OZB Magazine February 2018

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Hello, bună, and welcome to OZB your new lifestyle magazine all about Romania in English.


D ouglas W illiams -



Co-owner/Editorial Director, douglas@ozb.ro


Co-owner/Commercial Director, 0768 971 647, marcel@ozb.ro

FULVIA MEIROŞU Marketing Director and Website Manager, fulvia@ozb.ro ADA POPESCU

Art Director

ALEXANDRU HĂMURARU Distribution Manager

You can get a hard copy of OZB magazine at the following distribution points: International Schools, Ted's Coffee Shops, restaurants and bars in the Old Town - Van Gogh, Café Klein, Mojo; Worldclass, AFI Palace, Starbucks Băneasa and Starbucks Iancu Nicolae, the restaurants on Iancu Nicolae St, hotels - Sheraton, Hilton, Pullman, Marriott, Intercontinental; Embassies, Chambers of Commerce. 4


When I arrived in Romania I was full of enthusiasm, but this was slightly dented by the Bucharest cabbies I encountered early on. “Why would you come here? Romanian people, they want to leave, they want to go to your country, but you come to Romania… doesn’t make sense. You’re from a developed country, we have no infrastructure, the roads are full of potholes, our politicians are criminals, nothing works so everyone is leaving, it’s a sinking ship…” And on it went, not terribly encouraging. And all this as we were driving along gorgeous, tree-lined boulevards passing big parks and classical architecture, in an exciting, European city, basking in mid 30s sunshine (those days will be back folks). I wasn’t convinced and so it has transpired: so they may have had a point regards the politicians, so what’s new, but the rest ain't bad. Sure, there are faults but the positives, once you find them, more than make up. But here’s the thing: often you have to actively seek out those positives, they do not present themselves on a plate. And this is a point that my colleague Giles Eldridge makes in his piece in this month’s mag - part of the charm of Bucharest is that she doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve. And if you don’t make the effort with Bucharest or Romania (or even, dare I say it, Romanians) as I must admit I didn’t for a while, then, like me, you might be inured to her (and their) many charms.



I must admit, I always find it hard to get past the food and drink. Until recently, I had began to accept that this just wasn’t one of the most culinarily exciting corners of the world and that perhaps, even, corn on a pizza isn’t so bad. I like Italian food but was beginning to accept the ubiquitous Romanian version. Lately, though, I have had a few, real, eye-opening experiences that confirm there are plenty of really good restaurants here, you just need to look for them. (Check out Aubergine at your earliest convenience btw). Similarly with bars, there is no shortage and many that are much of a muchness, but there are also some stellar bars too - Control being the obvious standout, but with many other contenders - and on and on it goes: hotels, guesthouses, music venues, galleries etc. It’s all here in Bucharest and around the country, there just isn’t the kind of shout out about it going on that you might find in other cities. Yet. (What’s the point ed? ) So, to the point of this amble - don’t just accept the obvious and easy. Don’t give them your custom, don’t eat pizza with corn on top. Go in search, do some research, dig about, spend your hard earned in the places that deserve it, they do exist, this isn’t the final frontier. And if you do, guess what? More will appear.

Heritage file, profiles and alternative lifestyle

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When: February 9 Where: Control Club What: Live Concert Sevdaliza is an Iranian autodidactic singer, songwriter, director and composer living in the Netherlands. Her creations contrast raspy vocals with cutting strings, bass lines triphop dubs, along with classical harmonies. The 28-year-old’s work has been described as ‘genre-bending’, drawing on various genres including electronic, punk, triphop, grime, avant-garde and her consistent release of audiovisual experiences never failed to impress.


When: February 12 Where: Control Club What: Jazz Concert Three days distance away from Sevdaliza, the same Control club is hosting another innovative sounding concert. The New York Times warns that there has not yet been invented a new name for the music that Kneebody is playing. The band had been around for 17 years but this is their first concert in Romania. They will be playing their latest album released in 2017 called Anti-Hero. Among the influences that have touched their music are free bop, popular in the ’60s, the jazz rock-in the ’70s, hip-hop and indie music. The dynamic of the band is quite rare, each musician taking turn in being the leader, able to change the tempo and style.


When: February 14 Where: Control Club What: Album Release Concert The concert is part of the album launch tour “From No To Nowhere”, an album that has come to life following the collaboration of “48 fingers, 12 ears and 5 voices” plus the occasional guests: Mihai Iordache (sax), Andrei Fântână (clarinet) and Dominic Csergő (vibraphone). Moon Museum is a collaborative project started by Oigăn – Eugen Nutescu (Kumm, Robin and The Backstabbers) joined by Ami Crișan and Mihai Grama - vocals, and then Andrei Robin Proca, Vladimir Proca (both RatB members) and Dan Georgescu (almadeer, Byron). A lot of creative energy to spice up your Wednesday evening!


When: February 15-18 Where: Cinema Elvire Popesco What: Film Festival NordicFF is a celebration of northern countries with their rich culture and cinematography. The festival will bring ten feature films, four documentaries and a compilation of short films to the public in the welcoming Elvire Popescu Cinema, many of them awarded in Berlin, Chicago, Toronto, Sundance and San Sebastian. Not to be missed!




When: February 17 Where: Sala Palatului What: Fado Concert Born Marisa dos Reis Nunes in Portuguese Mozambique, Mariza grew up in Lisbon since age three, in the historic quarters of Mouraria and Alfama. She was already into a wide variety of music genres - gospel, jazz, soul - when she began singing fado. In 1999, after the death of great Amália Rodrigues, Mariza was asked to perform a tribute to Rodrigues' memory, which lead to her first album ‘Fado em Mim’ and was the beginning of her worldwide success. Today Mariza is the best selling Portuguese singer and some call her The New Queen of Fado. With multiple Grammy nominations and a BBC “Best European Artist of the Year”, she has toured all over the world and sang with some of the best: Jacques Morelenbaum and John Mauceri, José Merced and Miguel Poveda, Gilberto Gil and Ivan Lins, Lenny Kravitz and Sting, Cesária Évora and Tito Paris, Carlos do Carmo and Rui Veloso. Mariza is coming back to Bucharest on the 17 th with a 75 minute show, singing both new and well known songs. An emotional dive to anticipate the change of season!


When: February 17 Where: Unteatru What: Dance-One Man Show A choreographic show on the music of W.A.Mozart, signed Gigi Căciuleanu - a choreographer with an extensive career in France and around the world after studying in Bucharest and at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Performed by Lari Georgescu, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is described by its producer as a metaphor of the loneliness of creatives, the solitary, ageless Human-Artist, Eternal-Child and Wise-Elder at the same time, Trickster and Alchemist, Here and Nowhere, Now and Anytime.


When: February 17 Where: Eden Club What: djset/live improv EverydayParadise is a Bucharest based community and record label, focusing on warm house grooves and the human touch. These artists will heat up the atmosphere...you might even forget it’s winter still and be transported back to a hot summer’s day.


When: February 19-26 Where: Qreator by IQOS What: Sculpture Exhibition Art Walk Street-AWS organise the 3rd #Brâncuşi he[ART] beat exhibition, commemorating 142 years since Constantin Brâncuși’s birth. 19 works of art made by UNArte students as a tribute to the artist who was called “a man far beyond his time”.(18+) 6



When: February 26 Where: Control Club What: Jazz Concert Malox is an Israeli band playing another concert in the Jazz Nouveau series at Control Club. They are a crazy dynamic group, not just musically, mixing punk, klezmer, rock, polka and jazz, but also when it comes to dancing, engaging with the public and making it love them from the very first performance. Gaza Strip is their latest album, released in 2016 and this is what the Bucharest public will be enjoying on the 26 th. One of their most appreciated singles from this album is a reinterpretation of Walk like an Egyptian - The Bangles. You shouldn’t miss if you are in the mood for a fun, energetic night out!

CARO EMERALD EMERALD ISLAND TOUR When: February 28 Where: Sala Palatului What: Live Concert

Dutch Caro Emerald, considered one of the best live voices, came to the public’s attention in 2009 with the popular “Back it Up” song, followed by many more tunes with a distinctive sound inspired by ballroom jazz, cinematic tangos, groovin’ jazz tracks and infectious mambos, all remembering the golden age of Hollywood. Caro is not performing for the first time in Romania, in 2012 she was one of the headliners at B’ESTFEST festival. This year, on the last day of winter, February 28 th, Caro lands a helping hand in welcoming spring with the Emerald Island show. “Caro Emerald’s live performance is an absolute spectacle – electrifying and exhilarating ” (according to The Upcoming) and you shouldn’t miss what is announced to be a luxuriously textured and vibrant show!

...coming in march........................................... KRAFTWERK 3D

When: March 1 Where: Arenele Romane What: Electronic Music Kraftwerk, dubbed “the parents of electronic music”, are returning to Romania on 1 st March with a show that is considered a true work of art due to the combination of art and music. Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider came together for the multimedia project called Kraftwerk in 1970 in Düsseldorf, Germany and by mid ‘70s they were recognized internationally for their revolutionary music, experimenting with robotic sounds and technical innovation. They were a major influence in the developing genres like electro, hip hop, tehno and synthpop. They also invested in giant projections, robots and holographic images for their live performances, making every show an event.





An opportunity to socialize and kickstart your week with a film screening on Mondays, twice a month from 8pm in the attic at Lente&Cafea, Arcului St nr 8. The entrance is free but you have to call first to announce yourself. You are invited to stay and chat after the screening and even suggest a film for future evenings.


Every Tuesday evening you can watch an Italian film at Pavesiana Book Shop and feel like you were watching it in your living room with an extended circle of friends. The selection is done by a group of Italians enjoying, living and working in Romania.


Every last Monday of the month starting January 2018 you are invited to play anthropologist. From the Balkans International Anthropological Film Festival ( Culese din Balkani - Festival international de film antropologic ) will be screening a documentary at the Peasant’s Museum, some of them films presented in the festival during the last three years, mostly Romanian documentaries. When possible, viewers will be welcomed to chat with the authors after screening.



A series of events, from theatre plays to film screening and workshops will be held as part of LGBT History Month, celebrated in Romania and other countries in February to honour the LGBT culture. The main themes of the event are self-representation, solidarity, community and visibility. You can see the entire programme on www.acceptromania. ro/lunaistoriei/ - this is the 7 th year ACCEPT Association organizes LGBT History Month together with partners and NGOs.



Mondays and Tuesdays you can dust off your singing with Karaoke at Tunes club. If you’re a little shy, you can try the Roulette instead and win tshirts, bottles and vouchers. You also get 2 for 1 on all the beers and on all the Summer Specials. Don’t forget to book first!


...is the in-house band you can hear when at Madame Pogany - an artful place with savoury cuisine and soothing rhythms.




Mojo is one of the best Karaoke bars in town with a capacity of 100 seats located on the 1 st floor of the club specifically dedicated to and open for Karaoke every night. Get your friends, have a cocktail and sing your heart out in the Old Town, Gabroveni St, nr14.



João Tabarra's site-specific installation ‘Allegro Molto Lento – b’ reinterprets Andrei Ujica’s film trilogy ‘Videograms of a Revolution’ (1992), ‘Out of the Present’ (1995) and ‘The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaușescu’ (2010). You can see it at the Czech Centre Bucharest until February 23 rd. The event is organised by Future Museum - an open platform that aims to look at unexplored concepts, that “traces social changes, turns, revolutions, transitory moments and through these initiates a new configuration of space and time”.


‘Venom - out of reach beauties’ is an exhibition (some exhibits alive and well) held by the National Museum of Natural History (Muzeul Naţional de Istorie Naturală „Grigore Antipa”) between February 1 st - March 31 st . The exhibition allows the encounter with some of the most venomous species in the world, in a safe environment, along with a few other valuable exhibits of the museum, usually not open to the public. A good day out with a few thrills and the joy of getting to know the world around us better!


The theme of the event held between February 15 th - March 31 st at National Museum of Romanian Literature (Muzeului Naţional al Literaturii Române, Calea Griviţei St, nr 64-66) is “Unity”. Beautifully designed and crafted books will be showcased, along with four conferences on books as art objects and what seems to be lately a phenomenon around books from an object design perspective. The exhibition will present artist books from all regions of Romania as well as from other countries that have considerable Romanian communities. You can also find workshops for children and adults, related to the historical date of January 24 th (100 years this year since the great unification of Romanian territories), to the celebration of love on February 14/24 (February 24 th is the Romanian Valentine’s Day called “Dragobete”), to the 1 st of March (Mărţişor, the welcoming of spring) and 8 th March (Women’s Day).


Freestyle Dinner, organised by Lente (Praporgescu St) is an attempt to change the dynamic when it comes to eating out. Instead of choosing something from a predefined menu, you choose the ingredients and let the chef surprise you with his bespoke dish. Every Wednesday night from 19:30 with booking. Ready to try something different?




Low cost Romania — but for how long? BY CLARE NUTTALL in Bucharest


Visit any of the major cities in central or western Romania — from Brașov to Arad — and the surrounding area is typically scattered with brand new big box factories and assembly plants. This is visible evidence of the way Romania has followed in the footsteps of its northern neighbours and become an important location for Foreign Direct Investment, including export oriented investment.

they also struggle to find workers at all, with some recruiting in Ukraine or other lower cost economies for their Central European operations.

The migration of manufacturing operations eastwards started shortly after the collapse of communism, in countries like Poland and the Czech Republic at least. Now Central Europe is a major manufacturing hub, with auto assembly and components manufacture a particularly healthy industry, not least because of these countries’ proximity to the large German market while labour costs are still considerably lower than in Germany.

This could be where Romania comes in. Leoni Despite the presence of major international investors, costs are still a lot lower than in Central Europe, and areas of high unemployment that would welcome a new investor are still possible to find even as labour markets in some cities start to tighten. Romania also has an advantage over its neighbours in Southeast Europe as it’s an EU member state with a large domestic market.

A similar trend happened in Romania, a little bit later. Romania didn’t just have even lower costs than Central Europe, there was also a legacy of high-tech manufacturing for example around the central town of Brasov, where Airbus supplier Premium AEROTEC has a plant. The country’s two car factories — Renault Dacia and Ford Craiova — also create a local market for auto-components, although manufacturers such as Continental, Draxlmeier and Daimler’s local subsidiaries mainly produce for export.

FDI stock by country of origin

Evolution of FDI stock in Romania

But things are changing. The last couple of years has seen unemployment fall to record lows in the Visegrad Four countries, and there has been heavy upward wage pressure. This has meant that investors have not only had to pay more,

The downside in comparison to, for example, the Visegrad Four countries, is that labour productivity tends to be lower, which means that the savings on wages could be a false economy. The recent collapse of the third Romanian government within a year raises again the spectre of political instability. And infrastructure, one of the top bugbears of investors, just isn’t comparable to that in countries to the north. That’s why cities like Timisoara and Arad, located close to Romania’s border with Hungary, are popular with investors who can use Hungary’s much better road network to get their products to other markets. The other question is whether, and for how long, Romania will continue to be a low cost investment destination. At the moment, it has the second-lowest GDP per capita in the EU. However, as in the CEE countries, unemployment is falling, and given the continuing high levels of emigration, as more investors arrive the pool of available labour — especially skilled labour — is also shrinking. Even if investors increasingly start to turn their attention to Europe’s southeast corner, Bucharest will need to ensure it provides a stable environment conducive to long-term commitments if it is to benefit from the tight labour markets in Central Europe.

Clare Nuttall is a Bucharest-based journalist specialising in Eastern Europe. Currently news editor at bne IntelliNews, she has been with the magazine since 2008, initially in Kazakhstan and more recently in Romania. Clare has also written for the Financial Times and the Economist Intelligence Unit.



WOULD YOU LET YOUR CLOSEST FRIEND PACK YOUR PARACHUTE? Discovering the true meaning of trust in business BY COLIN LOVERING How many times have you believed in someone who seemed perfectly trustworthy and professional to simply do what you wanted them to do whether it was getting your hair cut, having your car repaired or simply selling a service or product to you only to be disappointed? As human beings we have a natural propensity to trust in both our personal and professional lives. This propensity is further enhanced when we are interacting with people in authority or assumed credibility such as doctors, lawyers, pilots, CEOs etc. Last year I was taken quite ill while returning from a business trip in Munich and was given the full works of flashing lights and sirens screaming through the streets of Bucharest to hospital. The following day I had an appointment with, let’s just call him Doctor X, one of the leading surgeons in Romania (according to an extensive google search). “Oh dear,” he began with his hands spread like a proud fisherman, “you have a tumour this big and your heart is very weak!” To which I uttered one or two expletives before he realized that he had got his medical notes mixed up with a 90-year-old patient sat in a wheelchair outside his surgery door. “Ah ok, anyway, never mind, I think I know what your problem is and I can operate tomorrow although I have 12 other operations but don’t worry I can fit you in somehow, ok?” . “Er, yes” was my stuttering and rather subservient reply to the medical expert unnerving me with his Jack Nicholson smile which prompted me to swiftly and nervously depart, sympathetically patting the aforementioned gentleman on his shoulder as I passed him like a saddened priest walking away from Anne Boleyn in 1536. I will come back to this story later but let’s take a deeper look at TRUST and what it really means. Trust is basically the “willingness to be vulnerable” and this is illustrated every day of our lives. A recent survey quoted the top most trusted companies with giants such as Nike, Coca Cola and Apple shining in the top ten. I thought about this and realized the multitude of times we have

all clicked the “accept the terms and conditions” square box on various online transactions without ever reading a single word... because we trust them of course! The three drivers of trust in business are ABILITY, BENEVOLENCE & INTEGRITY. Ability is, of course, “situation specific” as you certainly wouldn’t trust your dearest friend to pack that parachute because that is not their skill. You should however trust an accountant to fill in your tax return correctly but just ability is simply not enough to fulfill trust. Benevolence is about caring. Does that efficient waiter or salesperson actually care about you or is he/she simply processing you. Are they concerned about the impact of the sales and, more importantly, do they want to have continuous business with you? (By the way, an assassin has great ability and zero benevolence if that helps illustrate the importance of this second driver.) Integrity is based around the person’s values and beliefs coupled with their consistent passion for sustaining both whatever the challenges or situations faced “I have my values and I will stick to them” (Nelson Mandela is my Integrity hero.) If you can build your business around these three major drivers and continually question your ranking with all your clients, old and new, then you will create a reputation and professionalism that others will envy and, it’s simply guaranteed, you will become more successful. Finally, back to my hospital story. I fortunately soon found an alternative, and refreshingly professional doctor, at another hospital who was extremely skilled and knowledgeable (ability), showed genuine care for me during and after the operation (benevolence) and did exactly what he said he was going to do (integrity) and I’m now 100% fit again! CONCLUSION: If you don’t tick all the boxes, or your potential new client doesn’t, then take a hard look at what you are doing. Remember, trust is a science it’s not an instinct!

Colin Lovering is senior vice-president of Avison Young Romania and Chairman of the British Romanian Chamber of Commerce.





BY DEAN EDGAR I am very conscious of the fact that most of the news I report on a monthly basis is always bad news, so there I was on Saturday morning at the end of January watching Simona Halep playing in the Final of the Australian Open, hoping that she will win her first Grand Slam tournament of her career. However it was not to be, played 3 finals, lost 3 finals. The conditions were not brilliant as the temperature reached 40C plus at times. Hopefully her luck will improve, and she will win a Grand Slam this year. And so to the continuing soap opera that is the present PSD government, incumbent prime minister, Mihai Tudose was unceremoniously dumped by the de facto boss Liviu Dragnea for not doing as he was told. Mr Tudose actually went against party policy and was eventually pushed out with a vote of no confidence. He had only been “in charge” for just over 6 months. So this was Monday night. The very next day, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe popped in with two Jumbo Jets worth of Japanese businessmen to further cement business links between the two governments, but unfortunately there was no one there to meet him. He ended up having a stroll around the Village museum. What an absolute diplomatic mess. A couple of days later when he was about to leave from Otopeni someone had lost the car park token and there was a fine of 500 Ron to pay. Why the hell was the Japanese PM using the public car park? The final humiliation was that he couldn’t use the VIP lounge as there was a private party for a TAROM director being held in the lounge. Many Romanians went on to social media apologising for this huge diplomatic 12

faux pas. However he did meet with President Iohannis and did confirm that Romanians who want to visit Japan will now no longer need a visa. So not all bad then… With Tudose gone, a new Prime Minister was needed. The candidate list of willing puppets is dwindling as several influential PSD members – such as labour minister Lia Olguta Vasilescu, Bucharest mayor Gabriela Firea, and economy minister Paul Stanescu – said they didn’t want this position. Then to the surprise of most people, the party put forward the name of Viorica Dăncilă, an MEP. Not many people had heard of her but it’s no surprise as to why she was proposed, as she is from Rosiorii de Vede, in Romania’s Teleorman county, where PSD leader Liviu Dragnea comes from. She was also a woodwork teacher in a local school. Someone, I would say, perfectly suited to running a country. President Klaus Iohannis then came in for a bit of stick as he approved the nomination. He was in a bit of a spot but he played the PSD at their own game. It’s patently obvious to me at least that she is “not suitable for purpose” so maybe after a few months early elections might happen, and maybe, just maybe, the not so vocal opposition might become more vocal and actually win a few more seats. On Saturday 20th over 70,000 people gathered at Universitate peaceably to demonstrate against the government, and the Jandarmerie were on hand to keep an eye on the proceedings. Things got a little heated when the boys in blue tried to stop demonstrators from leaving the underpass. The gentleman in the middle of photo was photographed punching anyone that got in his way. Age was not a prerequisite for his boxing abilities, as he was seen striking an old age pensioner. That will teach the demonstrators. It is good to see though, that


the spirit of the electorate has not been squashed. Long may they continue to voice their anger at the PSD and their self serving manipulation of the country’s corruption laws. It is good to see that the EU is now getting involved. In a joint statement, the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the first vice-president of the EC Frans Timmermans, say they are following “with concern” the latest developments in Romania. “The independence of Romania’s judicial system and its capacity to fight corruption effectively are essential cornerstones of a strong Romania in the European Union.” They then went on to say: “The Commission calls on the Romanian Parliament to rethink the course of action proposed, to open up the debate in line with the Commission’s recommendations and to build a broad consensus on the way forward. The Commission reiterates its readiness to cooperate with and support the Romanian authorities in this process.” Good to hear, but then the dynamic duo, Liviu Dragnea and Călin Popescu Tăriceanu the heads of the two chambers of Parliament said in a letter submitted to the EC leadership that they are concerned about the “incorrect manner” in which EU officials were informed “regarding the transparency of the debate surrounding the justice laws in Romania”. They then claimed that there

was an extensive debate on the amendments to the justice laws. They added that the Constitutional Court will make a ruling on the amendments. Beggars belief when it has been reported many times that debate didn't happen due to debating times being changed and dropped by the PSD to ensure the policies would go through. There have been a couple of news items that may have been overlooked by many people , firstly Florin Cîţu, the vice president of the PNL (Liberal opposition) has claimed that Romania is in a state of financial crisis and that the Ministry of Finance is about to negotiate the second biggest loan in Romania’s history. He then said via social media: “Our strategic partners have reached a verdict: Romania is in crisis. A crisis that will reach its alert level mid-year. The Romanian crisis (as it is called in Davos) has three dimensions: the political and institutional crisis, the profound economic crisis generated by economic imbalances that are visible and easy to anticipate and the Romanian society’s moral crisis.” The second piece of news is that the EU commissioner for regional development, Corina Creţu, warned on Tuesday after a meeting with new PM Viorica Dăncila that Romania is risking the loss of some very important EU funds if it doesn’t make major efforts to absorb the funds this year. The new government has until the 23rd February to come up with plans on how Romania can absorb EU funds much faster. Romania has a history for not taking EU money fast enough, and unfortunately the people and the country suffer, with poor infrastructure, poor hospitals etc. Romania has €20 Billion allocated yet only €1 Billion has been absorbed. Well, that’s it for January. I truly hope that I can report better things for February.

Dean Edgar has been living the expat dream here in Romania for 11 years. He is General Manager of Moorcroft Services, a company dedicated to assisting foreigners to settle in Romania. They can help with visas, permits, company set-ups, car registration, house hunting, insurance, orientation tours and basically anything that a newcomer to Romania might need see www.moorcroft.ro for further details.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the writer, Dean Edgar, and not related to those of the publisher, OZB. 13






BY PAUL PAGE Having arrived in Cluj-Napoca in the oh-so-hot month of July, 2017, for my new Headship post at the Royal School in Transylvania, I was utterly confused by the immensely rich dichotomy which was presenting itself: the historical research, the brief understanding of the economic situation of Romania (admittedly outdated) contrasted with the vision of development, café culture, vibrant city and architecture which was presented before me. Previously – like many expats – Romania had never even emerged as a blip on the life-radar. This was mainly attributable to not knowing too much about the place, aside, of course from the Vampiric legend of Stoker and the TV show Top Gear’s attempt to find the best road in the world (Transfăgărăşan Highway)! The dichotomy became more apparent as I was driven up to my new school. Thankfully my exposure, over two decades, to Cambridge international schools, meant that the academic programme of the school – English National Curriculum and Cambridge International – was not overwhelming but was, indeed, a comfort blanket which, after less than two minutes, was flung off in favour of exposure and wonderment. The children were not pale with dark circles and hunger in their eyes from malnutrition (remember the harrowing 20/20 documentary of 1990 – ‘Shame of a Nation’?) but were, in every aspect, the same as every other child I had met on my journey in education, so far. The school, housed in an official “Green” building was as advanced as any seen in Europe – interactive whiteboards in every room, two teachers in every room, an IT lab, air-conditioned with a maximum of twenty students per class and a distinctly British theme – there’s even a red telephone box and a mural of a London bus on the wall. This was a somewhat of a change from what I had been used to. Since 2011 I had been Academic Head at both the International School of South


Africa and at Trident College, Zambia - on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and had been beset by snakes (Black Mambas in my office, Black-necked Spitting Cobra by the dustbin outside my office, Forest Cobras meandering through the school field and a couple of Gaboon Vipers in my garden) as well as

a double dose of Malaria in 2016, to boot. So to emerge from living within a game reserve (yep, Zebras walked past my fence every morning) to what was now a city with traffic, concrete buildings and a population of about 350,000 was a bit of a culture shock, to say the least. Having experienced non-city life for the last twenty-odd years, I steeled myself into the journey of discovery. I remember standing in the huge Auchan supermarket thinking, ‘What do I buy?’ and stood like Livingstone experiencing the majesty of Victoria Falls for the first time. There was nothing that was not available. Even Heinz Baked Beans! I have to admit that I filled a basket


Hungarian Opera houses; by the wonderful cafes and restaurants which line the centre of the city, the statues - and was overwhelmed with the sheer modernity of it all. Again the dichotomy: why does Romania get such a bad “rap” if Cluj is a marker for the direction of Romania? I don’t have the answer yet.

with the most dreadfully unhealthy items, some of which still reside in the darkest recesses of my cupboards to this day. Once settled, it was time to explore the sights and sounds of Cluj. Along with my 11-year-old daughter, I experienced the festivals that abound over the summer months (Untold is not to be missed) as well as becoming enamoured with the multitudinous green spaces which complement the bustling city. I was intrigued by the use of hammocks in the parks which seemed to appear at every opportunity; by the Romanian and

As with every city, in every country in the world, there is a mixture of wealth, class and poverty. The difference here is that you can see it and walk it and feel it, smell it and sense it – all while feeling relatively safe whilst doing so. Crime rates are incredibly low and it is well worth walking the city and exploring the labyrinthine markets and side streets to find the little gems hidden away. For my wife and I this has become a Saturday morning ritual – discovering new areas. In seven months we still haven’t covered a quarter of the city! So, come and visit Cluj, enjoy the pace of life here, imbibe the ever-present history, walk the parks, chat awhile in the cafes and, if you feel like it, come and visit the Royal School in Transylvania – I will make you a cracking cup of tea! www.royalschool.ro




EDGY & ELEGIAC American, born 1978. Davin Ellicson's first major project was "Ţăran" about the period during which he lived and farmed with a peasant family in the remote Maramureş region of northern Romania in 2002-2003. Davin went for a year without running water, drinking milk straight from the cow, while photographing Romanians' fidelity to the earth and folk traditions that he knew were about to vanish. It is the subject of his first book coming out in 2018, designed by Dutchman Sybren Kuiper with a text by Romanian-American poet Andrei Codrescu. A psychological portrait of Bucharest comprises the second part of Davin's trilogy of photographic works about Romania. Today, there's a coruscating, ineffable excitement to the city. The deep, unassailable core of the human spirit is what he's exploring with elegiac and deeply romantic images. The past has soaked into the present in Romania just as the blood of a lamb soaks into the soil when it is butchered. Davin is uncovering Bucharest's dark beauty. Currently, he is working on the final volume, “The Dacia Project”, a retrospective journey around the country by car in both a 2002 Dacia 1310 (a rebadged 1970s Renault 12 and a symbol of Ceauşescu's Romania) as well as Dacia's latest 4x4 SUV, the Duster. It's an exploration of a world missing autostradas and caught between the 19 th and 21 st centuries with legions of roaming black Mercedes driven by men in designer suits. Davin's work has appeared in The New York Times, Le Monde M, The Guardian and The Official Ferrari Magazine among others. Awards include two grants from The Romanian Cultural Institute in Bucharest. Check www.davinellicson.com to learn about his photo workshops all around Romania.



MARC JENNER: Guinness World Record holder (X2), charity fundraiser, quiz-master extraordinaire, and fanatical Fulham fan BY DEAN EDGAR This month I have the pleasure to catch up with Marc Jenner, 42, who arrived here in May 2010 and, as you will see, his time here has been as eventful as it’s been successful. What were you doing in the UK and why did you choose to leave? I had been living and working in Los Angeles for a number of years, before returning to the UK for a year. When I was asked to consider helping a UK charity working in Romania, it sounded like a great challenge. I planned to be here to see out a one year contract but that was almost 8 years ago. The pros and cons of Romania? I think the majority of expats will highlight the cost of living in Bucharest against the expense of a city like London. But there is a lot more to Romania than that. Being in a city that offers stunning Black Sea beaches in one direction and the beauty of the Carpathians in the other is amazing. Why the backpack challenge for your world record attempts? I began marathon running back in 1997, and the London Marathon quickly became a regular date in the diary. It was a great excuse for my friends and family to come together for a day, and I really enjoyed helping out some charities along the way. However, in 2015, I wanted to do something extra special for my Mum who was in the final stages of terminal cancer. She was always my biggest supporter and had travelled all over to watch me

run, and to offer support to others in the race. She absolutely loved it. Over a pint with a few of my closest friends, they decided it would be fun for me to attempt a real World Record. Not necessarily break one, but at least train for something a little unusual. I was never going to be the fastest conventionally, so eventually we settled on maybe trying something that requires more strength than speed. That’s how I ended up attempting my first record carrying a 36 kilogram pack (80 pounds in old money!).

That’s almost two of the large plastic water containers that sit on top of a dispenser! That was in 2015 but last year he exceeded even that by completing the same feat, running the London Marathon, but carrying 100 pounds, that’s 45.5kg. For the record he managed that in 6 hours and 43 minutes which is pretty astonishing when you think about it. Any more world record attempts, if so, at what? I really am tempted, although my girlfriend has told me I am not allowed to! I'd like to attempt one more in the next few years, which would be the Fastest Marathon Carrying A Fridge or Washing Machine. Sounds tough, but in reality



the weight would be less than half that which I carried in 2017. I'll run the 2018 London Marathon “normally” for once, and see how I feel after that.

Certainly in my time here, the expertise of charity workers coming to Romania has really helped NGOs, particularly when it comes to fundraising. The charity sector was not that well viewed in Romania during the 90s and 00s, but many charities have worked hard to show transparency and professionalism to ensure they build a deserved level of trust in the community.

out. It’s not that the local live music scene was bad, far from it, it just felt like we needed something a bit different on a regular basis. I had hosted a regular quiz in the City of London for many years, and felt that maybe a few people would be interested in doing it here. So, working with the owners of Mojo, we put the word out and hoped a few people would come along. The first quiz was a real success, with maybe 80 people attending, far more than we expected. We put a date in for the following month and that number doubled. The number of people coming still astonishes me, and I cannot thank them enough for their continued support. Some have been coming since day one, and others are still just discovering it for the first time.

What have been your greatest achievements with your charity work?

Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years time, still in Romania?

It's tough to highlight just one thing in more than 20 years of charity work, both on a professional and personal basis. But I would say that raising over £12,000 for a Hospice charity after my mum passed away is right up there. She lost her fight to cancer in May 2015, and in 2016, my two sisters and brother joined me to run the London Marathon in her memory. We had hoped to raise around £5,000 for the charity, but the generosity of friends and family was quite amazing. I have secured major six figure charity donations in a professional capacity before, but the £12,000 we raised that day maybe meant more than anything else I have accomplished.

I am not sure where I'll be. Retired hopefully! But wherever I am and whatever I am doing I will retain a business and personal life in Romania.

How does the involvement of foreigners in local charities have an impact here in Romania?

You have been involved in the Olympics, what have you done and how much fun was it? I was lucky enough to be hired as Chief Liaison Officer for the 2012 Games in London. This job basically entails facilitating athletes and competitors as they perform their interview obligations right after their event has finished. I was lucky enough to be assigned to Wimbledon for the tennis, and then moved on to the Olympic Stadium for the entire athletics programme. It was an absolute privilege to be behind the scenes and up-close to one of the greatest sports events the world has ever seen. Off the back of this, I performed the same role at the 2013 Australian Open Tennis Championships in Melbourne, and then again at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. When did you start the Quiz Night, why and what are your plans for the future? I had been in Bucharest for around 8 or 9 months, and as is the way, made a good group of pals, both ex-pat and Romanian. What was obvious to me, was that there was little in the way of variety on a night 20

Quiz Night at Mojo

If you are interested in attending the Quiz Night, they are held every other Wednesday at Mojo Music on Strada Gabroveni in the Old Town. There are regularly in excess of 200 people competing in the quiz and you’d better have your wits about you should you wish to participate - competitors play to win, the competition is fierce. Teams of up to six participate. Details can be found on the Facebook page www.facebook.com/bigbritishbucharestquiz/ Funds raised at the quiz night through the raffle ticket sale (there are a bunch of highly desirable prizes) go towards helping the Casa Ioana charity which helps women and children facing housing issues as a result of domestic abuse. In 2018 Marc will be running the London Marathon in his Mum's memory for Family Holiday Association. You can support here www.justgiving.com/fundraising/run4sue

Photo credit: Adrie Mouthaan

Caro’s Island


How about this tour, what’s new? Well this show is the show that we developed last year and it contains some new songs, which we've been working on the past year. We‘ve been very inspired by a music genre called Exotica. It’s been dreaming away about far away places, islands, jungles, the music that you would hear in your head. We have a couple of new songs that sound tropical for our new show, that together mixed with some old songs creates that feeling of being on a tropical island. What is your favourite tropical island? I haven’t been to so many but from the ones that I have visited, I would say Mauritius. This will be your second time in Bucharest? Yes, I think so. Well to be honest, the last time I was there I didn’t have the time to look around. Usually it’s really hard work you know. Sometimes I have some time to look around, but the last time in Bucharest not. Maybe this time, I don’t know about the schedule, but it would be nice.




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vintage, swing jazz sound combined with her retro fashion style has struck a chord with audiences across the globe. On 28 th February, the Dutch star will be present for the second time in Romania, for her concert in Bucharest, at Sala Palatului. The Emerald Island Tour in Central and Eastern Europe starts on 19th February in Prague and will end on 2nd March in Sofia, comprising 8 shows in 8 countries. OZB magazine talked to Caro Emerald on the phone about – what else ? – tropical islands and not only.


Caro Emerald ’s velvety smooth, modernized but

How long do you stay in each city you visit? It depends, because I play in 8 different countries. I have few days off, and on these days we have to travel to the next country. For instance if I have to be in Bucharest tomorrow, I will go there today. If I have a hotel in the centre of the city, I can go out and see something of the city. I love it when people can recommend me things, because I don’t have the time to discover things myself. How many songs do you perform in a concert? I don’t know exactly by heart, but I think 20 or 22, quite a lot. How much time does it take you to prepare a concert ? Well it takes a lot of time, it’s a group effort. My band and my bandleader made these beautiful arrangements, and my fellow producer also joined this whole process. Everyone is doing his part. It all starts with this idea, Emerald Island. What kind of songs do we want to play, the beautiful arrangements that my bandleader has to come up with, that


all takes a lot of time. He starts that process months before the tour starts. We rehearse everything for a week, and then we take time how things have to go and look. And we do separate rehearsals for the visuals of the show. And all these things really gets you in the mood for the concert. And then we do the final rehearsal, that takes 2 or 3 days as well, and then we go on tour, so it takes a couple of months preparing. Who is doing your dresses for the shows and videos? I work together with a great stylist. I really love to think about this and work this out , together with my stylist. We work things out on a mood board and also discuss it with the group. It’s all well thought out, we carefully look for instance, what does Emerald Island need, and based on that we make our decisions. How come you started to sing this type of music? The way this started is a bit of a coincidence, I studied Jazz music and I knew from very early on that I wanted to become a singer. The reason I choose Jazz music was because of a practical reason, I had to make a choice between Jazz and Classical Music. For me Jazz is the basis of all music, I love other kinds of music as well, for instance pop, so I try to make a blend of it. And I think that really works for me.

how to use it. The ultimate performance for me is to feel comfortable enough, but not too comfortable, I want to be emotional in the song, I want to feel the song. If that’s happening, for me that’s the perfect performance. What is for you the perfect audience? The perfect audience is of course that audience leaving after the concert with a feeling that they really have been somewhere that night. It all has also something to do what kind of venue you are playing , what is the distance to the audience. Can I see their faces, can I hear their voices?. I like it for instance if people sing along and know my songs very well. I love to see the difference in emotions from the start of the show and at the end. At the beginning the audience has to warm up, at the end everyone is standing, laughing , dancing. This is how it should be, and this is what I’m looking for and want to achieve. Except for this tour, do you have another tour this year? Yes I will also start a new show after the summer , first the UK and Holland. And if it’s successful we will consider other countries as well.

What do you like more, performing concerts, live tv shows or recording? I cannot choose. The perfection is in the balance of the two, you know. When I am touring for a long time, I have this urge to go back to the studio, have more time to go in detail. Because in the studio that’s where I discover new things. And of course live performing is exciting as well, you only have one shot, and it better be good. Do you have emotions when you perform in front of an audience? Yes, very much. I practise a lot, so I know



The House PR Agency Diversity, authenticity & creativity A story told by Valeria Tudor, Founder & Owner of The House PR Agency

I was searching for a different place and for an uncommon agency. I wanted a place where I would feel understood, appreciated, where people’s open-mindness would be maximum, where the know-how transfer would be effected in a spontaneous way, naturally. Coming back after a masters in London, I was searching for the same multicultural vibe in my country, bearing in mind the idea that we are all different and that we should embrace this, that it might work as an asset in a team where everybody puts their skills at stake. I didn’t find that place, so I created it. Not immediately, but after a few job switches, both at the client and in agency, jobs where I had the opportunity to overcome challenges which scoured me and that prepared me for what was to follow. I didn’t have a plan or a strategy of doing my own agency after x year, after x won pitches, after a x% rate of accounts worked on. Everything happened as an organic process, after my personal life has brought me the most precious gift: that of becoming a mother. When my baby girl was six months, I started what is already known nowadays on the market as The House PR Agency. The name itself shows that one of the core values that lie at the heart of it is diversity. All of us, despite all the differences, we can work together under the same roof, where efficiency is perfectly bonded with creativity. Focusing on results, we have demonstrated in our three-year existence on the market, that a small team might become competitive if it delivers. That it is not important where you are


and from which distance you talk to the client, as long as s/he feels your close support. We have assumed that our role is to relieve the people who trust us and this is translated every time through high-standard communication services, which do not require external interventions, but rather focus on having an overview only and a final feedback on our work.

Right from the beginning, when our challenge was to build our portfolio, and our previous work as professionals didn’t count, so we had to start from scratch and to do our apprenticeship again with the agency, we have built our own instruments. The House PR Agency is also about commitment and about the desire to do the communicator's job under any circumstances, to be professionals even after some series of “no” received from the client, to do our job as good as possible, with responsibility towards our team colleagues, towards the agency and towards the industry in general. We have embedded the idea of delivering something that would be fair to us at first hand, but the logic


journey of things has demonstrated that in the majority of cases, the client was also happy. The House PR Agency is also about authenticity. Despite the fact that it is a highly-circulated word during the last period, authenticity is reflected in our agency through the people who have been recruited. Each of them brings something new to the team, but the most valuable asset is the fact that they are true to themselves but also in relationship with their colleagues. We can allow ourselves to say things the way they are, without upsetting anyone. We can provide an honest feedback and then do our further tasks as good as previously done. There are also people who cannot overpass smoothly the honest discussions about commitment, therefore, their ways and ours have set their own tracks, more adequate for each of us. This is a lesson I had to learn the hardest way possible, but which comes useful now. This year we already celebrate three years on the market, a period when we have learnt many and many things happened, when the pressure of being a small team meant that we had to solve everything, but this process did nothing less than to rally us to the global trend of delivering integrated communication. We are delighted to have now a portfolio with big names in it, with companies that have entrusted us with most of their communication endeavours on an indefinite timing, fact that confirms both our performance as a team and the viability of the business represented by The House PR Agency. At the beginning of the agency, someone I cared for has named me Magic Maker, a denomination which I assimilated only when I understood what is it about and which I kept. Sometimes slower, sometimes more fast-paced, I always like to make things happen. An agency started from zero, as an entrepreneurship trial, starting from a 4000 EUR turnover after the first year, has come to the milestone of surpassing 115000 EUR in 2017, a clear sign that we align with small steps to the middle to big league, in the consecrated agencies cluster, a fact also confirmed by the fact that they started recruiting people from our team. Despite the fact that we do not have an alert growth, as a friend would say, if the numbers in the table are the right ones, this means that we are on the good path. Not only that they are the right ones, but they actually show that we have numbers that increased five times every year.

We are proud that this happened exclusively through teamwork and that every client we work for recommends us, which represents an extremely positive feedback for us and a confirmation that it is also possible this way, on a classic recipe: independent agency, 100% feminine ownership, no intermediate entries. We started with some media relations and consultancy in some case, we entered afterwards the digital market, and now, The House PR Agency offers integrated communication services, from event management, to crisis communication or CSR. We are active supporters of social causes, from the first moments of the agency, when our resources where limited. We go further with the ACSIS Association and with the moms included in their programs, a cause we voted for internally and with which, not only myself, but the entire team resonates. In addition, last year we received the Business Woman Prize for Community Involvement. As a crown on our previous work, at the end of last year we have also been designated the Small Consultancy of the Year 2017 by PR Award Romania. We have to own this year as well, to make it ours and to succeed in having new milestones and reach new standards, higher and higher. I wish that we never forget from where we started and to maintain our enthusiasm, to do not forget that it is our project, of those who work for it, but also of those who support it unconditionally. In a stream of emotion, I end this story by wishing to my colleagues and to people around us a sincere and trustful: “Happy anniversary!�

welcome@thehousepr.agency 10 Samuil Vulcan St 031 100 19 15 Bucharest, Romania 25


Living Lightly, Thinking Deeply BY DOUGLAS WILLIAMS Ten years ago Nicolette Keizer pitched up in deepest, darkest Transylvania with a notion to buy a plot of land - she’d seen one online. Having just passed her half century and having spent a good deal of time re-appraising her life and what was important to her, she’d decided she was aiming to engage in a more natural way of life, closer to and more tuned in with nature. Half Dutch, half French and brought up in England, Nicolette had heard Romania could be just the place for such an existence. Ten years later it would be safe to say Keizer has accomplished this. Bears regularly roam around the amazing 4 hectare property Forest Garden Transylvania, wolves can occasionally be heard in the distance, she lives more or less “off grid” - water from a spring, electricity from solar panels, heating from a wood-fired stove, she’s practically vegan, the nearest village is a 15 minute drive.

CLOSE TO NATURE Groups of like-minded individuals, families, colleagues, workshops, basically whoever, can stay self-catering at Forest Garden, there is ample space for six to eight guests and the location would fit perfectly with those wishing to explore this wild part of Romania with its unique Hungarian heritage - there are attractions galore within the vicinity including skiing in winter. Alternatively guests can just completely chillax amidst the natural splendour. Nicolette has had a number of quite different careers from paramedic to college lecturer, landscape gardener to property developer and, before living in Forest Garden, she hadn’t lived any one place for longer than 18 months since she was a kid - she’d even had a couple of stints living aboard boats. Importantly, Nicolette spent two prolonged periods in communities, one in Glastonbury in south-west England and the other in the Findhorn Community in northern Scotland. These periods greatly influenced Keizer’s approach to life, they still do, and the idea of reproducing something of the ethos of these places at Forest Garden glows warm in this resourceful and independent woman’s heart. “In many ways the old community spirit is alive and well here in rural Romania, it’s one of the things that attracted me and one of the things I like best about living here. It’s not all about money, money, money. There still is the traditional lifestyle, it’s much slower, Romanians are good at sharing things together and it’s priceless. I’m not sure if even the Romanians themselves realise just how priceless this is,” says Nicolette. “There is the modern stuff but there is also the clean air, the clean water, herbal remedies, handed



down recipes, and a whole lot of knowledge that, elsewhere, has been forgotten and lost. And the food is naturally organic and of course it’s locally produced. In many ways it is an idyll.” And certainly with its views and surroundings and the house with its undeniably peaceful energy, Forest Garden could definitely be described as an idyll. From Bucharest, Forest Garden is an approximately five hour drive over expansive plains, across dramatic mountains, over more deep, loamy-soiled plains, climbing up into mountains again and Tușnad before dropping to the historic city of Miercurea Ciuc and then climbing up into the forests of Harghita. Reached down a well kept track, Nicolette has done most of the renovation on her property herself and the quality of the end result is impressive. Wood work is one of Nicolette’s things and there is an abundance of wood, finished to perfection, solid but smooth. Wide forested horizons stretch far off east and south. On the land there are a couple of small ponds, frozen solid when we visited, another cottage and a barn. It feels a world away from the husstle and busstle of the capital.

CREATIVITY AND ALTERNATIVES Nicolette would like to see the land and the property used more, particularly for purposes that some might describe as “alternative”. Courses on permaculture, eco-building techniques and photography have taken place there already. “I would like to welcome people interested in plant consciousness, meditation and yoga, creative people who are interested in connecting with their inner self. There is a fast growing army of folks who wish to lead an alternative lifestyle, a lifestyle that is more balanced and more at one with nature. All across the world and here in Romania, people are waking up to lots of stuff that they were previously closed to. I’d like for there to be a small community of people here, those interested in living an off grid lifestyle, eco building and those interested in creating their own reality. Land can be made available for self builders to join. This place may seem remote but I don’t feel remote, I have the internet, I’m in regular contact with lots of people from all over, like-minded people and of course I’m regularly inundated with all sorts of visitors, it’s wonderful!” People can stay at Forest Garden for a retreat and deep connection with nature. Various means of exchange are a possible way to stay, ideally those that enjoy self catering in Nicolette’s latest creation, her beautiful hand built, recycled and surprisingly well equipped kitchen! For more details visit: www.forestgardentransylvania.org and contact Nicolette for more information.





This is a golden age for travel; people of all ages and backgrounds can see the world for amazingly little cost, thanks to websites like HitchWiki, Bla-Bla Car, Couchsurfing, and many others. Cheap or free transport and free places to stay are widely available if you know where to look.


A growing trend is to work for food and accommodation, which cuts costs dramatically, and gives all involved the bonus of good company and experiences you couldn’t buy. The idea of a working holiday is far from new, but what the internet has done is to make it easy for travellers and hosts to find each other. There are several sites offering a meeting point online, including Workaway, WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and the one I use, HelpX (Help Exchange). They all provide listings of travellers offering skills, and hosts of varying kinds, from farms to hostels, earthships to yachts. HelpX was launched in April 2001 by Englishman Rob Prince, a seasoned traveller who realised that the best way for helpers to find hosts would be through a website: today, the site has thousands of hosts in Europe, with the top countries being France, Britain, Spain, and Ireland; USA and Canada are coming on stream, and Australia/NZ have a stonking 13,731 hosts seeking volunteers. Romania has 89 hosts, including me, looking for help with anything from housekeeping to major eco-construction projects. When I first joined there were only 24 hosts and I had only a couple of helpers; in 2016, when travel guide Lonely Planet declared Transylvania the world’s top region to visit, I was inundated with people itching to explore the region – and 28

Romania as a whole – via HelpX. The sites are for those who want low-cost travel and a cultural exchange away from the usual tourist traps. The average is half the day working, half the day to themselves, but hosts and helpers make their own deals. Helpers can stay for a few days or many months; some hosts offer lots of fringe benefits, a few meanies offer stuff-all. Food is important: judging by their reviews, my cooking is a prime advantage; my first volunteer – Canadian Daniel Akselrod – said that before he came to my place, he was picking courgettes (zucchini) on a farm and the gang got a sack of courgettes per day as their scant reward. Poor exchanges get bad reviews, even quiet complaints to the site admin. One or two young solo travellers have told me that they’d fetched up with creepy hosts and had fled from possible nastiness, but that’s rare.


I love HelpX: I get enthusiastic help with house and garden tasks I am too feeble or too lazy to tackle on my own, I get great stories and all kinds of global perspectives on everything from food to politics. A Mexican’s view of Trump, and a Seoul resident’s view of North Korea, for instance. Now and then I have ad hoc international teams: South Korean and Israeli; German, Ukrainian and US; Lithuanian and Australian. A pair of couples coincided one autumn, and teamed up to build a garden

wall and fireplace from tons of limestone boulders they’d first dug out of the earth, then piled back into place, by hand and eye. An excellent team who had never met before but have stayed friends since.


HelpX reduces the world to a village. The Lithuanian/Australian couple met in West Sussex, working a stone’s throw away from my first school; the chap had come to see the daughter of my oldest friend (they’d met in India), in the house where I spent much of my childhood. A Malay woman, who cooked a magnificent curry dinner for me and her host near Braşov, was living in Montrose and knew my cousins. Glorious coincidences. Not everyone is a success. An American woman hid behind her Californian smile and was nicknamed Mrs Awesome; she and I just about tolerated each other but were happy to part. A Millennial couple were the worst: he was a thoughtless Brit lost in his screen; she was a pretty American sociopath who lied and was bone idle. Some work harder than others, some are more fun, others more focused. The youngest was 18, the oldest 64, most in their late 20s and 30s. Some travelled as a way of life, others are snatching a quick break. If you – or your children – want to travel, volunteering is low-cost and high value. If you want help of any kind, needing muscle or intellect, this is a great way to get it. All my volunteers have adored Romania, and been overwhelmed by my mountain village. Thousands of people from every continent have found Romania through HelpX and similar sites: the world comes to our door and pays us with hard work and good company. Magic. helpx.net wwoof.net



Glenn from Australia – 52 and seeing snow for the first time.

Naomi May (right, with girlfriend Isobel and local friend Greg Helm) from Devon, UK: “My favourite gig was staying with a man on a Croatian island called Solta; he owned a small piece of land with his own bay. We helped him build a road to the village and made renovations on his 'shack' made from recycled materials we liberated from the local tip. We woke up to crystal clear waters every morning, no tourists or noise, just the cicadas. I've gained skills in carpentry and cooking, cobbing and permaculture, and a load of great friends.”

Australian Dave saw Zeus born to dam Carina just over my fence.

Marie and Hugues adored being here; office workers in Paris, it was hard to get them to stop at the end of the day. At 6pm when I tried to get them inside to relax after a long midsummer day’s work, Hugues begged to be allowed to keep going because he loved the physical effort so much. Their legacy is this flight of steps, and memories of a delightful couple.

Kate Westcoast (right, with friend Suzie Fox) from British Columbia has helped hosts in New Zealand, Romania, Albania and Bulgaria: “When Suzie told me about HelpX, I spent afternoons online daydreaming about all the possibilities: it was like a red carpet to the entire world with all the beautiful people and the experiences and knowledge they could offer.”

Siberian superbrain Anastasia, sucking up the Spring sunshine after work. Sean Comerford, from Buffalo, NY, pitched in with the neighbours to help make hay, but struggled with the long scythes after using very different scythes in Norway, and was almost floored by his Romanian colleagues’ frequent refuelling with ţuică.

Jaap Nanninga, from Groeningen, Netherlands: “It was a good way to develop myself as a person. I've always been academically inclined, with almost no experience of manual labour or rural life. I wanted to avoid becoming too one-dimensional, so I used HelpX not only to pick up some practical skills, but also explore different ways of living and working.”

New-met friends Soyeon, from Seoul, and Israeli couple Shahar and Shani who had cooked lunch for us all.

Maria Conklé, Mexico: “So far through HelpX, I’ve been to Germany, Austria, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Egypt, Sweden, France, Italy, Switzerland, Romania, and Bosnia – to teach, cook, clean, build, make art, clean up rivers – at farms, monasteries, retreats... One of my favourites was by the Adriatic Sea in Italy where I helped a family to build their mud and stone house. The host was an artist; I was helping him and he took me around to exhibit at fairs in towns 1000-1500 years old where original buildings were still in use. The ocean views were incredible. I also got to know many more famous artists from Italy. These trips are the most amazing experiences in my life, exploring other cultures, people with different minds, ways of living and traditions. These are my most memorable treasures.”

Arabella McIntyre-Brown moved to Măgura, a village 1,000 metres up in the Carpathians, eight years ago. She has published three books in Romania.



2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage −

is the

a celebration of the past and what a rich and fascinating history Romania has. In this issue of OZB we look at the incredible relocation of Bucharest churches that took place before the revolution, at the superb work being done to preserve Transylvanian properties and at the revival of a national treasure - the band Taraf de Caliu.


HERITAGE Kit Gillet has been based in Romania since 2013, reporting from the region for the likes of The Guardian and The New York Times


It must be startling to look out of your window and see a centuries-old church rolling by. Even more so if you are in communist Romania in the 1980s, where news is controlled and everyday items rationed. And yet, over a span of seven years between 1982 and 1988 almost a dozen churches, as well as other buildings, were moved hundreds of metres in order to save them from destruction, as dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu went about radically redesigning the heart of Bucharest, the Romanian capital.


That a communist country would go out of its way to save churches is strange enough, but the method of saving them, when other countries would probably have tried to dismantle the buildings and then reassemble them elsewhere, makes the achievement all the more impressive.

LANDING ON THE MOON “We were awestruck at those operations, comparing them with the landing on the moon for a country like Romania,” says Valentin Mandache, a Romanian architecture historian who witnessed the moving of several of the churches when he was still a young student. At the centre of it all was Eugeniu Iordăchescu, a civil engineer who had the radical idea to literally place whole buildings on the equivalent of railway tracks and roll them to safety. “I was in the area that was to be knocked down and I saw a beautiful small church and started wondering how it was possible to demolish such a jewel,” says the sprightly 87-year-old, sitting in his dining room in a non-descript apartment building in Bucharest, a few miles from where the

Eugeniu Iordăchescu

churches he saved three decades ago still stand. “I thought about the idea of moving it.” Around that time 30,000 residents were being forced from their homes, with an entire district of historical Bucharest, roughly 9,000 houses as well as churches, synagogues and other buildings demolished to make way for Ceaușescu’s grandiose vanity project, the Palace of the People and surrounding Civic Centre. The Palace – which still dominates the Bucharest skyline and is said to be the second largest administrative building in the world after the Pentagon – and remodelled city centre were supposedly inspired by a visit Ceaușescu took to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. Fixating on that one church, Iordăchescu, who worked at the Project Institute in Bucharest, a huge engineering and design institute, says that when he first broached the subject of moving the church with his colleagues he was told that it wasn’t possible, that the building would fall over. Some thought he was crazy for even suggesting it, but slowly the idea formed in his head.


THE TRAY - AN EARTH-SHATTERING IDEA Iordăchescu says he got the breakthrough after seeing a waiter passing through a crowd of people with a tray of glasses in his hand. “I saw that the secret of the glasses not falling was the tray, so I started trying to work out how to apply a tray to the building.” Ultimately a process was developed whereby the ground was dug out from under the churches with the aid of supports, with a large reinforced concrete support created under the buildings and the foundations severed. Tracks were then laid starting underneath the structure and hydraulic levers and industrial pullies used to slowly move the buildings to their new locations, often at a few metres an hour.

Iordăchescu believes that there was outside pressure on the country’s communist leadership to save the historical and religious buildings from the mass destruction, and he thinks that they got permission largely because if it failed those at the top could say that they had tried to save the structures and it wasn’t their fault.

MOVING, ROTATING SHIFTING BUILDINGS WHILE YOU SLEEP The first church to be moved, the 18th century Schitul Maicilor, was relocated in 1982, 245m away from its original site, with the whole project taking five months, though the actual moving of the structures would often take just a few days once it began.

One church would require a team of around five engineers for the planning phases, and then upwards of 20 workers for when the physical work was underway.

Priests, government officials and locals would often gather to watch the final spectacle; in some photographs Iordăchescu is seen standing alongside the patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church during one of the early moves.

They had to rely exclusively on local equipment and technologies, since Communist Romania was largely cut off from the outside world. Tracks and other equipment were reused from site to site to save on costs and materials. Meanwhile the route from one site to the other had to be cleared and the logistics of the move planned, including issues of gradients and rotating the buildings.

As time went on the team got more and more ambitious, with the 16th century Mihai Voda Church being moved in tandem with its standalone tower. Buildings were rotated. Schitul Maicilor weighed 745 tons; the largest church that was moved, technically a monastery, weighed 9,000 tons, though it was only shifted 24 metres from its original location.

Many were skeptical that it would work, and for the first church they were only given verbal permission to go ahead, with no one wanting to sign the written approval.

In Bucharest and other cities Iordăchescu and his colleagues even moved entire apartment buildings, often with the water and gas lines still attached and the people still inside them. “One



building, people inside thought the move would start at 9am so they prepared their luggage, with their papers, valuables, but we started at 6am, so at 9am when they went to leave it had already moved a couple of metres,” says Iordăchescu, showing me an old photograph of himself standing on a balcony looking out as the building he is on is being moved. They also moved a hospital and a bank. Despite the complexity of the work, all of the buildings made it unscathed to their final locations. However, it wasn’t all good news. Iordăchescu shows me a list of 22 churches that were destroyed in the period, some having already been given permission to be moved, with Ceaușescu impatient to get on with the urban overhaul of the capital. Pointing to an image of one church, once located in what is now Piata Unirii, a huge brash square that is now effectively a roundabout a few hundred metres from the Palace of the People, Iordăchescu’s son Adrian, also a civil engineer, says: “It was a tragedy. The priest died of a heart attack, even the workers didn’t want to demolish it so Ceaușescu got people from prison to do it.”

VALUABLE LEGACY Adrian, 54, has continued his father’s legacy, using an updated version of the technology to recently retrofit the city’s Arcul de Triumf monument.

soviet-style apartment blocks, often sandwiched tightly as if daring those who pass by to blink and miss them. Visitors to the city can find Schitul Maicilor barely a hundred metres from the Palace of the People hidden behind a huge building that contains several governmental ministries. Iordăchescu says he wasn’t particularly religious at the time, and that he was driven to do it more by a desire to save the historic buildings themselves, though presumably the complex engineering challenge was also a big factor. “It is amazing what they were able to achieve,” says son Adrian, adding: “During the moves all the day he was on site, because at the very beginning he heard people from the working team would try to sabotage it, so he would stay 24 hours a day.” Yet, preserving these important churches in the capital, along with their hundreds of years of history, ornate interiors and elaborate iconography and paintings has had an important cultural legacy. Highlighting Antim Monastery, one of the saved buildings, architecture historian Mandache points to the importance of what was achieved in protecting those buildings three decades ago. “Antim is a jewel of Brancovean-style architecture, the design peculiar to 18 th century Wallachia, unique to this part of the world. Architecture is the most visible identity marker of a community, and those churches are among the most important such markers,” he adds.

Despite surviving, many of the churches ended up being relocated in the shadows of large,


The relocating of churches and other buildings stopped with the Romanian revolution in 1989, and in the years since Iordăchescu has received a number of honorary diplomas for his work, as well as a medal from the Romanian Orthodox church. He only properly retired a few years ago. Yet, as the years go by his achievements back then become more and more clouded in the fog of time. “I’m 54, the younger generation of architects don’t know the method,” says Adrian Iordăchescu. “My son is 23 and a student at the architectural university. He’s only really discovering what his grandfather did in the last year or so.” Still, Iordăchescu is very proud of what he and his colleagues were able to achieve. “When I see the churches today I still can’t believe it,” he says.


This article was first published in The Guardian.

Eugeniu Iordăchescu

HERITAGE Stephen McGrath is a British journalist living in Sighişoara. His work appears regularly in the international press, for pubications including The Times, BBC and The Guardian.

EFFORTS TO PRESERVE HERITAGE IN TRANSYLVANIA BY STEPHEN MCGRATH A dozen-strong group of volunteers gather at the stone base of a fortified Lutheran church in the small Saxon village of Filetelnic, Transylvania, as Eugen Vaida, head of Ambulanta Pentru Monumente (Ambulance for Monuments) gives directions on how to save one of the church’s 3-metre-high fortified walls. The wall, part of which dates back to the 15th century, is crumbling from the top down as a result of water infiltration. This would eventually destroy the wall, as well as ancient inscriptions dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Sadly, Filetelnic is not a unique case: many heritage buildings throughout this region have fallen into various states of disrepair; from crumbling medieval fortified churches to abandoned Hungarian castles, from old war monuments to centuries-old Saxon homes. Poor state management, mass ethnic migration and a lack of funding (not to mention many decades of ruinous communism) have all taken their toll on Romania’s architectural heritage. Vaida, a 36-year-old architect who runs Monumentum, an association charged with the preservation of heritage architecture, set up the Ambulance for Monuments as a pilot project in 2015 with a view to highlighting buildings at a critical state of disrepair. Ultimately, the aim is to intervene to prevent further damage before proper

restorations can be undertaken. Often, as in Filetelnic, water damage is the culprit.

CATEGORIES AND CIVIL PARTICIPATION Monuments fit into two categories: those of national and universal value, and those of local and regional importance. Filetelnic is a Category A

week — a success. In Filetelnic, for example, the old Saxon school was opened up to provide sleeping facilities for the dozen or so volunteers, while a local restaurant provided lunches and dinners paid for with donations. Naturally, interventions are sociable events and, according to Vaida, “there is a new trend of young people who appreciate heritage.”

Restoring a fortified wall in Filetelnic, Mureş county

monument due to the unique cultural and architectural heritage of Saxon fortified churches. However, the list of monuments under threat in this region alone is estimated to be in the hundreds. Civil participation is what often makes the emergency interventions — which generally require less than a

Marius Grunca, a 36-year-old financial consultant who volunteered with Ambulance for Monuments on its first intervention, a large baroque gate in Sambata de Sus, Braşov County, says: “The reason I volunteer is that Romania is still a materially poor country and it does not set a priority in preserving its past, history and culture.”



empty of its creators and it had a devastating impact on that unique heritage.” Mandache also believes that the Romanian government harbours a passive interest in the country’s heritage, and that the political climate in Romania, which is led by the Social Democrat Party (PSD), seldom helps the situation. Mandache adds: “The PSD is preoccupied with freeing their colleagues from prison and robbing the economy and public money — architectural heritage is the last thing on their mind.”

Filetelnic wall restoration

Apold roof replacement

TRANSYLVANIAN MULTICULTURALISM Transylvania is a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures, and the myriad architectural styles reflect this. In some parts, Hungarian castles stand adjacent to both Lutheran and Orthodox churches. Transylvania was once a part of the Kingdom of Hungary, which from the 12 th Century onwards invited people from territories that today constitute France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany — to protect the area from Tatar and Ottoman invaders and to help develop the economy. The settlers became known as the Transylvanian Saxons, ethnic Germans with their own culture, and a language similar to that of Luxembourg.


Under the communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceauşescu, many Saxons were sold to Germany for hard cash, and around 250,000 left following the fall of communism in 1989, in search of better opportunities. Today, only around 12,000 Saxons — mostly elderly — remain. Many Lutheran churches, such as the one in Filetelnic, not to mention countless houses, have been largely abandoned. Abandoned Hungarian castles are also in high numbers in Transylvania. Following the fall of communism, many ethnic Hungarians sought restitution cases to get back their rightful properties. Some are being restored, but they are often big projects that require huge amounts of money. Many need emergency interventions to prevent them falling into a state which renders them beyond repair.

DESOLATION AND HIDDEN INTERESTS Valentin Madanche, an architectural historian based in Bucharest, says: “Transylvania is a huge architectural reservation of rural medieval architecture… most of the Saxon area was left

“The state has money for new civic projects but they don’t care too much about heritage and old buildings being destroyed,” he adds. It’s a sentiment in part shared by Vaida. “The ministry of culture somehow has its hands bound, the laws themselves don’t promote monument preservation and the punishment for the destruction of monuments is not effective and is complicated to follow through,” he says. In the capital, Bucharest, heritage buildings have been aggressively renovated or defaced, with traditional wooden window frames and doors replaced by plastic frames for double glazing, or old structures knocked down to make way for modern buildings.

‘AMBULANCE FOR MONUMENTS’ PROJECT Projects such as Ambulance for Monuments, which is racing to save dilapidated old structures in southern Transylvania, can help to ensure the survival of the region's unique identity. “There should be a network of ambulances that are connected


Blacker goes on to highlight the negative impact that EU funding can have — or had in the past — on Romania’s ancient buildings.

Eugen Vaida - Monumentum

but not coordinated by a higher up — essentially, it needs to be a project of civil society,” says Vaida. The initiative's most important project to date has been the preservation of the 18 th century St. Nicolae Orthodox church in the village of Gherdeal, Sibiu County, which boasts impressive painted ceiling murals and a wooden altar, all of which was decaying due to water damage. Around 25 volunteers from across Romania gathered to save the monument, which involved replacing the whole roof. Funding for the projects come from various sources. The Gherdeal intervention received funding from the Anglo Romanian Trust for Traditional Architecture (ARTTA), the Global Heritage Fund, and Romania’s National Cultural Fund. William Blacker, a British author who has fought for the survival and protection of Romania’s traditional architecture for many years, and is the chairman of ARTTA, believes that the value of Romania’s heritage must not be understated. “There are few countries in Europe which have such a variety and richness of historic architecture,” Says Blacker. “but neglect and inappropriate modernisation are tearing it apart. It is sad to see it.”

“A lot of EU money resulted in the rubbing out of Romania’s history, through extreme over restoration. I accept, of course, that this was not the EU's intention, nor the Romanian government's, but sadly it was the effect and many historic buildings of great value and importance have been irreversibly damaged,” says Blacker.

THE DOWNSIDE OF EU FUNDING Indeed, there have been various cases where EU money has paved the way to ruinous effect: multiple cases of traditional materials, such as old weathered roof tiles and natural sandstones, being replaced with industrially-made alternatives like bright red tiles and concrete. In 2015, The Daily Telegraph reported on a case in Maria Radna, west Romania, in which it described the “brutal revamp” of a Franciscan monastery and other monuments which, through the European Union’s Regional Development programme, allegedly cost EU taxpayers more than €100 million.

that EU funds have in the past been a “disaster” that led to “the destruction of monuments” he also says that he’s “not seen many politicians fighting to preserve or protect monuments.” He also believes that a way forward could be to “educate politicians” in heritage.

LACK OF SPECIALIZED CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES Politics and funding aside, one of the biggest problems that heritage architecture faces, according to Vaida, is a lack of specialised construction companies and craftsmen capable of undertaking such projects. They do exist, but they are few. Romanian construction firm Temad has provided assistance on various Ambulance for Monuments projects, by donating construction materials, tools, and cash. However, more is needed to rescue the long list of at-risk monuments. In the Saxon village of Apold, Mureş county, Ambulance for Monuments and its many volunteers are working hard to save the roof of an old disused railway station, another victim of water damage.

The Telegraph described it as "a costly makeover that should have restored [the church] to full Baroque splendour, but instead it looks like a Disney castle built on a bomb site.” Blacker added: “One only has to hope that EU funds will be spent in a sensitive way in future, and that the historic fabric of the buildings and archaeological evidence will now be properly protected.” However, while Vaida agrees

Apold's old train station

In the sunlit yard of the old station, two chained up dogs are barking, and plumes of



HANDCRAFTED TILES The new tiles were handcrafted using the traditional technique at a kiln in Apoş, Sibiu County, which Vaida opened in 2015 with the support of ARTTA and Britain’s Prince Charles, who owns period properties in Transylvania and has a well-documented enthusiasm for the region and its heritage. “Handmade tiles are one of the few products that can compete with industrial product prices,” says Vaida. “They age well and the quality is clearly superior to industrial tiles.” The short delivery distance of the tiles plays a big part in keeping down the final costs of using them. The kiln has been fired up 10 times since it opened, producing 160,000 tiles over three seasons, but Vaida hopes to increase its production and make the old-style tiles more widely available. In a letter to Monumentum, for the association’s second


BRITISH TEACHER LIVING IN ROMANIA Michael Tate, a British teacher who lives in Romania, bought a Saxon home in the village of Saschiz five years ago and has been carefully restoring his property. “The problem is that people who do [genuine restorations] have either got used to doing work for extraordinarily rich clients or for foundations,” he says. “They often charge top-drawer prices, which are well out of reach for the average village person, who just wants to maintain their authentic historic house.” Tate also laments some local foundations and trusts who, he says, “restore some facades and put up a plaque and get some newspaper coverage,” but who ultimately are “not tackling the real issue, which is convincing regular people to choose authentic methods over modern, destructive ones.” “The identity of historic villages is collapsing because the majority of homes are owned by regular village folk who have no real motive to do an authentic restoration — this is what’s

THE VISCRI CASE In the medieval Saxon village of Viscri, Braşov County, the beautifully restored Lutheran church towers over its community as a large bus pulls up packed with curious travellers. Viscri is one of Transylvania’s most popular tourist spots, with up to 4,000 people a day visiting during high season. In recent years house prices have risen exponentially; it is now a desirable location for savvy Bucharest families who have upped sticks from the capital.


morning smoke billow from the chimneys as the Roma family, who now occupy the building, attempt to stay warm. Vaida and his volunteers are measuring and cutting new laţi for the roof in preparation for the handcrafted tiles to be put in place. The quietness of the village is interrupted by a passing horse and cart, steered by two young children at the helm.

Bridging the gap between big restoration projects and restorations of common homes is an important task, that doesn’t appear easy to resolve.


Apold roof replacement

The availability of traditional materials could be a decisive factor in preserving the region’s identity, as could local legislation that promotes preservation and restoration. Blacker says that making grants available for owners of traditional properties would also be a positive step forward.

leading to the gradual decay of the traditional aesthetic of the villages,” he adds.

Even the long potholed road leading to Viscri cannot deter visitors.

Behind the fortification wall in Filetelnic the sun has cast a long shadow over the old Saxon cemetery. Through neglect, many of the headstones have sunken into the earth over time, dwindled like the community that created some of the region’s most distinctive architecture.


anniversary, Prince Charles said: “The roof tops in the old Saxon villages of Transylvania are an integral part of the landscape and a constant source of delight and inspiration to myself and countless others.”

Volunteers are precariously perched on the wall overlooking the tombstones, digging out old lime mortar in order to get an even surface on which to rebuild. The wall is just one of hundreds of monuments that needs saving across the region, and as the night draws in, despite the upbeat mood, the overall size of the task ahead is daunting. All they can do is concentrate on one monument at a time.

This article first appeared in the January edition of New Eastern Europe magazine.



Taraf de Caliu, previously known as Taraf de Haidouks, are probably the most inspired and vital of all “lăutari” - traditional, authentic, Romanian gypsy musicians. Taraf de Caliu includes the founding members of Taraf de Haidouks, but also younger “lăutari” from Clejani (southern Romania): Gheorghe Caliu Anghel (violin), Robert Anghel (violin), Ionică Tănase (dulcimer), Marius Manole (accordion) Viorica Rudăreasa (vocals), Sile Neacșu (contrabass). But what’s with this gypsy music? We’ve been talking with the manager of Taraf de Caliu, Larisa Perde, to understand it better.

SO WHAT IS “GYPSY MUSIC”? Larisa Perde: “The term ‘gypsy music’ is a very broad one; it is difficult to define it without dividing it into the geographic areas in which it was formed. Being a nomadic people, the gypsies took and left the music wherever they went. For example, gypsy music is different in Russia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia or Macedonia. In the territory of Romania there are several types of gypsy music. Speranţa Rădulescu, one of the most prominent Romanian ethnomusicologists, identifies two large categories and, in turn, they are diversified from a regional point of view. The first category is the music of the more recently sedentary Roma people who usually

BY OANA VASILIU do not play instruments but only sing, accompanied by improvised percussion instruments: drums, spoons. In southern Romania we have the music of the gypsies, a music that appeared in the 20 th century, impregnated with Balkan elements. Initially, there were songs by gypsies for their communities: for weddings, baptisms, funerals, but later they were adopted by Romanian communities, especially those in Bucharest. This music had its peak in the 60s and 70s courtesy of musicians such as Fărămiţă Lambru, Dona Siminca, Romica Puceanu and Gore Brothers who all helped introduce and popularize this type of gypsy music.”

ONCE UPON A TIME … “It was in the early 80s when ethnomusicologist Speranţa Rădulescu found Taraf de Haidouks and helped them to record their first album. The Taraf’s international recognition began in 1991, when they had their first international tour, promoting their Dumbala Dumba album. The musicians from Clejani have since performed under the Taraf de Haidouks name all over the world in places as culturally diverse as Tokyo, Paris, Singapore, New York, Istanbul, London, Los Angeles. Yehudi Menuhin, the Kronos Quartet, Johnny Depp (with whom they starred in “The Man Who Cried”) and

Gheorghe „Caliu” Anghel 39


Yohji Yamamoto are among those have fallen under the spell of the music these amazing people produce. In 2002, Taraf de Haidouks was awarded with the BBC World Music prize for Best Group in Europe & Middle East. But after one of the founders of the band Stephane Karo passed away Taraf de Haidouks began to decay.

dented,” explains Larisa Perde.

REAL HERITAGE Gypsy music has been formed and shaped during key moments of human life: weddings, baptisms, funerals and on travels. It evokes intense, universal live elements such as love, enmity, jealousy, sadness, communion with divinity. Besides the “moral” meanings of this music, the fact that it is formed in certain territories, evoking them, makes this music a double inheritance - spiritual and geographic.

"Taraf de Caliu" was formed in Romania early last year, when the musicians returned home after a long spell abroad. It was the first time that the musicians performed so many concerts in their own country in their 30 years together. Each concert was a potent mixture of nostalgia and joy that’s sure to induce some tears. It’s a shame their music has taken so long to be welcomed at home, but it’s also a joy to sing for the Romanian people and be appreciated by them”, notes Larisa Perde.

“One of the legendary songs of their repertoire is the song of the shepherd who lost his sheep, a song that came to Caliu from his ancestors. The legend says that a shepherd, angry that he has lost his sheep, called for a lăutar to sing. The violin of the lăutar began to reflect the surroundings, picking up sounds of bagpipes and caval (special pipe). Called by the violin’s song, the sheep returned home, one by one. Seeing this, the shepherd offered to the lăutar some of his sheep,” Larisa recounts. The gypsy music is an inheritance from the point of view of the singing techniques which are passed down from generation to generation. For example, the “hair” technique, invented by master Neacşu Niculae, is taken further by Caliu. For those who do not know it, this technique involves replacing the bow with a string that was previously part of the violin, it sounds divine.




Viorica Rudăreasa

Some say Taraf de Caliu are the last of their kind but this is not the case. Theirs is a story of a band of haidouks (Robin Hoods) who continue to perform. Their music is tough, tumultuous and lively reflecting their own lives. They are currently working on a new album produced by Vinyl, Rum, Tapas & Wine and concerts nationwide will follow. Be sure to catch these amazing musicians.

Photo credit Florin Bondrilă

“As Stephane Karo said, the most fascinating thing about this band is perhaps that no matter how much they travel and what worlds they’ve discovered and been part of, the musicians remain unchanged. They dress the same, they act the same and they sing the same. Not even the fancy scenes in which they mixed in the US, in Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, working with Johnny Depp, Tony Gatlif or even after collaborations with artists such as the Kronos Quartet, Yehudi Menuhin or Yohji Yamamoto, all this has not changed them one iota. Speranţa Rădulescu remembered that at their first concerts in Paris and Geneva, the band, not knowing what to do, started to behave on stage exactly like they did at any wedding. And this really won over their audience. The nature and the sincerity of these musicians can not be



A curious thing occurred whilst writing this. I set out to select what I consider to be a few places of hidden interest in Bucharest and soon realised that there was a connecting subject - Water. Now this particular element is not, for me, the main identifying aspect of Bucharest especially since the Dâmboviţa is little more than a conduited canal of a river stripped of any grandeur or even function, slipping rather unnoticed through the city. However, I do think of Bucharest as having a certain fluidity of character, sort of difficult to grasp, so perhaps one could think of it in these terms?


So, the cliché is, it seems, that most foreigners live or work in the north of Bucharest; the archipelago of islands known as Dorobanţi, Floreasca, Pipera and the much loved Herăstrău park, with its sprawling serpentine lake. Apart from regular sorties into what is called the Old Centre , maybe your view of Bucharest is largely confined to these areas. At any event maybe you feel that your Bucharest could be expanded a little? There certainly is more to fathom but I admit it takes a bit of digging around along with word-of-mouth suggestions and legwork. Actually this latent nature of Bucharest is one of the aspects of the city that I like most. It is not a place that gives too much away, what is here is often beneath the surface and not necessarily explicit. Given it’s history it’s not surprising. No one should complain that it is not like Rome, Paris or London; it simply does not have the post-colonial history of these cosmopolitan places, this being the very thing that, in my view, forms Romania’s positive sensibility. I would like here to list a few varied features and places that make up some other points on Bucharest’s compass that are perhaps a little overlooked by the foreign resident or visitor.


So, east of the celebrated north, our first stop is Obor market. Now of course

many people will know of this place but I am often surprised by the number of people I meet who do not use it. This is a tremendous market for just about everything. The main focus is on food. Two large halls and outside stalls display seasonal vegetables and fruit in copious abundance, from piles of watermelons in summer to the first pressing of grapes ( must ) in autumn. In addition there are numerous places to buy cheese, meat and fish. In shop units on the upper floor of the second hall, highlights include Cramă Murfatlar for wine and a very good place for Greek olives and oil. A truly overlooked aspect, though, is the drinking water spring on one side of the small Parcul Obor called Fântâna Armoniei (Harmony Fountain). Here you can fill as many containers with apă de izvor as you want from multiple taps, for free. There is a similar water source in Parcul Cinematograf in Floreasca, where I regularly go to fill up a couple of bottles. This represents a substantially sound alternative to endless plastic bottles or relying on Apa Nova. There are others in many other parks, including Parcul Tei and Naţional .


Next point round the compass is due east and the area of Dristor and Titan. For me there is simply a good feeling about the atmosphere in this neighbourhood. Walk from Dristor Metrou to Titan Park in summer and see what my friend Anamaria describes as a place where real Romanians live. Every part of the district is used, shops are open, people use all the outside space and gardens flourish. Yes, people complain about the apparent negative aspects of the Communist era housing blocks but I visit friends who love living here and I think there is definitely more joie de vivre in Dristor than on Blvd. Magheru in the centre of the city. A small but very good food market operates from the corner of Str. Liviu Rebreanu and Blvd. Camil Ressu. Further up the road is the renovated and well kept park, made up in fact of two parks; to the north, Parcul Alexandru Ion Cuza and Parcul Titan itself, across the road, with the merits of a truly splendid display of cherry 41


blossom in spring and a free open air cinema on one of the lake’s islands during the summer. In the northern section of the park stands a 1997 Maramureș style church looking just slightly out of place in a municipal park. It’s close to the Metro station at Titan, which is easily the best station on the network. Built in 1981 it is constructed without columns and has a single island platform. This engineering and design thus yields a beautifully simple wide open subterranean space, like a non-denominational cathedral. It needs to be big, something like a quarter of Bucharest lives in this sprawling region of the city. Further east in Pantelimon is the multidisciplinary art project space Make a Point (www.makeapoint. ro) undertaking a range of activities from photographic exhibitions to yoga sessions. Having its headquarters in a former textile factory, the most surprising aspect is that they also have the creative use of a fully functioning water tower. With considerable verve, Make a Point convinced the local authority to allow them to build a system of steps around the tower allowing visitors to climb to the top and view the surrounding environs. Lit up at night the turnul de apă with its green painted top acts as a beacon just north of Costin Georgian metro station.



From here we are going to the second hand car market in the south of Bucharest at the corner of Soșeaua Vitan-Bârzești and Splaiul Unirii. Well, ok, that doesn’t sound all that exciting, unless you are wanting an ageing classic Dacia 1300. The more interesting and compelling event, towards the back of this petrol engine fest is a Sunday Talcioc. This is the closest you’ll find to a flea market, selling mostly, but not exclusively, secondhand goods. It is where you can buy just about any conceivable item from a chess set to a jar of pickles to some bicycle parts. The last time I went I left with a

Văcărești Delta 42

huge loaf of potato bread and a black and white architectural photograph. Now, perhaps, even more interesting than all of this is that next to the markets is the Văcărești “Delta”. Now a park with “protected area” status, it’s origins lay in a failed/ abandoned Ceaușescu engineering project that was part of the larger scheme to unite Bucharest with the river Danube. Essentially it is a concrete lined 180 hectare area that has returned itself to the wild without any human intervention. Engineering work ceased some 30 years ago and with the active ingredient of good water (it’s there again) provided by natural springs that feed the land, this sunken arena has become a glorious cornucopia of flourishing flora and fauna including, turtles, snakes, otters and some 96 species of birds! If, in the end, everything in the world goes pear-shaped for good it’s comforting to know that Gaia will simply take over, the Bucharest Delta proves it. The place is very easy to visit, simply walk up the embankment and drop yourself in as the sound of the traffic disappears. Alternatively you can walk round the edge or even jog, if you must. The easiest access point is from the north west corner near the Asmita Gardens modern housing blocks, a 10 mins walk from Piaţa Muncii Metro.

POETIC NAMES AND ATMOSPHERIC SCENERY If we now head way out west to Păcii Metro we find a second Talcioc taking place from 05.00 to around 15.00 Thurs/Sat/Sun. It’s another 10 mins walk from the metro station down Valea Cascadelor, which lyrically translates as waterfall valley and, whilst it is not a valley and there are no waterfalls, it is true to say that the only things that numerous outlets sell on this street are tiles and bathroom fittings! The market itself is even better than the previous mentioned and has been tidied up slightly in recent months. Again, go as early as you can to find the really interesting stuff.

Lacul Morii


Finally, north of the market is Lake Morii, nearest metro at Crângași. This place is particularly atmospheric when covered in snow. It’s an opportunity for a walk in a wide open space and is yet another large scale 80s Ceaușescu project, this time developed to regulate the flow of the river and provide an overflow to prevent flooding. The place is now simply a large lake with an island at one end that can be accessed via a walkway. The remarkable thing about this is the seemingly abandoned architectural aspects, which look like, intentionally or not, remnants of a modern day Greco-Roman temple. Within the last few years

some trees have been planted and in the centre of the island there is a sort of small pavilion on the floor on which someone has written Ai grijă să nu te pierzi, în timp ce te cauţi! - be careful not to lose yourself while looking for you! With these suggestions my argument is that what is good about Bucharest is often rather hidden. It is likely that this is contrary to some other cities that you may have lived in before. Yet this characteristic of Bucharest is what saves it from turning into a gentrified tourist brand, it’s a positive thing.

Water Tower in Pantelimon

Titan metro station 43


AVINCIS WINES, THE ESSENCE OF QUALITY AVINCIS wines were officially launched six years ago and since then they have stood as a unique symbol for the rebirth of Romanian wines, merging modernity with tradition. However, their story began in 1927, when Maria and Iancu Râmniceanu – appointed as officer of the Romanian army by Ionel Brătianu – became the proud owners of an authentic neoromanian manor, surrounded by the vineyards of Drăgășani. In 2007, their great grandchild, Cristiana, along with her husband, Valeriu Stoica, decided to return to her family’s lands and carry on with the heritage of redefining the fascinating wine history.

"AVINCIS stands for high quality and is a proof of our well-done work, it bears the mark of the passion and perseverance we endow our actions with, now and always. The awards we have proudly won, truly certify and honour the AVINCIS team. Considering this, we aim to maintain our high level of responsibility, by leading forward the AVINCIS tradition and values." declared Andreea Micu, AVINCIS owner.

AVINCIS started the year by adding 14 new international awards to their collection with Fetească Regală & Pinot Gris 2015, AVINCIS White 2015 (Domnul de Rouă în Alb), Merlot 2013, Pinot Noir 2013 and the VILA DOBRUȘA palette being among the most acclaimed wine assortments out of their range. AVINCIS Fetească Regală & Pinot Gris 2015 received a silver medal at one of the most prestigious international competitions – the International Wine Challenge held in London – being the only Romanian wine appraised as such. AVINCIS White 2015 (Domnul de Rouă în Alb) was also awarded a bronze medal. At the international Decanter World Wine Awards competition, the biggest one in the wine industry for having gathered thousands of participants in the past 13 years, AVINCIS Fetească Regală & Pinot Gris 2015 together with AVINCIS Negru de Drăgășani 2013 were awarded silver medals, whereas AVINCIS Cuvée Petit - Sauvignon Blanc 2015 and Merlot 2013 – received bronze medals.


At this year’s edition of the Balkans International Wine Competition, AVINCIS VILA DOBRUȘA – Fetească Regală & Pinot Gris & Tămâioasă 2015 won the Best Indigenous White Variety Trophy . Moreover, AVINCIS


Cuvée Andrei - Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 was awarded a gold medal for being prepared from very old Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards mixed with younger ones. Two silver medals were granted to AVINCIS VILA DOBRUȘA - Sauvignon Blanc 2015 and AVINCIS Domnul de Rouă în Alb 2015, followed by three bronze medals allotted to AVINCIS Domnul de Rouă în Roșu 2015, AVINCIS Merlot 2013 and AVINCIS Pinot Noir 2013. Apart from the large variety of international

Regarding the wine production, the first part of 2017 was full of uncertainity due to frosty weather which had quite a significant impact on several vineyards in Romania (in April), including on the VILA DOBRUȘA domain, where the AVINCIS cellar is located. However, the resulting analysis reassured us that the situation was not as bad as we had intially feared. Eventually, the spring and summer weather have proved of great help, making possible for the autumn harvest to be of highest quality. With regard to the oenological matters, in 2017, AVINCIS has implemented a new decisional structure. It consists of an oenological council made up of two external consultants – Ghislain Moritz/France (who had previously worked as a permanently based oenologist of the vineyard) and GIOTTO Consulting SRL/Italy, along with the cellar and owners’ representative. This new scheme allows us to have a better image on the evolution of the crops and the maximum potential of the harvest, whether it is about obtaining ‘creative’ wines or fresh ones. One of the main AVINCIS activities of 2017 was to consolidate and extend the retail market, area in which we recently launched with the VILA DOBRUȘA wine range. Thus, we are presenting a selection of five wines (two white wines – VILA DOBRUȘA Sauvignon Blanc and VILA DOBRUȘA Fetească Regală & Pinot Gris & Tămâioasă Românească; two red wines VILA DOBRUȘA Cabernet Sauvignon and VILA DOBRUȘA Negru de Drăgășani & Merlot; one rosé - VILA DOBRUȘA Rosé) in Auchan, Carrefour, Real – Arad & Oradea and Mega Image store chains (of which the latest provides the possibility of online shopping). Furthermore, one of the aims for 2018 remains to secure the retail market, raising awareness of our new brand VILA DOBRUȘA. At the same time we continue to increase the HoReCa segment, where AVINCIS operates since 2011. Another ongoing project is the cellar modernisation through some new acquisitions. This comes as a result of the vineyards being expanded, as well as of improving the landscape.

awards, AVINCIS also received a Diploma of Excellence , at the second edition of RO-Wine – wine festival which took place in Bucharest on the 20 th and 21 st of May, collecting over 350 types of wine, appertaining to inland and international producers.

Moreover, we continue developing the oenoturistical network, especially by supporting team buildings and other business-related events organised at the AVINCIS cellar. With a capacity of 13 double rooms, AVINCIS facilitates the use of 9 modern and completely equipped rooms, 3 apartments located above the cellar, with an impressive view over the domain, vineyard and Olt river, sport fields (tennis, basketball, volleyball) and a specially arranged space for wine tasting. Our guests can book a trip with all meals included, wine tasting, a tour of the cellar and vineyard walks. According to the estimations for 2018, we expect a 10-15% growth of our turnover, compared to the previous year. 45




Chef Franz Conde is Executive Chef at the AthĂŠnĂŠe Palace Hilton following nine years at Hilton Amsterdam. In the Netherlands he developed and launched the menu and the concept of Roberto's Amsterdam restaurant and his cookbook "Roberto's Pura Cucina Italiana" was published. Here, for OZB, Chef Franz explains how to make Ceviche.

CEVICHE The origin of the Ceviche is a hotly disputed and fertile subject for speculation. Some claim it came to PerĂş with the Conquistadores, others that it has a Polynesian or Japanese origin, as it is likely that waves of these people came to the Americas via the Pacific Ocean before Columbus. Related preparations can be found around the world. The Japanese have sushi and sashimi, the Italians have crudo di pesce, the French like to do tartar de poisson, and many seafood delicacies are eaten raw in many cultures, like oysters or sea urchin, to name just two. In Latin America, there is general agreement that the "masters" of ceviche are the Peruvians,

however, there are fantastic Ceviches to be found in Ecuador and Mexico, with other seaside countries like Honduras, Colombia and Venezuela offering their own versions. When raw fish enters in contact with lime or lemon juice, the protein changes its physical properties (it is called denaturation) and it can be kept edible for longer, while becoming more digestible. Ceviches are very healthy, delicious, protein rich and an absolute delicacy when paired with cold beer or Pisco sour. Wine pairing is difficult due to the acidity and chili-hotness of the dish. Would you like to hear a crazy but amazingly good pairing? Ceviche and ice-cold Romanian Palinka!!!



PREPARATION TIME: 1+ hour QUANTITY: 4 people INGREDIENTS: • 400 gr. raw seawater fish. Sea bass or red snapper are ideal • 1 red onion, thinly sliced and washed with cold water • 1 habanero chili, thinly sliced, without seeds • juice of 4 limes • 3 tsp. of salt • 1 bunch of coriander • 2 sweet potatoes, boiled in water with sugar and salt • 2 sweetcorn cobs, boiled in water with sugar and salt • Roasted crispy corn

• Marinate the ceviche for 1 hour at least. The old-fashioned way is to marinate it for longer, even overnight, but for delicate fish, the marinating time can be reduced to minutes • Serve the ceviche, garnish with extra onion, chili and coriander. Accompany with something sweet and something crispy. Like boiled sweet potatoes and sweetcorn, plus roasted crispy corn.

INSTRUCTIONS: • Clean the fish fillets and slice or cut into cubes. The smaller the fish is cut, the faster the ceviche will be cured, but the less succulent it will be • Mix the lime juice with the salt, the onion, one chili cut in half and some sprigs of coriander. This is the marinade and, once the fish has been cured, it will become the sauce of the ceviche, known in Perú as "leche de tigre" (tiger´s milk) 48

Originally from Venezuela Chef Franz Conde’s professional development was helped greatly by gastronomic giants such as Patrick Dwyer and Armando Scannone, who he had the privilege of working with.


Love Lunch

BY DOUGLAS WILLIAMS Sometimes, often just when we really need it, life comes up with a wee treat to make us smile. This happened to me twice recently and both times it was in the form of a very enjoyable lunch. Few things beat a good lunch. Both times I had successfully avoided what, with hindsight, would have undoubtedly been terrible lunches. The first place I tried looked ok, slightly pretentious, the staff, when they finally appeared were chilly and instructed that I’d need to pay in cash, their POS wasn’t working. And without the merest smidgen of regret or, for that matter, cheer. Perhaps it was me… Anyway, I left. The next place I tried, a deeply unimaginative chain, was closed at 12.30 on a Tuesday. Again, “Inchis”, delivered with a smug smile. So onwards hungry and in a darkening mood and past Caju, just behind the Atheneum. I reversed and further inspection revealed an interesting menu, and inside a modern, tasteful interior so I went in and took a window seat the better to watch the world go by. A menu was provided and it was sufficiently interesting that the sullen staff were swiftly forgotten. Bare red brick walls with empty, elaborate frames, the roof like an upside down wooden boat is super, the place is cozy - a little too cozy perhaps - but cool for sure. So I had the fallafel to start, Egyptian, with sauerkraut but wisely accepted the waiter’s recommendation of bread which was delivered as an extremely hot and delicious baton, don’t miss. My fellow diner had the coal-roasted eggplant which duly impressed as did my main of tagliatelle with baby calamari. It being lunch and with a busy afternoon ahead, we stuck to the juices which were very good. And a bill that shocked with

it’s reasonableness. Had the staff managed to muster something approaching a smile it would have been practically faultless. Perhaps that’s above their pay scale. Caju - Nicolae Golescu 16 and for more information see www.cajubyjosephhadad.ro. So Caju was good but the next is, in my humble opinion, exceptional. Another Monday, this time snowing, dreary, and lunch was sought at an Italian which looked vaguely passable. No greeting, no staff. Eventually a menu was presented by an amazed waiter - punters! The menu was interminably dull - Rom-Italian. I left, out into the cold again, wandering aimlessly like a cloud, hungry, when what do I see before me but a cool frontage with a cool name, Aubergine, and an alluring menu. Greeted like the returning prodigal, seated in a booth upstairs all eclectic furniture and modern, world music and left with a tablet menu with an abundance of interesting Mediterranean inspired dishes, including veggie options aplenty. We had soup, more falafel, the ceviche, mushrooms and a rainbow salad rounded off by a creme brulee and washed down by an excellent Liliac. The dishes were fresh, colourful and flavoursome, cooked and presented with some panache, the ceviche and the salad the stand outs. The service was warm and helpful and the ambiance hip but relaxed. The quality was reflected in the bill. Aubergine - Strada Smârdan 33. For more information see www.aubergine-restaurant.ro.



THE DAY I WENT INSIDE THE SOURCE (part 1) BY ANCA DONIŞAN BOTEZ Recently I went to Bucegi Mountains as I often feel my heart calling to go and meditate there, on the mountain’s peak, one breath away from the Creator, from the Source, from God, from All There Is. But, surprise! Due to high amounts of snow, the road was closed and the detour would have added 3 hours driving either way. So I listened to my Heart and my Intuition and drove the opposite direction and after 10 minutes of driving, there it was: a magnificent hill, surrounded by the Sun Divine Light with a little, white church on top. I felt pure bliss and infinite joy and my Spirit confirmed I am exactly where I am supposed to be on this blessed Sunday afternoon. It was around -10 degrees Celsius, radiant, white snow everywhere and I was walking up the hill to find my divine space to meditate. On the left, I was seeing the mesmerizing Bucegi mountains and the snow on the peak was shining so bright from the sunlight rays, it just felt like Heaven on Earth. I was still looking for my sacred spot. In front of me and facing the mountains was this little, white church and I felt again that I am literally three steps away from God, but I was still looking for my sacred spot. I trust Mother Gaia, so I took a deep breath, I surrendered, I released and let go. I centered myself, connecting with my Higher Self and Lower Self and I asked for Divine guidance. Then I turned right and there it was, waiting for me, calling me: my hollow, leafless tree that had an enormous trunk and branches reaching up to the sky in a very unusual formation. I felt fulfilled, complete and whole as my Heart confirmed I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Well, I also had a funny feeling, looking up at the tree branches. I was like a 6-year-old giggling little girl and the Universe just started to unfold in front of me its magical secrets and wonders. My inner child said amazed: "Holy moly, this tree has antennas!" and the 36-years-old, mature, woman just whispered: "Aha, multidimensional portal!" What I was feeling was totally new for me: deep, connected, spiritual and very, very funny and jolly all at the same time!

This was another "Ahaaa!'' moment for me and I am sure you are having your "Ahaaa!'' moment as well. From the end of 2017, I feel like I am inside an awareness matrix each day. It is like every single day, the Creator, the Universe and Mother Gaia is pushing me to integrate the Life Lessons I thought I’d already learned. Theoretically, from the mind consciousness perspective, I thought I’d learned that Life Lesson, but from a Heart Consciousness point of view, I felt the lesson was not integrated into my system, into my DNA. Do you find yourself in this life scenario also? Do you feel the Universe is pushing you out of a job that does not fulfill you anymore, do you find yourself dreaming about following another path? Do you feel Gaia's touch when you are in nature, do you feel more aware and clear in your thoughts and feelings when you are grounded and connected to Earth? Do you feel you are attracting people from your Soul Family and all the relationships and friendships that are not in balance with your new vibration and energy, are self-cleared? If your answer is "Yes", congratulations, you are are in the process of shifting your Consciousness! It is your Spirit, your Higher Self calling you, and you have heard the call, as you are starting to awaken. If you want to go deeper into this Soul Self Discovery, join our weekly meditations events. Just listen to your Heart! Going back to my journey, I felt this is the tree of Life, the tree of God, and oh boy, by the time I finished my meditation I was hugging this graceful tree Spirit and I was crying with joy and weeping with divine bliss. I was just touched by the Grace of God, part of God, guided by God, I was inside the Source, One with the Source. My heartbeat was thumping so wildly and I was in a state of total euphoria. But let me go back to where is started: it started a day before my meditation event. To be continued in the next OZB Magazine

Anca Donișan Botez is a U.S. certified NLP trainer, interested in personal and business training, founder of mameinafaceri.ro project. 50



“Off to vote, Domnul Vasile?” I lean from the bedroom window, looking down towards our garden fence. Our elderly neighbour pauses in the lane beyond it, and glances about with a puzzled smile, as if wondering where the voice came from. Despite the wintry weather, Vasile is dressed rather dapper today - dark suit, shirt, tie, and shiny shoes. His feet must be cold in all that snow and slush but he seems in good spirits, which is unusual, considering he probably hasn’t got any spirits inside him just yet. Most of the time, Vasile wobbles along in an old tweed jacket, corduroys, and wellies caked in mud. Sometimes he’ll stop for a pee in the middle of the road and talk to himself. Or to Little Richard. But not today. I wave a hand to catch his eye. “I’m up here, Vasile.” “Oh, it’s you, Domnul Mike, bună ziua .” He points a stubby finger at me. “What’s all this, nine o’clock and still in your pyjamas?” “Late night, late start.” “Not me, Domnul Mike. I have to rise early. Sheep, see.” “And cows, eh?” “Them, too.” Vasile rests a hand on our fence. “You should get a couple of goats, Domnul Mike, this yard is plenty big enough.” “Goats? No chance, Vasile. We’ve already got three dogs. And five cats, one of which is yours. She adopted us.” “Keep the damn cat. I never see her, these days.” “So, are you going to vote?” “Yes. It’s a long walk in this, but I feel I should. And you?” “I can’t vote. I’m from England, a little country near Europe.” “So I hear.” Vasile winks at me, sharp as ever. I gesture towards foggy hills. “Important day for Romania, though, Domnul Vasile. So, I hope you’ll vote for the right people.” “And who might they be?” “People who’ll make things better.”

“Better what, Domnul Mike?” “Better roads, schools, hospitals. And less corruption.” “In Romania? You must be dreaming. Go back to bed.” “I wish. Time to get up and work. Anyway, if you don’t mind my asking, who will you vote for?” “Not the usual lot. What do they do for our village? We’ve got no bus, no gas, a dodgy water supply, and the snow plough hardly comes. And what about jobs, real jobs? My wife works in Germany, for ten months a year, just so we can renovate the house. Get my vote? They’ll get my boot.” “Exactly, we need a change. So, who will you vote for?” “No idea. I’ll wait until I get there.” “Then what?” “I’ll look at the list, find a name I never heard of, and vote for them.” “Oh, I see, well, fingers crossed. How come you’re not wearing gloves?” “Who needs ‘em? Not cold.” “I’ve got a thermometer up here. It says minus five Celsius.” “Better get dressed then, hadn’t you? Bye, Domnul Mike.” Vasile pushes back from the fence, and moves on, stepping around gloopy puddles and adjusting his black astrakhan hat. I watch him go, and hope for warmer days. The sun is trying to penetrate the thick, grey fog that sits on our hills and fills our valleys. But the fog won’t budge. It wants to stick around, engulf us, stop us seeing. Perfect weather for an election in Romania.

This story is from Mike Ormsby's recent book 'Never Mind the Vampires, Here's Transylvania'. Mike is the author of bestseller 'Never Mind the Balkans, Here's Romania.' Literary critics dubbed him 'The British Caragiale’. 51





The Scottish writer and broadcaster Muriel Grey humorously divided outdoors lovers into three distinct categories: ramblers, scramblers and danglers. Ramblers amble along lowland paths while scramblers head for the peaks with the joyous expectation of using all their limbs to clamber over anything in their way to reach the summit. Danglers – the climbers are the true mountain gymnasts with their own lexicon of graded routes up vertical rock faces and a penchant for black Lycra.

Romania seems to stretch, enhance and blend these very British definitions. Ramblers, emerging from their guesthouses, can enter a rural landscape unchanged for hundreds of years and explore fortified churches that might have jumped straight out of a Tolkien novel. Using cable cars, they can also enter the world of the scrambler, enjoying magnificent vistas from 1500m+ without the sweet and aching legs that would be required in many other nations. The scramblers can themselves move up a level due to the addition of permanent steel chains and cables on many mountains that allow those with a head for heights safely to ascend and traverse tricky sections that would have otherwise only been accessible to well-equipped danglers. Not being a dangler, I can only assume that they have a plethora of prime locations to practise their art while the winter gives them dramatic playgrounds on the high ridges and ample opportunities to scale frozen waterfalls. But there’s something else that’s very special about hiking here. I think the late James Roberts came closest to putting into words when he wrote that: “The unique attraction of Romania is its ability to offer truly wild mountains in close juxtaposition to very civilized life”. You only have to walk a few minutes from the tourist hot spots of Sinaia, Bușteni or Brașov to find yourself very much in the territory of the bear, the wolf and the lynx.

GETTING KITTED-OUT The obvious place for low-cost but surprisingly good quality gear is Decathlon, www.decathlon. ro/ro/magazin. They now have four stores in Bucharest. If you have a slightly bigger budget, Himalaya, www.himalaya.ro is probably the best specialist outdoor shop in the city.

The North Face have good outlets at the Promenada and Băneasa malls. However, a trip to Braşov might give you more buying options. There are at least three outdoorsy shops on Strada George Bariţiu/Mureșenilor along with Himalaya and The North Face on the pedestrianised Str. Republicii. While brands like Mammut, Solomon, The North Face and most of the major boot bands can easily be found in Romania, you need to consider mail order, or a trip, to the UK for Mountain Hardwear, Mountain Equipment, Lowe Alpine, Berghaus and Paramo products.

MAPS The brilliant Zenith maps (zenithmaps.com) now cover most of the main hiking areas and come in useful small 1:25,000 and 1:30,000 scales and are made of weatherproof paper. They are not always that easy to find in Bucharest though. The popular red Ben Alpin maps are found in most hiking shops but the smaller scale makes them less useful. The Muntii Nostri maps are also popular but have the same problem with the scale.

WHERE TO HIKE I’m going to be writing a series of route descriptions in OZB for one day hikes over the next few months. However, to whet your appetite, these are just a few of the many options for exploring the high places in Romania.

THE BUCEGI MASSIF Covering over 300km2, the Bucegi National Park is one of the most accessible and varied mountain areas in Romania. I would strongly recommend a visit to the famed ‘Sphinx’ rock formation and



Heroes' Cross on Vf. Caraiman. Access to this popular part of the mountain can be from either Sinaia or Buşteni, either on marked trails or, via the cable cars in these two towns. The northern access routes from near Râşnov are, in my experience anyway, much more interesting for serious ramblers and scramblers. The hike up to Cabana Mălăieşti and then on to Vf Ţigăneşti, Vf Scara and the 2505m Vf Omul is an outstanding (if very long) day trip.

THE CIUCAŞ MASSIF Famed for its karst scenery and willy-shaped rock formations, the Ciucaş mountains are about the same distance from Bucharest in the car, and offer a quieter alternative to the Bucegi massif. Their lower height also means you can bag some stunning peaks at almost any time of the year. The most popular access point is the forest road to Cabana Ciucaş and then either west to the 1,954m Vf Ciucaş or south east to an excellent ridge containing Vf Gropșoare (1883m), Tigăile Mari (1844m) and Zăganu (1817m).

PIATRA CRAIULUI This 25km jagged ridge is quite simply a scrambler’s paradise. There are a number of possible day routes from Zărnești that offer a total body workout with the aid of a few well-positioned chains. However, it’s the prolonged sections of generally easy scrambling up clearly marked pitches that make it such an enjoyable mountain to explore. For the slightly less adventurous, or those pushed for time, Piatra Mică, at the northern end of the ridge, is a relatively easy day hike with just a few easy sections using chains. For those wanting to keep their hands away from anything metallic, there’s a lovely circular hike up to Cabana Curmătura, to enjoy lunch with some stunning views before descending into the Zărnești Gorge.


VALEA LUI STAN This is a very different day out. Valea Lui Stan is a relatively short (about 11km) gorge walk/ adult playground using lots and lots of ladders and cables. I’ve done it twice without getting wet, although it’s certainly a trip for a warm summer’s day. I would imagine children aged 10 upwards would absolutely love it. It’s a circular route, parking near the Vidraru Dam at the start of famed Transfăgărășan road.

HIKING GROUPS An excellent way to explore Romanian’s mountains is to go with a group, although the most popular ones might differ from those in other countries. These are in fact tour operators: you pay a small fee for coach travel from Bucharest to the mountains and then hike with qualified mountain guides. The groups can be large: 20-50 people but they effectively function as clubs as you’ll see the same faces on each trip. The two that I’ve hiked with, Terra Incognita and Călător Prin Romania both have FB pages and trips tend to fill up very quickly when they are advertised. Terra Incognita is probably the biggest and each trip usually includes between one and three English speaking guides. The hikes vary from the easy to the very challenging and there you’ll often find other expats participating in their trips. Their FB page is www.facebook.com/travel. to.romania/ and you can contact their owner/ founder, Edward Răzvan on 0732338273. Călător Prin Romania is a smaller outfit but is also attracting non-Romanians and can be contacted via their FB page: https://www. facebook.com/calatorprinromania2018. As with Terra Incognita, the trips tend to fill up very quickly.


THE MODERN FACE OF POKER Over the last decade, this mind game has seen a tremendous development: poker. The adrenaline, the money and fame, but perhaps, mostly, the possibility of a small investment that can generate extraordinary income, are the things that have made this development possible. You can become a millionaire only by enrolling on a dedicated website for a meer $27 fee. BY DORIN CHIOŢEA 13 young Romanians qualified for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) at the beginning of the year, following a complicated online poker game system. The PCA is a tournament festival with thousands of participants and they all gathered this year in the capital of the Bahamas, Nassau, in the super luxurious Atlantis Resort.

THE FESTIVAL IN NASSAU 4K cameras, 24 in total, recorded the players’ every move while they were seated at the tables - to put things in perspective, this is basically the same technology used for World Cup matches. Players gathered around 150 tables, focused and silent, exuding calm and confidence. But those emotions, that are famously and mostly held tightly in check, do occasionally boil to the surface.

“The big players are outstanding psychologists. They never rely on luck, but rather on their own personal style. A beginner can win the first one or two games against the big players, but out of 100 games he/she will never win more than three or four.” says Răzvan, a 30-year-old player from Bucharest. “If you get angry you don’t stand a chance. No matter what cards you get and how you play. There are courses out there, online mentoring, books on strategy. You have to listen to other people too if you want to grow,” he adds.

THE POKER PORTAL PokerStars has an interesting and fair system of finding talent world wide. This dedicated portal is open to anyone who knows the rules of the game. You simply log in and, if you have the skills, you can climb up to the highest peaks of the poker world.

The world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt and actor Jeff Bridges were also present at the PCA, curios about the event playing out. The main event lasted six days and 750 poker players participated. Their sustained training over the previous six months is what brought them to Nassau, where they further enhanced their abilities and experience. Poker is a game that develops the capacity for mathematical and logical thinking and it requires the ability to make decisions under stress. All these players have spent hours and hours meditating, grooming their flair and practicing probabilistic calculations in front of the computer, playing poker online. Luck is, maximum, only 20% of the road to success in poker.

PAC 2018, Nassau



There are many big international events: PCA, Macau, Monte Carlo and Soci - similar in status to the Grand Slam tournaments in tennis (the PCA is like a kind of Wimbledon). Some of the players are honoured guests, the big stars of poker, others are the people who pay for their place at the table with cash and a few dozen are the ones who qualify through online tournaments. That is why the online portal is super popular, with many thousands of players logging in to play against other players from around the world. “In the beginning my parents thought I’d become a bum. By day I was going to my job and by night I would play qualifying games 10 hours straight. I have played thousands of games before qualifying for the PCA in the Bahamas,” says Ştefan, a 25-year-old player from Târgu Mureş. Qualifying for a top tournament means plane tickets to the event and back, 10 days of all-inclusive hospitality at the Atlantis Resort, with a $500/night room, plus virtual credit of $10,500 that covers the participation fee to the main event. All that potentially with the initial financial expense of a $27 logging in fee. And if you are not among the winners, you still have the invaluable experience of attending such an event.

THE HOLLYWOOD IMAGE OF POKER Blockbuster films have built this skewed image of poker. The audience believes this world to be taboo, available either to gangsters or the few holding the key to knowledge. The greater public believes that poker must necessarily involve cigar smoke, expensive liquor and guns resting on the players’ laps. Or that the poker tables are strewn with heaps of banknotes. The truth is the leading players at the PCA were ordinary looking people, wearing plain clothes, no luxurious accessories, not drawing attention to themselves in any particular way. What is out-of-the-ordinary is their ability to remain calm and act under stress. To date, 60 countries have internationally recognised National Poker Federations. Among the world’s biggest poker stars is Canadian Daniel Negreanu, son of Romanian immigrants. This former “poker-kid” became a living legend, winning the biggest tournaments in the world and accumulating prize money of $35m. You can read an exclusive and exciting interview with Daniel in the next OZB magazine.

STAGGERING PRIZES The American Harrison Gimbel was present this year in Nassau, ending the main event in 56th position, with a $35,000 prize. In 2010, aged 19, nobody knew his name yet but he had qualified for the PCA due to a small tournament where the prize he won was a mere $1,000. He won the PCA that year, taking home the $2.2m first prize and becoming the youngest person ever to win the competition.

PAC 2018, Nassau

This year, the smallest prize was $1,700 for the 112th position, while the first prize was taken home by an Argentinian - she won $1.2m. Some Romanian players finished the competition in the top 120, but Romanians were not there only as competitors. Ştefana from Petroşani is a 35-year-old dealer, with 12 years’ experience in the field and is an elite class “referee”. This means she goes to all the major tournaments in a year, leaving her with an average monthly income of $6,000. The biggest game she worked on was won by a Spanish woman who took home $1.1m prize money.

PAC 2018, Nassau


Foto credit: Tara Lawson and David Aparu


Art and its understanding is one of life’s joys and challenges, prone to strong opinions and mindsets. What is it for? Who benefits and how precisely? There are some who view art as a silly activity, certainly an unrealistic career choice, still others who see it as mankind’s primary purpose. OZB spoke to artist Ramona Pintea...

RAMONA PINTEA - PAINTER Ramona Pintea, not a stranger to the notion of the “starving artist”, did carve an artistic path using her creativity in a variety of ways before dedicating herself to her painting full-time. First studying Fine Art at the College of North-East London, Ramona didn’t have the courage to pursue a career as a painter straight off so, instead, studied Fashion Design at the London College of Fashion. She became a fashion designer and went on to build a fashion label. A few years later, while working as an interior designer, Ramona decided she wanted to make painting her full time job. Her debut exhibition was in Miami, Florida, and the rest, as they say... The now popular and successful artist looks back at her younger self with a smile, saying she feels happy she had the chance to work at the things she did, prior to launching into her painting full-time - the experiences shaped the painter she is today. After hearing about Ramona from friends and discovering her website, www.ramonapintea. com, OZB paid her a visit and discovered her expansive studio on the top floor of her Pipera home - high sloping ceilings, sunlight pouring in and illuminating the art covered walls. The two biggest canvases with vibrant colours and detailed silhouettes hang in the middle of the longest wall, inviting visitors to take a step closer.

CHASING THE COLOURS The space is filled with art supplies and working tables here and there, dozens of paintings neatly ordered, resting on the floor and leaning against the lower part of the walls, a cosy quiet corner on one side… The space is a good representation of its owner - warm and generous, playful and welcoming, organised and layered. “I go up to my studio every day, religiously. Some days I really don’t feel like painting yet often they are the days when I produce some of the work I’m most proud of… But I have to paint every day regardless, come rain or shine.”

DREAM OF DIFFERENT REALITY So how did it all start and where? Ramona was born in Braşov and was a teenager when the communist regime collapsed. After a couple of years living with her grandparents as a child, she was struck by the contrast between the colours and flavours of living in the countryside and the grey building blocks and general mood of her hometown. Aged 12, she fell upon a book about Michelangelo and was dazzled by his use of colour, movement, emotion and sheer power. There was no turning back. Her appetite for brightness, texture and for freedom from her drab surroundings were irrevocably stoked. Seeking more vibrant horizons she moved to London and the bubbly Cancerian’s creative journey 57


clear, “which is why it took some adjusting to this lifestyle.” But there is always a solution to any problem and Ramona is resourceful - painting workshops! A few times a week she spends a few hours with children and grownups who want to paint. “This way I can get people into my studio and I don’t feel so isolated anymore” she smiles. “The neighbours must think I’m very popular when they see all the people coming and going,” she says humorously.

had begun. Alas the grey was not entirely escaped... she was soon to discover that the phrase “summer is on a Tuesday in the UK” was not a joke! But the colour in every other aspect of living in the UK capital, from the cosmopolitan society, to the art scene, was undeniable, thrilling and inspiring and she has the accent to prove it.

COLOURED She moved back here to Romania eight years ago, but saying she moved “home” wouldn’t be entirely accurate. Although she had visited family each year it was only ever for a few days at a time. Bucharest was unknown to her. “We have thought about packing up and leaving but now we think this is where we will stay, this is our home,” she says laughing. She certainly appreciates some of the obvious pros of living here: the weather, the closeness of Băneasa forest to where she lives, the richness of the colours and tastes especially when the fruit and vegetable season starts, the fact that the sea-side is only a few hours away, the mountains also. Some of this is visible in her paintings, too. Her flower collection “Florilegium” was inspired by jogging in the park in spring and observing the changes in nature, the many flowers blooming. Other paintings are of people and, one visible from the table we were sitting at, showed a spot-on self portrait next to her daughter, now aged 12. She loves waking up in the morning and going to her sunlit studio, but the downside of being a painter is the rather isolating character of it. “I’m a social animal...” she says, and it’s 58



1. How did Livada start, when did it begin, who were the key people behind starting it? What started out as a dream of overflowing orchards in 1991 has blossomed into a ministry that has touched the lives of thousands of orphans, volunteers, staff, and supporters. Livada is the Romanian word for orchard and serves as a symbol of what we want our ministry to continue to do - bear fruit that will last.

In response to this huge need, Bruce and Catherine Thomas from Dallas, Texas with the support of a newly formed board stepped out in faith and established Livada Orphan Care (LOC). They had a vision to see Romanian orphans nurtured so that they would be able to lead fruitful and productive lives and truly find their place to belong in this world. A 501(c)3 organization was created, and a small office set up in Windsor, California. Bruce Thomas established a Missions Office in Dallas and the Romanian counterpart non-profit called Fundatia LOC in Târgu Mureș, deep in the heart of Transylvania. Ten Romanian staff members were hired to run full-time ministry programmes in the state orphanages and assist in operating summer camps for all Mureș County orphans. Nana Irimia Sellers was our first Romanian director.

SOME HISTORY Even though almost 50 years of communist, dictatorial rule ended in 1989, Ceauşescu’s horrendous legacy did not. In Romania today, tens of thousands of children are still warehoused in state orphanages/state group homes, hidden away in impoverished hospitals, forcefully reintegrated into abusive and dangerous situations with distant relatives, kidnapped and trafficked, or shuffled through various forms of rudimentary foster care. While there have been major improvements, especially as a result of the increased focus on Romania’s social problems by the West and the European Union, the future for the majority of abandoned and at-risk children continue to be bleak.

Bruce Thomas and family



The corporate and legal foundation of Livada Orphan Care is established with IRS 501(c)3 non-profit status granted during the first six months to help Romanian orphans. In Romania, Fundaţia LOC became a member of the Pro Child Federation. Summer camp programmes are continued under a pattern already in place for institutionalized children to attend a week of summer camp. Weekly follow-up programming is set in place at each of the seven orphanages in Mureș County. In autumn 2002, the staff of Romanian nationals is supplemented by the relocation of Livada’s Executive Director, Bruce Thomas, and his wife Catherine to Târgu Mureș. Also, two American volunteers also move to Romania to focus on the baby orphanage and special needs children and the Romanian staff is augmented by the addition of a psychologist. And in Dallas, Sarah Cundiff joins Livada as Missions Trip Coordinator and 59


relocated the Missions Office to Richardson, Texas. 2. What does Livada do on a micro scale and on a macro scale? What’s the day to day for Livada and what about the big picture? Macro scale: Today Fundaţia LOC (Livada Orphan Care) is focused on fulfilling our original mission in six main ways: • Residential Care for children and youth through a full-time, family style approach in group homes, mentor (residential) apartments, and private foster care. • Orphan graduate care: provides support and assistance for our young men and women as they “graduate” into another stage of life and venture into independent living. • Cradle Care of abandoned infants and toddlers in hospital wards and domestic foster to adopt programme. • Orphan Outreach (Follow Up programmes) to abandoned kids in state care facilities (orphanages and state group homes in all Mureș County). • Prevention of Family and School Abandonment efforts in the gypsy community from Ogra Village. • Partner for Romania Without Orphans Alliance to mobilize the Church and State in Romania to care for the vulnerable around them.

School suplies for the gypsy community with our Holland partners

Micro scale: Residential care: the goal is to ensure children's access for a specified period of time to housing, care, education and preparation for family and social-professional integration or reintegration, to offer specific services for the psychological-physical development of the kids. From 2003, when the foundation decided to open its first private mentor apartment, LOC had more than 80 kids in full time care in: about 7 boys and girls mentor apartments, 4 group homes (Rebeca group homes – opened 2004, Ana group home – opened 2005, Nadia group home – opened 2005, Juliana group home – opened 2014) and foster care. Over the years, a lot of the kids “graduate” from our residential care programme and became 60

young independent adults. At the end of 2017, 27 kids were in the care of Fundaţia LOC: Juliana group home – 6 kids; boy’s group home - 3 boys; girl’s residential apartments – 2 girls; private foster care: 16 kids.

Little and big Sergiu - LOC kids

Graduate care: Graduates / Ex-beneficiaries programme offers support to LOC children who reached adulthood and who are ready to leave the Child Protection System (CPS). Based on our support we want to help our graduates make the transition to an independent life and become active members of the community. For our kids, Fundaţia LOC is their home and family, so almost weekly we have “graduates” that come and ask for help from our staff for various reasons mostly that involve a financial help. Once a month we organize graduates meetings and for Easter and Christmas, all the graduates are invited to a big Fundaţia LOC “family” dinner. Cradle Care: on a weekly basis (Monday to Saturday) we have two employees and two stint volunteers that assist Ludus baby hospital staff in the care of these abandoned babies. The purpose of this programme is to help every abandoned child to develop physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually to reintegrate into the natural family or transition into a foster family. We offer everything from diapers, wipes, baby food to the developmental training and therapeutic needs of these children. Orphan Outreach (follow up programme) – from 2001, when the foundation started, we still run weekly ministry and educational-instructive programs with all the orphan kids in state orphanages from Mureș County. Over the school year, on a weekly basis, from Monday to Friday, our Romanian staff, stint staff and Ro volunteers provide VBS type (Vacation Bible School) of programmes for about 240 orphan kids in 35 state group homes from around Mureș County, in 12 different locations. Our creative, fun and energetic weekly programmes consist of various activities based on educational objectives on different themes of life, socialization, recreation, life skills, learning of life values etc. Besides the


weekly programmes, during the summer vacation, the foundations runs every year six camps for about 60 kids/week, with help from American teams and about 20 Romanian volunteers. We also offer every year humanitarian aid, dental and eye care.

Residential department: A. Group homes, B. Mentor apartments, C. Graduates, D. Foster Care Ministry Department: A. Orphan Outreach, B. Prevention of abandonment Cradle Care department

Prevention of abandonment department provides support to children, youth and families of Roma ethnicity, who are at risk of school and family abandonment, living in an underprivileged and marginalized environment. Through our support we aim that the beneficiaries of our programmes to become active members of society. The objectives are: prevention of school abandonment – education, family abandonment, youth and mothers counseling, medical services. The programme started 4 years ago and had 20 kids involved, but now we work with about 200 kids on a weekly basis. Every week we provide these activities: Monday and Wednesday educational-instructive programmes with five groups of children ages: 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12,13-14; Tuesday Boys Club ages: 15+, Thursday Girls Club ages: 14+; Friday - Volunteer meetings (to prepare for the coming week), support for five teenagers that go to a high school in Târgu Mureș (the only 5 high scholars from the whole community), monthly young moms meetings. We also offer humanitarian aid, medical services and every year we offer fully packed school backpacks and supplies to all the kids that are involved in our programmes. Besides the weekly programmes, the kids are involved in four fun and educational day camps during the summer vacation.

5. What have been the big problems facing Livada, what have been some of the big successes, how have things changed over the years? Our greatest struggle to help these children lies in the indifference of many Romanian politicians. Although there have been some aesthetic improvements in the child welfare system following Romania’s entrance into the European Union in 2007, the reality of abuse, neglect, and indifference is evident across the country. More, our effort of providing a better life for these kids is hampered by over exaggerated legislation and poor implementation of legislation. Another aspect is that, whilst private organizations are not allowed to provide services unless they are licensed, 83% of public services do not have a license and do not meet mandatory minimum standards.

3. What is the situation that Livada is seeking to address? Even if 29 years have passed since the revolution, the number of orphan kids hasn’t changed that much. From 2001, when the foundation was founded, the goal was to help all the orphan kids from Mureș County find their “loc” (translation – place) in this world. While the other foundations and NGO’s from Mureș County seek to help small groups of 15-20 orphan kids in various ways, we remain faithful to our goal and reach all these kids: about 240 orphan kids at this moment in state group homes and 200 gypsy kids in Ogra village, Mureș County. 4. How is Livada funded, how is it staffed, what is the shape of the organization? I gather there is a substantial US element. In the beginning, the funds came 100% from USA from different churches and individuals. For the past years, the funds come mostly from us: 75%, 20% from our partner in Holland (Stichting Livada) and 5% from Romanian grants and donations. At the moment Fundaţia LOC has 24 Romanian employees. The Romanian staff are helped by five long term US missionaries, one long term missionary from Australia and another from Switzerland. Every year we have about 35 Romanian volunteers that mostly are involved during the summer activities. The foundation has the following departments:

Some successes: • Over 75 kids in the foundation full time care • Started 4 private group homes • Started 11 mentor apartments • About 20 kids 10 foster families • Summer camps for 17 years in different locations: Lunca Bradului, Lapusna, Sadu, Saliste, Cisnădioara, Vetca, Nazna • Educational - instructive programs for orphan kids for 17 years • Educational - instructive programs for gypsy kids for 4 years • Offer developmental training and therapeutic assistance for about 45 babies and toddlers /year for the past 6 years. 6. How can people can get involved or contribute? You can support the LOC Foundation in its programmes to help children and teenagers at risk in the following ways: Donating and Volunteering For more info please visit our websites: www.fundatialoc.ro and www.livada.org 61



Starting from January 1 st, 2018, a new set of rules for either domestic or international arbitration proceedings organised by the Court of International Commercial Arbitration attached to Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Romania (The Romanian Court of International Commercial Arbitration) are applicable. Arbitration is an alternative jurisdiction to the regular state courts. The parties to an agreement have the option to decide that any litigation deriving thereof is to be submitted to an arbitrator (or a panel of arbitrators), which will issue a binding decision for the parties. Arbitration has more advantages, among which the most essential ones are: the celerity of the overall proceedings; the confidentiality of the case and of the information exchanged by the parties; the possibility to choose arbitrators with an extensive experience in specific industries or types of agreements, depending on the particularities of each case. In order to meet the expectations of the business environment - which tends to submit the arising litigations to arbitration rather than to the state courts - the rules of arbitration of the Romanian leading arbitral institution have been updated and renewed. The changes in force as of January 2018 take into account the most recent developments of similar arbitration rules issued by the most reputed international arbitral institutions from Paris, Stockholm or Honk Kong. The main principle applying to arbitration is freedom of the parties to choose the application of these arbitration rules of the Romanian Court of International Commercial Arbitration for litigations arisen between them. In this respect, a recommended draft of arbitration agreement is available in Annex I to the Rules. The parties are also free to agree on the number of arbitrators (an impair number, either one or three) and to appoint them, as well as to select the applicable law on the merits of the case. If there are


justified reasons and with the observance of some conditions prescribed by the rules, the parties may request the appointment of an emergency arbitrator regarding the adoption of provisional or ensuring measures, such as the temporary cease of an action considered to be illicit or the preservation of evidence which could be altered. The proceedings conducted by the arbitral tribunal comprise, as a general rule, a written stage and a hearing stage, in case the arbitrator(s) or the parties consider the latter necessary. Thus, in the context of the written stage, after the claimant submits its request for arbitration and the respondent files its answer (and its counterclaim, if the case may be), the proceedings continue with a case management conference. The date of the conference, which can take any form ensuring a direct communication between all the participants to the proceeding, represents the final deadline for the parties to amend or supplement their reliefs. The parties can subsequently file additional memorials, in which they develop their position, as well as to submit evidence in support of their claims and defences. The rules of arbitration also grant the parties the option to apply the IBA Rules on the Taking of Evidence in International Arbitration, which comprise efficient solutions for an optimal selection and analysis of relevant evidence, including statements of witnesses, side expert reports and independent expert assessments. This represents a crucial change in the procedure for the administration of evidence, making possible the application of high professional standards in this respect. The arbitral award is issued and drafted in maximum one month as of the date the debates are closed/the final written memorials are


submitted, with the possibility to extend this term, based on a grounded request of the arbitral tribunal. The arbitral award communicated to the parties has similar effects to a regular court award and represents an enforceable deed. In case of disputes amounting less than 50.000 lei or if the parties agree in respect thereof (considering also the particular circumstances of the matter in dispute), a simplified arbitration procedure conducted by a sole arbitrator is applicable. The maximum term for such emergency arbitration is of 3 months since the first arbitration date. Finally, the new arbitration rules provide for more efficient ways for solving the dispute: the bifurcation of the proceedings, the rendering of partial awards, the partial or total settlement by parties’ agreement, the procedural calendar, the limitation of written evidence, others. In order to remunerate the arbitration services rendered by the Court of International Commercial Arbitration, there will be charged a registration fee in amount of Euro 150 or the equivalent in Lei at the National Bank of Romania exchange rate of the day, as well as an arbitration fee consisting of an administrative fee and arbitrators’ fee.

drafting of legal opinions on Romanian law to be used as expert opinions in international arbitration. Some of the attorneys enjoyed experience as arbitrators or are involved in international work related to arbitration. Arbitration experience of the law firm covers mainly energy, construction, PPP and financial sectors.

Irina-Andreea MICU, partner lawyer, is a member of STOICA & Asociaţii since 2007. She graduated the Law Faculty of the Bucharest University, as well as the College Juridique franco-roumain d’études europeennes. She has experience in arbitration, either in front of domestic or international courts andachieved an extended practice in IP and contract law, as well as in pharma, media and food sectors. She is fluent in English, French and Romanian.

The new rules for arbitration proceedings represent an important tool for the Romanian business community in the achievement of a rapid and cost balanced dispute settlement, by rendering an award as result of a professional exercise conducted in conformity with international standards. (For more information, please see arbitration.ccir.ro/reguli-de-arbitraj).

STOICA & Asociaţii extended its litigation practice during the years with a large number of arbitral disputes, either in front of Romanian arbitral institutions or in front of reputed international arbitration courts. Also, STOICA & Asociaţii has a wide expertise in drafting or coordinating the



OFF TO A FLYING START BY FIONA DUŢU Whether you call it pre-school, nursery, or pre-kindergarten – basically they all mean something similar depending on which country you find yourself in. The main idea is of a “mini-school” especially for very young children where they can stay with others of their own age, looked after by teachers (who are hopefully trained in meeting the needs of this age group) and take their first steps on their learning journey. Children who attend pre-school usually find it easier to adapt to “big” school later, they are more independent and already have a grasp of basic reading, writing and maths skills. It is traditionally widely believed that children are somehow ready for pre-school at around the age of three or even later, however there is no reason why toddlers can’t take advantage of quality child care settings, as long as the staff are trained in meeting the needs of this specific age group. As every parent knows, toddlers have a lot of energy, they are keen to explore whilst also demanding a lot of attention! By three years of age a child’s brain has around 1000 trillion brain connections (synapses) and has already grown to 80% of its adult size. The early years are a rapid period of brain development which can be fostered by positive relationships with parents and optimal community environments, such as pre-school. Positive relationships, a safe environment and physical care all have a significant impact on a child’s development and so it’s important to invest in a nursery environment which can provide all three! By the time a child reaches school age, their brain development is built upon the solid foundation created in the first five years. However, It is more difficult for children to take advantage of learning environments, such as school, if they have not had optimal early learning experiences beforehand. Through attending a quality pre-school, children develop a number of “soft skills” which benefit them throughout their later life, such as social skills, positive self esteem and self identity, communication skills and language, they gain independence, self confidence, they benefit from


the stimulation provided by being with other children and the stability of a daily routine. What should parents look for when choosing a pre-school/nursery for their child? There are literally hundreds of nurseries in Bucharest, which can be confusing for parents. State or private? Romanian or international? Small or large? Should it be near home or doesn’t this matter?

WHEN LOOKING FOR A NURSERY While every parent has their own personal preferences, below is a list of things to bear in mind when looking for a nursery: State or private: some people may opt for a state run nursery, considering that it’s not worth investing financially in pre-school education, since they “only play at that age” – however, nothing could be further from the truth! An investment in a high quality pre-school is an investment in your child’s future! The state sector in Romania is largely under funded, resulting in large class sizes, a lack of specialized training for early years teachers and in general, a lack of morale. Of course, there are great teachers out there but ... A safe, clean but also relaxed environment: while the whole building should be safe the children’s rooms should also be an active space where independence and curiosity are encouraged through having toys and games readily available within children’s reach. Trained teachers: In Acorns nurseries we’ve developed our own training programme for all our teachers, which prepare them for meeting the needs of each age group – not only the children’s physical needs, but also support their personal, social and emotional development, communication, maths, understanding of the world and creativity. Good ratios of teachers to children are essential in order to meet the children’s needs, such as a teacher to every 4-6 children. Happy children: when you go to visit a nursery, always ask to spend some time in the children’s


rooms rather than just in the manager’s office. By having a good look around you’ll be able to hear and feel the atmosphere, listen to how teachers interact with the children, look to see if children are happy and engaged in what they are doing, with freedom to move around and explore. Suitable resources: every age group should have its own high quality toys, games and teaching resources which are suitable for the children’s age. It’s not unknown for private nurseries to take under 3’s in a class of older children – this is not good practice since under 3’s (and especially under 2’s) have their own unique needs. A large garden with plenty of scope for exercise, safe climbing and exploring the outdoors. The children should have time outside every day, even during the winter. Communication: a quality nursery will aim to keep parents fully informed of every step in their child’s development. Teachers should be available for parents to talk to each day and regular meetings should take place during which parents find out about their child’s progress. ...And so the list could go on and on! What’s clear is that a good nursery should put the needs of the children first. Study after study after study reaches the same conclusion: early childhood education has a tremendous impact on life outcomes. Even former-president Barak Obama mentioned the importance of early education in his 2013 State of the Union address. As Huffington Post contributor and a teacher with 35 years experience Vicki Palmer writes: “Early childhood education is about honing and molding the holistic child, which will eventually form the basis of their lifelong journey.” An investment in early education is an investment in the future!

Fiona Duţu is a British-qualified teacher specialising in early years. She’s been the Head Teacher at Acorns for 10 years, prior to this she was head of Primary at IBSB. See more on www.acorns.ro.




BY DEAN EDGAR It has always staggered me how many people come to Bucharest to “see the sites”. As far as I know there are not that many: The People's Palace (super hard to book a tour), the Village Museum (great in the summer), our very own nature reserve, Parcul Văcăreşti (beautiful place, but badly needs some serious tourism investment). There’s the bus tour that basically goes from the north of the city in to the centre in about 30 minutes. A couple of other museums and that’s about it. Romania, as a country, is beautiful, inviting, varied with very mixed landscapes and architecture. But when it comes to the capital city, nothing. I spend a lot of time in Centrul Vechi, otherwise known as the Old Town, a place that should be the jewel in the crown of Bucharest, but no, it’s nowhere near. Buildings falling down, or being held up with grotesque scaffolding. Many buildings are empty due to horrendously high rents, with the landlords maintaining that they will never drop their valuation, and many have squatters. One street is busy and the next a ghost street. Sibiu, Braşov and Alba Iulia (the citadel is a must see if you haven’t been) have got it right. Nice squares, good bars and


restaurants, fun places to be, and with the full support of the mayor’s office and regional investment boards. Unfortunately, for some reason, Bucharest lags way behind. It is always easy to apportion blame, some lies with the landlords, some with the mayor's office, some with the Government. Someone needs to get a grip and start using some of the EU funds that are available and start investing. The same can be said for the Black Sea resorts, the ski resorts, the Danube Delta. More and more people are coming to Romania for a holiday, it would be great to see Romania welcoming them with open arms and some resemblance of the level of service they are accustomed to along with and integrated tourism policy. I am proud to call Romania my home and I am enjoying seeing more and more visitors coming here. And, lest we forget, they are a superb revenue source! Until the next time, have a great February. Gentlemen, don't forget Valentines Day on the 14 th and Marţișor on the 1 st March!