Some other things I did in Bucharest:
I was driven around the city by a true Bucharest driver (you know the ones I have complained about at length). While I could see that he was the kind of driver that would have driven me insane if I were in another car, I have to say I didn’t feel worried. The driver was Adrian, my friend Adina’s husband. In typically hospitable style they took me out to a delicious dinner on Friday night [included on the menu was also something I’ve never seen before: roast bear.] and shopping on Saturday morning before beers and mici by the lake. (Mici are these turd like barbecued thingies. I’m sure they’re delicious, and you see them everywhere, but as a vegetarian they’re not really my cup of tea. Adrian couldn’t really grasp this and tried in vain to get me to have one. I’m sure the idea of not wanting to eat mici is frankly not only baffling but also somehow treasonous).
Had a beer in the Szekely Vendeglo (Szekely Restaurant) which is opposite the Hungarian embassy. Cezar and I stopped there for a bit of a laugh (it’s not like I need to go to a Szekely restaurant in Bucharest). The waitress was in traditional Szekely costume and also wore a traditional Szekely frown. She looked like she was sucking lemons.
Took a taxi. In fact I took three taxis at different times. This may not strike you as interesting but the one constant refrain you hear from guidebooks and Romanians is that you should always be very careful before taking a cab in Bucharest as they will rip you off. A friend of ours was in Bucharest only two weeks ago and the driver tried to charge her 1,000,000Lei for a 10 minute journey. (1,000,000Lei is only about $30, but it’s still a ridiculously high price for a cab in Romania). It may have been that as a native of Ciskszereda who has lived in Budapest for the last ten years her Romanian is fairly accented and he thought he could get away with it. Fortunately, she doesn’t take shit, and she is Romanian after all, so she tore him off a strip and they had a massive shouting match about it. All the taxis I took (two of them called for, one hailed on the street) used metres and were extremely reasonable.
Bucharest has an expat community. Now I know that’s not a surprise, but after spending so long in Romania without one it does come as something of a jolt. Csikszereda has one too, but it consists of me, another British guy who I’ve met once, two peace corps volunteers, the Italian guy who owns San Gennaro restaurant, and a Spanish girl. Bucharest has publications serving its expat community (like most of the world’s “expat communities” it seems to be inclusive only of western expats – the Chinese community of Bucharest has, presumably, it’s own network). I came across three free magazines in a mere four day stay, ranging from the large and glossy “Bucharest” magazine to the small, cheap and peculiar “Expat Life”, which appears to be a one man show in which some Brit rambles on inconsequentially attempting to be funny. Somewhat like an in-print version of this blog in fact. All these mags appear to be supported by vast numbers of advertisements for two things – real estate (as opposed to illusory estate) and escort agencies. Unless the expat community of Bucharest is actually filled with voracious sex-addicted property speculators, it seems that these guides are actually aimed at the tourist or newly arrived foreigner.