Thinking of fleeing the nanny-corporatist state and its ever more voracious appetite for your retirement funds? Could it be that the East might offer sanctuary for expatriating retirees or those seeking a reinvention? With this idea in mind I recently completed a four day trip to Brasov in the north of Romania (Transylvania to be precise) to put flesh on the bones of an idea. Having zero contacts on the ground I had no option but to trust to fate and its path road led me to the door of White Mountain Property and its founder, Damian Galvin. I’m glad it did. Before I proceed I need to throw in a few caveats. I am neither a journalist nor a blogger nor on the Brasov tourism agency payroll. What follows is not edited by the PC police, is loaded with bias and is certainly not informed by a scientific analysis drawing on a deep trawl of hard data. It is what it is – a subjective impression of Brasov based upon a very fleeting visit. If you can live with that then read on.
I arrived direct by car (a three hour journey) from Bucharest airport into old town Brasov and thought I had been misdirected to small-town southern Germany. Pretty, cobbled and pedestrianised squares framed by three storied red-capped architecture. I even heard German being spoken. It certainly has an Alpine setting nestled in a valley with ski runs atop. I am told it has about three hundred thousand inhabitants but it feels smaller and a tad provincial. So not a place for those who need the big city lights and distractions. It being the last week of October, I arrived prepared for the winter cold and slush yet it was deliciously warm in the midday sun with blue skies and no pollution. A good start. Walking around the old city quarter there are certainly down-at-heel but quaint old buildings in need of a facelift but this seemed to be happening albeit at a slower pace thanks no doubt to the post-2008 downturn. I could sense a civic pride in the locals as they went about their daily business.
My first property site visit was in the Bran valley about forty minutes out of town. This is week-end pad territory favoured by the Bucharest escapees and with good reason. A great natural setting with a sylvan idyll aura, wood stoves warming your local red wine and the Milky Way overhead. A maybe for me. Then onto a more remote farming communities in the Carpathians. I found myself tripping across fields with no straight lines, wooden ramshackle fences and stone walls, wildflowers (in October?), locals providing me with a stick lest I’m molested by dogs or worse as I trespassed across the hills with no sense of limitations. I was becoming starry eyed about going off-grid and building ramparts to repel the globalists until Damian alerted me to the realities. Unless one pines to be a recluse, this farmstead option is best suited to a man with a family or a modern day tribe. Next day I viewed city options better suited to lone wolves like me. I saw two variations to choose from. These were: (old) city centre-apartments; and detached houses in the inner suburbs. Prices can be as low as the nirvana figure of one thousand euro per square metre but realistically one is looking at fifteen hundred euro and above for good locations and quality re-builds. There are, I understand, modernist villas on the upper slopes with circa three thousand per square metre valuations but I did not view any.
One can choose any far flung corner of the globe to which re-locate for cultural, political or even health reasons but unless the sums add up it will never happen so let me talk about filthy lucre. I often use numbeo.com to provide an monthly indicatative cost comparison analysis and have found it reasonably accurate on my recent sojourns in Perth (Australia), Bali, Dublin and Lisbon.These are respectively in euros: 5400; 1500; 3900 and 2400. The Brasov equivalent is 1500. To a skeptic like me it sounded too good to be true since I’ve encountered too many clowns advising the unwary and naïve of utopias where they can live a reasonable life on eight hundred US dollars per month. The good news is that the numbeo figure seemed accurate to me albeit based upon a mere four-day sampling of restaurants, supermarkets, mobile phone costs, rents, taxis etc. Cars though are expensive as is fuel which oddly, given local salary levels, is on par with Western European prices. Personally, I would simply have to own a car to enjoy the attractions of the region. Overall though not bad for a country which is now part of the EU gulag but thus far has not been shackled in the Eurozone dungeon.
Now to slay some stereotypes. These were until I arrived: commie customer service; gangs of pick-pocketing gypsies lying in ambush; suicidal drivers; crumbling infrastructure and dreadful food. All hyperbole. The customer service I encountered, with one notable exception, was fine while recently I saw more Roma gypsies in Dublin. Do the maths on welfare entitlements and you can understand why this particular migration flow will accelerate. Driving is perfectly safe with less anxiety than Australia, for example, where the merest infraction prompts the sudden appearance of a helicopter gunship from the bush loaded with traffic cops to levy a three hundred dollar fine – all in the name of “safety” of course. For sure the infrastructure needs modernising but if the trade off is no road tolls or parking meters and not being raped on local taxes to fund an army of health and safety parasites……well then I’ll take it. Food in terms of quality, variety and presentation was fine and extremely good value.
The icing on the cake for me though was the splendid homogeneity of the place and dearth of political correctness.The cultural Marxists have yet to enforce the dreaded diversity fatwa. No burkas, no dreadlocked wiggers, no rapper slum clothing, nor rainbow flags flying from municipal building courtesy of your taxes. There still exists a courtesy in everyday human interactions with men and women untainted by the androgynous. On the high street at least I saw little evidence of the multinational locusts such as Starbucks and 711s Apart from the Romanian language (which like its Italian cousin is easy on the ear) I heard only German and Italian itself. Trajan himself would feel at home. Now I sense I know what those who jumped the Berlin wall circa 1980 must have felt. Such are the ironies of our time. Dissidents now head to the East. There once was a place called Europe and it still clings on at the eastern edge.
So for me Brasov has certainly piqued my interest and the next stage in the process will be a longer three month stay to determine whether first impressions remain valid over time and to flush out the inevitable gremlins. As a footnote I would like to mention the charity work that Damian is involved with and is alluded to on his website. I saw it for myself on the ground and can attest to the monumental scale of the need. Its too easy for us cynics to run from the Sisyphean task of chipping away at the mountain of human misery. But if you visit Brasov courtesy of White Mountain, un-stone your heart and give a little. In this case a little really does go a long way.