You learn a lot about what’s happening in a foreign country by talking with the taxi drivers. The man who drove me from downtown Bucharest to the airport explained the connection between his country’s history and the current situation more clearly than any of the guides I worked with. Taxi drivers tend to be up-to-date, chatty, and willing to provide the unvarnished truth.

“Why are all the buildings covered with graffiti?” I asked. His response: “Simple—the police here do not consider it a crime. It is a bit more complicated, though. All these buildings were abandoned by their owners when the Soviets arrived after the war. They were confiscated by the state, fell into disrepair, eventually ransacked by squatting gypsies, and are now being resold to private investors, who are tearing them down one-by-one to build commercial structures they can make money with. Until then, they serve as graffiti magnets for juvenile delinquents.”

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