Monday, June 4, 2012

Palas - Iasi

After over two years of choking with dust and cursing the investors for ruining our city, Iasi has a new downtown. The official opening was on Friday, at the beginning of a four day long weekend. Luckily I missed it, but since then I’ve visited it three times, twice during the day and once at night to get a full impression of the place. Half of the works are not finished in the surrounding area and about a quarter of the palace is still undergoing repair work (no surprise there since this is Romania we’re talking about), but what’s done looks almost decent.

Let’s take it from the top. There’s again pavement on the alleys in front of the palace (I never thought I’d live to see the day!). Except for the main tower, the front façade is mostly done and while I can’t call it “the gray castle” anymore, once you get used to the new look it looks fine. The pavement leading to the Luceafarul Theatre has also been replaced. I hated the old one with a passion so this makes me very happy. Unfortunately, it’s already cracking in places and it’s only been four days. Still waiting for the second fountain to be rebuilt, but it’s nice to see some patches of grass even if I don’t care for the brown leaves trees. The esplanade could use more benches and the brown box in the middle of it has got to go (it has no business doing there and it’s ruining the view), but other than this I’m happy with it.

Moving on. The next stop is the Palas Mall. Well, it’s big. It has a big opening in the middle fit for all kind of events (way to loud, though!). I still haven’t figured out the geography of the place, and we had to take three elevators to get to the ground floor, so something isn’t quite right there, and the staff is too new to be of any help yet. Regarding the stores, I only saw them from outside (I didn’t have the patience to check every one of them) and I wasn’t impressed. They look like something put together in a hurry and with no much thought given to the style. The one clothe store I entered, C & A, left me quite disappointed with the quality of the clothes. As for prices in general, I kept thinking “I could buy this many books instead.”

But let’s move to the stores that really matter. No, I haven’t checked the jewelry stores yet. I’m talking about the bookstores. Yes! So, there’s a Carturesti on the top floor. It seems bigger than the one in Iulius Mall, but it doesn’t have more books and they’re arranged a bit at random. Maybe they’ll get better organized in time. I couldn’t help it and bought something before walking out. Nemira is on the middle floor. It’s not a store, it’s a stand so I almost missed it. They have a 2+1 promotion and 35% discount for students (little brother better make it into college!), but dunno how long this will last. Librarium is on the ground floor, reasonably sized, well lit, and with high shelves. If I hadn’t had an eReader I would have probably ended up buying some English books. There’s supposed to be a Litera store too, but I haven’t seen it.

Okay, out again. I won’t stop at the supermarket, it’s just food so not interesting (I can’t wait for mom to send dad to get bred from there in the evening, teehee!) Let’s move to the park. Yes, that big park they promised us. The truth is that it’s rather small, crowded in between the surrounding buildings. Four alleys, a lake, two fountains, one tent, two gazebos, a merry-go-round and an open space meant to become skating rink in the winter (it’s not a joke, I’m afraid. European ice rink my foot!). That’s about all, plus the restaurants and cafes on the sides, and don’t get me started on the stairs leading up to the palace. They’re the ugliest thing I have ever seen, especially the railings!

For now, the place was crowded by people of all ages, curious to see the newest world wonder. Hopefully, the curiosity will wear down in a couple of days/weeks and it will become less crowded. I don’t think we’re getting rid of the kids, though. Sigh. I do hope the security will become tighter and they will prevent people from stepping on the grass or that place doesn’t stand a chance. I also hope people get better manners and stop leaving litter behind. Well, yes, I’m a sci fi writer, that’s what I do.

In conclusion, it’s better than the mud and dirty water that used to be there, but it also could have been much better. If only people hadn’t been greedy and erected less buildings on the area that should have been the park. The way it is now, it’s too small for a downtown, given the size of our city. On the other hand, I’ve seen the original blueprints and if dad hadn’t had a word to say in it I don’t want to imagine how it would have ended up looking like. I’m not that much of a good write.

So Palas is open and it’s here to stay. I’ve been told it looks better at night with the lights on. I don’t know, when I saw it on Sunday the number of lights had been already reduced. Well, it’s Romania, we do everything by half if we can get away with it. It doesn’t look like the mentality will change too soon. Until then, see you at the Palas. If it’s sunny outside you might find me there. Or not.

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