The association “My Dear Bucharest” brings together all those who want to truly discover Bucharest.
Andrei Barsan is a marketing expert of one of the largest banks in Romania. He is the type of person who gets up early in the morning, to win time, to read one more page either from a book or a tablet, which can be easily carried in a bag. In 2007, he set up the association entitled “My Dear Bucharest”, which brings together all those who want to truly discover Bucharest, by strolling through the capital city and contributing to creating a visual chronicle of present day Bucharest. Andrei Barsan has told us about his idea of starting the whole project.
"I like Bucharest. I am a Bucharester. When I was a little boy, I would stroll along its streets, especially because my father was born in another town, wanted to discover Bucharest and took me along across the city. After the Revolution, I started taking photos of Bucharest more often, because of its faster dynamics. The 1990’s and 2000’s changed completely the face of Bucharest, new buildings and shops emerged, just like street advertising. I like it because it is mine. It is my home, it is my family. It is true that it’s polluted and dirty, but at the same time it is a city of hope. Many members of the ‘My Dear Bucharest’ Association are not Bucharesters by birth. They are the first generation that settled here, graduated from faculties in Bucharest and chose to remain here. In fact, Bucharest is a sort of city of hope to them, a sort of ‘El Dorado’, of Romanian ‘America’. It is true that for some of them, this is only a stage in their development. They might move to some other place, but many of them have chosen to remain here. Even if we, Bucharesters, consider it dirty and noisy, it is a joy and an accomplishment for others to have remained here.”
We have asked Andrei Barsan where he would take someone, if he were an ad-hoc guide in Bucharest.
"Unfortunately, Bucharest does not have well-established tourist routes or circuits. It only has some attractions that you should see. Everything depends on tourists, what they would like to see. I could take them on a stroll in the old city, around the St. Sylvester Church, near the Armenian Church or Foişorul de Foc, which served as a watchtower for firemen in the past. It is an exciting, enjoyable city with inter-war houses. Or, why not, I could take them to the People’s House, that is the Parliament Palace. Whether we like it or not, this edifice is well-known the world-over, it’s somehow iconic of Bucharest, of Romania. It is a kitsch that others don’t have. I carry with me a book on Bucharest issued in 1984, which also includes a map. It was a white spot on the map back then, on the site where the People’s House was being built. It was only a white spot back then, and now it is a black spot in Bucharest’s history.”
More exactly, what is the main activity of “My Dear Bucharest” Association?
"First of all, we want to make people know the city. We take joy in discovering it step by step. We take strolls every two weeks, we have set a series of routes, and we adjust our activity, depending on the events held in the city. We mount exhibitions in which we want to show the city as we see it. We go on trips to all areas of Bucharest, be they good or bad, we visit not only the central and northern areas of the city, but also a peripheral district like Ferentari. Our exhibitions feature not only the beautiful, bright side of the city, but also its dark side. We also run an online magazine entitled ‘My Dear Bucharest’. Furthermore, once a year, we print an almanac. In the magazine, we also cover the dark side of the city. We take photos of it, we show it, we keep it in the collective visual memory and we also take part in environmental, cleaning campaigns. Even if we don’t initiate such campaigns, we gladly take part in them. The latest such campaign was conducted in autumn, in the so-called Bucharest Delta, which formed around Vacaresti Lake. We are a sort of visual chroniclers of the city.”
Andrei Barsan has more on the trips organized by the association he runs.
"The trips we take are not a mere ramble, a camera in hand, running aimlessly, without any direction. We stop in certain places, there are people who join us and who explain to us the history of the place, we enter people’s gardens. We were sometimes invited to weddings, to dance with the bride. We interact with the city and its dwellers during our trips. We don’t go on trips like foreigners who simply want to see what’s around. We also socialize with other people. Many people are different than we initially thought, especially those in the poorer areas of the city, they are friendlier. Actually, we were really welcomed in the Ferentari district, and were chased away in the Primaverii district”.
“My Dear Bucharest” Association has opened a permanent exhibition in the Unirea Metro Station, in the walkway which links the two metro lines. It is called the “Gallery in the Gallery”. Snapshots taken by members of the association are on show on a 40-50m long wall.
The current exhibition brings together the most beautiful and interesting photos of the city. It is just like a puzzle of images that we can see every day, if we choose to lift up our eyes to look around us, on the way to the office and back home.
We’ve asked Andrei Barsan if something has changed over the past 6 years, since he started strolling along the streets of Bucharest purposefully.
"I think it has changed, especially because people are more aware of the fact that Bucharest is the city they live in, and not only the city they cross every day. Those who join us learn to look at the city differently, to pay attention to details, no matter if they have a camera or not. It is not necessary to take a camera with you. They all see the city differently and we hope they will also be able to change it one day.”
The photos taken by the members of “My Dear Bucharest” Association are also available on the website „oraşul.ro”. Finally, we’ve asked Andrei Barsan if Bucharest were a beautiful woman, what would Andrei Barsan tell her? Andrei Barsan was quick to answer: ”I’m glad to see you when I wake up every morning”.