“Destination?” asked the guy manning the check-in desk at the London airport.
“Bucharest,” I replied.
“Budapest?” he asked.
“No, Bucharest. Romania,” I confirmed.
Apparently this is such a common mistake, there’s a very real website named after it.
After Romanians revolted away from communism in 1989 and towards democracy, one of the world’s biggest pop stars came to visit. On stage in front of tens of thousands of people Michael Jackson addressed the audience. “Hello Budapest!” he said. Whoops.
So let it be clear: we’re in the capital city of Romania. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about recent events.
Perhaps you’ve heard about the protests in Bucharest that began last week against corruption in the government, sparked by an emergency governmental decree that would essentially legalize corruption. This decree was introduced during the night (like a sneak!).
Hundreds of thousands of protesters met in front of Victory Square in front of governmental headquarters each night starting last week, to show the government they would not stand quietly.
We arrived Saturday, after another decree was introduced that’s supposed to nullify the corruption-legalizing-decree. Still, protests continue. Neither decrees have been officially passed and there’s a huge sense of mistrust in the government.
We decided to check out the protests ourselves. Here are a few pics and snippets for a sense of the vibe. This is after the main commotion, where the protesters created an image of the Romanian flag using their cell phones and colored paper (we were a bit late to get there). Approaching the square by foot, the noise is audible from several blocks away.
You may be able to just make out the projection on the building here:
I was so impressed at the peacefulness, tenacity, and solidarity shown here. Not pictured, were stands throughout the protest crowds offering free snacks and hot drinks to protesters. Literally everyone and their mom was there. We saw small children accompanying parents and plenty of people who looked old enough to be my grandma, all despite below-freezing temperatures.
Bucharest is truly an inspiring example of how to fight for a democracy and show the government that their job is to serve the people, not themselves.