Bucharest, March 1990

Found these yesterday: three photographs of Bucharest taken in March 1990, which we visited on a day trip during a skiing holiday in Poiana Brasov. They are not the best (we were as good with a camera back then as we are now) and the weather was gloomy (it actually snowed later in the day). Still, they do rather show how much the city has moved forward over the past 25 years (except Gara de Nord, which looks much the same today).

Things to note:

1. The amount of Oltcits on the streets, alongside the more familiar Dacia. Known colloquially (in our house anyway) as Oldshits, the Oltcit was one of the worst cars ever made.

2. The number of wreaths and wooden crosses at Piata Universitatii, laid in memory of those who died during the revolution. There was not yet a permanent monument.

3. The bloke in the fur hat standing next to the Oltcit in Piata Unirii. Followed us around all day. Note also how the Unirea shopping centre in the background looked before it was covered in advertising hoardings.

Piata Universitatii
Piata Universitatii
Piata Unirii
Piata Unirii
Gara de Nord
Gara de Nord

18 thoughts on “Bucharest, March 1990

      1. I heard the Dubliner has got a new owner? Are there any photos from the grand opening circa 1995 of the Dubliner in existence? Surely Craig must have some?


  1. GDN looks identical, but many UK train stations haven’t changed massively either – if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

    Obviously disabled access needs improvements (seems to be happening at sporadic metro stations) and maybe the raising of platforms for easy access to and from trains, but apart from that GDN is ok, in my opinion.

    Having said that, is there any Romanian stations with platforms level with trains and the crossing of tracks like you see, just wouldn’t happen in the UK for health and safety reasons … But I suppose the pace of trains in Romania and the trigger happy horn blowing negates that problem 🙂

    Not a criticism, just observations – at my age and health it’s no problem at all, but for elderly or people with health restrictions, it can cause problems. The one thing the railway trumps the uk on is … The impressive way the service runs 365 days a year and coping with then adverse weather heat and cold … Leaves on the track has been known to stop trains in the U.K. !


      1. Without meaning to offend anyone, areas of it still smell pretty bad – namely where the homeless congregate in waiting rooms and I wouldn’t recommend the toilets either, but that can be said of many train stations worldwide and not just Romania.

        On a side note Craig, in my paper they do a weekly “weekend away” for cities of the world and yes you’ve guessed it, this week was Bucharest – not a bad piece but could have benefited from a dose of Buc in your pockets input – did you see it (not available online) or would you want a copy emailed to you, from my paper version? It’s the Telegraph paper by the way.


      2. Whilst this isn’t the paper version Craig, it’s near enough identical to the paper version which was in the edition on 3/10/15


        I didn’t think it was available online (the paper version isn’t) but it’s pretty much as was in the actual paper – it’s not such a bad piece in fairness, most might agree … But you’ve pretty much nailed it with Buc in your pocket guide and I’d imagine you’d be pretty disappointed if someone else (not living or having your knowledge of the area) wrote a better piece!

        Maybe he nicked some tips from your guide!
        If you really want the paper copy – could arrange delivery when I’m next in the country, or I think you can order back copies for less than a fiver delivered.


      3. Yes I saw it. He actually pinched (or should I say ‘was inspired by’) a ton of stuff (there is a detail he has copied incorrectly, so I can more or less prove it). Will write about it when I get time.


      4. Well if he did, I suppose all it proves is at least he’s done his research properly, by copying a decent guide to the city – but ‘nicking’ others work and not crediting them for it, is not on.

        If he’d only recommended Bucharest in your pocket guide as a must have or stated he ‘sourced’ much of his info from your guide and gave it a free plug – with your permission, I’m sure you’d have been happy with that!

        If I see anymore, I’ll mention it on here – you should take it further though … I’d settle for a full page advert for your in your pocket guide, in the Telegraph, as way of compensation 🙂


      5. ” For decades it reeked of onions and cheap cigarettes.”………………That’s the polite way of saying it stunk of piss.


  2. I remember driving in an Oltcit through the pouring rain in those days.

    The windscreen wipers were broken, actually and the driver had detached one of them, rolled down his window and was frantically wiping his windscreen with a wiper in his left hand, while steering with his right hand. Gear shifts were up to the passenger.


  3. As an owner of a 2002 Dacia 1310 Berlina I can say that the Dacia is a close second to the Oltcit for the worst car ever made title. An absolute goddamn disaster of a car. I paid a 3449 mediu to the Sector 1 Fiscal Authority for daring to buy Nicu’s car. It’s an absolute nightmare to drive. As someone who has driven for 20 years and once drove to Alaska and back from the east coast of the USA, doing the 5000 mile return journey in 3 1/2 days with a friend in a 1990 VW Jetta, I can say that nothing prepared me for the advanced driving skills necessary for willing a Dacia 1310 through the streets.


  4. I blame the French. Then again I always blame the French.

    Seriously though, the Romanian industry of the time was hardly capable of producing parts with the level of quality needed for what was then a fairly contemporary design. The early production cars were much more reliable than the later ones as they used a lot of imported parts. Once they started replacing those with what was available locally… it was all down hill. Everything was built below spec and tended to wear out quickly. Even the quality of the steel used on the body got much worse. To give you an idea, my dad had an early production version and drove it for about 10 years before starting to have problems. A friend had one built a couple of years later and he would constantly replace/repair things. I think early cars also had a level of rust proofing that was completely inored later on. Also cars built for the local market tended to be of worse quality than the ones intended for export.

    The Dacia was a similar story, with early cars being much better built than newer ones, though it had one big advantage over the Oltcit: it was older and simpler technology, much easier to produce and repair. There’s a reason there were jokes about how you could fix anything on a Dacia with some wire and a pair of pliers. It had a more conventional engine, not that air cooled flat-4 of the Oltcit; drum brakes on the back instead of all-disc brakes; a much simpler suspenssion etc.


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