Romania sounds like such a random vacation destination but there’s a method to my madness! Since I have 2 friends living there, not only was I able to visit a country I wouldn’t normally think to visit, but I was able to cut down on costs by crashing with them for a few days. My friends and I also brought a little USA cheer and greetings from home. It was a win/win for everyone! While I didn’t do much research on Bucharest since they live there and we were pretty much following their leads, it was a more rewarding experience than I could have imagined.
The four of us arrived in Bucharest around 1:30 pm after a 2 hour layover in Amsterdam. Our friends arranged for a driver to pick us up from the airport who drove us to our respective destinations (2 girls staying with one friend, 2 girls staying with the other…thanks Shamera and Alex!). Since our friends are schoolteachers, we waited until around 5 pm for them to get home. We headed to an area of the city called Lipscani (it means Old City in Romanian), which much to our surprise, was a really hip area. It reminded me of downtown Baltimore, filled with tons of quaint restaurants and bars. I was caught a little off guard by the number of stares we received, but I guess it’s not every day that a group of Black girls descend upon the city. Nevertheless, we took in all the sights and sounds of Lipscani, including shots of native spirit, Palinca. If you’re curious, Palinca had a licorice taste and wasn’t bad at all. Quite tasty. We did a bit more bar hopping and called it an early night since we wanted to maximize our time in the city the next day.
We took a bus tour around the city and while it’s so cheesy and touristy, it’s such a good way to see the major city attractions with only limited time. And since our friends live there, we knew they’d show us the ins and outs of the real city after work.
We saw several of the main Bucharest attractions including the “People’s Palace” (which apparently wiped out tons of Romanian natural resources while being built), the Free Press Square, Arc de Triumf (modeled after the one in Paris), the Village Museum and several other local treasures.
After we finished the bus tour, we stopped at our friend’s apartment to freshen up. She lives right in the heart of downtown Bucharest. It’s such a bustling city and much like you’d imagine in other major cities.
We headed to dinner in another part of downtown Bucharest. It was great being with people who live there and could show us the best places to eat and drink!
Our friends organized a trip for us to go to a mountain town about an hour and a half away called Busteni. The town was so picturesque, looking much like what’d you expect when you think of Romania. Small shops, trees as far as the eyes can see and humble-looking people. We took a cable car to the top of the mountain and the views were so breathtaking! I immediately started singing, “The hills are alive…” because I felt like Maria in the Sound of Music. Just amazing. We checked the weather the night before and it said it would be rainy and cold. What we didn’t expect was to see snow!
We worked up an appetite so our tour guide, Sandu, took us to the best restaurant in the town where we could experience great, traditional Romanian food. And he was so right! Everything was so delicious including the beef stew, homemade sausages and sandwiches…not to mention the homemade beignets topped with blueberries. Yum!
After lunch, we went to one of the King’s summer vacation castles that was built in 1814. It was a very grand castle but since it was built in the 1800’s, it seemed relatively new compared to some of the other historical castles I’ve visited. Nevertheless, the rooms were beautiful and I’m glad we were able to see inside.
Since it was our last night in Bucharest, we went to a fancy restaurant near Herăstrău Park, right on the water. It was a great way to end our last night in Romania.
“The Buch,” as I’ve come to call it, was so amazing…more amazing than I thought it’d be. I still felt like I was in a major city and while it’s not the most beautiful city I’ve seen, it still has its own unique charm and made me feel so welcome. That wasn’t the last Bucharest has seen of me!