Each time when I arrive in the middle of the summer in Bucharest I get at least one call to go to the Black Sea. I never had time in the past years to go so my last visit to the Black Sea was in the 80s. I was for sure curious to rediscover a world where I spent many summer months when living in Romania.
Bucharest is now connected to the Black Sea by a highway whose construction was started during Ceausescu’s rule and finished in recent years. I just heard how impertinently the current Prime Minister stated on National TV, “this highway was finished by me”. The short two hours ride is a breeze in comparison with the horrific and nerve wrecking 6 hours through villages passing horse drawn carriages or tractors and missing death by a hair on the narrow winding roads during the Communist system. After we passed Constanta we choked in traffic through an overbuilt Eforie, completely unrecognizable with cars parked on both sides on the main, and once elegant, avenue suffocated already by zillions of stalls selling trinkets and beach stuff. On our way to 2 Mai we wanted to stop in Costinesti, once a famous and elegantly built student resort in a patriarchal village.
We used to spend months in Costinesti each and every summer, dancing the night away or drinking wine on the beach under the stars, challenging each other to play hookey and stay longer. I left Costinesti for the last time in a windy day of mid September 1987 by a night train bribing the “godfather”, as we used to call the train conductor, instead of buying a ticket, more as a sport that of any money needs. I left behind a world of dreams and free spirit that the dictatorship was never able to crush.
I heard that it changed. Many told me that is ugly, way too developed, too many people and few students. But what I found distressed me more than I expected. The once elegant alleys and promenades winding through lawns were now strangulated by restaurants and trinket shops all built on the old lawn in an exuberance of bad taste. “Manele”, a pollution-music developed by gypsies of Romania replaced the rock and roll or the jazz accords, was blasted from all these places. The overbuilding made the alleys indistinguishable, mere paths, and the villas that were once the places were students lived for a fortnight were looking abandoned if you did not see a car parked on its lawn of dry grass and dust and surrounded by an ugly metal mesh fence. The sculptures that adorned the alleys were still there but all covered completely in weeds, a sign of Costinesti’s culture demise. We entered the once famous Hotel Forum for a walk on its terrace overlooking the sea but we found its access door locked with a huge chain in a hotel lobby that looked so abandoned that we went to the reception to ask if the hotel is open. However the two start hotel was open and full with rooms overpriced for its derelict appearance.
The once open air and free spirit Disco Ring had been renamed as a club with a velvet rope and carpet hinting to where the new business of the resort is. The development is fine but the stores surrounding it are empty in spite of the fact that the trinket business is conducted on the main alley on stalls or right on the road. And in all this decrepit atmosphere we were awed by the development of Vox Maris old disco, as a resort/spa and night club with an astounding blue pool surrounded by cheap fake columns and statues. I tried to ask the gate keeper what exactly is there but I could not get an exact definition except that is a sort of hotel. Vox Maris epitomizes Romania development: luxury in the middle of decay, investment that create remarkable quality for a place whose immediate surrounding land is covered by weeds and dirt. A total lack of consideration for the general public good in a country lacking the civic spirit. You can enjoy the good life of Vox Maris but at one point you have to get out to take a walk and there the other reality awaits.