Trading in clothes, silver, fake precious stones and tobacco

Petre Marin, merchant, 50 years old Interview done by Gabriela Cristea

At the beginning of 1991 I traveled to China by train. We were a group: Geta, Vili with his wife and two more people. We got together and left for China via Russia by train. When we arrived there, during the first months of 1991, there was no such thing as cargo, there was nothing there ? All you had was what you could carry with you on the train. Then, in time, the Tarom company introduced a flight to China in its timetable but cancelled it soon after. At the time we traveled with The Chinaman1 and anything branded ?Made in China? sold immediately because there was no competition on the market.

We brought back leather jackets, blouses, pullovers, footwear ? pieces of jewelry made of enameled gold or silver ? all worth around 2000 dollars per person. The funny part was that we had had a CEC deposit for a Dacia2 ever since Ceauşescu was president. We withdrew the money and bought a train ticket. So, we left for China.

We had found out about this from Mrs. Geta Guşă who had been the first to travel to China by train, as she was a tour guide working for ONT.3 Where she had picked up the news I did not know, she just told me the story of her voyage there. At first, she was also the one who gave me the money I needed for shopping there, as she had plenty. So it was ?

And it took us two days to get to Moscow. We changed trains there and, leaving from another station, we arrived in China. The journey through Mongolia took seven days, and the journey back, through Manchuria this time, took eight days plus two more from Moscow to Bucharest. Later, as more and more tourists started visiting China, people commonly traveling by train, return tickets became more and more difficult to find. We waited almost two weeks there just to be able to buy our tickets back. We got up at 4 am, waited for an available ticket at the travel agency until 2 pm and still couldn?t find any. So, that?s how we spent two weeks in China in order to buy return tickets. The trip both ways took exactly on month, shopping period included.

1 The Chinese Airlines.

2 This Romanian car was bought according to a list made by the CEC (The Romanian Savings Bank). 3 The National Bureau for Tourism.

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