It’s a sweet irony that Margaret Thatcher is the heroine both of some of those who wish to come here and many of those who oppose their doing so.
In the summer of 1992, after two months teaching English at Bucharest University, I asked my students which lesson they had enjoyed the most. In unison, they said: "the one about Margaret Thatcher".
Bucharest was a bit of a mess then, and it was Ceaușescu’s fault. His plans for ‘systematizing’ Romania’s capital around his grey Palace of the People, the heaviest building in the world, were half complete. He had managed to destroy much of the city’s historic centre but not yet replace it with all the blocks of flats he wanted to squeeze people into.
Bucharest was also a mess because of the revolution of Christmas 1989 that finally brought Ceaușescu’s rule to an end. Important buildings, like Bucharest University’s library, were destroyed or pockmarked with bullet holes. Temporary wooden crosses marked where people had been injured or killed in the ‘Mineriads’ of 1990/91, when miners came to Bucharest to attack those protesting at the ex-communists who had seized power.