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Designer luxury, made in Cisnadie 04/07/2017

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The Guardian reported on 17 June that luxury Italian shoes by Louis Vuitton are largely made in Cisnadie, a small town in Transylvania.

The shoes retail as “made in Italy” under EU law because the soles are added in Italy, where the shoes are “finished”. But all the other steps in the production process take place in Cisnadie.

Production is managed by an obscure subsidiary of LVMH, Somarest, and is shrouded in secrecy and high security. The factory employs some 700 people from the local area. The Guardian calculated that an employee would have to work for nearly half a year to save enough for a mid-range pair of Louis Vuittons.

But shifting production to Romania to cut costs is an old story. Romania is becoming the world’s back office. Translation technology provider SDL has an office in Cluj providing technical support and, I think, some development services (big thumbs up to Raluca for sorting out my licence problem in no time).





Lost on the London Underground – 1 Father 01/03/2014

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It’s every parent’s nightmare: losing your child on the Underground. Except it was the son who lost his father. This Guardian Experience report describes how a London-based Romanian lost his father on the Tube. His dad was visiting him from Romania, spoke no English and was missing for four days.

For me the big surprise is that the father didn’t encounter any Romanians on his wanderings and appeal to them for help.

The Taste of the Balkans, Canned 12/10/2013

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Mir Foods Kingsbury is the answer to two pressing questions:

1)      Unde pot să cumpăr varză murată pentru sarmale în Londră?

2)      Where can I buy the taste of the Balkans in cans in NW9?

Mir Foods replaced Fruit Asia on Kingsbury Road. Outside there’s a range of fresh fruit and veg, including that varză murată, but the wonders really begin inside. Countless varieties of Turkish cheese in cans and Turkish halal sausage sit on shelves close to a fantastic variety of Romanian pork products: cârnăciori pentru grătar, pastramă de porc, pate de porc, parizer; the list goes on. There’s Romanian cheese of goat, sheep and cow variety. Then there’s zacuscă picantă, tocană de legume. Then Romanian jams, biscuits, chocolates and teas. And alcohol.

Labour is divided along ethnic lines: the shelf stackers are Asian, the cashiers Romanian. The team includes Kingsbury’s very own Romanian Megan Fox lookalike.

Coming soon: Ceauşescu tours! 22/10/2011

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Romanian Tourism Minister Elena Udrea proposes to organise tours of the country’s communist past. These tours – which couldn’t be offered anywhere else in the world  – could be a hit. So says Ştefan Liuţe, co-founder and strategy director at Grapefruit, one of the largest branding agencies in Romania. Read more about Ceauşescu tours

Onesti. Or welcome to small-town Romania 10/01/2010

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Oneşti is a pleasant, medium-sized town in Bacău County in eastern Romania. A new town built in the 1960s-1970s on the site of a village with the same name, it is a local commercial and administrative centre and the birthplace of the Olympic gymnast Nadia Comăneci. It is situated in the Trotuş valley and a cross that lights up by night overlooks the town from a surrounding hill.

There are perhaps three reasons why you may choose to visit it:

1) You’re in need of supplies. If you are a backpacker, camper or traveller and on a longer trip around Moldavia1 and on a tight budget, the message is simple: do as the locals do and head for the huge Metro supermarket on the outskirts of Bacău2. The same applies if you’re looking for hard-to-find items. The shops in Oneşti stock a limited range of over-priced goods. Example: in 2005, Dolce & Gabbana clothes were on sale in the mall, but there was only one shop selling tampons (the local supermarket Penny Market, ladies) and this is in town with a population of around 50,000. And if that doesn’t put you off, you better check the use-by dates.

If you can’t reach consumer heaven in Metro, your best bet is probably the main food market on Str. Tinereţului. Close by, you’ll also find a second market, allegedly mostly staffed by Moldovans, where you can buy clothes, bathroom products and manele cassettes.

One tip for gourmands: there is a coffee shop on Str. Mărăşeşti where the service may be surly but the chocolate-coated cherries are perhaps among the finest. To find it, head down Str. Mărăşeşti in the direction of Penny Market and you should see it on the left-hand side.

2) You’re in need of a party. If the thought of a night out in the chaos of Bucharest or Constanţa is too much for you, then Onesti may be just the thing. The House of Culture (Casa de Cultură a Sindicatelor) frequently has live music and is also the venue for one of the local discos, Baby Star (sometimes known as Bebi Star) which offers a blend of international and Romanian pop, R’n’B and manele. For the more culturally minded, the library (biblioteca municipală “Radu Rosetti”) hosts regular events, including jazz evenings and French theatre. Other events include TiAmo children’s music festival.

3) You’re looking to start a business or recruit new employees. Oneşti has good road connections to major Romanian cities. Currently employment opportunities are limited, so many Oneşteni work abroad. Local website Onesti Online offers the ideal platform for marketing, whether you need to find local suppliers or advertise your business.

Need a place to stay?

On the outskirts of Oneşti, you’ll find a small selection of bed-and-breakfast establishments. If you ask a local for directions to a hotel, you’ll probably be directed to Hotel Trotus or the hotel as it is known in the town. Hotel Trotuş is a huge communist-era building that dominates the whole main boulevard. Centrally located, it’s ideal if you might be staggering out of the Baby Star disco. Local prostitutes prefer Hotel Sport on Bulevardul Republicii,
but don’t let that put you off. Slightly further from the centre, it’s a modern establishment offering well-furnished rooms with very decent bathrooms by Romanian standards.

1 The larger, historical region that Bacău County belongs to is called Moldavia and its unofficial capital is Iaşi. Confusion between the region Moldavia and the ex-Soviet Republic of Moldova results. For clarity, Romanians often refer to the Republic of Moldova as

2 Romania is divided into judete or counties. In most cases, the name of the county is the same as its administrative capital.