Europa Center is located outside of the city limits of Bucharest, the dirty, polluted capital of Romania. Had it been located within the city limits it would probably have been shut down by now, as the main purpose of Europa Center is the sale of cheap consumer goods on the black market. The black market is actually the most important component of the Romanian economy mainly because the venal government of the country, composed almost exclusively of former communists, taxes everything to the extent that most imported goods like toothpaste, shoes, t-shirts and cosmetic products cost 2-3 times what they normally would in the west, and this despite the fact that the average Romanian earns about $120 a month. Every now and then a bunch of uneducated thugs show up at the Europa Center and begin searching everybody's papers but a bottle or two of Tuica (Romanian plum brandy) generally is enough to make them go away.


So what is Europa Center? Essentially a maze of alleways, built out of tin, brick, zinc, stone and whatever other cheap building materials were at hand when it was put together, owned by a shadowy Chinese immigrant who lives a mile down the road in a large hotel/karaoke parlor and staffed by illegal immigrants from whichever countries happen to be doing even worse economically than Romania at the moment: mainly China, Iraq, Kurdistan, (I know, I know, Kurdistan isn't technically a country, any Turkish nationalists can feel free to hate me), Syria and the Republic of Moldova another Romanian speaking territory to the Northeast where the government is only in official control of 1/3rd of the official national territory of the country.

While the general hygenic standards of this black market Babylon are not encouraging, the most authentic Chinese Restaurant in Bucharest is actually hidden in the middle of this warren. While the staff speaks neither Romanian nor English (and therefore international Restaurant Sign Language needs to be used to communicate) all of the food stuffs are fresh imports from the black market and the chef makes a mean Cantonese Soup and some extremely good Szechuan chicken. Most of the Chinese mobsters and enforcers that keep the peace at Europa Center hang out at this restaurant, mainly playing incomprehensible Chinese chess variants that seem to have about thirty more pieces than a normal chess board, are played with dice, and are the subject of bets of large amounts of money, which go around the room in concentric circles, leading to geographically shaped cheering or jeering whenever someone wins. Remarkable is the fact that no one there seems to speak any language other than the Fujianese dialect, are operating in an incredibly hostile environment for business Coca Cola, McDonalds and Procter and Gamble are all losing money, and yet these people are capable of forming some kind of strange, illegal, black market funded bourgoise.


Every now and then the proto-facist mayor of Bucharest, Traian Basescu, makes some promises on television that he will shut Europa Center down, but small-scale riots involving enraged Arab, Gypsy and Chinese traders, as well as Europa Center's mystical physical jurisdiction (it's not legally in Bucharest but neither is it in the adjoining village) seem to keep it open and protected.

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