December 29, 2007


Growth of a revolutionary boomtown: Timisoara, the cradle of Romania's 1989 revolution, is enjoying an economic revival. Nick Thorpe reports on urban wealth and a city balancing between empires old and new. (Nick Thorpe, 12/29/07, BBC)

The twilight of 2007 finds the city embedded in the European empire.

There are very few Jews left and the number of Hungarians is dwindling but the Italians have arrived in force.

Marco Petriccione, country manager of the Banko Italo Romena, has been here for five years.

His was the first Italian bank to set up here, to absorb the business demands of 6,000 Italians.

Romanians go to Italy to work, usually in menial jobs, but the Italians come here as employers attracted by low Romanian wages - still under an average of £300 (406 euros) a month.

At first they manufactured shoes and textiles.

Look out for the "designed in Italy" on that expensive label but read "made in Romania" between the lines.

But as wages rise here, those companies are going further east, to the Republic of Moldova, for example.

In their place, big Italian electricity companies like Enel and Ansaldo are arriving to fill the growing demand for energy and infrastructure.

In St George's Cathedral, on Piata Unirii, I once watched a nun mopping the floor early in the morning, the splash of her bucket mingling with the prayers of the faithful.

This time, there are no candles but, in the dim electric light, the huge gilded figures of angels seem to soar out of the shadows, chastising the congregation for their latest sin - shopping.

"Whenever I ring my friends, they tell me they're shopping," my colleague Mircea complains.

"It's the national sport now in Romania."

Consider how much such places have changed in just two decades and despair over the Islamic world seems silly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 29, 2007 8:44 AM
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