My trip to Romania was a bit different than usual. My sole goal was to be with friends and not tourism. However I still had time to travel a bit and get a feel of the vibe in Bucharest.
On my way for a surprise visit in Romania
This year I was still undecided where to go next, I gave it a though and the decision was easy to make. I owed some friends of mine a visit for more than a year, this was the right opportunity to pay my debt. That’s how I decided to add another European country to my list of visited countries, Romania.
Planning this trip was easy, I told Paul that I wouldn’t make any plans, he is the local so he knows better. When in Portugal I am the one that plans my friends’ trips, so it seems fair to ask for the same, no one better than a local to show you around. Preparing the trip was a total different matter, but I’ve explained that on a previous post.
How to get to Romania
Several airlines serve Romania, besides the local ones, but from Ireland I had three choices. Ryanair, that I swore not flying with them ever again; Blue Air, a Romanian low-cost style company; and KLM, with indirect flights.
I have preference to fly with KLM because of the air miles, but the option of having a cheaper and direct flight sounded more appealing. A 3 hours and a half flight is already a bit, but despite that I gave it a go and I decide to book with Blue Air.
Blue Air doesn’t seem to be picky about the luggage size as other low-cost airlines are, at least I didn’t see them complaining with people. Though, one must only carry one hand luggage, and a woman’s purse should go inside the carry-on luggage.
I can’t judge an airline for a single experience, but it was obvious that it was a low-cost company. The seats weren’t much comfortable, and there was a mold-like smell in the air – this wasn’t that nice for a 3:30 hours flight…
I started to pay close attention to different cultural habits since my last long trip. And one thing I noticed this time was the orders inside the plane. Not the typical snacks and sandwiches, instead cherries and baked rolls. This was the first time I see cherries on sale in a flight, and yes, the amount of requests really had an impact on me so that I had to share with you.
Landed in Romania for the first time, I had Paul there to pick me up by taxi. The first impact of Bucharest was the mixture of old and renewed, the communist architecture still present. Some old and grey buildings, some renewed but with the same concrete blocks architecture.
Driving in Bucharest seems to be a nightmare, though everything seems to work. I had the same experience in Greece, and it wasn’t such a big deal when you get used to a different driving style. Though, I still found it amusing the way the taxis cross in front of old trams to just invert their way instead of going to the next roundabout.
Almost at Paul’s, we stop to buy some flowers, and then we went to his’. He told me to knock the door myself and wait. Irina didn’t know I was going to Romania and it was a surprise for her, just he face and surprise made my trip worth every cent!
Visiting Bucharest and surroundings for a few days
Arriving in Bucharest was quite an impact. Mostly because of the architectonic mix between new and soviet style, and the renewed buildings from the soviet era. The traffic works in a very chaotic way, but it works. The rules are easily “adjusted” by everyone, from the taxi drivers to the common driver. An organized chaos, which reminded me a lot of Athens.
Closer to the city center, where the majority of tourists usually are, things work in a more organized way, cleaner and more relaxed. And all of this in a kind of charming way. After all, there is a reason why Bucharest is known as Little Paris.
Really close to the city center there is one of the main parks, the King Michael I Park, with a lake with the same name. I loved the way the park was organized, with cycling lanes well defined, and with art all over the place. A few thematic parks like the Japanese Garden, and a few bars and restaurants to stop every now and then. We explored the park by bike, which makes it a faster way to visit if you don’t have much time, but also in a fun way.
As one would expect, considering the location of the city, Bucharest is a city filled with history and places to visit. But like I mentioned above, that visit wasn’t a touristic one, though there was still time to explore a bit. And we ent to the National Museum of Natural History of Bucharest, where the current and pre-historic flora and fauna of each part of the country is represented. Which helps to have an idea of what to expect from areas like the Danube Delta (where I still want to go one day).
To try the real local food, we went to Obor Market where we ate mici, which is a kind of cylindrical meat ball. The market is quite popular, I even found references to it in several tourism websites. But oddly it isn’t allowed to take photos inside, I was even warned by the security to pack my camera…
Still about the food, in one of the nights we went to a medieval themed restaurant, called Excalibur, where we were served a fest for 6 or 8 people, however we were just 4! One of the characteristics of that restaurant is that they only give us a knife to use, we have to eat everything using only our hands! It is a quite an experience, and honestly I think the food even tastes better that way.
Regarding Bucharest’s nightlife, we didn’t go “crazy”. In one of those nights we went to a board games bar called Bar Ludic. Really nice, though with a very dimm light considering the main theme of the bar, but it was also there were I ate one of the best chicken ever! But the place I enjoyed the most to go out at night and have a really nice and relaxed evening, was the Valley of Kings where we smoke narghile and we drunk tea. It is a really nice gallery with an Egyptian vibe, perfect for great photos.
The only thing missing from this trip was not visiting the gigantic Palace of the Parliament, also known as The People’s House. I saw it from “up close” and from really far away, and it is really impressive! But I really regret not visiting it… Maybe another time. In the meanwhile, maybe I should revisit the Top Gear episode when they filmed inside that same building!