Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Constanța is being tarted up


I went to
 the seaside at the weekend by train as far as Constanța and came back the same way. This is much more civilised than car, especially with the new rolling stock they introduced last week. My return journey took a mere two hours unlike the three hours it used to take before the seven years it took them to rebuild the railway. 

A friend of mine who studied geology before becoming a successful businessman and who knows how they rebuilt the track said they hurried it for political reasons (they had originally promised that it would only take on year). He told me not to travel on that line in rainy weather. I pass on the warning.

The old port at Constanța is now full of restaurants. Who knew? There used to be just one terrible fish restaurant that Romanians always recommended.

This is an example of Covent Gardenisation that I guardedly approve, on the whole, though I always liked Constanța's loucheness. It was always a wicked place - one half expected to meet Sydney Greenstreet and Humphrey Bogart in its broken streets - but the wickedness will remain even when they finish renovating Piata Ovidiu.

How exotic the mosque is, overlooking the port. How odd it is to think that England is now full of them. Romania's 20,000 Muslims, in the Dobrugea, which was part of Turkey until 1878, made me think Constanța Near Eastern when I first went there in 1999. Mine is the last generation of Englishmen that could forget that we have millions of Muslim fellow-countrymen - and we forgot it in the 1990s but not anymore

My taxi driver says that Mr Mazare, the 'controversial' mayor of Constanța, has done many good things and reels off a long list. Who guessed? One of the good things was to get EU funds to pay for the renovation of the old port.

A Constanțan waitress I once pursued was telling me about the smuggling mafias in the city and I naively asked her if Mr. Mazare knew about all the smuggling that went on. She said, with an innocent face,

'He has no idea.'

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