2007 Bucharest Trip – Days 1 and 2

Arrived in Bucharest after long flight through Amsterdam. Tini (son of my host in Romania) picked me up at the airport and drove me to the Rembrandt Hotel in the heart of Bucharest. It’s a fantastic little, boutique hotel that is unlike anything I’ve seen in Bucharest before–designed and owned by Netherlanders–with only 15 lovely rooms, hardwood floors, and nice everything.

Sunday night, after a death-like power nap, I met Tini and Vali (host and friend) for dinner at a nearby restaurant. It was an upscale, “country,” Romanian restaurant. It as hard to find an appetizer that was…er, appetizing. We got a large plate of meats and veges. I gagged on the sliced pork skins and barely got one down. It tasted like a sliver of very thick skin (why was I surprised?). Dinner was actually quite interesting: barbequed (sorta) pork, beef, and chicken pieces in a spicy red peppery sauce with french fries. Went home and crashed hard or a good ten hours.

I awoke feeling extremely refreshed and eventually went down to the Cafe Klein on the second floor. There was a very nice woman working there (see photo), who served me excellent European-style coffee and typical, fresh Euro-breakfast (meat and cheese slices with fruit and yogurt).

This cafe will probably become my spot since it has a great street view, wireless Internet, and great coffee and wines.

AT 11am, I met with a Romanian attorney that was referred to me by Leslie Hawke. It was a husband and wife team that had a small practice in Bucharest. She spoke more english and works on my type of case more than he does, so she led the discussion. She obviously knows a great deal about Romanian real estate issues, especially when foreign people or companies are involved. She felt that the easiest and best route was to buy the house in the kids’ name, but she needs to confirm that there are no issues with their parents being non-Romanian. [In Romania, one cannot own “land”, as opposed to buildings, unless you are a Romanian citizen or company.] She dissuaded me from the idea of forming a holding company, unless I plan do other business in Romania, since it’s risky and a bit of hassle to maintain a company forever. By the end of the conversation, it was clear to me that she was bright and honest. I was hoping to meet the other attorney–referred to me by Vali and Mariana–but, was unable to make contact on Easter Monday (national holiday).

Later, around 3pm, we dropped by Gina’s house in Ferentere–the Roma area of Bucharest that has a bad reputation, no matter who I talk to. As usual, most of the family were there or close by. We greeted everyone, I tried out my newly learned Romanian phrases, and we took Gina inside for a private conversation. I told her I was sorry for taking so long to get this whole thing going, that we had not forgotten about them, and that I was here to try to find some way to help the family have a better living situation. I review the options: major remodel to her current, unowned “house”, buy a new house nearby, buy a new house outside of Bucharest, or something else. I told her my primary goal was to improve the health situation of the family with modern plumbing, drinking water access, reliable heat, room for everyone, etc. And, that I also wanted to try to encourage the two youngest to finish school and develop careers. Gina surprised me with enthusiasm about fixing her current house–I would knock it down and start over–as well as new interest in moving outside of Bucharest. This second option offers a LOT of benefits to everyone: much better prices and value, more land, nicer houses, beautiful country, and gets them out of Ferentere. So, we will pursue all options once again!

Tonight, I plan to have dinner with Tini and maybe Vali. Tomorrow is a big day.


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