Today I spent practically every waking moment buying a car.
It started at 8am at the dealers, with various experts assuring me the car was suitable. This cost the equivalent of Eur 10 split between various bodies. This is how it works here - a few Lei as the currency here is called works wonders.
Anyway, by 9 oclock when the bank opened we were rolling. The salesman came with me to the bank. The lovely Alexandrinska shoved half a dozen bits of paper in front of my nose, all of which required my signature twice and stamped twice as well. The money was then in escrow.
Next stop was a notary public. We all trooped into his office , various sums changed hands and we were asked to return in an hour. The salesman's job was now finished, until such time as we would hand him the bank receipt for the money transferring, so we took him back to the garage.
Just time for a quick coffee then back to the notary.
There were a total of 22 stamps and signatures.
Next was the bank again, who required to take copies of the copies - only another two stamps and signatures. The money was then transferred and the bank gave us two receipts, with their stamps and signatures.
At this point, we became the legal owners of the vehicle.
For reasons of sheer boredom, I won't go on with the visits to the town hall ( where we found the garage owed the town about Eur 20, and we could not have the relevant paper until this was paid - we paid it), the licence office, the car plates office, the insurance office, the carplates office again and then the garage to collect the car.
Now you might think that the car at this point was taxed, plated and ready to roll. Not a bit of it. The piece de resistance is that the local police have to inspect the car, the papers and as far as I could tell the stamp itself.
There are two ways of doing this.
One is to drive the car on trade plates about 50km to the police station in the regional capital, sit in a queue for a day or two, and finally have a policeman look at the car through a window, stamp the papers and off you go.
The other way is to have a connection. Everything in Romania comes down to a connection.
So a friend of Alin's who has a friend who works in the police station in Targu Mores made a phone call, and, as if by magic, two policemen appeared at the garage, shook everyone by the hand, stamped a paper or two, shook hands again, and drove off.
NOW we can take the car. It's 5pm. Noone has had anything to eat. An arrangement had been made. We triumphantly drove the car to a local restaurant.
There, waiting for us, was every one of the people we had been dealing with all day, including the man from the police station in Targu Mores and the two policemen.
I am assured that otherwise it would take three weeks to buy a car.
It was well worth it.
UPDATE 1: You might think this is all a bit of a joke, but take note: nobody has no car insurance in Romania, nobody has a car which is unsafe on the roads, nobody has not paid their road tax and nobody drives without a driving licence. The checks help with this, but the real stick is every single one of the above offences carries three years inside. So that could be 12 years just for what in UK would probably be a fine of a few hundred pounds.
Oh, and speeding fines and points are on the spot. If you don't have the cash, expect to spend at least a couple of days inside. And don't for one second think you can get away with saying you left either your wallet, driving licence, insurance or granny at home.
Seems to work a treat.
UPDATE 2: A policeman I met at the weekend, when I spoke to him about this, told me that in the UK we would need to build an entire penal colony on the Isle of Wight to lock up all the offenders.