Bucharest’s vintage tram parade

For once in this city the horse gets placed before the cart
For once in this city the horse gets placed before the cart

Regular readers of Bucharest Life will know that our son is a bit of a Bucharest public transport fan, and that dad increasingly resembles him.

So neither of us needed a second invitation on Saturday to head to RATB’s birthday party (RATB being the company that operates Bucharest buses, trolleybuses and trams).

To mark 100 years of serving the Bucharest public, RATB put on quite a show: seven vintage trams – two of which were horse drawn – and one brand new prototype paraded through the city and – quite literally – stopped traffic.

Amazingly, nobody seemed to mind. Instead of swearing and cursing, inconvenienced drivers simply got out of their cars and started taking pictures. All along the route people stopped to take photos, shops emptied as people came out to see what was going on and mothers on balconies hurried to go and get their children to come and have a look.


We saw all this from on board: having originally told our son that you couldn’t actually go on the trams, he convinced me you could, and so we climbed aboard what turned out to be a protocol tram and ended up being served cakes and drinks as we paraded through the city.

(As we have long said, speaking loudly in English can still open doors in Bucharest, even vintage tram doors).

Anyway, at the end of the line, Piata Sf. Gheorghe, a crowd of those who had been lucky enough to find out when and where the trams were going climbed aboard and dreamed of the day the prototype will go into active service.

At home, thousands of people who might have enjoyed a parade of old trams went on with their morning totally unaware of what was going on: only when the trams were featured on the evening news bulletins did most people in Bucharest find out about the event. We had only found out the day before, and then quite by accident. Even then we were unsure as to when and where exactly we could see the trams: we simply took a punt (we headed for the depot) and got lucky.


What’s more, the trams were in fact open to all: anyone could hop on and ride them, anywhere along the route, though few did as nobody had been made aware of the fact (and few are as cheeky as our son).

A shame, for this was a lovely event that went unnoticed by all but the most fervent tram-spotters (us), journalists in-the-know, RATB employees and those who simply happened to be on the route as the trams came past.

A shame then, but no real surprise. We wonder if the 30th anniversary of the Bucharest metro next month will be any better organised.

11 thoughts on “Bucharest’s vintage tram parade

  1. I found out about the event on the news too. Obviously, the evening after the event happened.
    I wonder what could possibly be offered by the Metrorex to the public in order to mark its 30th anniversary! Maybe free rides? πŸ˜€
    But how come your son is a fan of public transportation in Bucharest??? By comparison, the Paris Metro has about 6 times more stations than the Bucharest Metro and some very interesting trains (back in 2001 some of them looked like carriages, I was about to jump off and push one of the older models)… not to mention the London Metro which I don’t know anything about but is definetly more developed than the Bucharest Metro…
    Public transportation was very interesting during the times of Ceausescu when we had some fu***** buses and trolleybuses that failed to shut their doors close and when they hit a hole in the road the feeling was that they’re ready to disintegrate. Also people were riding them at twice the maximum capacity, on the stairs and even on the rooftops and during summertime they circulated with the doors open because they had no air conditioning. That was some public transportation to be a fan of!


  2. Unfortunately it happens all over the country; i find out abt such events in my home town from the news bulletin! They don’t promote them much; I don’t buy printed press but mom does and she hasn’t read abt such events either 😦

    @Parmalat: trams during communism and even during the 90s were horrible. i remember going to school and if the bus hit a hole the door would open and we’d freeze. i cannot even remember how many times i stayed on the stairs… fun time, eh?


  3. Those times made us to be real people, caring human beings.
    We all lived the tragedy and we all knew how it was like for our neighbours, for our relatives and for the other people on the street simply because we all had the same conditions.
    Look what’s happening today: youngsters want to take away the pensions of the elderly, private-sector workers want to take away the salaries of state employees, we’re not people anymore – now (as a society) we’re animals.
    So I’m a fan of most things that happened during that period and it’s quite obvious to me that the “bad things” that happened during those time were not even half as bad as the “bad things” that happen nowadays.


  4. @Parmalat: I’m too young to say much abt the communism. However, I’d rather live now in a heated apartment than to suffer the cold I did when i was a child! Or I’d rather have the pleasure of have a decent job abroad than wine abt the public sector here.

    Unfortunately, Romanian is going NOWHERE and I still wonder why tourists are courageous enough to come here. We have a lot of things to show them, yes, we don’t have the means to get to them!

    Even the beautiful events like the one mentioned in the article go unnoticed b/c no one cares to make them public.


  5. Have you ever wondered why “a job abroad”?
    The answer is obvious: because in this country we became animals.
    And I’ll be 25 y.o. in November πŸ™‚


  6. @Cristina The ‘don’t tell anybody what’s going on’ problem is Balkanic – have come across it recently in Albania too. Is related to PRs getting jobs for being good looking or a relative of the right person or both.

    This event was great in every regard except nobody knew it was going on.

    I really wanted to make a positive post for once…


  7. Oh and for all the ‘he hates us’ brigade I would also just say that twice in the past week I have defended Bucharest: on Radio Romania Act. last Friday and in an article I wrote for a top secret collection of essays being put together by a friend.

    So there.


  8. Been to Bucuresti and Romania four times, and delight in riding the trams and trolley buses… however, the new trolley buses have a terrible interior layout that causes blockage at the rear door. And there’s no bright Romania color on the outside… just boring white. Not very creative or inspiring. The more westernized Bucuresti becomes, it means the more the cities and citizens will get into heavy debt as the corporations move in to privatize, which means: Rapidly escalating prices to pay off those EU loans. Beauty, meet the Beast. Both are always present. Too bad the only option after the fall of Communism was just another corrupt and greedy “privatized” system. On my last year trip throughout wonderful, beautiful Romania, which I find “stir-prising” at every moment, I read in a news post how the railway system was being pressured by the new efficient westernized management rules to raise the fares and lay off hundreds of rail employees. Soon, if not already, they will be curtailing unprofitable lines that are the life line for small villages. That’s how we in the USA lost our rail tracks, incrementally, and even today we have few interstate Greyhound buses, with little to zilch service connecting most cities and communities. Appreciate what you have now and be vigilant of the “new ways”. I visit Romania to see what we have lost, like the horse pulled carts…families working the fields with the horses without mechanical vehicles, plowing and stacking the hay by hand. People with little are generally better off than those with many luxury toys but are heavily in debt and stressed out. With every new road built in Romania, I would like to see on the side a separatedly lane to accommodate horse carts and bicycles. But under western guidance, that is a not going to happen. Also, too many cities are giving up their electric public transport, such as Brasov and Sibiu. Perhaps the bus lobby has been there with their propaganda. In the USA, the bus lobby is rabidly against rail transportation.


    1. A wonderful message from the States!

      Yes, we should all learn to stay human and not transform ourselves in robots at the hands of banks and corporations.

      Unfortunately, the Western world had mostly forgotten that they have a human side, everything is being ran according to rules, people are put in jail for not paying fines of $1, they are even being put to jail for feeling attracted to other people.

      In the end something has got to give, people were meant to be free, not slaves of the financial system. So either we break the financial system and put it under control, or there will be no more people.


      You should have seen the trolley buses from the Ceausescu era: they were painted sky-blue πŸ™‚


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