Sfantu Gheorghe, Mon Amour

"In the old days, when you went to the doctor, you had to bring him a big fish. Now you have to give him money," the man complains. This would be it. Behind this brief fact, however, there is a long story. "In the old days, the man used to bring the fish on the table," the wife comments. "Nowadays the money is earned by the woman." And the story goes on. Having arrived in Sfântu Gheorghe a few hours ago, the students film everything, wondering about everything. They inevitably arrive at Toana Pierdută, (Lost Mood) the anonymous headquarters of angry fishermen. They enter and, fascinated, continue to film a group of fishermen who drink in silence. Apart from a young man who invites them to a "poaching party", the other fishermen are staring at them, annoyed. A young fisherman yells from a corner: "Miss, even when I fuck, I ask for permission! Who did you ask permission to film us?" The annoying sentiment of collective rape will come about repeatedly. It is still one of those "cultures of honor" mentioned by anthropology. I decided to meet with the students at the tavern in the town center, next to the town hall, to exchange first impressions. I'm drinking a beer and waiting. No one comes. After a while, I find out that all the students are waiting for me at the "complex" or, what, according to the explanations of a local boy, is the "town center tavern". He also told them that "in the other one there's no place for you, there are only old people and drunkards there!" It seems that, from my last visit here, four years ago, the town center has moved from the village to the tourist complex with four-star villas, three-star cottages and festivals all summer long. However, to be honest, Sfântu Gheorghe looks much better than I expected. Having been used to the construction trend that accompanies our transition, I expected to see the village cut through by concrete villas or other imposing houses, on that portion (a third of the village land) sold to foreigners. But no! The vast majority are covered with reed, painted, and with insulated windows and that's about all. "Yard tourism" is still dominant in this part of the village and it doesn't cross paths with the "internet tourism" practiced beyond the village border, in the Delfinul Complex. The model was somehow given by Anonimul (The Anonymous), the "owner" of this wood, reed and pond tourist complex. Eco is trendy! Very well. Those few architects that I happened to talk to don't agree entirely, but they have to admit that, at least on a comparative scale, things are generally good. Still, there's something I don't like, but I can't figure out what exactly. On the last day of my visit I'm standing on the terrace of a cottage, drinking a poor coffee, and I gaze randomly. All around, impeccable green spaces, impeccable fast-food spaces, toilets and showers of a faultless cleanliness, all surrounded by a wooden fence that fits into the ambiance. Over the road, another, similar, fence surrounds another world, four-star quality, with a swimming pool, air conditioning and fish soup at 20 euro. I realize I could be anywhere else in the world, in the Balearic Islands, on the coast of Africa or Asia. The formula is the same everywhere, served in a package and implemented accordingly. Then, I suddenly realize what I didn't like from the beginning: the feeling of reservation. I go up the thread and ask myself whether this is the only alternative to the Vama Veche sea resort: you either let the "bohemian" loose and then it will, sooner or later, come to trample upon itself and destroy its habitat, or you can fence it in and offer it a well-proportioned picturesque, and thus it will come, sooner or later, to be tamed and eat from your palm. From this point of view, rational globalization seems to have reached Sfântu Gheorghe before the savage transition had the chance to destroy everything in its path. I mean, after the harsh fights over access to local resources, with alternation of predators at the pace of governments and governors that have succeeded one another, a liberal and universal peace seems to set in these lands: enough with the root of all bad things and quarrels in the Delta, enough with industrial fishing – to the joy of the fish (that can multiply by the book now), of the locals (who can peacefully respect their traditions) and of the amateur fishermen (who, for a well-thought fee can compete for trophies). But this also means a different thing: for the places here to become a tourist paradise, locals must give up fishing and be presented as a community of picturesque aboriginals, good for photos. "We want to get the Delta rid of industrial fishing and help the locals to return to their traditional activities," explains a young, passionate Transylvanian ecologist. "They have beautiful songs, I heard an extraordinary women's choir! And they cook great, as I've never tasted before!" I was saying to myself: Oh man, why don't you help your mother make a living from singing and cooking? I then find out that the law is on the side of the kind ecologist. Thus, for example, article 8 of the 82/1993 law states that "the right of the local population inhabiting the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve territory to keep its specific local customs and economic activities is guaranteed." Now, there is a suggestion towards the amending of this article, as follows: "The Reserve Administration makes proposals for granting compensations, according to law, in case of an economic contraction or suspension of traditional activities, as caused by restrictive management measures." It is well understood that the interest behind this funny statement is purely platonic and ecological! On the last day, I finally manage to see R. Four years ago, he was a rebellious fisherman, cursing the administration. He told me that in ten years' time, on the wharf there will be a large banner with the words "Hahol Fishermen Reservation". Now I found him in the town hall, a sort of "administrator", as he puts it, proud of his brand-new English tractor. We talked a bit, and then he told me: I'm also in charge of cleanliness and I want everything to be perfect. And he proudly left to work. That evening I found him in the women's choir: They needed a male voice – he explained to me, equally proudly. It seems that the reservation has already "tamed" a few… Dilema veche, 2-8 August 2007

by Vintilă Mihăilescu