My Bucharest Neighborhood: Visit It With Me

by | September 4, 2018 |

On Sunday morning this week I went on a walking tour of my Bucharest neighborhood where I’ve lived for the past 10+ summers to see if I could see it in a way that might interest you.

The title image is of one of the main shopping streets on Piața Dorobanți.

My Bucharest Neighborhood: The Church

Believe it or not, an orthodox church is the building most familiar to me.


Because it’s right outside my bedroom window. Here’s my view from above:

My Bucharest neighborhood Here’s the view from the ground:

My Bucharest neighborhood

In spite of its supposed importance to me, I had to look up the name just now: this church (biserica) is Nașterea Maicii Domnului ‘The Birth of the Mother of (our) Lord.’ Good to know!

But why is it so memorable?

Because orthodox churches have what is called a toaca, which is a horizontal board (sometimes housed in its own structure, as is the case with “my” church) and which is beaten:

my Bucharest neighborhood

Unless you know what you’re looking for, the toaca is hard to see. It’s placed horizontally behind the wire hanging down left to right

When I first moved in I thought, “Oh, how nice my bedroom window looks onto a quiet church yard.” Uh … that was before I was forcefully reminded that the toaca is beaten on Sunday mornings and other holy times, and it is LOUD.

Listen to this example

Because of my experience in Romania, I actually knew what I was looking at in Ethiopia when we visited the monastery on Debre Miriam Island, Behir Dar. I spied a toaca!

my Bucharest neighborhood

The Ethiopians are Orthodox Christians. This toaca is stone not wood


My Bucharest Neighborhood: The Immediate Streets and Buildings

Here’s my bloc (apartment building):

my Bucharest neighborhood

The address is on the main drag, namely Calea Dorobanților. But I enter it on this side street:

my Bucharest neighborhood

I have no idea who Marcel Andreescu was, because when I looked him up just now I found nothing. He seems to have been a lieutenant (lt. = locotenant) and a pilot (av. = aviator)

Across Calea Dorobanților is a well-known high school:

my Bucharest neighborhood

Across the way from my front door on the corner is:

my Bucharest neighborhood

Where you see the cars parked is Marcel Andreescu. The church is about 50 yards to the right on Calea Dorobanți

Berezka, as the sign says, specializes in Russian delicacies. So, naturally this is where I buy my vodka because I’m sure the product is not botezat ‘baptized.’ In some Romanian stores, even major chains, you might buy spirits that have been watered down, aka ‘baptized’. How do you know? You put the bottle in the freezer and the stuff gets slushy.

I know the Russians aren’t going to mess with their vodka.

So that’s my immediate holy trinity: the church, the high school, Berezka.

My Bucharest Neighborhood: Shopping

Toward the piața is where I do most of my food shopping, namely at Mega Image:

my Bucharest neighborhood

If you recognize the logo, you’ll see Mega is our equivalent of Food Lion. It’s owned by the Belgian Delhaize Group

Sometimes I simply marvel at how much English Romanians are confronted with. On the next corner after Mega, there’s this:

my Bucharest neighborhood

Let’s see … there’s ‘smart seal’, ‘showroom’, ‘living’ etc. etc.

Speaking of English, right outside the entrance to “my” Mega is this:

my Bucharest neighborhood

Where to even begin to unpack these signs?

When I’m not musing about the influx of English, I just look around. In the middle of the piața is a park:

my Bucharest neighborhood

The statue is of a famous sculptor

Surrounding the park are upscale restaurants and shops, such as this one:

my Bucharest neighborhood

Fancy florists abound:

my Bucharest neighborhood

When I say a florist is ‘fancy’ I mean it:

my Bucharest neighborhood

This one claims to be the provider to the Royal House of Romania

My neighborhood has tons of restaurants on side streets. There is, for instance, Frodisiac, where I was pickpocketed last year:

my Bucharest neighborhood

Somehow I just haven’t been back to it this year, and I know the restaurant was not at fault for what befell me there. Pickpocketing can happen anywhere.

I like the side street Puțul lui Zamfir:

my Bucharest neighborhood

Zamfir’s Well Street, which makes me think of Gheorghe Zamfir, the pan flute musician

There are aesthetic clinics galore:

my Bucharest neighborhood

How convenient! I can get a nose job (rinoplastie) within a five-minute walk of my apartment

More restaurants:

my Bucharest neighborhood

I went with a friend to Tuk Tuk a couple of weeks ago and had Pad Thai Seafood

And clothing boutiques:

my Bucharest neighborhood

A very strange name, since Romanian has few double letters and the cat’s cry is spelled ‘miau’. There I am in the reflection of the left window

Puțul lui Zamfir leads straight to Piața Floreasca:

my Bucharest neighborhood

This is the moment to mention that Mega Image has pretty much wiped out all the old-time Bucharest market places. Piața Floreasca is a fraction of what it once was

The name of this shop has always puzzled me:

my Bucharest neighborhood

Surely they mean Ethnic Wine, because they specialize in Romanian varieties. Romanian doesn’t have the combination ‘th’ so maybe someone confused etic (ethic) with etnic (ethnic)?

Not far from Ethic Wine is Smile, There’s Coffee:

my Bucharest neighborhood

This chain has taken over. I didn’t notice any last summer. Now I see them everywhere

More restaurants:

my Bucharest neighborhood

This corner spot has been many things, including a gym I used to go to

Catty-corner across from Fish House is this burger joint. It’s new and looks to be a pop-up:

my Bucharest neighborhood

And now I’m just a stone’s throw from the back end (the non-Calea Dorobanților end) of Marcel Andreescu. I’ve lead you in a square.

My Bucharest Neighborhood: A Bit of History

So, what is a dorobanț (plural dorobanți)? It’s an old-fashioned word for jandarm ‘policeman’ and it is of Hungarian origin. The more modern jandarm is from French.

Calea Dorobanților was named in 1878 for dorobanții who distinguished themselves in the war of Independence.

I could come up with only this image of doboranții in the 6th Regiment of Mihai Viteazul from 1933-1947:

my Bucharest neighborhood

Mihai Viteazul ‘Michael the Brave’ (1558-1601) is considered one of Romania’s greatest heroes and the first author of Romanian unity

See: All My Romania Blogs

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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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