Bucharest, the capitol city of Romania, is full of contradictions. While you walk down the street, your brain has a hard time absorbing the scene. It ranges from odd, beautiful, incredible to unbelievable. I therefore decided to list some of the amazing experiences we had during our short stay in the capitol.
The 9 strangest things of Bucharest
1. The Modern vs The Old
Romania is known for its corruption and shady politics. Investments in building up its capitol to the European standards are scarce and people work hard to get roofs above their heads. These are often in poor state. Real estate is expensive but at the same time not refurbished, ruining the overall nice impression of the capitol city. Walking down the streets of the downtown, you come across majestic hotels with long drive ways and luxury cars. Right next to it is often an apartment block which is almost falling apart. This is a pattern which repeats through out the city and mirrors the current state of state investment and political corruption.
2. Dangling Wires
One of the most sensational features of Bucharest was, for me, the amount of wires lining up the streets. The electricity poles have developed incredible nests which could easily serve as bird hubs. But it is not only the poles which are stunning. Occasionally you would find a wire end sticking out the ground or an elderly lady walking the streets with bunch of dangling pieces in her hands. They may have found an alternative use of those, we have not yet implemented!
3. No Ice Cream Parlours
Summers in Bucharest get extremely hot. Towards the end of June, it climbed all the way to 35 degrees Celsius and it was not all that enjoyable. To cool ourselves down, I was on a mission to find an ice cream shop. You would think that is cannot be too hard to accomplish, right? You are wrong. In Romania, going for an ice cream means sitting down on a terrace of a restaurant and ordering a sundae, only. You will not see a single person walking around with cones filled with scooped ice.
After a couple of days, when I grew immensely impatient, we found the one and only ice cream shop in the city centre with homemade crafted flavours. In case you suffer the same need on a hot summer day in Bucharest, visit Creamier at Strada Benjamin Franklin 5. The rather elevated ice cream prices might surprise you however.
4. Need an ID / Passport to Visit The Parliament
It is not completely unusual to present yourself with a valid identity card when entering a parliament building. My primary reason for mentioning this point is to give you and any British tourists a heads up. I believe that many of you do not walk around with your passport in the pocket. As many UK citizens do not own another piece of identity card, make sure you have your passport handy before you try to visit this lovely, second largest administrative building in the world. (The first one on that list is obviously Pentagon.)
5. Being Self-employed & Important
Mentioning the word self-employed, you probably think of entrepreneurs with their own tech startups or content freelancers. Those definitions do not apply when describing the self-employed and important men of Bucharest.
We had a very funny encounter with such “important man” while waiting for our hop-on hop-off tour of Bucharest hot spots. While the bus was running late, we were forced to wait at a small parking lot, by the main road. Space was scarce and while avoiding parking cars we were trying to fit in-between free parking spots and the moving traffic. Standing by, a fierce man was approaching us constantly to move away from “his” parking spots so he can lure passing by cars in, help them to park and get his tip of the day. It was a public parking area, no security, so this man took the responsibility on himself, without anyone’s permission. It was an amusing sight, but he definitely achieved recognition by the drivers of Bucharest thanks to his amazing work and dedication.
6. Being Fashionably Late
From buses to tours or personal meetings, it seems that Romania works on a different time schedule than the rest of us. It is a rather famous stereotype for the “latin” cultures but in the case of Romania it truly applies. We had many experience during our stay in Bucharest which prove that Romanians are more relaxed when it comes to time, schedules or showing up on time for appointments.
7. Bargaining with Taxi Drivers
The people of Bucharest are quite accustomed to riding taxis. It might be the result of a rather poor and over-crowded public transportation system. Catching a ride on one of these cute yellow vehicles is easy but can become pricey. Why? As in many Easter European cities, taxi drivers try to profit from poor tourists who are not always able to estimate the fair price of their journey. Taxi drivers do not start their tachometers and you have fallen into the trap.
The best way to avoid such situations is by using a Taxi app. Several are available on the app stores, we used “Clever Taxi” which was highly suggested to us. Unfortunately, it has failed us when we needed it the most, for our 5AM transfer to the Henri Coandă International Airport. At that point we were quite desperate, running on the street of Bucharest hoping to catch a cab on the road. We succeeded but it was a costly ride. Bargaining in English in a moment of desperation does not get you anywhere and we could not afford to miss our plane.
With regularly hot summers, Bucharest inhabitants cannot exist without freshly air-conditioned interiors. It is a must investment for every household but it has a slightly unpleasant side effect for the building exteriors. Large air-conditioning boxes hanging by each and every apartment window, leaking regular drops of water on the heads of street passers by. Make sure you avoid the puddles and safeguard your food in case you are enjoying a quick bite on the go!
9. Look Out for Stray Dogs & Kid Gangs ?
First of all, let me correct your perception: we didn’t get bitten by crazy street animal nor got robbed by kids. Although, these were the major warnings received from our Romanian friends. Everyone knows the stereotypes originating in Romania, or generally any Eastern European country: gipsy pickpockets, aggressive gipsy kid ambushes and stray animals. We encountered neither of these and we did go out in different hours of the day. Bucharest is a beautifully extravagant city with very smart young people and traditional folklore. The city is full of contrast and strangely massive constructions, but with kind and helpful population. The only animals we encountered in the city were goats and cats freely walking around in the beautiful National Village Museum.
What about you. Have you visited Bucharest and experienced different but strange things while in the city?
Let me know, I’d love to hear your stories!