relationship with Romania
Iulia compares to Madison, Ind.,
say locals Fife, Vetrhus
(February 2011) A hill separates the old city
from the new. A temporary bridge carries vehicles across the river.
The military has just vacated a large installation and city leaders
are working to maximize heritage tourism.
These are just a few of the similarities between Madison and the Romanian
city of Alba Iulia, recently visited by two emissaries from Madison
Camille Fife and Jan Vetrhus.
While in Romania on October, Fife and Vetrhus invited two cities to
become sister cities with Madison. Time permitted a visit to only one
of them Alba Iulia, a city of 66,747 in the region of Transylvania.
Ind., resident Camille Fife
presents Alba Iulia Mayor Mercia Hava
with a miniature key to the city.
Alba Iulia is significant in Romanian history because
it is the site of the unification of Transylvania and two other principalities
to form the nation of Romania in 1918. The city is site of an ancient
fortress with walls enclosing a starburst-shaped area atop a hill. This
walled historic district is located on a hilltop, with more
modern portions of the town located below the opposite of Madisons
old and new districts.
Fife, a professional preservation consultant, became interested in Alba
Iulia when she was attending a conference in Canada. There she struck
up a conversation that led to a friendship with Catalina Preda, a Romanian
preservationist. Both woman are filled with pride in their homelands.
Before long, Fife was making plans to attend an international conference
Preda was organizing in Bucharest, Romania.
Approximately 100 people including Fife and Vetrhus, a retired
manufacturing executive attended The Economics of Heritage
Regeneration on Oct. 25-26. Conferees discussed such topics as
raising public awareness and intervening to save at-risk structures.
The conference was a natural outgrowth of an initiative called Beautiful
Romania. That project had been led by the United Nations Development
Program and various Romanian ministries and agencies. The U.N. Development
Program got involved in Beautiful Romania because of the horrific
conditions they found after the fall of the Iron Curtain, said
She explained that Nicolae Ceausesco, who was dictator of Romania from
1965 to 1989, had a policy of destroying villages and replacing older
buildings with blocky Soviet-style construction. After the end of Soviet
influence, Romanians regained pride in their native architecture. Heritage
regeneration is now taking hold in municipalities like Alba Iulia,
a city that can trace its history to Roman times.
At the conference in Bucharest, Fife gave a talk called, Madison,
Indiana: A small town setting the stage for big results. She focused
on Madisons successful use of heritage preservation to attract
tourists, businesses and new residents. She told them Madisons
strategy relies on four main activities:
n Large, well-organized festivals;
Iulia, Romania, is a city of 66,747 people. It is located in the
region of Transylvania. It has a significant historical importance
in Romanian history because it is the site of the unification
of Transylvania and two other principalities to form the nation
of Romania in 1918. The city is also the site of an ancient fortress
with walls enclosing a starburst-shaped area atop a hill.
n Using the beauty of the historic downtown to spur economic
n Building partnerships for cooperative trails and regional tourism
n Encouraging preservation trades education through community college
courses, workshops and field schools.
After the two-day conference, Fife and Vetrhus got an opportunity to
visit the city they feel is so much like Madison. Fife presented the
mayor, Mercia Hava, with a letter from Madison Mayor Tim Armstrong and
a miniature key to the city. Hava agreed that Alba Iulia would take
steps to join with Madison in a Heritage Cities exchange
Medieval fortifications and breathtaking Roman Catholic and Orthodox
churches are among the architectural treasures that Alba Iulia offers
visitors. Theyve been working on a lot of the restorations,
but they havent promoted it, observed Vetrhus. Thats
an area where American preservationists might be able to help.
The Romanians are experimenting with public-private partnerships, a
trend that Vetrhus and Fife found encouraging. The citys preservation
effort has even come to the attention of a preservation trust operated
by Charles, Prince of Wales. That trust was a partner in the Bucharest
Fife was also encouraged that Romanias young people are pushing
hard for heritage regeneration, as they call their preservation
There is a tremendous passion among the young professionals about
how their country is run. They want change and they are frustrated with
the elected and appointed officials, said Fife. The young
people were amazing. They were intelligent and accepting.
The two Madison woman hope to facilitate other visits and exchanges
that will establish a mutually beneficial partnership between Madison
and Alba Iulia.
Back to February 2011