Welcome to the Pyongyang of the West

When Martin Amis decided to put together a collection of his literary reviews, his choice of the title The War Against Cliche was primarily to make it clear how difficult it is to review anything without reverting to stock phrases.

Travel writers face a similar battle.

For reasons mainly to do with protecting our copyrighted material, we monitor the word ‘Bucharest‘ very closely on the internet, making use of all the tools available to us from Google and Twitter to Facebook and the dreadful Foursquare. It is shocking and depressing how often we come across our copyrighted material on other websites, in travel articles or on blogs: hardly ever is the source credited.

(The latest culprits are a German airline, some of whose texts on Bucharest might be – we need to be careful here, as they can afford far better lawyers than we can – inspired by those first published in Bucharest In Your Pocket).

One phrase, however, which appears in every travel guide and travel article about Bucharest that definitely did not get pinched from us is the old myth that ‘in the 1920s and 1930s Bucharest was known as the Paris of the East.

We have lost count of how many times we have read this entirely useless piece of information. We have never used it. Even if true, it is irrelevant. The campaign to have it outlawed begins here.

Besides, if contemporary Bucharest is to be compared with other cities (and to be honest, we think the whole idea of comparing any one city with another is both a futile and stupid excercise) then the city Bucharest most resembles these days is Pyongyang, capital of workers’ paradise North Korea.

Bucharest without the traffic

Few would argue that much of Bucharest’s architecture is not Pyongyang-inspired, from the monumental apartment blocks to the grandiose avenues of the Centru Civic, the only difference sometimes appearing to be the absence of outdoor advertising and traffic.

Yet the primary reason Bucharest increasingly resembles Pyongyang is the crappy electricity supply. (A subject we have only recently discussed on these very pages).

On Friday night the lights went out at 9pm, right in the middle of the first episode of Romania’s Got Talent. (Yes, we know we should get out more. By the way, people should stop congratulating Pro TV for this show. All it did was buy a format and follow the instructions that came with it. If you want to congratulate Pro TV for something, make it Romania Te Iubesc, an often outstanding programme that even features that most unusual of Romanian television phenomena: real journalism).

Anyway, our electricity was not restored on Friday until we had long since put out the candles and gone to bed. Though by far the longest power outage we have had to deal with of late, it was certainly not the first: it was in fact the third power cut of the week. Two a week is now the minimum we can expect.

Vitan, the part of Bucharest in which we live, appears to be particularly susceptible to these Pyongyang moments, and are a constant reminder of how much we rely on electricity.

So the solution is to reduce our reliance on electricity? No. We simply need to invest in and improve Bucharest’s electricity distribution system. For Enel, which supplies Bucharest’s consumers with their electricity, it should be a priority.

As things stand, however, the likeliness of us (being forced into) taking part in the dreaded Earth Hour on March 24th have increased dramatically. We usually greet Earth Hour by turning on all the lights and all our electrical appliances in a celebration of electricity: that wondrous invention that makes modern life possible and which we see as a a good thing, not a curse. After all, do we really want to emulate North Korea, which holds Earth Hour every night…

No. So get your finger out Enel.

Meantime, welcome to the Pyongyang of the West.

22 thoughts on “Welcome to the Pyongyang of the West

    1. No stray dogs either Fraser me old mucker….the locals eat ’em. That is where the Romanians got the recipe for Mici from. Well that is what I read in the Expat Life magazine. Both cities have a lot in common. Maybe Pyongang and Bucharest should officially be twinned?


  1. Wow, so Vitan is that problematic? Even the crappy transformer here was repaired a long time ago.

    As for Pyongyang, besides the idea of replacing the old structure of the town to eliminate traces of the โ€žbackwardโ€ past in the Civic Center, Bucharest looks nothing like it. Pyongyang uses tall, spaced out commieblocks, like in the USSR, Yugoslavia, and Poland, which Bucharest has rather stocky ones which are not spaced apart. Bucharest also has quite a lot of pre-WWII architecture left. The Civic Center is inspired more by Paris, with it’s Haussmanian redesign, and an adaptation of Stalinist architecture, than NK. And so on…


    1. Yesterday (Tuesday) was the first time in over a week that we got away without any power cuts. Having said that, the power was cut off during the night (the clocks on all the appliances had reset). This is a major side-effect: electricity appliances get screwed if it happens too often.


  2. Getting dressed in the dark (literally) is one of the things I’ve come to expect from Bucharest. And the un-romantic dinners by candle light.
    But the “atentie, intre orele 8:00 – 22:00 se intrerupe apa calda/rece” announcements that pop up on the door every other week make me skeptical about our ability to fix things properly.


  3. Last time a power cut went through Berceni, I used the opportunity to get on the balcony and swear loudly about Basescu, Emil Boc and all the way down to RENEL (which is the former name of the national company of electricity, from the times when black-outs weren’t happening that often and Emil Constantinescu was president).

    Useless to say I received echoes with “bravo baaa!” from the entire neighborhood ๐Ÿ˜€


  4. Ya’ll such haters. It’s not fun when the power goes out but I think if your not Romanian shut that hole in your face. Romania has come a long way in the last 20+ years. Ya’ll cry like a bunch of bitches


    1. Someone’s got sand in their vagina. Heaven forbid I expect a service I pay for to be working.
      (also while I’m at it fuck UPC for their patchy as hell Internet service)


  5. Jesus fuckin’ Christ, really? Bucharest and Pyongang? Pyongang is communist since when and why? Oh let’s see, The Korean peninsula was divided into two occupied zones in 1945, with the northern half of the peninsula occupied by the Soviet Union and the southern half by the United States. So Bucharest and Pyongang? Really? Civic Center was inspired by Paris, so was the Arch of Triumph, and the commie architecture came from the USSR, not from fucking Pyongang. Did you ever see pictures of Kiev’s downtown? Of Sofia? Of other former communist countries? British pigs get the fuck out of Bucharest, go back to London where you won’t have power outs, oh wait, you live in Vitan, that means that if you can’t afford to live in a better part of Bucharest you’d live on the streets in London, along our “beloved” finally out-the-fuck-of-our country gypsies that run the streets in the awesome districts of London.


      1. And what you supose an estate agent would say? He is interested in making money. He tried take advantage of foreign visitator. He knew that you don’t know the prices and zones as romanian know. Anyway it’s not a bad zone to live. But for sure is not “the most trendiest” .
        Your topic was a little bitter . ๐Ÿ™‚
        Enjoy your staing here. Every place has its good and bad.


    1. @Master Mason. “British pigs get the fuck out of Bucharest, go back to London”…………….Are you one of those many thousands of Romanians who works in some other country like Italy cleaning out toilets in some grotty hotel yet has the cheek to tell Brits to go back to Britain!?


  6. Ok as a result I have looked about a lot on top of this matter and I stay ruling material approximating VNC (or VNSea) that allows you to access the computers on your WiFi network, other than each and every one of these necessitate you to install incredible onto the computer itself. Is there a way to access the computer WITHOUT smooth poignant the computer?. . Thanks in advance!.


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