We began the year as we meant to go on, with a bit of a whinge about the ongoing sorry state of Romania’s skiing infrastructure. What particularly riled us at Azuga was the need to buy two lift passes. We later found out (via this comment) that to enjoy all of the runs (there are only five or six) at Azuga you actually need to buy an incredible three lift passes. We could be wrong, but we are fairly certain the situation has not improved over the past twelve months.
We also in January brought to your attention the sorry state in which some of Bucharest’s museums find themselves (in some cases this down to poor management as much as anything else). In happier news, we reported how much of the city (although certainly not all of it) is now free of stray dogs.
We ended January with a plea to make public transport free. The utter absurdity of the current ticketing system became clear for all to see in February when RATB – who run public transport in Bucharest – ran out of tickets.
February was also the month that Romania’s offendotrons were up in arms over a Channel 4 documentary which dared to suggest that some Romanian immigrants to the UK came from the lower orders. Despite the fact that Romanians were portrayed as hard working, entrepreneurial and prepared to make great sacrifices in order to carve out a better life for themselves, this wasn’t enough for a small yet vocal group of snobs. The three-part documentary in fact did wonders for Romania’s image in the UK, as we discussed here: the Twitter comments reveal how much anyone who comes to work is generally welcome in the UK.
Back in Bucharest, the alternative taxi service Uber was launched, to predictable acclaim from the unthinking ‘we write whatever we are paid to write’ blogosphere (they would do the same with the utter rubbish that is Strongbow a couple of months later). As it happens, we were wrong about Uber not being successful in this city: it is almost too successful, making it impossible to find a cab when you want one. What makes Uber so much better than regular Bucharest taxis is not price however (as in other markets in which it is present), but customer service. We have to admit to using it all the time (or as often as we can find one).
Meantime, we were quoted in a new biography of Prince Charles. We would have more to say about Charles in August, after a visit one of the villages in which he owns property, Viscri. We also reviewed a book ourselves, Where to Go in Europe, a wonderful little anthology of travellers’ accounts of confronting the need to find somewhere to pee or take a dump while on the road. Bucharest’s public facilities feature, and are full of flowers, apparently.
In March, the racist newspaper Romania Mare – owned by the equally racist politician Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who would himself cease to exist later in the year – closed. A victory for swinery, we called it.
In April we called on critics of new president Klaus Iohannis to leave the German alone. Even if Iohannis does nothing in his five year term it matters not: he is not Victor Ponta, and that’s enough for us. We also ranted a little about the penchant of certain foreigners for writing articles about about Romania which – when paraphrased – basically amount to ‘we like this country because it’s backwards.’ Romania is not backwards (well, not entirely) and we celebrated the fact that it is a half-decent place to live.
Fed up with witnessing accidents on the pedestrian crossing next to our children’s school, Mrs. Bucharest Life launched a campaign to have traffic lights installed. In June, she got what she wanted. Sadly, as we write, the authorities have yet to actually install the traffic lights. There are no funds for it, apparently.
In early June, prime minister Victor Ponta was placed under investigation for corruption. Like most of the country, we rejoiced, and called on him to resign. He did not. Even when he was formally charged and sent for trial, Ponta refused calls to resign.
Ponta finally resigned in November, after a wave of popular street protests – the largest since 1989 – following a fire at a Bucharest club, Colectiv, which eventually cost more than 60 lives. Dacian Ciolos was named as his successor. We, meanwhile, decided to throw in our lot with Nicusor Dan, whose Salvati Bucurestiul (Save Bucharest) NGO is now a political party and can stand candidates in elections. (A fact about which not everyone is happy, not least the ‘NGOs are all paid by George Soros to destroy Romania’ lunatics such as the homophobe and pro-Russian extremist loon Iulian Capsali).
While it goes without saying that Ponta was a disastrous, dishonest and downright corrupt prime minister whose government was little more than an organised crime syndicate, he did get something right: his attitude towards refugees and migrants.
In mid-December Romania’s parliament voted to ban smoking in almost all indoor public places, including cafes, bars, restaurants and clubs. A group of 33 senators managed to temporarily delay the law’s introduction by referring it to the Constitutional Court, which will discuss the issue on January 26th. As we understand it, the senators’ objections are unfounded and will be thrown out by the court, clearing the way for Iohannis to promulgate the law. It will come into force 45 days later, sometime at the beginning of March.
Finally, after a barren period which ran well into November, we managed to squeeze in a photo opportunity by year’s end.
Happy New Bucharest everybody.