Note: The cover photo at the top of this post depicts the Palatul Parlamentului (or the Casa Poporului, as it was called during Ceaucescu’s time).
I’ve now arrived at my major stopping place in my around-the-world trip, namely Bucharest Romania where I’ll spend the next 3 months. I’ve spent 3 – 4 months here every summer for the past 10 years, so I know the place well.
Here are my immediate impressions upon returning:
Romanian news. I’m a junkie. Can’t get enough. The absolute first bit of news I heard when I turned on the TV was:
Four People Hurt When Television Explodes
Really? That really happens? Turns out, the wounded were all adults, and a picture of the exploded television was shown. For some reason it was in a field. Or a yard. I couldn’t tell. Weird.
Okay, then it was on to the more normal news, namely which high-profile person is now under investigation by the Anti-Corruption Agency for blackmail, fraud, and/or abuse of office. This list is long.
McDonald’s. I never noticed this before, but McDonald’s offers Romanian dishes in their Sărbătoarea gusturilor românești ‘celebration of Romanian tastes’. There is nothing more Romanian than mici ‘little things’, namely sausages, so a McMici caught my attention. There there’s the plăcinta casei ‘homemade apple pie’ and cârnăciori oltenești ‘Oltenian-style sausages.’
Is McDonald’s doing this worldwide, adapting its menu to local tastes? Has this been going on for a while and I’m just slow to notice?
Smoking shocker. As of March 15 this year a smoking ban in restaurants went into effect. I suppose Romania is getting more in line with the European Union. However, given the amount of people who smoke here, the new law surprised me. Yesterday at a friend’s birthday party I heard the law was going to be relaxed. That wouldn’t surprise me. (Latest: yes, the law is being relaxed.)
Some things never change. Within 24 hours of my arrival I heard outside my window the call of Fiare vechi luăm. ‘Old iron we take.’ The words are sung in a very distinctive melody by gypsies who go through neighborhoods, sometimes on foot, sometimes in a horse-drawn cart, looking for scrap iron.
Here’s a 10-minute video on the subject. It’s worth watching 1 or 2 minutes, at least, if not the whole thing:
Bucharest tourism. I’ve been a world tourist for the past five weeks, and I’ve arrived in Bucharest with new eyes. I now ask myself: What do you do as a tourist in this city?
Of course, you visit museums, like the Museum of the Romanian Peasant, pictured above. Then there’s the Village Museum, where examples of traditional house styles from various parts of the country can be seen:
Maybe you go to a concert at the splendid Ateneul, which is conveniently across the street from the Hilton.
You’d certainly check out the Lipscani area of Old Bucharest:
And maybe eat classic mici (not at McDonald’s), drink beer and see some traditional Romanian dancing and music at Terasa Doamnei, very near Lipscani.
But after that?
In a previous blog I wondered whether shopping centers counted as tourist attractions.
However, then I visited Baku, Azerbaijan, and Tashkent and Samarkand, Uzbekistan, and in all three places, my guides took me to the local markets.
Baku’s Yașıl Bazar (Green Market):
Tashkent’s Chorsu market is house in a big round structure:
From the outside:
And then there’s the charming nougat market in Samarkand:
So, I conclude that visiting markets is a legitimate tourist stop, so why not also shopping malls?
Anyway, with these market experiences fresh in mind, I wondered whether Bucharest’s sprawling Piața Obor is a stop on a tour of the city.
First, I checked out the Hop On Hop Off bus route for Bucharest, and it does not go anywhere near Piața Obor. It goes the usual places like the museums, government buildings, and the main drag, Calea Victoriei.
Second, I happened on Interesting Times, and their tours of Bucharest I definitely want to take! Unfortunately, the minimum is two persons, so I’m going to have to persuade someone to go with me on one. Piața Obor’s not on the agenda, but they do have:
- Beautiful Decay – a 4-hour tour of abandoned historical buildings at 35 euros/person
- Outcast Bucharest – 2-1/2-hour tour of the challenges of living on the street with a former homeless person as your guide. 25 euros/person.
There are 8 more tours, including one on Communism at 25 euros a person. I’m sure I couldn’t get any of my friends to sign up for it. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t even pay any of them to take it.
Categorised in: Europe
This post was written by Julie Andresen