Friday, December 10, 2004


On Tuesday we went to Iasi. Iasi (pronounced - more or less- Yash) is the biggest city in Moldavia, which if you remembered your hexagonal geography lesson in an earlier post, is the Eastern region of Romania. I'd never been before (aside from the abortive drive through the Csango valley back in the summer, which had got me about 10 km into the region before being forced to turn back), so it was an interesting trip.

Thing I immediately noticed about Moldavia:
  1. The roads are way way better than roads in Transylvania.
  2. There are tractors
  3. It's flatter than Cambridgeshire (well, maybe not that flat)
  4. The theft of infrastructure is even more obvious there

To elaborate:

1. As you may remember I have previously said that roads in Romania are crap. I may have spoken too soon. The road from Bacau to Iasi is really good. Transylvanians tell me this is because the national government is punishing Transylvania for not being Romanian enough (this would certainly explain why Harghita county where I live has some of the worst roads). I haven't asked a non-Transylvanian yet, but I'm guessing they would tell me it is because Transylvania wastes its money or something.

2. Well, I saw one anyway. And it was quite modern too.

3. Vast windswept plains that stretch into the middle distance. We did pass through one area which was a bit less uncompromisingly two-dimensional, but it was on the "gently rolling hills" scale rather than seriously troubling the people who draw contour lines on maps.

4. Stuff in Romania gets nicked a lot. When you drive at night you notice a lack of the reflective posts you have at the sides of the road in most places, or the cats eyes and things on the road itself. This is not because Romania is so backward that it doesn't have such things yet, but that people steal them. As soon as they are put up, they are gone again. I don't know what people do with all these reflective devices, that they have purloined, but they go somewhere. Perhaps there is a thriving rural rave scene at which people turn up wearing elaborately be-sequinned clothes, each sequin being a large reflective circle taken from the roadside. Anyway, this trend is very noticeable all over Romania, and it frankly makes driving at night very unpleasant (that and the fact that every village you pass through has a horse cart or a cyclist or a drunk bloke wandering around in it without any reflective devices on at all). However in Moldavia, and this may not be a regional thing, but just something I never noticed in Transylvania before, other stuff was missing.

In one town there was a couple of long aluminium pipes running through the village carrying something (gas, water, who knows). Or rather there once had been. These pipes had been carried on short concrete pillars alongside the road, and occasionally up and over buildings or through gardens. As the route passed through gardens, this was where the pipe still was, cut off at the point where it left private property, to leave these forlorn concrete stubs aimlessly sitting there doing nothing. (Perhaps they could kill two birds with one stone and paint them with reflective paint).

In another town (Roman, if you must know. The interest stops at the name believe me), as ones eyes scanned the endless brutal ceasescu concrete blocks of apartments, there were some minor points of interest. Some windows with rounded corners, that looked somehow familiar. Mostly white framed with black trim. To make more room in smallish flats, many people close off the balconies and these windows had been placed there to that effect. The windows were stolen from trains. It wasn't just one or two houses either, it was loads. All over town. Fascinating.

I am told that this wave of infrastructure crime was a feature of the late 80s as the Ceasescu regime began to fall apart and leave everyone with virtually nothing to live on, heat their houses with and basically repair anything with. I have no idea if it still goes on or if these mysterious pipelines going nowhere and rail windows are just leftover from those days.

I got ripped off by a couple of corrupt cops on the way home too. Bastards.

Mind you, I ought to add here, as it appears I've done nothing but complain, that Iasi was lovely and the people there great and very friendly. Actually Iasi could be one of Europe's great cities if it had not been ruined by Systematisation -what buildings are left are really really gorgeous, you just have to face the fact they are broken up by hideous concrete monstrosities. Bit like Oxford really. Not content in ruining everyone's life when he was alive, Ceasescu, perhaps uniquely among Euro-dictators insists on ruining it from the grave too. What a complete and utter wanker.

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