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When the neighbourhood was built, traffic wasn’t really a problem and the number of cars on the road was ridiculously low. As such, no one ever took into account the necessity for parking spaces or the possibility of developing such an infrastructure in the future – everything was built to save space.

Communism fell and then came the chaotic years of wild capitalism. The number of cars on the road sky-rocketed and now parking is a huge problem in these cramped neighbourhoods. Basically, everybody parks their car wherever they find an empty spot, no matter if it is on the pavements or on green spaces.

Just to add to this problem, many of the roads and pavements between the buildings have not been repaired once in the last twenty to thirty years.

Usually, the buildings range from eight to ten or even fourteen storeys tall, with smaller four storey buildings behind them. Most of them, like the streets, have never been repaired or refurbished in the past thirty years.

Some of them, though, have undergone a process of façade rebuilding and thermal insulation, all done with public funds. Usually, the manner in which buildings are chosen for these works is not very transparent, and many cases have been discovered where building administrators bribed public servants just to put their buildings higher on the list for refurbishment.

Because of weak legislation and the lack of enforcement of existing rules, many people have made changes to their apartments, including the exterior. Many have chosen different types of windows, different colours and even changed parts of the building structure. Moreover, on almost every building exterior, parts of the air conditioning installed by apartment owners are fixed randomly. Basically, every building façade that has not been refurbished in the past few years looks chaotic.

When spring comes, everything turns to raw green, the flowers bloom and the trees hide away the cold concrete with their branches. This all helps to give the neighbourhood a more pleasant look.

In some small places between the buildings there are even small playgrounds for the children.

Until a year ago, the whole neighbourhood was overrun by stray dogs, a common problem for Bucharest. Nowadays, because of an anti-stray dog law passed by the Parliament, the number of dogs has dropped significantly. As a consequence, the number of stray cats has risen. Even so, unlike with the stray dogs, people don’t seem to have a problem with stray cats, so they just roam around freely... And every so often they use car roofs to take a nap.

Although the buildings are close to one another, in the small spaces between them (*where cars are not parked), there are a lot of trees, bushes and flowers.

Near the taller apartment buildings next to the “Iuliu Maniu” Boulevard (a boulevard that stretches for almost seven kilometres from the inner traffic circle to the motorway at the Western edge of Bucharest), there is Saint Nicholas’ church, a small sanctuary where the people from the neighbourhood come to pray. Right next to it there is a supermarket.

The “Iuliu Maniu” Boulevard is basically the gateway to the inner city for the entire “Militari” neighbourhood. So it is not surprising that it gets blocked by traffic almost every morning.

Here, a view of the boulevard on a weekend, when it is almost empty... In the background, you can see the bigger apartment buildings of the “Militari” neighbourhood.

Right next to my corner of the neighbourhood, there is the Polytechnic University’s campus. Right now, the Polytechnic campus is growing in size, and two new buildings for laboratories are being built.

But further away from the construction site, the campus is an oasis of green near a sea of concrete.

For all the people living around this place, it is their very own park close to home.

In the 1960’s - 70’s, in communist Romania, the so-called “bedroom-neighbourhoods” were being built in almost every town. Building after building of cramped apartments intended for the working class. Not very much thought was put into the designing and building of these neighbourhoods; they just had to be enough for the factory workers to live in. This meant a rapid expansion of apartment buildings outwards from the inner city. Nowadays, these gigantic neighbourhoods – with more than 100 000 people in each of them – make up the bulk of Bucharest’s living space. I live in such a neighbourhood.

My neighbourhood is called “Militari” (in English “Soldiers”), it lies in the Western part of Bucharest and is one of the biggest neighbourhoods in the city. I live at the very inner edge, near Bucharest’s central traffic circle and the Polytechnic University Campus. Because of this, I like to think that my corner is like a buffer-zone between the big communist neighbourhood that is “Militari” and the inner, more central, Bucharest. If you were to be teleported one day into my small corner of the neighbourhood and had only your phone with you, this is what you could photograph...

Published July 2015


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