Stage 12: Vama Veche, Romania

Shortly before the Bulgarian border we stop in Vama Veche. The small town on the Black Sea coast was for a long time an enclave for artists and dropouts. In recent years it has undergone massive changes.

Already under communism and Ceaușescu’s regime, dissenters sought protection from the Securitate, the Romanian secret service, in the village on the border with Bulgaria. Vama Veche retained its reputation as an enclave even after the fall of the regime in 1989/90. Dropouts in particular came here, giving the alternative seaside resort its special atmosphere. Until the end, the people successfully resisted mass tourism. For example, a citizens’ initiative prevented the construction of large hotel complexes. Three years ago, for example, numerous rockers supported the protest and blocked the only through road to the border with Bulgaria with their machines.

Today, however, Vama Veche seems lost. The onslaught of tourists never stops and the transformation that comes with it obviously does not stop. Attracted by the charm of the region and the myths about the alternative flair, the masses on private beach sections now have their drinks brought to their deck chairs. Loud techno music blares from loudspeakers, while promoters hand out lifestyle products. Everything looks like a commercial festival on the beach.

The fear that this place – which has already undergone massive changes – will hardly be recognizable in a few years is shared by a young couple we meet at lunch. Both live in Germany. He was often here in his youth with his family from Moldova and tells us about the special atmosphere that is being lost more and more in recent years. The people who actually shaped this cultural area are increasingly being pushed to its margins. The last bastion is the restaurant on a small hill in the north, where fresh fish is served directly from the oven on the beach and a doll dressed as a pirate in the lookout symbolically aims a rifle at mass tourism.

Text: Tobias Schwessinger

Photos: Christian Faludi