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Trip to Bucharest, Romania, 30 Oct - 5 Nov 2016 (Part 1) - Sights & Slurp in Bucharest's Old Town

>> Thursday, November 10, 2016

It's been more than a month since I last published a blog post! Time really flies *gulp* I've been really busy during the entire month of October that I really had no mood nor time to sit down, reflect, & blog about the happenings in my life.

To kick-start & resurrect the blog, I thought I'll share on my recent business travel to Bucharest, Romania, a country where I would never have thought of visiting on my own if not for work purposes :) I was there for only a week of meetings, so I had only 1 free day during the weekend before meetings started & another free day during transit at Amsterdam, on my way back home. It was a really short trip as I had to be back right after since it's the peak of the project & I had other commitments back home, but I'm really thankful for the interesting experience in this part of the world.

I arrived at Bucharest on Sunday midnight, so I had some time to sleep before spending the entire Sunday out in the city together with my church friend, PA, who is based there for work. I'm really thankful to meet him there as it's been almost 2 years since we last met!

We attended church service at the IBC International Church of Bucharest, before heading to the old town for lunch & sight-seeing, led by PA & COS, my tour guides for the day :) We parked somewhere near the Palatul CEC before making our way towards the old part of town, which was an interesting sight. There are a couple of thoughts that I have on the city of Bucharest:

  1. People park their cars everywhere & anywhere! If you think that Malaysia is law-less, we have a competitor here in East Europe *lol* Cars are parked on the sidewalks, curbs, & even in the middle of a street! The best part: you won't get a summon. Instead, you may have to 'tip' some "car park attendants" who guides you to a parking spot & 'takes care of your car'! I was baffled...hahaha...there isn't any time limit as well, so if you're brave enough to drive in Bucharest, you can enjoy parking just about anywhere that your car can fit.
  2. The buildings are really old. It feels as if time stopped in Bucharest, especially in the old town. The architecture & design of the buildings truly tell a story that I wish I could hear personally from the builders back then on their experiences in building the city. Oh, the buildings are standing next to each other & the entire city is packed with such old buildings as well, that if I'm alone, I may feel a 'lil lost since most of them look very similar to each other.
  3. Public amenities & properties are quite vandalized & covered with graffiti. To think that this happens to mostly third world countries or emerging countries like Malaysia, you'll be surprised to see that even the walls of the majestic, colonial-looking, University of Bucharest is covered with graffiti. Not only that, the bridges & pavements have graffiti too. Maybe street art is popular here?
  4. Orthodox churches are scattered all around the city, but not all of them are still functioning as churches. It was my 1st time entering so many orthodox churches & my greatest discovery is to find the walls of these 'ancient churches' EXTREMELY clean! It may look old & the drawings/paintings on the walls may look faded, but when I swiped my hand across the walls just to test if it's dusty, I was amazed that it's cleaner than a restaurant's table. *wow*
The first Orthodox church that we came across was the Biserica Stavropoleos, an Orthodox monastery & church from 1724, partly rebuilt in the early 1900s after earthquake damage. - Google. I have to say that this church is very small, but really clean. People were still walking in to pray & worship publicly; something that I rarely see in KL.

Strada Stavropoleos 4, București 030167, Romania
Tel: (+40) 21 313 4747
URL: stavropoleos.ro
GPS: 44.4315788, 26.0978268

The ceiling & walls were beautifully painted!

The monastery court yard

PA said this is something we MUST do during autumn...hahaha...
Photo credit: PA

We walked through streets & alleys of buildings, towering over us, before deciding to stop for our lunch break at a cafe called Arcade Cafe.

Arcade Cafe
Strada Smârdan 30, București 030167, Romania
Tel: (+40) 21 314 5066
Business hours: Opens daily 9:30a.m. - 5:00a.m.
GPS: 44.4316692, 26.097207

Exterior of Arcade Cafe, right below the Nomad Skybar

This was a random find & it's our first time to this cafe. On the overall, the food here tastes pretty good. Being my 1st meal in the city of Bucharest, I felt that the food here is slightly on the saltier side & is more meaty in general.

The menu

Fresh green apple with mint (RON14.00; RM14.48/glass)
No complaints. It's as fresh as it gets, but isn't peppermint-ish. It just tastes fresh with the sprig of mint leaves (and probably some blended into the drink).

Frigarui Aromate De Pui Servite Pe Lipie cu Mix De Salata Si Sos Tzatiki (RON25.00;RM25.85/serving)
Flavored chicken skewers served with tortilla, mixed salad & tzatiki sauce

Coaste De Porc Marinate In Bere Neagra, Miere Si Sos Soia (RON33.00; RM34.13/serving)
Marinated pork with black beer, honey & soya sauce, served with red cabbage & carrots salad & vinaigrette dressing.
Really tender & tastes alike our Chinese "tau yue bak" (soya sauce pork belly)!

Cârnaţi Ardeleneşti Cu Piure De Cartofi Si Salata Varga Rosie (RON27.00; RM27.92/serving)
Romanian sausages with mashed potatoes & red cabbage salad.
I had this & thought that the sausages were really salty! Hahaha...it's not a moist sausage, but a rather coarsely minced meat sausage that's marinated with herbs & spices. It was an interesting Romanian experience, though not the best one.

After lunch, we walked around the old town area & stopped by a couple of 'tourist spots'. Below are some of the places that we walked pass/visited:

Vlad Tepes statue @ Palatul Voievodal Curtea Veche
Strada Franceză 25, București 030167, Romania
Tel: (+40) 21 314 0375
Business hours: Opens daily 10:00a.m. - 6:00p.m.
URL: muzeulbucurestiului.ro
GPS: 44.4301081,26.1011552

When the country, Romania, is mentioned, people will think of 2 things: 1) dracula 2) Transylvania. Vlad III, known as Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Dracula, is an evil prince, whose favorite method of executing people were through impalement. We came across one of his statues in the old town of Bucharest, right outside a church...hahaha...only God knows how evil & cruel he has been to the people here when he was alive. *shudders*

Biserica Sfântul Antonie - Curtea Veche
Strada Franceză 33, București 030105, Romania
Tel: (+40) 722 607 103 (Mobile)
URL: biserica-sfantul-anton.ro
GPS: 44.4301081,26.1014303

Saint Anthony Church is another orthodox church that's beautifully built on both the inside & outside. It amazes me how well-maintained this church is, considering it was built on 1559! It stands right beside the Curtea Veche, the Old Princely Court, a palace during the rule of Vlad III.

We continued walked towards Strada Halelor & Splaiul Independentei, the 2 main streets in the city, to head towards the Palace of Parliament. On that particular day, we saw a mass of people walking in commemoration of some loved ones who died in a fire of a building nearby, a year ago (if I'm not mistaken).

Graffiti on the bridge across Dâmbovița River

Old buildings/shops on both sides of the road

Right before the Palace of Parliament, we came across a really nice park in the city center, where the colors of autumn were just vividly painting that part of town :) The weather was cool & just lovely for a walk around the city.

Parcul Izvor
GPS: 44.4294835,26.0794038

Colors of autumn :)

A couple playing table tennis in the park!

Palatul Parlamentului/ Palace of Parliament
Strada Izvor 2-4, București, Romania
Tel: (+40) 21 316 0300
Opening hours: March - October, Daily 9:00a.m. - 5:00p.m.; November - February, Daily 10:00a.m. - 4:00p.m.
URL: cdep.ro
GPS: 44.4294835,26.0794038

The Palace of Parliament is the second largest administrative building in the world, after The Pentagon in the United States. PA mentioned that the government at that time was just crazy to build such a large parliament building when people at that time were living in great poverty :( We didn't enter the building for a tour since it's not free (hahaha) & we didn't have that much time anyway.

We concluded our "tour of the city" by walking through the beautiful Izvor Park again to get to our car :) What an interesting walking tour!

Some festival/street stalls were erected at one end of the park...this fascinated me :D

Freshly squeezed grape juice, anyone? It's RON10.00/bottle.

Food stalls selling a variety of snacks

Romanian traditional clothes for sale
Apparently these blouses are really expensive. I saw that the prices start from RON100 onwards & this was already very cheap. The usual good quality ones costs at least RON600! *eek!*

The last few blocks of buildings we passed before we reached our car - Institutul Cervantes

Cercul Militar Naţional

We were quite zonked by the time we got to the car! Pretty much a whole afternoon of walking :D I slept probably less than 8 hours for the past TWO days due to the travel, but I'm quite pleased with myself to survive Day 1 at Bucharest...hahaha.

The crazy path that we walked! Almost 5km, if not more?
This is just the estimate as I can't recall 100% which path/roads we took since I was just tagging along with PA & COS.

Stay tuned for more posts on my Bucharest trip!

1st time in Europe!


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