News from Nowhere

It’s been a while since we did one of these round-ups, what with the day job and preparations for Britain’s impending war with Spain.

Anyway, first off: the Bucharest Metro.

Remember how on Friday we wrote about the grand-opening of two new stations on the M4, Laminorului and Straluesti? Well, turns out there’s a catch. Son of Bucharest Life may not be as obsessed with all things public transport as he once was, but he still keeps his ear to the ground for news and developments and made an observation yesterday (which inhabitants of Straulesti and Laminorului, who had visions of flying down to Gara de Nord in a matter of minutes this morning have by now no doubt noticed themselves): no trains run from one end of the M4 line to the other.

Yep, it would appear that the new Straulesti station at the northern end of the line opened without the depot beyond it being complete. This means that there is nowhere for trains to reverse, forcing them to shuttle in and out of just one platform. As this would quickly lead to delays along the length of the M4 line, it has been decided that services from the two new stations will, for the time being, run as a shuttle service, to and from Parc Bazilescu. So, although there are in theory two new stations open, you can’t take a train from either of them more than a couple of stops: if you want to head down into the city, you need to change to another train at Parc Bazilescu.

Brilliant planning.

A PSD senator, Ioan Denes, said on Friday that ‘people of the same sex should not hold hands in public, as they are impinging on my freedom.’ He went so far as to suggest that in doing so, they were in fact breaking the law ‘as there is no specific law in place which allows them to behave like this.’ We would add that there is no specific law in place that allows PSD senators to be utter dickheads, but most are anyway.

In response to Denes, an impromptu same-sex hand-holding event took place in front of the PSD’s HQ on Saturday morning, while on Monday, even convicted criminal Liviu Dragnea (the PSD’s leader) slapped Denes down, saying that the PSD was a party which stood for ‘tolerance.’

We laughed.

Actually, whispers around Bucharest suggest that the continued failure of the Romanian parliament to pass a bill that would formally launch a referendum on the issue of same-sex marriage (specifically, amending the constitution to make the eventual legalisation of same-sex marriage impossible, as requested by the nasty little Coalition of Men Who Hate Gays, Women and Children) is because of direct pressure on the PSD from its European partners. The PSD is part of the European Social Democratic group of centre-left parties who are controversially keen on things like equality and tolerance. No wonder Romania’s parliament keeps passing the buck: it should have approved the referendum last week but decided the senate should do it instead. Expect this to go on, and on, and on, until at some stage there is a final vote at which there will conveniently not be enough MPs present to push it through (two-thirds of all MPs, not just those present on the day of the vote, have to approve it). The whole thing will then be forgotten by everyone except the coalition, who will kick and scream for a bit before returning to their caves.

Last week was Scoala Altfel for the Bucharest Life kids: five days of unconventional schooling designed to expand horizons and take teaching out of the classroom. Not a bad idea (one of many half-decent reforms introduced during the all-too brief tenure of Daniel Funeriu at the Ministry of Education) the problem lies in trying to find things vaguely interesting to do with 30 ten year-olds in Bucharest. Their class ended up going to the History Museum, the National Library, a recording studio, the Technical Museum and on a full day trip to somewhere in Prahova. Not a bad week, but one which does bring home the sorry choice of museums in Bucharest (and the sorry state of them).

Over at Bucharest City Council the reign of the Wicked Witch of Voluntari, Gabriela Firea, is reaching new levels of paranoia, madness, violence and general incompetence. At last week’s council meeting a number of opposition councillors were physically and verbally assaulted while Firea, Nero-like, sat and watched. Once again, members of both the press and of the public were prevented from attending what should be an open meeting, while the four vacant seats on the council remained vacant after the PSD, once again, upped and left en bloc before their legal occupants (from the USR) could be validated. It is now almost four months since December’s election and yet still Firea refuses to allow the four USR councillors to take their seats in the chamber.

She was, however, all too eager to allow Antena 3‘s cameras into the council building last week for a highly scripted ‘surprise interview’ in which she was painted as little less than a saint. Apparently, Firea visits (incognito) two building sites every morning before work, eats lunch at the RATB canteen and does not wear expensive clothes or shoes.

Alas for the ordinary people of Bucharest, one building site she clearly hasn’t visited too often on these incognito trips is that at Piata Sudului, where construction of an underpass is now in its six hundredth year. Despite Firea promising back in January that the underpass would be open by Easter, it was revealed last week that the underpass is barely two-thirds complete and is unlikely to open any time soon. Still, we are getting fluffy Easter bunny lights, so there’s always that.

Finally, Bucharest’s megalomaniac new cathedral currently under construction behind Casa Poporului is to be fitted out with the largest bell in Europe, more than three metres high and weighing 25 tons. Hallelujah!


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