The Romania Series: Bucharest
A rustle near my fingertips cause my eyes to flutter open begrudgingly. He is awake and so we must be as well. The haze of those last minutes of sleep linger like a thicket of cloud over my state of consciousness. Bright light seeps in through a sliver in the thick curtains, an enticement to join the outside world in this new day.
We are not home, we are on a faraway adventure. Landing in Bucharest as our launching point to skip through a land blanketed by fairytale forests, one deeply rooted in folklore and embracing life in the old ways of yore.
Gazing out from our tower, shades of copper shimmer against stark grey soviet adornments throughout Bucharest’s rooftops. Light notes of a violin drift upwards and I peer downwards to street level in search of the busker. The cobblestoned walkways of the old part of the city are beginning to hum with the sounds of locals and tourists alike as they diverge on their daily paths.
Piecing our morning together, we set out in search of the most important start to any [read: my] day — coffee. A prolific coffee drinker, I don’t just set out for just a cup, but the cup. Baby strapped to my chest, I was in serious need of a pick me up upon arriving at tiny Origo. Minimal besides its enormous chalkboard menu, the place was bustling with Bucuresti’s urbanites on their way to work. Despite the buzz, staff were genuine and helpful in the selection of an artisanal cup o’ joe. Origo is a fine choice for one who values the farm – roaster – cup quality and relationship and the shop is within close proximity to the old city.
My suggestion: Order the handcrafted latte with an extra shot
Looking at the map of the Old City and its “boundary” streets, I left the rest up to the creative universe. So setting out without any particular itinerary in mind, we spent the afternoon wanderlusting through the plentiful street art, Iron Curtain-esque architecture, and serendipitous offerings of the Centrul Vechi.
After an extensive search, I was validated upon finding graffiti that confirmed the existence of Feminism in Romania. Whew, after all the rumors, I was worried for a second…
Onto our next leg of the journey, one can’t visit an Orthodox Christian country without taking in the beautiful architecture of its churches. The Biserica Stavropoleos is well worth a visit, even if you are strapped for time. A tiny monastery located on a quiet part of the Strada Stavropoleos in the middle of the old city, offers a glimpse into exquisite ceiling and wall paintings recovered from churches destroyed during the Communist regime. For the bibliophile, the church’s library holds more than 8,000 books, highlighting its Byzantine collection.
From there we meandered down the Strada Doamneii and having an internal compass for all things vintage, Jasper and I found ourselves in the heart of an old edifice where local vendors were peddling various trinkets. A cute baby served as the perfect icebreaker for trading pleasantries as I perused the goods. Displayed on card tables were vintage brooches from the great fashion house of Chanel and folios of black and white photos of persons from long ago, alongside a variety of antique household items saved from the purging of the Soviet-era. Much to my chagrin, I couldn’t justify buying an old gramophone — I really needed to pack a larger bag for next time. Plus I think my husband might have had a WTH moment, we all need a little self control at times (reluctantly).
Window shopping stokes up a considerable appetite and I was in the market for some authentic Romanian cuisine. The unanimous opinion was to visit the historic Caru’ cu bere. From the cobblestoned street, a rainbow of stained glass windows masks the culinary adventure that awaits inside. In a great hall of ornately carved mahogany, colorful tile floors and opulent chandeliers, we were met with a boisterous climate of locals and visitors alike. One feels like they are taking a communal seat for a traditional Romanian family dinner — and there is no room for the shy, assert yourself — or no soup for you! The menu is extensive, demanding repeat patronage (we returned for dinner). Now is not the time for that no-carb diet.
My Suggestions: Order the Sărmăluţe în foi de varză servite cu mămăliguţă, smântână şi ardei iute (pork stuffed cabbage, a dish native to the Bucovina region) and the Gustarea Provincialului (homemade peasant pie with salty cheese)
Reaching the end of our day in Bucharest’s concrete jungle, we looked forward to the transitioning from the urban sprawl to the predominantly bucolic landscape of the rest of Romania.
Next up in the Romania Series: The Alpine Mountain Towns of Transylvania