For someone who travels a lot, my geography is pretty damn bad. It is a pretty frequent occurrence for me to get on a plane and not really know where in the world I’m going. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll know what I want to eat and what I want to see when I’m there, I just don’t really know which part of the globe I’m jetting off to.
So it was kind of a surprise to me that Romania is actually pretty far away. When the Black Friday sales presented the opportunity to fly to Bucharest for £40, me and the girls totally took advantage but it was only when we were boarding a 6am flight that we realised we were about to be sat down for three hours. This isn’t just hopping across the pond to Paris. It left us with about 36 hours to explore the city and we absolutely made the most of it.
Here’s my crash course in what to expect from the Romanian capital:
Everything is super cheap
But especially food and drink. A big old tankard of beer will set you back a whopping £1.30. Three course meal with really fancy wine? £20 each please and thank you. Obviously if you go for a spending spree in Zara, you’re still going to burn a hole in your wallet. But if you wander down certain streets in the Old Town and find a discount fashion store that sells out of season Zara pieces for 80% off, well my friend, you’re on to a winner.
Life centres around the Old Town
We knew that this was going to be the hub of most of our activities whilst in Bucharest, especially as our accommodation was pretty much right next to it. What we didn’t realise is that outside of the Old Town area, there’s basically nothing for tourists. Unlike Prague or other Eastern European cities there isn’t a widely spread cafe culture, so we ended up wandering for two hours to find something to eat elsewhere before admitting defeat and going right back to where we started.
Some of the architecture is stunning
The buildings of national importance are imposing, grand and extravagant. The National Bank of Romania, the Palace of Parliament and the buildings surrounding the University of Bucharest have a gothic influence whilst clearly reeking of the country’s previous economic disparity. There are also a number of beautiful religious buildings which are especially stunning on a Sunday when worshippers flock around them and the sounds of choirs singing gently waft outside.
But most of the buildings are literally crumbling
Bucharest looks, for the most part, like a post-apocalyptic video game. The sort where you wander around at night looking for zombie dogs, or where the Addams Family have probably invested in a property. It’s awesome. It captured my imagination in a way I haven’t experienced in Europe before, forcing me to see the beauty in something unconventional.
Street art brings the city to life
I was not expecting the vibrancy of street art that we encountered in Bucharest. I had this idea of Eastern Block, communist stoicism with strict regulations and little creative freedom. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Around every corner were works of art and with the current tense political climate in the country, it’s clearly a way for people to express how they feel in a controlled and calm way.
They don’t do brunch but they definitely do desserts
After seeing the word BRUNCH proclaimed proudly on the window of a cute, fairy light-lit cafe, we endeavoured to make it there the next day for our eggs benedict fix. We were welcomed in with amazing coffee but just bog standard sandwiches in the chilled cabinet, and after roaming the streets (and Google), it appeared that a request for pancakes required either a reservation or a frying pan. However, we managed to indulge in absolutely banging doughnuts, big slabs of cake and freakshakes, so it’s hard to complain too much.
The one word regularly called out from whoever was walking ahead in our group of seven. Romania isn’t exactly flushed with wealth so some basic bits of infrastructure are lacking, which shows in the massive gaping holes in every bloody street. At one point I tripped over one hole with my right foot, tried to balance myself, and immediately dropped my left foot into another. I totally styled it out, but still: HOLE!
For more pics from my trip to Bucharest, check out the blogs of my fabulous travel companions:
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