Sunday, October 14, 2007

Back from Romania

Got back in last night to the usual guddle. Everyone seems to have thoroughly enjoyed the week and some new potential crossover contacts were made. Most of us remained reasonably sober.
There were some wonderful stories going the rounds. One was from a highly successful lothario, who said that the trick was not to spoil a woman. All you had to do was make her comfortable in your presence. I never found out if he meant in bed or just when together. Another was about British Army manouevres in Germany. Until recently, the way it worked was that every autumn, the tanks rolled - mostly across farmer's fields, through chicken huts, pulverising walls and creating new duck ponds where none had been before. The German farmers, of course, loved it. If they had a wobbly bridge, they would point a tank over it, the bridge would collapse, and the farmer submitted a bill. Apparently, there was a corporal in the pay section who was detailed to collate the bills every day as they came in. Every year, when they got to £20 million,the excercise was officially ended.
But what of the progress out there? Tourism and the ethos of tourism is beginning to take hold. Service is becoming something to be expected in the hotels and guesthouses. Younger people are remaining in situ as they can see that things are improving. Most importantly, the consolidation of the smaller landholdings is continuing and will benefit the communities where it happens.
We are working on a new valley. Once we have consolidated the 64 individual owners, we will be able to form a lake and create a fishery, as well as leisure facilities for tourism. On the adjacent sloping ground, orchards and a forest will grow. There might even be a guesthouse. All in all it should give ongoing work for about 10 or 12 people , with more required at certain times of the year. In a village of roughly 250 souls, that represents a huge benefit.
The Mayor of Mosna - recently voted the best in the whole region - gave an official reception for us, and presented us with Romanian flags. One of the really weird things is that the patron saint of the area is St. Andrew - complete with Scottish blue and white flag , so we all felt as if we had wandered into downtown Murrayfield. The flags were in abundance when we arrived.
Everything in Romania is late. There is always so much discussion about everything. At one point, in a room with lawyers, notary publics, owners and a couple of mayors plus staff, I called a halt to having the translations given to me. The debate was eventually concluded, and I had the conclusion translated - much easier.
They had just had the Cabbage Festival - by all accounts a great success, but it seemed to me that quite a few of the locals were suffering the after effects. The cabbage salad remains one of my favourite dishes, and we ate quite the most delicious tomatoes I have ever tasted sitting in the sun beneath the walls of Biertan citadel.
Capitalism has still to get a grip. Everything still requires dozens of stamps and signatures, but the system is robust and appears to mean that there are few mistakes. One of the pieces of land we wanted to buy had an incorrect name on the title ( you have to produce your identity card every time you do anything and the cross check revealed the discrepancy).
There are two ways to sort this. One is to apply to the land registry to have the title changed to the correct name. This can take up to three years.
The alternative is to get the local mayor to sign an affidavit that the man whose name appears on the title and the man on the ID card are one and the same.
Takes about three minutes.

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