Bucharest In Your Pocket 100

more than a year ago

Happy birthday to us.

What can only be described as Eclipse Fever was gripping the nation when the first Bucharest In Your Pocket was published, at the end of May, 1999. Bucharest was, you see, being heralded as the best place in the world to view one of nature’s rarities: a total eclipse of the sun scheduled for August 11th of that year, an eclipse which would darken the sky for three minutes and make the stars visible at midday.

Bizarre as it may seem now but many people in Romania were counting on the eclipse kick-starting the country’s tourist industry. Official projections of visitor numbers went into the zillions, with Interior Minister Dudu Ionescu telling Reuters in April 1999 that he expected crowds to ‘overwhelm the capital.’ He needn’t have worried. For as it turned out almost nobody came, and the eclipse passed overhead without event. Indeed, a fair bit of cloud cover meant that many people in the capital - the majority of whom had assembled on rooftops and balconies wearing ridiculous sunglasses emblazoned with Coca-Cola logos – saw very little.

As the first genuinely objective Bucharest city guide, the welcome we received was muted, to say the least. Many locals didn’t quite get what we were about. Nationalists, such as the late Vadim Tudor of the fascist Greater Romania Party called the first issue of our guide ‘a swinery against Romania.’ The problem was that back then - as now - we told it as it is. We were not blind to Romanian realities. We printed the national average wage (1,172,000 lei, then US$82), and noted how pensioners were expected to ‘scratch out a living on US$35.’

We also – a publishing first in Romania, we believe – stated the price charged by the high-class hookers that frequented the city’s top hotels (US$200), as well as that charged by the less classy ladies at the bottom end of Calea Victoriei (US$50). It was that piece of information above all others which won us our first friends, not least amongst the diplomatic community.


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Over a year ago
It would be poorer indeed. Congratulations on reaching a remarkable milestone, and here's to many more. Keep fighting the good fight.
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