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Though masked in language that was far more civil, the message we got was much the same as that which Romania Mare, newspaper of the fascist Greater Romania Party (PRM), had greeted the first issue of BIYP with a year earlier. ‘AT ODORHIEU SECUIESC THE HUNGARIANS HAVE PRINTED AN UNIMAGINABLE SWINERY AGAINST ROMANIA,’ they barked. Apparently, we claimed Bucharest was ‘a dirty, smoky and polluted city of two million people and one and a half million rabid dogs.’ That Romania was a country with ‘Europe’s last leper colony, of extreme poverty, institutionalised homophobia and nationwide discrimination against gypsies.’ Guilty as charged. We said it, we meant it, and by and large much of what we wrote back then (although certainly not all) remains valid today.
Later in 2000 we were again in the headlines, after daily newspaper Adevarul featured – on the front cover - an interview with Senator Emil Tocaci who called for our guide to be banned, saying that “this tourist brochure says things that will not encourage foreign visitors to Romania.” Adevarul went on to do a further hatchet job on us, claiming in a double-page spread that we ‘promote Bucharest as a city of thieves, false policemen, pimps and prostitutes, using the money of Romanian companies to do so.’
Romania Mare, Senator Emil Tocaci and the marketing director of the green telecoms company all got worked up for one simple reason: they completely misunderstood what Bucharest In Your Pocket is. Damn right we do not attract visitors to Bucharest: that is not our job. (Though given that visitor numbers in the many years since we first appeared have gone up by about three billion per cent, it can hardly be claimed that we have put anyone off). As a visitor’s guide our job is to provide those foreigners who do come here with the most accurate information about the city as possible. If that means warning people about stray dogs, so be it. If it means pointing out that Bucharest is almost completely inaccessible to people in wheelchairs, so be it. We do not promote Bucharest, we simply report what we see. We have done that now for sixteen years, and 100 issues. We will continue to do so for another 100. And another…