While free parking, water boards or paying income tax may be alien to many locals, the value of property is certainly not. As such, Monopoly has been played in Romania for years: long before the fall of the communist regime in fact. In those days it would often be played using less-than-official versions of the game made in a dark factory somewhere far from the eyes of intellectual property lawyers.
A legal, officially licensed Romanian version of the game has been around since 1999, although at first it was produced in limited numbers and finding a copy could often be a real pain in the community chest: finding the US version was often much easier. These days, however, the Romanian version is ubiquitous, and can be picked up for around 120.00 lei in Auchan, Carrefour, Cora and Diverta Music & Film, amongst other places.
We have no idea who devised the Romanian board, though aficionados of the game will be delighted to learn that all of the quirks of the original remain: the choice of streets and stations is a little arbitrary; some streets are not, in fact, streets; prices are laughably low; the rules are incomprehensible and you can still win money by coming second in a beauty contest. We have long said that the local version of the game makes the perfect souvenir of your visit to the Romanian capital.
A Trip Around the Bucharest BoardRahova is a colourful working class district of Bucharest. The highlight of the area is unquestionably the amazing, huge flower market (Piata de Flori) at the eastern end of Calea Rahovei behind Piata George Cosbuc (and just a short ride on the No. 32 tram from Piata Unirii). The flower market takes place daily (in fact, it never really closes) in the shadow of Bere Rahova, an old beer factory, some of whose marvellous red-brick buildings have recently been renovated. While the rest of Calea Rahovei is of little interest to the visitor, it is worth noting that the blocks which line the street were the first in Bucharest to be colourfully painted, some ten years or so ago now. The trend for bringing life to grey, socialist-era blocks with brightly coloured paint is now visible all over the city.
Some distance from Rahova is the other brown property, Calea Giulesti. It is best known as the site of Stadion Giulesti, home to Rapid Bucharest, the ugly sister of Bucharest football (Steaua and Dinamo remain the capital’s best supported sides). Founded by railway workers (the main line into Gara de Nord passes within a few metres of the stadium) the team has won the Romanian championship just three times, in 1967, 1999 and in 2003. Fans of bizarre buildings might like to know that the prototype-looking skyscraper with few – if any – windows next to the stadium (and visible from every train coming and going from the station) is in fact a now derelict elevator test-shaft. It was built in the 1970s by Ascensor SA, the national lift company, which hoped to corner the European market in high-speed lifts for tall buildings. It didn’t.
The first train station on the Bucharest board is Gara Progresu, a bleak outpost of the Romanian railways which these days sees little, if any, traffic. Indeed, the Romanian train timetable (online at cfr.ro/mersultrenurilor) in fact lists no regular passenger trains as being scheduled to stop here for the foreseeable future.
Balta Alba translates as White Pond, and is named for the lake in the middle of Titan/IOR park, one of the largest and best in the city. It has been completely renovated and re-landscaped at great cost over the past few years and is a wonderful place to spend time.
Unfairly regarded as the Bucharest hood, B-dul Pantelimon is a working class area named for the Orthodox St. Pantelimon the Healer, and is the gateway to the less-visited sights east of the city, including Cernica, a 19th-century monastery nine kilometres from the capital. Its church features frescoes painted by the little-known maestro George Frujinescu.
Berceni is a less than salubrious district of the capital, which we would suggest is not really worthy of its light blue status on the Bucharest Monopoly board. It is home to the capital’s most chaotic department store, BIG, now joined opposite by the rather more swish Sun Plaza mall. You’ll find it behind Piata Sudului.
The district of Titan was the largest housing project in the country when it was completed in the early 1970s. It is home to more than a tenth of the city’s population, and is today seeing something of a revival, with hundreds of new apartments being built in shiny new blocks. The redevelopment of the big Titan/IOR park has helped the area. It is well worth taking the metro to Titan both to explore the lovely park (which features a full-scale replica of a wooden Maramures church) as well as have a peek at Titan metro station itself: the biggest and most grandiose on the entire Bucharest system.