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May 11, 2008

Returning to/from Bucharest

Today I am travelling back from Bucharest, believe it or not, via Zurich! The long way round I'm thinking, but there, that is the way of airlines these days.

Every visit to Bucharest, since my first in 1995, is fascinating. Every time there are changes to be seen, many of them for the better, but one is also reminded that in any change of economic situation there are always winners and losers - one can really only hope that there are not too many of the latter and attempt to provide some sort of cushion for it. The city has changed enormously in the last thirteen years and even more changes are on the way. Buildings are being renovated, but it is a slow and expensive process. Many of the owners do not have the funds or the resources to do the work necessary and the city is built on a huge earthquake fault. Worse, many of the buildings were damaged badly in the 1977 and 1984 quakes here and the regime simply didn't bother carrying out the structural repairs necessary - so they papered over the cracks and now the restored owners face the bills.

New building is booming though and one thing is the extensive use of glass - about which I have a few questions in an earthquake zone! Tall buildings are on the drawing boards as well - currently not much more than 40 storeys, but it won't be long before someone decides to reach for the sky. The biggest problem for builders and designers here is the soil - it is millenia of silt from the Danube and another big river with bedrock several hundred feet down - and the high water table (About 4 metres below ground on average.) Then there is a problem with electrolytic action between power cables and steel re-inforcing in some areas where concrete with a certain type has been and is being used.

I am always a little sad to be leaving here, the people are amazingly friendly and generally very hard working. They are also determined to put their country onto the European map and to change their image from "sick" nation to "equal member" - one they are very proud to be part of and they are nothing if not proud as it is.

One final thought which sums them up rather well. Near my hotel is the memorial to those who died on the day the Revolution against the Communists and Ceacescu started. I was looking at it and trying to decipher the Romanian Inscription yesterday when an older Romanian joined me and commented, "There are many arguments about whether they are martyrs and whether the Revolution was a revolution. The improvement may be small - but at least we did something."

I wonder if anyone will say the same of us someday?

Posted by The Gray Monk at May 11, 2008 06:12 AM

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