Amelie Schlingmann - General Journalism Projects in Romania
Amelie is from Germany and spent six months in Romania dividing her time between a Care & Community and a Journalism placement. Her article below about her first impressions of Romania was published in the Brasov Visitor, the magazine set up by Projects Abroad in Romania.
It is Wednesday the 5th October when my plane lands at the airport in Bucharest. The first thing I get to see of Romania is a flat landscape overgrown with grass next to the run way. It's quite warm in Bucharest, nearly 25 degrees and I, dressed for winter get the feeling I don't fit in! After an endless passport control I finally start the car trip to Brasov.
Sitting in an old Romanian car and looking out the window I can follow the development of the landscape. It becomes slowly hilly and wooded and finally it turns into the Carpathian Mountains. Along the road are a lot of traditional little houses mixed up with the large buildings of western companies. There is an enormous contrast between the old traditional Romania and the modern one, which is going to be part of the European Union in 2007. The horse wagons, which appear around every corner and on the main roads are part of the old Romania and watching them, I feel like I'm moving back into a former century.
After three hours on the road, we reach Brasov. What is my first impression? Very ugly! Everywhere are gigantic blocks of flats. There is no colour and the dark communist past can be seen clearly. In comparison to this, the old part of Brasov presents a big contrast. There are pubs, cafes and restaurants everywhere. It is clean and nice and the touristy atmosphere could make me believe I'm in a big European metropolis. But when I look closer, it is obvious that there isn't as much money as in Western Europe. Although the houses are really beautiful, they could do with some restoration, but perhaps they would lose their uniqueness if someone tried to do so.
When I arrive at my host's house it is 6pm and I'm very tired. So I'm grateful for the hospitality. The following day I notice that everywhere I go people trouble themselves to make me feel good. Nevertheless there is a large difference between Germany and Romania, as far as the mentality of the people is concerned. Until now I always thought that the cliché of the clean, correct and bureaucratic Germany was made up and that other countries in Europe were the similar. But now I come to this country and get to know a completely new attitude to life.
Romanian people seem to have a lot of time and they don't claim that everything works perfectly. I don't hear one word of complaint when I queue up for half an hour in front of the post office. The observer gets the impression that Romania is a country which wants to rise in international importance, but always with a smile, even if there a lot of set-backs. Maybe history has taught Romania to be patient and never to lose their good mood.
I am very fascinated by the history of Romania, although I don't know much about it. Brasov is a very good example of the numerous signs history has left in Romania; the impressive black church from the 14th century with the old carpets from the orient, the white and black tower and the pieces of the old city wall. They are so beautiful they help to prevent me feeling homesick. When the second time since I arrived the sun goes down behind the 'Tampa' with its Brasov sign which reminds everyone of Hollywood, I get the impression that I will have a nice time in Brasov.