art life travel

Romania, Nov-Dec 2014

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I went to Romania to Cluj, to speak at iOSNext. Being footloose and fancy free, I decided to stay on for a while after and see Bucharest, and try out AirBnB [referral link].

In Cluj, we stayed at the Golden Tulip hotel which was pretty nice. I arrived late and was given a room with two single beds, and called reception for a change, and they gave me another room… which also had two single beds. I was exhausted though, so I just lived with it! It was only two nights, after all. Other than that it was comfortable and the hotel food was good. We also ate at Camino, which was nice.

I didn’t see that much of Cluj, just the view from the top of the hill at night, which was pretty, but so cold and coming down was a bit of an icy obstacle course.

We took a road trip to Bucharest which was a bit ridiculous. First up, I overslept and my devices hadn’t charged overnight. Then once we got going, we were stuck behind tanks for large parts of the way because of Romania Day celebrations. Then the windscreen wiper liquid stopped working. On the way, we stopped in Sibiu which is pretty, saw the Christmas market, and had lunch at this terrible cafe. We waited over an hour for food, and then when it arrived it was cold. And of course after that, we were running much later than planned! The final misadventure was stopping for a last break, and the trunk getting stuck… which contained my portable phone charger so I was running desperately low on battery and trying to confirm things with my AirBnB host which was a bit stressful!

But eventually we made it!

Bucharest I got to see more of, I stayed in this apartment which was really nice. I wondered around a lot, there are some pretty parks like Grădina Cișmigiu, and Hanul cu Tel is a cute little street of artisan shops. The Botanical Gardens were great, I really liked them, and would love to see them in the summer. I only  saw the end of the Romania Day celebrations, although I missed the parade – it was super cold, and had actually snowed. I ended up getting my Serious Canadian Winter Boots shipped out to me because what I had wasn’t cutting it!

Breakfast places I tried: Cafe Dolce Bacio (nice, but only pastries), Boutique du Pain (OK), Paul Bakery (much the same as anywhere else, I expect), Van Gogh Grand Cafe (terrible).

Dinner: Sushi Ko (meh), Caru’ cu Bere (traditional Romanian, better than average service), Hanu’ Berarilor Interbelic (more traditional Romanian) Stadio (meh, extra terrible service), Ad Hoc Bistro (nice, went with locals), Zen Sushi (OK), Champions (meh).

Honestly, I found the food in Bucharest to mostly be not good, and the service worse. However after a couple of days I found Chocolat which became my favourite, and they served vegetables (spinach!) which was great, I was starting to really miss vegetables, and elsewhere all I found was corgette, which I am not a fan of at the best of times, and definitely can’t eat a whole plate of. So after finding Chocolat I ate breakfast there every day, and I even – the shame! – ate at Pizza Hut more than once because it was super cheap and at least I went in expecting it to be terrible. Exploring thinking that I might have found somewhere good and being continually disappointed got to me.

The Muzeul Național de Artă al României was okay, I went on a free entry day, there were so many religious paintings that at first I was really glad I hadn’t had to pay to get in! But upstairs there was some more modern art, and a couple of pictures that I really liked.

I went to the Natural History museum which was… interesting. Animals made of plaster, and also stuffed animals, which were a bit… creepy. And an exhibit on… I’m not sure what it was about really, but there was a shrunken head that I wish I could forget.

The Muzeul Național de Istorie a României was interesting, series about Romanian Royalty starting with Carol I. The best bit, though, was the collection of jewellery, which was really cool.

The Muzeul Țăranului Român was a bit strange, the last exhibit in the basement, I think might have been something to do with Stalin, but it was untranslated so I am not sure. You aren’t allowed to take pictures, and in every room there is at least one person, sometimes more (!) who only seem to be there to stop you if you try. The first exhibits were super religious, which I had zero interest in. But once I got upstairs there was some more interesting stuff, including some structures they had built, which was a more interesting experience. There was also a room of tiny miniatures which were pretty cute.

All in all, not an abundance of food or culture, but there are things to do and see and I quite enjoyed my time there – it was peaceful. I went and did tourist things, but some days I just wondered around and that was fine, the architecture is the most impressive thing about Romania, I found. And some days I just curled up in my cosy apartment and got some work done, and that was pretty great, too.

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