Unicorn City, the FAQ

I always seem to forget that there are hundreds (if not thousands) of new visitors here every week. And even though I recently re-wrote the FAQ for this blog I’ve been getting a lot of messages reminding me that even though you know I told everything there was to tell about it, when I came up with it, how come, why and what for, you know the one thing that I neglected to explain was the significance of the term Unicorn City.

I almost even hate to explain why I call Cluj-Napoca (where I live) Unicorn City because I’ve heard so many fabulous theories from friends and fans about the origin of the term, many of them much better than my own. One person guessed that the nickname comes because the big church in centru has a tall tower that looks like a unicorn’s horn. Another person guessed that it’s because of all the “U” Cluj sports teams and the “U” stands for “Unicorn” (instead of just “University”).

Actually it’s because my mixed up brain combined an old (American) insider’s term for politics with the actual politics that go on in this city. In America there’s an old belief that a child’s greatest wish is for “a pony” and so any time an American politician promises something fantastical and unrealistic to his constituents it became a kind of slang to refer to this as magic ponies. And what is a magic pony if not a unicorn?

Last year I was watching then “vice” mayor (and currently interim mayor) Radu “Fuck You That’s My Audi” Moisin on television discussing some of the many problems Cluj was going through. And every last one of his solutions was that the “spirit of Cluj and its people” would resolve it (that plus a truckload of funds from the European Union, essentially more magic ponies).

Later I had the chance to meet Lord Perth himself, Sorin “Money Towel” Apostu, then the mayor of this little town (now spending his days in an eight by ten), who had the balls out temerity to tell a roomful of foreign investors that A) there were no problems in Cluj whatsoever and B) despite his constant rancor towards Hungarians, this city was a shoo-in to be named the “Cultural Capital” of Europe for 2014.

Before those two monkeys (and recently deposed Prime Minister Emil Boc) and the rest of the PDL ran this town, the batshit crazy Gheorghe Funar and his band of lunatics also believed in operating this town under the guidance of magic ponies, most famously turning down Coca-Cola’s offer to build its Romanian headquarters here (which then went on to Oradea). Funar and his PRM cronies also believed that magic ponies would make the ethnic Hungarian population disappear into thin air or all move to Budapest and take their enormous statue of Mathias Corvinus with them.

By size, Cluj is either the third or fourth largest city in this country. It is definitely the largest city in Transylvania and is located right in the heart of northwest Romania. Since traditionally Romania was more or less three regions, and Bucharest (the largest city of course) was capital of the south, Iasi (the second largest city) capital of Romanian Moldova, Cluj is easily in a position to dominate most of Transylvania and northwest Romania.

Along with Iasi, Timisoara and Bucharest, Cluj is also home to a series of very high quality universities, concomitant with both learned professors as well as talented and creative university students. It has both the geographical position as well as the natural and human resources to be a shining light in Romania and lead by example.

I live here, voluntarily of course, and I learned to speak Romanian in the Cluj “style” and my heart is here and I know a lot of good people here. But frankly this city could not have been more poorly managed in the years after 1989. As other cities, both smaller and larger, make huge strides towards improving the lives of their citizens, Cluj-Napoca largely stagnates under the crushing weight of its racist, corrupt and quite often just plain stupid politicians. Quite frankly I’m not convinced Radu “The Mumbler” Moisin even has the intellectual juice to argue his way out of a paper bag.

The oldest buses in operation with the oldest technology I’ve seen in Romania are here in Cluj. The urban plan to handle stray dogs is virtually non-existent here, as I’ve written about before. The city just built an enormous new stadium and yet it can’t even find a way to fill it with spectators. There is an illegal garbage pit on the outskirts of town filled with rats that bite children. Some municipal streets are unpaved. The city built a fountain in the main square that cracks every year during the winter. City taxes, fees and auctions are managed in a haphazard and random fashion. Last year the city lost a major air carrier to its airport. The tourism director is a secretive little man who refuses to return my calls. And so on and so forth. And every single time anyone raises these issues they’re always told that magical ponies will solve the problem.

And so that’s why I call this town “Unicorn City” because quite frankly I think the only thing that is holding this city together is the magical dust that falls from the hooves of the unicorns as they glide through the night sky, bestowing good cheer and supernatural solutions to life’s problems on the citizens as they sleep in their beds. That’s my theory anyway ;)



8 Comments Add yours

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  2. Biberon S. Zeta says:

    Unicorn City is actually part of the Unicorn Country! We have magical dust which keeps us afloat!

    Oh … this is actually a good line to draw foreigners to visit :))

    Now is all clear : Dracula was an unicorn.


  3. Giuseppe says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTIEU2GIc-E :P

    A song containing three different words for Unicorn: monoceros (Greek and a name of a Constellation), inorog and licorn (Romanian).


  4. Irina says:

    Speaking as the wife of a “clujean” and a lover of Cluj myself, I think Funar’s administration left the city several years behind other cities in Romania. I have to wonder how he won the elections 3 times in a row, when it was obvious he was more interested in painting everything in the city in the colours of the flag than anything else.

    One good thing I can think of that maybe came from this is that – in my experience – the NGO scene in Cluj was among the best developed in Romania in the late 90s and early 2000s.

    And I do hope Cluj will get its act together soon… I still hope to live there again someday :)


  5. Marian says:

    I hope you lived long enough in Romania to understand that even if you’d relocate yourself to some other city, anywhere in Romania, you’ll find that the same unicorns are at work there too, doing almost the same job :))


  6. Nesf says:

    Thanks – you answered my question more than adequately :-)


  7. andyv says:

    Actually, I was pretty happy with Boc. Much, much better then Funar. During the economic boom there were many investments in Cluj. Even now, too major companies (Bosch, De’Longhi) are opening factories here. Maybe also Tata Motors.
    Stray dogs in Cluj? I don’t remember seeing too many. Maybe they are, but I don’t think they are a major problem (like in Bucharest).
    I also don’t share your view about public transportation. While there are still some old buses, most of them are modern. Also, new trams will be purchases this year.

    Many parts of the old city were renovated and they look nice (Piata Muzeul, Eroilor,…). While clearly there are still think to do, the city really improved in the last 5 years.

    BTW: according to the latest census Cluj is the second city in Romania (population-wise).


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