no, I don’t think there are proper places for peasants to bring their REAL stuff.
    In the few piata left, they re-sell Spanish or Turkish vegetables; very little local.

    • anon

      “Architects and urbanists are supposed to have INITIATIVE and VISION and be able to predict the needs of a growing city. Right?”
      You’re the architect, you tell me.

      • Ioana

        Oh, was a way of saying, I didn’t want to be too harsh and generalize.
        Of course it’s one of our roles and responsibilities: to come up with solutions even before the problem arise. Our UNI is a bit behind but this can’t serve as excuse forever.
        Now we are able to travel, browse and keep in touch with colleagues abroad.
        If there are architects or urbanists not so busy for the moment (since 2008 onwards), why not dedicate more time to projects like this one? A little volunteer work won’t kill anyone.

        • anon

          You’re right, it wouldn’t, but the attitude I keep seeing here in Bucharest is one of complaining and expecting things to magically happen instead of actually going out and doing something.
          Why not start a volunteer program yourself and get things rolling? I’m serious, there is billions of Euros of unclaimed EU funds that are waiting to be unlocked, just waiting for someone to pull their finger out of their backside and claim it. Once the ground work and good will is shown, the funding will follow.

          • Ioana

            this is enough of a lesson for myself; actually like a slap on face.
            i am already involved into something i initiated myself, with no support and despite of so many telling me it’s a waste of time.
            suddenly this “something” doesn’t look like such a priority anymore.
            or: guess i have to reconsider my priorities.

            • anon

              Keep at your ‘something’, we need more people who are willing to take the initiative. Produce something concrete (no pun intended) and try to get funding.
              Good luck

  • Ioana

    is it coincidence? men are pro-cars, women are pro-piata.
    shall we ask children what they want? they’ll got to live with our decisions.
    is there any competent study about how to preserve and revival the area?
    if not, is a real shame, i think.

    • Craig Turp

      I don’t drive. I walk everywhere, or take public transport.

      • Ioana

        i only tried a joke; sorry

        • I know! But someone above wasn’t…

    • Craig Turp

      I repeat my earlier question: where is the alternative plan to renovate the hall and the area? It is not enough to say ‘Save Hala Matache.’ A viable alternative has to be put forward.

      • Ioana

        Craig, it seems there is something; I’ll post it here in case I will be able to get it and in case someone cares. I hope it has images 🙂

  • Parmalat


    It looks like you hit the jackpot with this article 😀

    • Fedora

      Parmalat, you are a cretin. Truly…

      • Fedora

        It is clear by all these comments that people feel very strongly about this and if you think that’s hilarious, well…as I said, you’re a cretin…

        • Parmalat

          It’s hilarious.

          I peed in a hole once, maybe I should tie myself with cuffs around that hole so that nobody covers it =))

          If they build you a supermarket instead of that old ruin, will you give up? =))

  • Fedora

    This plan was drawn up 8 years ago and has been known in City Hall all this time. It’s mentioned then put under another pile of papers and now…her it is again in its final version… I wonder how long it has taken for Halul Matache to get into this state? Can anyone tell me when it first started to deteriorate…or rather, when it was first ALLOWED to deteriorate? How convenient it would have been for it to fall apart before the project got underway. No need for demolition papers, no need to fork out for bulldozer… very convenient indeed. It’s not the first time we see intentional passive demolition. take the roof of a building, let the metal scrap thieves in, destroy the supporting poles or whatever holds the structire in place and you have yourself a wreck… It won’t be the last time either. Proof of that is easy to find..

    I smell a rat. A very big rat. It was the same on Visarion, the same on Rosetti, the same on Grigorescu… helloooooo!!! Matache was left to rack and ruin ON PURPOSE, Goddammit! It was intentional neglect to avoid having to knock it down…

    • Parmalat

      What about the Wembley Stadium, the Brits let the scrap metal thieves in the Wembley Stadium too, right? So as to avoid obtaining authorizations.

      If you love old ruins so much, why don’t you go lay a tent next to Stonehenge!?

    • anon

      Oooh nothing like a conspiracy theory to get things moving.
      Let’s use Occam’s Razor for a second.
      Is it more probable that the owners of the many wrecked buildings in Bucharest are either dead, or don’t care enough/can’t afford to fix their property, and so with time they end up deteriorating?

      Or is there a mass conspiracy to erase Bucharest’s many old buildings?

  • Doina

    Shouldn’t cars pay some fee if they want to enter the center oh Bucharest, or park there? Its ,,modern” in London, Paris…for you like everything ,,modern”)) We would have money to restore historical buildings. By the way, Mr Craig Turp. have you ever heard of industrial architecture? Hala Matache falls in this category. The rest f the 90 buildings belong to other cathegories, a few left in Europe.

    • I agree. There should be a tax to enter the city centre with a car, there should be a plan to develop Bucharest’s industrial buildings (something along the lines of Manufaktura, in Lodz: Bere Rahova – for example – is crying out for this kind of project.

  • Doina

    If Hala Matache looks bad, its the fault of different mayors of Buchrest, as well as of the citizens living in this town. First, shame on them!

    I am amazed and outraged to read that we must demolish buildings 150 years old to make place for new ,fast cars! Did they do the same in Prague, Dresden, Bonn, Zagreb?! Or did they rebuild everything AS IT WAS , with the same materials, not with ,,termopane,trmopane”! But I presume the author is a driver and drivers are used to disregard everything exept their need to speed.
    London is full of narrow streets for they respet history,law and property. In Bucharest we dispise these. The Minister of Culture didn’t gave its OK for destroying Hala Matache, but the Mayor is in hurry! Shame on him and on those who support him for disregarding the law!!!

    I lived many years there and it was a peaceful neighborhood. It happens that I AM BORN HERE and I LOVE this town and hate Ceausescu’s idea of ,,modernizing” it! An this is exactly what is happening now. Instead of creating zones where to preserve the past, to go on foot or by bike, the NEW MAN ( Ceausescu’s new man exists, without culture, respect and love for the past, but eager to imitate what they consider ,,modern towns”)

    The building can /should be preserved as in the case of Hala Traian, Universul Printing House (now a supermarket but with the same look), as Hotel Caro (which was reconstructed brick by brick.)

    Its true, during the last years Hala Matache ( in fact Dr. Haralambie Botescu, but Matach Macelarul seems that had made quite an impression on his customers) was a very bad fame, but is the buidings’ guilt, or the mayors??! Or may the police’s, for the author speacks of picckpockets and other of this sort? If the Police,which we pay doesn’t do its duty we demolish a building? WHY??!
    Is the neighbourhood dirty? Does dirt comes out of nowhere, or is it made by man? Should the authorities to clean the streets? . Why don’t you ask them WHY???? Shame,again. For the Police, for the Mayor and for your lousy demonstration!

    So,instead of puttting into value what we still have we destroy everything to be modern?!

    There is an incredible passage in this post:

    Well, first, thank you for reminding us how old this building is. It survived two wars and Ceausescu!:)) It will not survive Oprescu:((

    Secondly I have been striken by the words ,,REACTIONRY MINORITY ? . Foreigners don’t know that these are exactly the words used by the communists against the CLASS ENNEMY and that REACTIONRY MINORITY ended directly into jails. So, I have my doubts about the origins of the author.

    Then I shall limit myself to MINORITY . Mr. Ghita Contra alias Craig Turp, minorities made always history an progress is due to them. Never huge masses as many learned (if) from history books did anything but follow. A minority did the modern Romania, a minority thought that Earth is not the center of the Universe. Minorities THINK. The rest is a flock.

    The fact that you cheer the demolition of a whole neighbourhood ( for its not only Matache, is Berzei, Buzesti aso) make me think of two possibilities – either you have interests in that zone or you belong to a flock who does care only for today. You must not be surprised when Romanians are called aliens in their own country, when we have no tangible proof and when have, we rapidly destroy the shamefull proof! But we have block of flats!

    As for the traffic which seems to be your main and unique concern, could and should be either detoured or forbidden in certain areas. I think you should militate for a better and more durrrable asphalt, for after a little snow we have, as every year, pits and soon we shall have some patches put over them, till the next rain!

    Progress is not simlar to demolition. And if a building is shabby I remember you that Prague and Warshaw were bombed and completely restored.For those people love theit history nd are proud of it. All you demonstrated me was that you are not. You are from nowhere so go to nowhere. Hala Matache must stand where it is, a sing that 150 years ago there lived and worked amd loved and died people of Bucharest. A sign that Romanian exist. Not in fast cars, no in smoke and horns, but in a peaceful, human life. The entire zone should be rebuild, cleaned and forbidden to tarffic.

    • Maria

      Bravo, Doina! Well said. Progress is NOT demolition and if buildings are falling apart, it’s the fault of the people around them, not the fault of history. If a car is dirty, clean it! If a building is in a state, repair it and paint it and take some civic pride. This sin’t done becasue noone sees anything anymore – this is a sentiment that non-Roumanians cannot understand. It is an alien feeling. Not see it? Hos can you not see it?? It’s staring you in the face… but one does not see it because one is saturated. that does NOT mean wipe it out, sentence it to destruction, eradicate a historical building. Progress means responsibility. It means accepting and living with one’s history. It also means respect for patrimony and legacy.

      • “Hala Matache must stand where it is, a sing that 150 years ago there lived and worked amd loved and died people of Bucharest. A sign that Romanian exist.”

        Thank you Doina for your words.

        • Maria

          Amen to that!

    • That communists gave the word ‘reactionary’ their own peculiar meaning should not prevent us from using it today. And please do not make assumptions without doing a little fact finding. You might end up looking ridiculous.

    • Peter

      A Doina: “I am amazed and outraged to read that we must demolish buildings 150 years old to make place for new ,fast cars! Did they do the same in Prague, Dresden, Bonn, Zagreb?!”

      I remember quite some demolishing in Dresden about 65 years ago, they have nice big roads overthere now! 😉

      • Directly underneath Dresden’s magnificent central square and cathedral is an underground, multi-level car park.

  • Anon, I think you want to know why halul Matache should remain a historic monument (or why it is). take a look here;

  • Ioana

    Maybe the ex-pats shall try to make local friends who will show them around properly.
    But hei, this means to walk, not to drive; and there are dogs, mud and ice on the streets, no red carpets.
    Maybe the locals have to promote their values better – first for their children and second for their guests and visitors; and especially to those who live here but don’t care where, as long as they have a street to take them home from work.
    But how many have energy to do this anymore, when many can’t even convince themselves?

    • Ioana, I understand you very well. Truly.

      About the ex-pats you never said a truer word. I worked with a bunch who after even 8 months couldn’t say Buna Ziua, nor did they care to bother.

      For the locals, you’re right too. When one is hit by bad news, corruption, spaga, mitocani and everything else one reads in the press and on the streets every day there comes a moment of such saturation that one just doesn’t care anymore.

      I know the lack nof energy, the awful passivity that comes from years of fighting morally, spiritually, emotionally, financially… and I feel it with all my heart in the country that I have adopted, which I feel truly mine and which I love with every fibre of my being. This is why I cannot tolerate the destruction, the demolitions, the defacing of a history pre-communism of which Roumania and its people should be proud.

      Roumania does have friends. there are those outside who love it very much (please visit my blog: ) and would do anything possible to help the cause of preserving its history and self respect. Your final paragraph really moved me very much because I know it, see it, hear it in those I love and I do not know how to break the spell…

      • anon

        So now we are getting into “blame the ignorant ex-pats” territory.
        This coming from the person who thinks that the current generation should have to suffer the mistakes of the past generation with regards to dogs, why at the same time ignoring the basics of evolutionary, and population biology.
        Blaming the victims of dog attacks, for being attacked is the lowest of low.

        • Before blaming ignorant expats I think it is crucial people do a little due diligence and see just how ignorant (or not) said expats are…

          • Yes, Craig. You’re right.

  • DLS

    I am appalled by the insensitivity of your post… I had to read it twice to be sure I wasn’t dreaming… How can you possibly endorse the destruction of a neighbourhood, and 87 buildings, several of them historic monuments???? I know Oprescu is a nut but frankly…

    This is a flagrant flashback of how it was to live under communism – the destruction of residential areas for the glory of…um…what exactly. A road that need not be built for as the post intelligently states below, a ring road would serve the residents of Bucharest and its suburbs far better. There are other solutions than feeding Oprescu’s megalomania and your post serves only to fuel the cold, heartless apathy that we are trying so very hard to combat.

  • Hello, there.

    I was so very sad, and as Cris says, disappointed too, to read the post above.

    Firstly, why is this highway being built in the first place: to lessen the traffic and pollution and to decrease travel time. Right? Capital cities of the world governed by intelligent people syphon their traffic AWAY from the centre by peripheriques or ring roads. Why? Because, surprisingly, it lessens the traffic and pollution AND decreases travel time. Genius. Mayor Oprescu and his cronies instead runs his Highway Oprescu straight through the heart of Bucharest. What will be the consequences. Um…let me think. Ah, yes: it will increase traffic, pollution and travel time. A failure in terms of logic before we’ve even got to point two.

    My second point is the Buzesti area. Halal Matache is the ONLY old traditional market left in Bucharest since Bucur Obor was renovated and spoilt. Built in 1887, it was the centre of the neighbourhood for decades. My mother remembers it from her childhood and my grandfather worked at the Dacia cinema. This market was a hub of every day life hustle and bustle, largely thanks to the guy after whom it’s named – a very shrewd butcher. It was part of the life of Bucharest residents as was Hotel marna, the Constantin Radulescu house and other beauties that are being eradicated off the face of the earth normally via illegal means. halal Matache is a symbol of historic Bucharest. If it’s in a state now (and I mean BEFORE the demonlition process began last Monday), it is because THIS city hall and government in situ do nothing to improve and maximise the historical buildings of what used to be a beautiful city. ‘Little Paris’ is long gone – today is getting closer to ‘Little Kabul’… destruction after destruction. Can you not see the wickedness of destroying history and patrimony without any discussion or debate?

    It is an outrage and spits on the lives of those lost in the name of freedom. Do you not realise how much this stinks of pre-1989? In 10 years, 1000 historical buildings have been demolished with or without permits and you can be sure that over the next five we’ll see the same annihilation.

    There IS another solution: Improve the state of the chronic roads outside Bucharest, build a decent ring road, introduce a toll system to a) make some money to improve the economy and b) discourage traffic comingf into the city, thus serving as an economic bonus, and cutting traffic and pollution.

    I am so disappointed by your post and insensitivity to history, architecture and patrimony. As an English spoken post, I was hoping that you would educate the expats living in Romania and the non Romanians beyond her frontiers… Sadly I was wrong. What a pity.

    • anon

      Great, so the solution is a regressive tax on those who can least afford it. Instead of allowing Bucharest to join the 21st century. Cars are only for rich people right?

      “It is an outrage and spits on the lives of those lost in the name of freedom. Do you not realise how much this stinks of pre-1989? In 10 years, 1000 historical buildings have been demolished with or without permits and you can be sure that over the next five we’ll see the same annihilation.”
      Is this any surprise considering post 1989 Romania has only elected ex-communists to power? You may have got rid of Ceauşescu, but it seems that the rest of his people were allowed to cling onto power.

      • DLS

        a toll is a tiny fee for entering a city and exists just about everywhere. I don’t know where you live but we have tolls here and they’re a few pennies/centimes… A sniff compared to the 2.2 billion euros this hideous project is costing while, as you say, people can least afford it. Who do you think is paying for this road??

        Joining the 21st century is NOT through destroying the 20th or even the 19th for that matter. the new generation does not have to be one that sees only these glass buildings and concrete instead of listed buildings and historical monuments.

        Of course 1989 has old members of the nomenklatura in place and this is a major problem. the corruption starts here and trickles all the way down to everyone else, no less the city hall who demolishes buildings illegally without permits or simply takes the roof of a building and sends in scrap metal thieves to deface, maim and destroy so a permit won’t be necessary anyway…

        Your final paragraph shows ignorance of how power is ‘elected’ in Roumania. You think it comes from votes? Nope. It comes from nepotism, favours owed and spaga (bribes) under the table. You think the Roumanian people don’t know that? they do. And it adds layers onto the terrible apathy that has swept its people. Hosw can they believe that things can get better when their history is swept away to rubble, their patrimony seen as nothing worth saving and the corruption continuing forever and ever amen… Oh, and ‘the rest of his people’ didn’t need to cling at all. they were safe. 1989 didn’t change much at all, Anon, and you know what that does to a country? That glimmer of hope that we’ve seen in Egypt lately was very much present on the streets of Bucharest and Timisoara in 1989. And it died. A dying hope is a terrible thing.A dying country is worse still.And a dead history is an annihilation.

        • anon

          The road is being paid for by taxes, which *should* come from everyone and are progressive (i.e. the poor pay less tax than the richer). Congestion charging is a regressive tax. Those who can afford it will not notice the difference and continue to drive their cars, where those who are struggling to make ends meet will either be priced off the road, or choose to not pay and therefore break the law.
          Finally do you honestly think that a congestion charge will be cheap? It costs money to roll out the infrastructure needed to enforce it in the first place.

          As for your last paragraph, it’s not ignorance, it’s frustration at people who do nothing but bitch and whine about how they are getting screwed by the ‘man’ instead of trying to do something about it. And it permeates this place.
          As Maistre said: “Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle merite.”

  • Craig, I am really disappointed of your opinion. I guess that is because you don’t know much about the history of the area, and because you are not from Bucharest and you don’t care about it. For those who care, it is painful.

    • Craig Turp

      I lived in the area for some time. I know it well. Question: what was the alternative? Was there a plan to renovate the area, rejuvenate it? I would be genuinely interested to find out what these were.

    • Ioana

      Unfortunately the area was neglected for too long and it has now a bad reputation.
      Reputation is very difficult to restore; more difficult than simply restore the buildings.
      I think it decay accelerated after the demolitions in Piata Victoriei, in 1980’s.
      + it’s not enough education about it, about this city in general and about identity in general – only students in architecture are given these information.
      Congratulations for your site, Cris

      • Craig Turp

        I’ll second those congrats.

        • Thank you very much, Ioana and Craig.

          • DLS

            for what?!

            • DLS

              oops sorry – that comment is retracted. Didn’t read your comment properly Ioana. Yes, Cris’s blog is a gem and it’s wonderful to immerse oneself in it. It is a testimony of what Bucharest used to be and how it could be once again if only these terrible demolitions would end.

              • Thank you DLS!:)

  • It is not only about Hala Matache, it is about all the area around it, with historical architecture, and a special character. Of course they are dilapidated, ruined houses. The area was neglected for more than a half of the century! Is this a reason to demolish them? Do they make the same in other European cities?
    Bucharest historical center has also many such ruined houses. Shall we demolish the historical center?

    The traffic problem would have been remedied simple by repairing the street! There are reasons, other than public benefit, that led to the decision…

    • anon

      That would be all fine and dandy if there were some plans to turn the ruined buildings back into something great, but it would seem that the mentality here is ‘use it until it breaks, then build another one’. If it wasn’t knocked down, it would have fallen down of it’s own accord just like many of the once beautiful buildings around Bucharest.
      Still doesn’t change the fact of the matter that a road needs to be built, and you can’t preserve everything…I use the word preserve in the loosest possible sense, as leaving something to fall down of it’s own accord is hardly preservation.

    • Quite right, Cris. In fact, the raffic problem would be a lot less diabolical if people actually parked their cars properly…vai de capu’nostru…

      • anon

        park them where exactly? Bucharest was never designed to cope with traffic, the infrastructure is evidence to that fact. It’s only in the last decade that cars have became affordable to the masses, and the infrastructure needs to grow to meet that demand.

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    • Craig Turp

      I refer you to Anon’s reply of 4:28pm, above.

    • Very good links, Vlahia, thank you for posting.

      • anon

        “If I had stood for the local elections…”
        but he didn’t did he? It’s much easier to rant, whine and complain than actually do something.

        • Anon, do you ever speak without being offensive, rude or patronising? You must be Parmalat’s twin though he is a little less odious than you are…

          • anon

            address the point made instead of invoking a ad hominem fallacy.
            It’s easy to complain and whine, it’s another thing to go out and do something about it.
            There was nothing to stop the author from running for election…instead he chooses to rant and complain about the government he helped elect.

            • Maria

              You are such an idiot you could run for president of Romania yourself…

              • anon

                Again with the ad hominem. Is that the best you can do?

  • Ioana

    Östermalmhallen (1888) in Stockholm.
    recently renovated.
    Matache deserves similar treatment

    • anon

      it was renovated not too long ago.
      At least the protests only had 100 or so people turn up, not exactly a significant number of people showing demand for saving this building.
      Small but vocal number of people with too much time on their hands.

      Please do describe the unique architectural merits of this building that justify it being saved at the expense of modernising the city.

      • Ioana

        🙂 this building is on the list of “historic monuments” not on the list of “architectural monuments”. There are separate categories, based on different criteria; please note the difference.
        There is also a third category, of “historic environment” which protects even buildings without apparent value, judged individually, because they belong to a urban structure with a certain value for a community.
        Hala Matache doesn’t have specific architectural merits for me – but anyway, let the specialists decide.
        Historic merits, yes, a lot.
        For some it seems fair enough if they’d keep the decoration above the entrance and if possible some bricks or wall and re-use it on a new construction, relocated a little further and rebuilt by initial project.
        For some, it’s not enough, they saying that a fake will fail to transmit and fail to inspire respect. Imagine value of a fake diamond. History is about truth.
        There was not enough debate about how to proceed further on with this area. I doubt there was proper debate at all.

        • Fedora

          Thank you very much Ioana. This is very good information regarding the differences of categories. You are totally right re: not enough debate, if there was any at all.

    • Craig Turp

      Good example. I know nothing of the ins and outs but would guess it did not stand in the way of a key new road, however. That is a key difference, no?

      • Ioana

        “Out of my way” methods of urbanism (city-planning) are favorites of dictators, in general; is a fact. Far from being a “modern” way of urbanism; it belongs to the past.
        Many people only care how to transit that area as quick as possible (quite obtuse).
        They simply fail to imagine any other scenario, where that area could be an attraction in itself, as the actual aspect is indeed creepy.
        Different from Lipscani !!! here might be the perfect place for traditional commerce, logic as it’s close to the train station, easy for peasants to access it.
        Add a few restaurants, specialized on meat, steaks, etc and maybe few specialized shops bio / organic / delicatessen.
        The fairs that happen in the Peasant Museum, on Kiseleff, especially at weekends > imagine it on a bigger scale.
        Malls and hypermarkets are not the only shopping experience I want.
        Since we all live in this city, maybe we can wish more than just to transit it.

        • anon

          So instead of higlighting why this particular building should be able to stand in the way of modernising Bucharest’s infrastructure you come close to invoking the Romanian version of Godwin’s law.
          “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1” (replace Nazis and Hitler with Ceausescu and Communists)
          Bucharest is crowded, and no matter where you decide to place a new road, something will have to be demolished.

          They are going to rebuilding it and further developing the area, so there’s little reason to cry over lost opportunity. It’s not as if Bucharest is short on areas of traditional commerce too.
          Let me guess…you love the little innocent disease carrying dogs in Bucharest too.

          • Ioana

            Anon, wrong guess. I don’t have a good relation with dogs, especially with those who bark and attack me while I bike (gave up on driving and arranged to work from home, escaping the traffic nightmare). You might also like to imagine me as a link of the human chain which will stand against demolition and progress in general. Wrong again.
            So far I didn’t say I’m pro or against demolition either – I presented various other points of view.
            I like to listen to different opinions, sometimes it proves worthy the effort.
            My personal opinion is somewhere in between: make the road, re-build the Hala nearby, by original plans, revival the initial spirit of the place, but not necessarily with the same old bricks. Create a human space, not just a corridor for transit.
            I’m a bit upset to see most of people split between “pragmatic” and “romantic” when I’d like to see more constructive debate, dialogue and flexibility. So far is like everyone insults the other ones.
            I’d also like to see a realistic simulation of the space in the future (wouldn’t you?) and I hope it won’t be only about office towers (as I’ve seen proposed so far).

            • anon

              eeer so they are going ahead with your personal opinion (as I mentioned several times in this thread, the building will be rebuilt) and you’re arguing why? for the sake of it?

              • Ioana

                I don’t think Craig created this page only for people to agree or to argue on it.
                I thought it’s for sharing info and various opinions, even others than own – which I was trying to do.

                • Craig Turp

                  Argue away! I have no problem with genuine debate/argument. Last two days have been excellent. I have never in the history of this site deleted a comment.

          • DLS

            An 1879 building which is symbolic. it is symbolic of how it used to be to live in Bucharest, Anon. It is symbolic of a vibrant neighbourhood, a busy market place, a commercial hub and HISTORY…

        • Craig Turp

          You might be interested to know that I am currently preparing a new post about a something that was recently destroyed in Bucharest (well, a year or so ago) and which was not in the way of a road and which had real historical value. And yet I never saw a single complaint about its destruction. Watch this space over the next few days!

          • watching with baited breath! :o)) We pay agree on the next post!

          • Gen

            What do you mean “something”? Is it a building? if so, you might be hard pressed to choose which victim deserves more attention. The idiots in charge of the city’s fate have managed to mutilate Bucharest for ever.

  • Hey, that’s where I shop! I am able to get a week’s worth of food for like 10 euros.

  • Parmalat

    They put down the Wembley and the Desert Inn and we’re crying about hala Matache…

    Those who want to save it may well put in on a trailer and move it somewhere around Glina.

    • Fedora

      Glina?? Why Glina?

      • Gen

        Maybe he and Davin live in Glina – sound so poetic – and like bargains

      • Parmalat

        Ok, then move it to Catelu =))

  • anon

    Shame they are demolishing a beautiful, unique building like that for no reason other than to build another road…oh wait, it’s not beautiful, it’s not unique, it’s falling to pieces like many of the buildings in Bucharest which have been left to rot, and is standing in the way of bringing Bucharest into the 21st Century.

    Anyway I thought they were rebuilding the hall further down the road once all work was complete?

    Once the traffic is sorted can we PLEASE do something about the bloody dogs?

    • Craig Turp

      Am I the only one who has noticed that the ‘save the crappy old buildings and keep Bucharest backwards brigade’ are one and the same with the ‘killer dogs are our friends’ brigade?

      • anon

        you’re not. It’s a real shame, because Bucharest (and Romania as a whole) should be following in the footsteps of Slovakia and the Czech Republic who have seen their capitals boom, and currencies double in value since joining the EU (a decade ago you would get 70 sk to the pound, just before switching over to the Euro, you would have been lucky to get 30 sk to the pound).
        There is no reason Romania shouldn’t be heading the same way. It’s shocking that at times Bucharest resembles downtown Calcutta with the number of crumbling buildings, stray dogs and children begging you for money at traffic lights.
        It’s almost as if a small but vocal minority don’t want Romania to progress.

        • anon

          I’d just like to add, that I love this country, and consider it my home, even though I wasn’t born here, which makes it all the more frustrating when you see Romania stuck in the dark ages.

          • Ioana

            Sharp observation 🙂 and good chance you are right. Dogs and crappy old buildings are part of the same nightmare.
            I am rather moderate and I’d like to have both: improved traffic in the city and tradition preserved. Why can’t we have both? How come most of the people are seeing only black or white? Why so many insults and irony from both these categories? Is it effect of a temporary bad mood, or am I too sensitive or too involved?

            • Few would argue against preserving what can be preserved. But we can’t preserve everything. Here it is worthwhile invoking Rome, Athens etc: the modern cities would not have been built if construction had stopped every time an important old building had been found. I sincerely hope for example that in Bucharest the Lipscani area – at the very least – will be ring fenced and preserved.

            • anon

              There are plenty of other dirty, crumbing buildings like Hala Matache in Bucharest which are left to rot. Why the sand in vag when they want to move this one 50m around the corner from it’s original location?
              I’m not seeing people protesting at the number of ‘historic’ buildings which are being allowed to crumble away as nature takes it’s toll. Just look at some of the once beautiful buildings in Lipscani and Unirii which are hanging on by a thread.

              • Ioana

                there is this promise to move it 50 m, as you say /// demolish and re-build by initial plans.
                only that they don’t have the space (belongs to private owners) and there is no agreement or contract for it; as far as i know.
                it doesn’t sound like a fair and solid promise.
                it’s something rotten about the way they proceed, not only about the poor old building.

                • Parmalat

                  That’s why I said to move it to Glina, there’s plenty of space there :))

          • De acord! And this is why I am critical. This has become my home too. Why is it so wrong for us to want things to get better?

            • Ioana

              Craig, I appreciate your effort of writing all these, I assume you do it because you care.
              I am 35 now and I was born in Bucuresti and I live quite close to this area. It’s normal to adapt the city to the new needs of all the new citizens.
              But do it in a decent way: respecting the laws and without abuse.

              I happen to be architect and very busy. Many times I had to make interventions on “monuments” or protected buildings in all major cities in Romania. And I got stuck in procedures. And first I was tempted to think “why the hell is this ruin declared monument?” – until I had to travel to the place and find out – why is this “creepy building” important for that community / in the context. And next I worked together with locals until we found a solution to please everybody. A bit of dialogue always helps; also showing some flexibility. Insults, acid replies, superior tone of voice – only build up of more tension. Or at least it never worked out for me.

              It’s the first time I visit your page and I intend to visit again. I’m interested in reading various opinions, especially if they happen to be different than mine.
              I trust you’ll continue being critical; thanks.

  • Ayce

    These people that consistently oppose all projects just because need to get a life, I’ve had enough of their “oh, no, they’re destroying countless (n.r. non)monuments!” attitude.

    I do have some comments about the rest of the article:

    1. The Mihai Bravu overpass is not useless and the underpass at Piața Sudului will be built. It was just determined that starting the other way around would have made a bigger mess of the traffic in the area.

    2. Plaza Centers have not collapsed. They closed a subsidiary in Romania, named Center Plaza, which hasn’t been used at all. The similarity in names made the press speculate that they have left the market. They are keeping their investments in Romania (it looks like they anticipated the crisis, since they established a 2013 completion date back in mid 2008), but it will take a number of years to see the project in Bucharest finished, which btw has a 25% state participation.

    • Craig Turp

      Excellent info, thanks. My opinion on the Mihai Bravu flyover was based on experience of living for many years at the bottom of Tineretului/Vacaresti where it is being built. It just never struck me as being in need of a flyover.

      • Parmalat

        I used to pass through that area almost every day until they started the project (now I take the route on Brancoveanu – Oltenitei because of the traffic jams) and the only moments when you would see traffic jams @ Autoklass were the moments when the Mihai Bravu traffic lights were down. Meaning about once per year.

        Indeed the Piata Sudului underpass was a much more useful project but this 800m Mihai Bravu bridge is probably more useful for siphoning funds.

      • Parmalat

        But hang on because they don’t have all the required authorizations for building this flyover… this is gonna be fun to watch.

  • Ioana

    Craig, thanks for sharing your thoughts about our Matache.
    If my information is correct, it’s not exactly legal to destroy this building, even if it fails your architectural evaluation (for which I’m not sure you’re qualified). It is still protected by its status of monument. Progress can go hand-in-hand with a bit of respect. Progress can happen without such mutilation. If you and the other people new in town had unpleasant experiences in that area, recently, it doesn’t mean too much for a city which already lost so much of its history through earthquakes and other brutal interventions.
    And it is already possible to cross the city north-south in 20 minutes: by subway.

    • Craig Turp

      I too would choose a new metro line instead of a new boulevard. But that is not the choice on the table. The choice is new boulevard or nothing. Pragmatism rules.

  • You have to understand that Hala Matche is perceived by many Bucharesters on similar coordinates as the Old Covent Garden or other historic London markets (such as Waterloo Market if that rings a bell 🙂 It is an emotionally charged issue and the city authorities should have worked much more seriously to communicate with the public and implement some decent conservation measures for this if not architectural, but highly evocative landmark.

    • Fair points, and there could have been more of a consultation. But the point is this road is needed, few would deny that. This is not a case of senseless demolition as some (including this pretty boy: who compares it to the demolitions of the Ceausescu era) would have us believe.

    • Parmalat

      Now what the hell is Hala Matache?! I’ve been living in this city for almost 27 years and it’s the first time when I hear about it.

      On the other hand I’ve probably spent a fortune on gas while being stuck in the traffic jams on Magheru.

      If they call me and give me an axe I’m gonna put that Hala Matache down by myself.

      • Ioana

        If you didn’t hear of Matache before, is probably because you lived close to Glina or in a mahala; or it might be that you are quite ignorant and not so well read.
        On the other hand, it’s never too late to discover the subway; it runs empty during the day while Magheru is suffocated.

        • Parmalat

          But did you hear of Ovedenie’s restaurant in Berceni? This is where I meet Protesiu for a drink from time to time.

        • Ioana, I wish there was a ‘like’ button beneath your comment. :o))))

      • Gen

        Take the subway, you were not born in a car.. All of you who crowd our streets and boulevards.. Can you move your butts only by driving a poluting our air?

        • Maria

          Well said Gen. Of course they can’t walk. They are scared of falling down a hole or being chased by maidanezi…

          • Parmalat

            Should the maidanezi bite the asses of people who oppose a modern Bucharest, then I will be the first one to feed them.

    • an excellent parallel, valentin. Very well said.