Romania + Bucharest + Gypsies issues

Crossing the country from south to north, I could get to know better Giurgiu, Bucharest, Brasov and Suceava. When you think about Romania, what does it come to your mind? Dracula? Nadia Comanechi? What else?

Romanians have the fame to be the most Latins within Eastern Europe. Indeed, that’s true, as I’m a Latino/Brazilian, it was obvious to notice the “latinicity”: the language, the food, their temper, their welcoming attitude toward foreigners, their human warm. Furthermore, Romanian language is the closest to Latin among the Latin-rooted languages (Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Catalan, French). I didn’t feel any language barrier as many Romanians speak at least one foreigner language, as not so many people worldwide speak Romanian.

Arriving in the country, it’s evident the cultural diversity established along centuries. Since Romania is literally in the center of Europe, many people have crossed its territory and let their influences: Romans, Greeks, Turkish, Hungarians, Austrians. And all these influences we can see in the food, in the local songs, on the physical appearances of Romanians (blonds, dark-haired, lots of colors!), in the architecture.

The predominant religion in the country is the Orthodox Christianism, followed by about 86% of Romanians. Its capital is Bucharest, with about 2 million inhabitants, a city with all the options we can imagine. Bucharest has everything: bars, clubs, restaurants, parks, theaters, cultural life, museums. And for the party rockers, nightlife in Bucharest is incredibly awesome!

Places to visit in Bucharest

Parliament: in Romanian, it’s called Casa Poporului, which means “house of the people”. Since it was built during Ceacescu’s dictatorship under his authority, it’s not a democratic symbol as sometimes may look like.

Casa Poporu or, like Romanians say, Casa Poporului

Unirii Boulevard: in the central area of Bucharest, built by inspiration from the architecture in Paris. There’s even a Triumph Arch! Really beautiful architecture!

A view of the Parlament from Unirii Boulevard
The fountains at Unirii Boulevard

Constantin Mille Street: a place with nightlife for all the options everynight. Important to remember, however, that nightlife in Bucharest doesn’t limit to this street.

What you have to try?

Mici (“mici”: plural and “mic”: singular): a wrapped pork meat in form of salami, a kind of hamburger.

Mici. Pic taken from frombucharest.com

Sarmale (“sarmale”: plural and “sarma”: singular): one of the influences of the Turkish, also eaten in other Eastern European countries. It’s a mix of meat and rice, rolled by cabbage.

Sarma. Pic taken from mihaelaotp.hubpages.com

Cozonac: it’s a swiss roll, you can find it at bakeries and at kiosks.

My first cozonac!

Covrigi: it’s a fried cake with some seed (I don’t remember its name now), that Romanians eat during the whole day in the streets out if their meals.

Covrigi. Pic taken from cosucucovrigi.yolasite.com

Palinka: a local distilled drink made from fermented plums, strong like cachaça, vodka and rakija!

A pic of cherry palinka, taken from worldtravelfamily.com

And there are many more dishes to try in Romania. Just take a look!

All kinds of croissants, pizzas, strudel, etc.

Gypsies in Romania

Romania has the largest gypsy community in the world, with estimatives about 2 million gypsies (or Roma, as they nominate themselves in Romani language along Eastern Europe), which means about 10% of Romanian population.

It’s a topic that provokes lots of polemics: by the prejudice evidently expressed against Gypsies in Romania, by the marginality that many of Gypsies communities live in and by the lack of integration of many Romanian immigrants — mainly Gypsies — in Western European countries. Such misintegration has been resulting on large scale deportations as ocurred in France in 2007.

The situation of Gypsies in Romania is historically similar to the Blacks in Brazil and in USA: enslavement and marginality, remaining until nowadays in form of misery and illiteracy.

It’s important to comprehend that many of the Romanian Gypsies — as well as Bulgarian Gypsies — who’ve been migrating to Western Europe are being used by mafias to collect money. It’s a begging and pick-pocketing industry that makes a lot of money and involves human traficking.

Normally recruited in very poor rural villages with the promise to arrive in the destination with a job, as they arrive — mainly in Italy, in France, Spain— listen to something like: “you have to bring a X amount of money daily/weekly”. How? Fuck off and good luck! If return with nothing, they’re beat up.

Adults usually beg and the youngest ones, steal. If an adult is caught stealing, he/she goes to the jail, while a young one would go not beyond the social assistance, do you get the point? The money collected/stolen is delivered to a kind of team leader, who forwards for a kind of middle manager, who then forwards to the big boss in Romania or in Bulgaria. The big bosses of these schemes receive monthly huge amounts between 100.000 euro and 300.000 euro. Are you kidding? Just look at their huge mansions in Romania, you’ll understand. It’s a big industry!

Being clear, I don’t have the intention to express prejudices and generalizations about Gypsies. Such social deviations reflect centuries of rejection and social exclusion, and not the Romani/Gypsy culture. As I had to chance to get to know a little of the Gypsy cultures in Brazil and in other countries where I’ve been, I mention these issues to clarify as I can about it.

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