Monday, 14 July 2014

Back to Vama Veche


To my own surprise I decided to go to Vama Veche at the weekend and, not only that, I held to my decision.

I had a great time.

Vama Veche is where unconventional, open-minded people in a rather conventional, rather narrow-minded country go to let their hair down. In the 1980s it was simply a piece of empty beach between the last village in Romania, Doi Mai, and the Bulgarian border. it attracted nudists. Nudism was a way of asserting ones individuality in an oppressive totalitarian society.

It still is a place to escape convention and normalcy - if you want that go to Mamaia, which represents the polar opposite of what Vama is. When I got to Vama in 2000, though, my Romanian friends were complaining that there was no longer any point in going there because it was full of wooden buildings and had a concrete motel. But in those days 'the spirit of Vama' still existed.

I asked Beni who is one of the most famous Vama characters whether the spirit of Vama still survived. He said the spirit of Vama is what you make of it and this is true of course. For many Vama means beer, rock music, the famous bars on and near the beach - the most famous of all being Ştuf - even, it is rumoured, sex. It is also where a lot of young and youngish people, half of them students, some of them in their 50s and 60s, go to drink a very great deal. Much too much perhaps.

It is, I am pleased to say, not a place for people with children. Nor is it a place for television presenters, politicians or the rich. It is a place for camping or living in a caravan or slumming it in ricketty gerry-built digs. It is at once egalitarian and intellectual.

There is not much that is truly Romanian except the villages and the monasteries but Vama Veche is absolutely Romanian. It is the, in a strange way, the heart of Romania, libidinous and drunken though that heart can sometimes be at four o'clock in the morning.

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