I said in passing last week that I'd write about playgrounds here in Bucharest. Well, promised is promised, and so here we go. The good news is: the playgrounds are becoming much better. There are new ones built all over the city, and our kids love them. The bad news is: the existing playgrounds are maintained really badly. It seems that as soon as they are up, nobody cares about them anymore. In Germany, if a child gets injured on an unsafe playground, you can sue the city. Somehow, I think it's different in Romania. It's gotta be.
What often strikes foreigners first is the cleanliness, or the lack thereof. Let's stick with Floreasca playground, the one with the rat. The big structure in the middle of Floreasca park is strewn with litter -- chips bags, bottles both plastic and glass, pieces of food, shreds of clothing, strings in all sizes and colors, cigarette butts, and dog poop. I don't pick up every piece of trash and carry it to the waste bin. I do throw everything into the trash can that my sons carry over to play with, though. It's quite a bit after a while. I do wish it was cleaner but then, I'm German. I always wish it would be cleaner. So maybe it's just me. I have to say that this particular issue has gotten better over the last two years - or I've become less squeaminsh about it. Ion Voicu Park, for example, is certainly quite clean. The thing that really bothers me is that the structures are just not maintained. They are erected, and then left to fight for themselves. After a while, time, and weather, and little kids, are taking tolls. Nails are sticking out. Rust is having a feast on the metal parts. Boards are cracked or missing. Color is flaking off. Ropes are fraying and breaking apart. Holes appear. The concrete foundations rise up from under the sand. I can deal with this as long as there is no active danger to my kids. If the color on that see-saw doesn't resemble any I've ever seen before, so what? I don't care. Having David rip himself open on a nail protruding from a board on a ladder, though, or have him slip through the boards of a bridge because pieces are missing... that I have a problem with. I also don't like the concrete foundation peeking out from under the sand -- I just see the potential for cracked little skulls. Here are some pictures for illustration purposes. They are all taken at Ion Voicu park on Bulevard Dacia. The pictures are thumbnails, if you want to see more detail, click on the picture to enlarge.
No, this is not a Romania-only problem. It's all over the Balkans, certainly has been true in Serbia. (Although one of the nicest playgrounds we ever encountered was in Ruse, Bulgaria.) Romania is poor, yes. Funds are missing, sure. I just can't imagine that a little maintenance would be so horribly expensive. The nails, the rust, the rotting wood, the disintegrating ropes, the holes in the structures, the plain concrete? We live with it. We have to. We avoid the more dangerous places, as do our neighbors and friends. Our point of view is slightly skewed but Romanian friends also complain about the state of the playgrounds, so it's not our attitude towards Romania that makes us take notice. Can't something be done, please?
This slide has a concrete foundation - hard, ragged, sharp, dangerous. David, btw, loves this particular slide. Figures, eh? (And yes, it's sort of an odd design for a slide to begin with.)
This slide has a broken part at the very end. Not so bad if you're still in diapers. Otherwise - ouch!
Here you can see the rust gnawing at one of the slides. If you look closely at the seam, you can see the sunlight shining through.
This slide has a hole at the top part where the kids sit down. It's big enough for a child to put his foot through it. David got caught there once but he learned to avoid it.
General appearance of the equipment. Actually, I'm fine with this. Nothing wrong, just needs a little paint.