Well as you most assuredly know, there was a championship game of soccer (football) played last night in Bucharest between one team from Spain and another team from the Basque part of Spain. Tens of thousands of fans from the motherland were in Romania for a few days and it seems like a good time was had by all.
I don’t care much for sports but it did my heart a lot of good to see both in the Romanian and Spanish press that the visitors here seemed to really enjoy their experience. A few years ago a racist anti-Romanian song was popular in Spain and there was a growing sense of resentment at the thousands of immigrant Romanian workers in that country and it was causing a lot of friction between the two nations. As stupid as I find most sporting matches (I used to live near CFR stadium and hated the drunken shouting, etc) this match last night ended up being a kind of “goodwill” tour of Romania for a lot of Spanish people.
Of course the conditions in Spain are much different now than they were a few years ago. Unemployment is extremely high and just yesterday one of their banks had to be nationalized or bailed out by the government. Drinking and shouting enthusiastically for your team to win a sports game is a welcome relief to all the troubles at home and a warm reception in Romania was an unexpectedly nice thing for them, so I’m glad.
The only sour note was the continuing problem that plagues Bucharest on a regular basis (not just during big sports games) which is the “sharks” or mercenary taxi drivers who continue to try to fuck over everyone, foreign or Romanian tourist alike. I’ve already written about how they tried to jack me when I speak Romanian and in my documentary I showed a clip with a British tourist talking about the same thing. No matter who you are or what language you speak, these taxi drivers in Bucharest are a menace to good will and are absolutely shitting on people’s first impressions of not only the city but the country as well.
Strangely enough (considering the bureaucratic and political shenanigans always going on in Romania), these practices would be fairly easy to stop. A mandatory information panel inside the taxi (in English if not other languages) with a free (Rom: televerde) phone number to report improper or criminal behavior combined with large fines for these assholes would wipe out these practices rather quickly.
At the moment though the security (including DIICOT soldiers armed with AK-47s) patrolling Otopeni lets these “sharks” roam the arrivals hallway freely and the tourist or visitor who gets ripped off has no way of doing anything about it. Whoever the Tourism Minister is this week could fix this enormous problem quite easily and it’d do a lot of long-term good towards promoting a favorable image of Romania to the people who come here.
Concerning the image at the top of this post, I put it on Facebook yesterday and I realize there was some confusion about it. First of all, I created it myself so it’s not just a “re-post” from some yuk-yuk comedy website. Feel free to steal it or use it yourself if you like. Secondly, yes I speak Spanish and yes I realize it’s not grammatically correct (in fact, the capital of Romania in Spanish is just “Bucarest”). I was trying to be funny but sometimes that doesn’t quite work out the way you intended :P