Tramways in Bucarest—Other efforts at improvement—Galatz—Its position on the Danube—Quays, streets, buildings, &c.—Importance as a seaport—Languages requisite for trading there—Almost entire absence of English firms—Reports of the Consul-General, Mr. Percy Sanderson—The quality of British manufactures—(Note: The author's experience)—Causes of preference for foreign over British manufactures—Commercial treaties—Austrian pressure to the detriment of Great Britain—Statistics of our import and export trade with Roumania—Infancy of her manufacturing industries—Difficulties hitherto existing—War and uncertainty of investments—The new port of Constanta (Kustendjie)—Other Roumanian towns—Jassy—Its position and institutions—(Note: Conflicting estimates of its population)—Ibrail, Craiova, Ploiesti, &c.
If many of the streets of Bucarest are badly paved and the city imperfectly sewered, it is at least striving hard to keep pace with other European towns in regard to modern conveniences. Its main streets are well lighted with gas, and it boasts a good line of tramways round and through various parts of the city. But when we come to consider what is now the second town of importance in Roumania, Galatz, we have to step back a few decades before we can realise its condition. It is situated on the left bank of the Danube about ninety miles from the Sulina mouth, and to the east of it is Lake Bratish, which is only separated from the great river by a strip of marshy land. On the whole it is more regularly built than Bucarest, and for about a mile along the river's bank the business portion extends, with its quays for ships discharging, ships loading, foreign agencies, timber yards, and railway loading and discharging berths. In the town itself there is nothing of interest to strangers. The streets are in a condition alternating between mud over your knees and dust over your ankles, imperfectly if at all drained, and lighted with oil lamps, of which one in every three is usually put into requisition. There are some good-sized public buildings, including the Prefecture, some hospitals, two of which, one called St. Spiridion, and another built during the Russo-Turkish war, were a great boon to the wounded of all the armies. There is also a cathedral, such as it is, and several Greek churches, one of which is said to contain the remains of Mazeppa; a synagogue or two, and a few other places of worship. Then there is a 'park' and a garden, and altogether Galatz resembles Bucarest on a small scale, and without its improvements. The chief boast of the place seems to be a constant water-supply, which is, however, so regulated that whilst one householder is watering his garden his neighbour cannot perform the same operation, but must wait patiently until he has finished; and finally there are, as a matter of course, a good many brick houses, some of one story and some of two, in which dwell a very kindly and hospitable set of inmates.
The importance of Galatz as a seaport is, however, quite another matter. Although this country transacts a very considerable trade with it, there are very few English houses or agencies there, the chief business being carried on by German, Italian, Greek, and French firms; and not only those languages, but also Turkish and Bulgarian, are requisite for trading purposes.
The chief commodities exported to England are, as already stated, maize and barley, and the chief importations from this country are cotton yarn, cottons, woollens, machinery, hardware, cutlery, dry stuffs, spices, tea and sugar, but besides those there is hardly an article used by a civilised community which is not supplied to Roumania from this country. In two admirable reports published in 1877 and 1878, our Consul-General in Roumania, Mr. Percy Sanderson, has reviewed the trade between the two nations, and he gives some rather significant hints to 'fair traders,' that is to say not in the refined sense in which the term has been recently employed, but in its good old-fashioned signification of honest dealers. 'It cannot be said,' he remarks, 'that the bulk of the goods imported from Great Britain forms by any means a fair sample of its produce and manufactures,' and 'there is already a tendency amongst the well-to-do classes to purchase French or Austrian manufactures when they are prepared to pay a high price for a really good article, although the same goods might possibly be furnished them from Great Britain at a lower rate.' But Consul Sanderson gives another reason for the preference shown for foreign as distinguished from English manufactures. It is that the local trade is chiefly carried on by natives of those countries from which the articles preferred are imported, 'whilst there is not a single shop in Galatz kept by an Englishman—it seems doubtful whether there be one in the whole of Roumania.' And there is still a third reason, to which he only refers incidentally, but we question whether it is not the most cogent of all. Whilst continental states, and especially Austria, have shown little delicacy in exacting favourable treaties of commerce from the Roumanian Government, England has been at a disadvantage in that respect. We may be told that we are placed on the most favoured nation footing, but we were informed at Bucarest by persons occupying high positions, and whose statements may be trusted implicitly, that, although this is apparently and nominally the case, it is not so in reality, as the commercial treaties have been initiated by Austria, and so framed as to give a preference to her manufactures.
Notwithstanding these drawbacks, however, our exports to Roumania are on the whole increasing, as witness the following statistics (Board of Trade, 1881), although there has been a slight falling off in cotton stuffs on which the tariff is high, and in manufactured iron.
Total Exports from Great Britain to Roumania.