Weekend in Bucharest
Last weekend I went to meet the Romania Olmsted Scholar, Claire, in Bucharest. She lives in Cluj, in the northwest corner of Romania, so we got a hotel room right downtown where we could easily walk everywhere. It’s right next to the National Theater, which has been in a state of reconstruction for a while. It’s also where a group meets to protest every night. From our window, it sounded like hundreds of people chanting, but whenever we looked out or walked by, there were only about fifteen people milling around with a police car off to the side.
Since Claire and I mostly hang out with price-conscious students, we had fun indulging in luxurious cafes around the city. As a result, we didn’t really do anything touristy. Instead we ate, walked, drank, and partied! After getting our hair done, we met some friends for dinner, and while we pre-partied at a guy’s house our group grew to include Swedes, Norwegians, Romanians and a Moldavian – a really fun, truly international group! We all went to an Irish Bar in Lipscans, a newly renovated pedestrian area full of galleries, bars, and cafes. It was such a great time that some of us stayed out until sunrise.
Another night we ate at a restaurant serving traditional Romanian food. I had sauerkraut, eggplant salad, and sarmale, or stuffed cabbage rolls. It was all good, hearty peasant food but went well with the beer. The place was a bit touristy and provided frequent entertainment, to include dancers, a random guy with mime face walking around with a couple of parrots, as well as a couple of kids playing hide and seek. The German guy sitting behind us kept asking me “Is that your human?” whenever a kid crawled out from under our table.
The dancers started out with traditional Romanian folk, but later came out and did Romanian interpretations of swing and latin!
One day we walked to the Romanian Peasants Museum, which sounded pretty eye-opening to me, but unfortunately as it was Monday, the museum was closed. So we kept walking and visited more shops and cafes. Here are some of the random scenes.
Coming from Turkey, it’s always a thrill to be in a real European city, and even Bucharest, with its communist blocks, definitely has the feel. In fact, it used to be called Little Paris, and even has a replica of the Arc Di Triumph. Still, traces of the communist lifestyle were evident in trivial ways. One waiter was dumbfounded when we ordered all kinds of food that we wanted to sample. She stated that some of the dishes simply were not eaten together, and tried to convince us to amend our request. When we checked out of the hotel without the parking ticket, the hotel staff freaked out on us and could not figure out how we could get our car without the little piece of paper. With a little insisting we easily got our way, but we could tell that our argumentative manner of response was unexpected.