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The start of the Prince of Wales's official visit to Romania on the very day when Great Britain pulled the Brexit trigger could not have been more symbolic and, somehow, its unfolding was similarly telling. The meetings with Romanian officials - Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu, President Klaus Johannis and Patriarch Daniel - were conspicuously quiet and media-shy, while the visits to the Village Museum, the inner-city Vacaresti delta, the National Theatre or the Old Court Museum were amazingly euphoric.
The truth, I believe, is that Prince Charles doesn’t need to “officially” love Romania, a country that he has regularly visited for almost two decades. What he loves most, I believe, is the way in which certain communities have learned to live in peace with nature and according to its ancestral rites and rhythms.
Understandably, given the timing of the Prince of Wales’s visit, there was little information on the topics discussed with the Romanian officials and the frugality of the press releases just underlines it. By contrast, the dense-packed “in between” moments were meant to give more than a hint into what and, more importantly, why Prince Charles loves Romania. Most commentators were somehow amazed by the easiness with which the Prince joined the Romanian dancers at the Village Museum. Having said that, one should remember that we, Romanians, have that saying: “if you join in the hora, then you have to dance” and we must admit that Prince Charles joined the Romanian hora the moment he bought the first house in Viscri and he has never left it ever since. For more than a decade and a half he has invested in the local communities. He has brought in the money and expertise firmly convinced that he is fighting for the preservation of an essential bit of the European heritage. The setting up of the Romanian branch of the Prince of Wales’s Foundation two years ago clearly shows that Prince Charles is committed not to leave the Romanian hora.
…first it’s nature... I don’t know of any high-ranking Romanian official to have ever visited the Vacaresti “delta”, a place where nature has claimed victory over one man’s megalomania, let alone to plant a tree there. Yet, Prince Charles descended there just to tell Romanians how important it is to take care of the natural beauties we have been blessed with. I will be honest with you: a couple of years ago, on my way from Sighisoara to Brasov, I was wandering why Prince Charles was so smitten by that place, so I made a detour via Viscri and Daia, to see it for myself. After battling with the roads, I stopped the car, looked around for an hour or so without saying anything. Yes, the man was right. The beauty of the place, the peace and the tranquility of the nature are overwhelming. You really feel that time and history have stopped by to say hello to you.
…then it’s history… The visit at Bucharest’s Old Court was another clear hint of what Prince Charles treasures in Romania. The Prince of Wales is passionate about history and I think that he firmly believes that history should not be confined to museums, but it has to be returned to and nurtured by the communities that have created it. This is, probably, the reason why in the past two years The Prince of Wales’s Foundation Romania has trained over 120 people in restoration techniques, 120 people that will have the knowledge, skills and expertise to properly bring back to life the architectural wonders that have been neglected for more than half a century in tens of Transylvanian villages.
…and then we have traditions that have to be kept and passed on to the new generations. But true to the Prince’s philosophy, The Foundation has started to develop programs that bring together old crafts like sewing, tailoring, cooking, using new and modern designs and techniques so they can find their place in the real world. In this respect, the one hour and a half that the Prince spent at the Village Museum looked more like an informal business meeting, looking for inspiration and new ideas for his Foundation, rather than a mere pastime before meeting the Romanian Prime Minister. The feeling was strengthened during the visit at the National Theatre, where the Prince was more interested in the backstage activities, the skill of the carpenters who had built the set, rather than what was going to be presented on the stage.
The philosophy is simple: let’s empower people with knowledge, with skills and expertise to be able to open new businesses, to find new work opportunities, new and diverse sources of income in order to grow and prosper. Keeping alive centuries-old Romanian towns and villages and making its people resonate with the nature once more was, I believe, the secret message of the Prince of Wales’s latest mission in Romania.

The interview is also available in our print edition of Business Arena.

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