Street in Bucharest this winter When I was a child, winters were always white. I didn't mind the grey on the snow, unless it stopped me from sledding. Any stains meant that the snow was melting and I couldn't sled anymore. In those days not many children had ice skates so our main winter pastimes were sledding, throwing snowballs or making snowmen. Throwing snowballs was better when hiding behind a snow fortress which we made from snow blocks, when the snow was frozen andStreet in Bucharest could be cut in blocks. On the other hand, the snowmen couldn't be made unless the outside temperatures were warmer and the snow was starting to thaw, so it could stick together in huge snow balls. What great times! My friends and I stayed out all day, until our knitted gloves were wet and we were freezing; but that didn't make us go home. We would gather inside the hallway of our apartment building and stay near the huge heater; we'd put our gloves on the heater and chat until they were a bit drier - or at least we thought they were!

As I grew older, winters began to seem ugly and endless. When it Parking lot in Bucharestwas snowing, going to work was exhausting because we had to walk almost all the way. People were walking through the snowstorm, right in the middle of the street. No transportation Parking lot in my former neighborhoodwas able to function on that snow because they didn't have the snow blowers they have now and what they had for removing the snow were brought out on the streets only when it wasn't snowing anymore. I remember mountains of snow along the streets, stuck there until Alley between blocks in Bucharestthe spring sun melted them. They didn't remove the snow from the streets like they do now, and the streets were full of water when the snow started to melt.

Living in the city of Bucharest - the capital of Romania - for so many winters, made me want to move to the countryside where the snow is Snowbound park between buildings white and not grey and where my car wouldn't be snowbound under the snow that the neighbor cleared off of his car. Sometimes, when it's snowing too much, people whose cars are parked on the side of the streets can't get them out because the snow blowers cover them with all the snow they blow off of the street. This is when city people are forced to exercise by shoveling, so they can get their car out of the snow. In my childhood, people used to get out and shovel, at least in front of their building, but not anymore. They have become too lazy and prefer to pay someone to do that for them. No wonder they say that people live longer in the countryside, where they have to shovel the snow around their houses. It is a hard, but good exercise.

Christmas lights downtown BucharestHowever, winter can be beautiful in the city, especially during the Christmas holidays, with all the lights decorating the streets and parks. When walking through Bucharest, during the Christmas holidays nowadays, such beautiful lights are decorating the streets that I almost can't believe my eyes! Years ago, not even the light poles were lit on our streets and the only Christmas lights were those from the house windows.

Christmas lights downtown BucharestChristmas lights downtown Bucharest

Snowman in the parkFor Romanians, snow is a "must" on Christmas and most My daughter and grandson in the parkare happy when it's snowing; unless it snows too much and everything is paralyzed throughout the city. Children are the happiest; they have so much to be happy about nowadays. Parks are so beautifully decorated, not only with simple lights, but with lots of lighted cartoon characters, Santa Claus, reindeers, dwarfs, elves, little angels and many Christmas trees.

Angel in the parkChristmas tree in the

Skating rink on the lake in BucharestThe lake in the park is frozen and people can skate on it, but it is much safer to skate on the artificial skating rinks openQuiet alley in front of our friends' block in all the parks in Bucharest, for everyone who wants to skate during winter.

I was so disappointed when I went to town recently to visit some friends, and saw deserted parks and alleys in their neighborhood. Children Park in our friends' neighborhoodaren't playing anymore like we used to, because most of them are going to the park with their parents, for an hour or two, and this is all the playing they get, sometimes for the enitre week. Many children prefer to stay in front of their computers instead of going out and play in the snow. My only hope is that their parents won't allow that to happen anymore and will encourage their children to go out and play as much as they can. Technology is great, but our children and their health come first.

My daughter and grandson in the snowMy daughter takes my grandson out everyday, even in winter, as long as the weather allows. He has been out in the snow My children throwing snowballs in our yardever since he was a baby and he loves it. I encouraged my daughter to take him out, like I did with her when she was a child, regardless of whether she got dirty or wet in the snow.

Our children and grandchildren can't be allowed to forget how to play in the snow, how to make a snowman or a snow fortress, or how to throw snowballs. Winter in the city can be as fun as in any other place and we all should allow play like children from time to time.