Archives August 2011

Out and about in Romania

Romania is regrettably, for one reason or the other – leaving Bucharest aside – not yet blessed with too many great hotels and accommodation venues. Finding a decent and satisfactory place for the night too often remains a lottery with only a few hits and far too many miss options. You will find plenty of Casas, Penisuneas or Hotels spread all over the country; but, unfortunately too often built only for the quick buck or without any knowledge or understanding of what the traveler needs and expects. Worse even if both are the case!
By Friedrich Niemann

I love to travel in Romania and explore the country as much as I can. When doing so, I try to avoid the big and commercial hotels – which I know too well for obvious reasons – but also places without a soul and sense of place. Throughout the years I have discovered several locations, which truly have this sense of place and are not necessarily posh and so perceptibly pseudo-luxurious, much better – they are just perfect in what and where they are. If I would play it smart, I obviously kept those places to myself, as otherwise I would be running the risk that soon these hidden secrets won’t be secrets anymore and overrun by the curious traveler. However, that would neither do the locations justice nor the sophisticated traveler’s thirst for proper accommodation. Hence, below please find my four favorite spots in Romania.

The Inn on Balaban

 

No, it is no coincidence that all of these locations are in Transylvania!  I have been taking that deprived gravel road up to the hill of Balaban already for years, every time when I was in dire need of a tranquil place to rest and enjoy the stunning beauty of the Carpathian’s Southern Range. The ‘Inn on Balaban’ is uniquely located while it sits on a hill high above the village of Simon, next to Bran in Brasov County. Once up here the visitor can enjoy 360 degree views of the Carpathian Mountains; the Piatra Craiului to the west and the Bucegi mountains to the east, the famous Rucar – Bran corridor stretches to the South – scenic views as many and as lasting as you wish.

Casa Balaban is a purpose-built house that resembles a traditional Transylvanian farmhouse as exhibited in Sibiu’s village museum. That is where the owner of the house picked up the idea a few years ago, realized his dream and opened the Inn in 2006. It really puts you back in time in rural Romania. There is a large living room on the ground floor, with a fire place, comfy sofas, a library about Transylvania and its history and lots of antique and rural Romanian furniture. The six bedrooms on the ground – and the first floor are furnished with antiques or rebuilt traditional Romanian peasant furniture. The beds and their linen are so horrendously comfortable that you don’t want to get up in the morning anymore. Bathrooms have floor heating and tiny little windows allow you to enjoy those spectacular views even in the most private moments. As there is no other place for dinner in the area, the inn usually offers half board, which comprises a country style three-course dinner (the mamaliguta is outstanding), accompanied by a decent selection of fine Romanian wines. In the morning a very rich and local breakfast is served in the dining room.

Over the last years they have also added two more buildings, one being a beautifully restored old farm house from Simon and a second building, following the same architecture as the first, accommodating spacious meeting facilities as well as another two bedrooms.

To get there, while coming from Brasov, you need to pass through the village of Bran, about 1 km after passing Bran castle take a left following the signs for Simon. In Simon turn left at the church and follow the signs and the gravel road for approximately 4 km. Once there and no matter the weather, you don’t want to leave. And in winter, when the road is inaccessible by car, they come and pick you up with a sledge in Simon – being the truly romantic alternative. The Inn at Balaban is the perfect retreat for a weekend or a short vacation for those who enjoy nature, quietness, hiking and a sense of place. What I enjoyed most, apart from the stunning nature: there are no telephones or TV’s in the house – ok, they do have WiFi.  More about the inn on Balaban, here.

Count Kálnoky’s guesthouse in Miclosoara; Valea Verde resort in Cund

I suppose ‘Count Kálnoky’s Guesthouse’ in Miclosoara is no secret anymore, as this place has been in the media regularly and not only because of the occasional visits of the Prince of Wales. Miclosoara is about one hour north of Brasov in Szeklerland, Covasna County. So instead of Romanian, one is better advised to speak Hungarian with the local people.

The Kálnoky Family have returned to Transylvania after 50 years of exile and had since found ways to save their heritage and reinstate the estate to its former character. In the tiny village of Miclosoara the family has restored several farm houses, dating from the 18th century and now offers eight guest rooms in different buildings scattered around the village.

The guesthouses have been carefully restored in order to preserve their original Transylvanian charm and character and are situated within spacious gardens, with storks nesting on nearby rooftops. All rooms are amazingly comfortable, decorated in the old Transylvanian Szekler and Saxon styles. In order to create an atmosphere of peace and tranquility, the rooms do not have television or radio; instead, you will find plenty of interesting books on the shelves. You will also find tea and coffee making facilities and very comfy en suite bathrooms with hair dryers, floor heating and historic bathtubs. One should however avoid the room next to the sauna, as this does not have a private bath and one has to use the bathroom of the sauna, which is not really the best alternative. Right, there is also a sauna, a billiards room and equipment for badminton or table tennis in the garden. If you are staying for a few days, the guesthouse even offers to store your emptied luggage away, in order to clear space in your room.

Like on the Inn on Balaban (which we covered in a previous article here), the price usually includes dinner, which is served family style, meaning that most guests sit at long tables and enjoy good country style fare, served either in the rustic and charming wine cellar or underneath the vine arbour in the garden. The food is organic and mostly produced in the village.

Apart from the comfort of the accommodation and the overall flair of the place, it is this family atmosphere, which always attracted me most. Every time I visited the place I enjoyed unforgettable evenings, which we spent and enjoyed with total strangers (in the beginning of the night!), either playing cards for hours with a table full of British guests or getting nicely smashed with visitors from the US embassy in Sofia.

The Transylvanian Castle organizes all kinds of tours and trips during your stay, be it wildlife walking tours in the neighbouring woods or culture and history trips to Brasov or the fortified churches in the area. The place is also very famous for its riding holidays as the family too breeds its own horses in a nearby stable.

Coming from Bucharest, you have to pass through Brasov in the direction of Targu Mures until you reach the DN13. At Maierus leave the main road and turn right, following directions for Belin, Aita Mare and Baraolt. The village after Aita Mare will be Miclosoara. It will take you about fifteen minutes for the 17 km from leaving DN13. Pass the white church and go down the hill, to your right you will see a large wooden tastefully furnished old farmhouses, all with their separate entrances and large terraces as well as en suite bathrooms. All apartments are carefully furnished in order to create a relaxed, cosy and friendly atmosphere and in every living room you will find a wood-burning stove alongside the central heating to add extra warmth and comfort. For larger groups and higher demand one will find about ten other apartments in restored Saxon farmhouses scattered around the village, all preserving the simple and authentic charm of their past.

What really sets Valea Verde apart from many other rural retreats in Transylvania are Jonas’ skills at the stove. Although he had never enjoyed any kitchen education, he has become a master, offering beautifully created three – or four course dinner menus, an a la carte gourmet breakfast some five star hotels can only be dreaming about, and all accompanied by a very selective and high quality wine list. If you plan for a diet or want to stay sober; sorry this is the wrong place. But if relaxation and gourmet life aren’t everything for you; they also do offer a wide range of special recreational activities, like cycling tours, horseback riding, wood crafting or painting classes.

Getting there! Either you travel by public transportation to Sighisoara, Medias or Targu Mures and they will pick you up or by car you follow the DN13 from Brasov to Sighisoara, switch on to DN14 until you reach the town of Dumbraveni. From here it gets a bit complicated for another approx 10 km through Dumbraveni, always following the signs for Viisoara on the 142C. About one kilometer after leaving Dumbraveni, you need to take a left turn onto local route 151B. There is no sign, but you’re right when the road turns into gravel; you’re wrong when it’s still asphalt! After about 6 km you will reach Cund (asphalt again!), here you will need to turn left shortly after the church, cross a small bridge and after approx. 400 meters you will be in front of Valea Verde Resort and welcomed with a bright smile and a glass of Prosecco.

More details about the Transylvanian Castle here.   More about traveling in Transylvania, here and here.
Friedrich Niemann has been the general manager of the Athenee Palace Hilton hotel in Bucharest until 2010. He has moved to Germany to run the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Berlin. This article has been originally written for and published in City Compass’ English – language guide ‘Bucharest, Romania & Beyond’.

Sinaia, the pearl of the Carpathians

Sinaia is a must see city of Romania for its unmatched history, the former summer residence of the Royal Family and the largest number of monuments per capita that consist of beautiful buildings signed by famous Romanian and European architects.

Why should you go to Sinaia

Sinaia was a town that grew like in a fairytale. When the first king of Romania, Carol 1st visited the country for the first time, he fell in love with the surroundings and decided to establish his summer residence in the area. At that time, there was just the Monastery of Sinaia and a very small number of inhabitants in the area.

Once he had decided to build the castle, Carol I of Romania appointed an architect to develop the plans and, almost at the same time, people of culture, high rank politicians and the high-class families started building their own residences in Sinaia.

They appointed the best Romanian architects at that time, like T. Socolescu or P. Smărăndescu while some decided to work with foreign architects to make sure their properties were elegant, in style and, most importantly, unique. Sinaia was at the beginning of the 20th century the place to be, an elegant, cultural and full of life city, a special retreat for powerful families from Romania and from abroad and a year-round tourist attraction.

Sinaia is a very beautiful city, full of history, beautiful architecture and great landscapes, but, as communism has left its marks over the city, sometimes its treasures are hidden behind newly built hotels or blocks of flats. I recommend you take an organized tour of Sinaia to make sure you see the real stuff.

How to get there

Along with the modernization of the railway, the highway to Ploiești has also been upgraded, meaning you can enjoy a nice 90-minute trip either by train or by car. The only rush hours are Friday afternoon to Sinaia and Sunday afternoon on the way back. Until autumn 2014 Sinaia’s central area is undergoing massive infrastructure upgrade works so you might experience detours.

Where to stay

For accommodation I would recommend Poem Boem Villa (www.poemboem.com) which is an exclusive retreat at a very good price. It is as good for families as it is for romantic escapes. You might want to experience a more familiar place, in which case you can choose Piatra Șoimului (www.piatrasoimului.ro). I personally would avoid the big hotels as they don’t match the spirit of the city. For larger groups however, you might have to consider them.

How long should you stay in Sinaia

My advice would be to stay a week or at least 2-3 days. You really have to spend some time to feel the city. Breath the fresh air and enjoy the beautiful landscape, visit the museums, go hiking, go to the park, go to the recently re-opened casino, go swimming in one of the two local pools, get a massage, take a nice dinner, take a walk and you will be highly rewarded for your curiosity. Then schedule day trips to Babele, Cramele Rhein,Brașov, Sighișoara or Bran.

What should you see & do in Sinaia?

Peleș Castle and Pelișor – please take time to visit them inside. Peleș is one of the best preserved castles in Europe and has a mix of eclectic styles from all over the world on show in special decorated “theme” rooms which are a great joy for any visitor. You will have to be totally informal and patient at the cafeteria across from the castle, which has a help-yourself system, but recently some nice restaurants have opened nearby.

Another must see is the park of Sinaia with its beautiful casino, which holds a permanent painting exhibition and has been recently reopened to the public. The park is well maintained and is a great experience for adults and kids as well as for couples looking for a romantic escape. From the park you can also see some beautiful buildings including Hotel Palace, which will be a “treasure” when current renovations of the building are finished.

Also, you can see some old hotel landmarks of Sinaia including Hotel Caraiman and the former Hotel Parc which is now under reconstruction. You can enjoy a good tea or coffee at Cafeneaua Parcului where they also have a nice collection of pictures of Sinaia’s old houses.

A must see is Casa George Enescu – located in Cumpătu neighborhood – which is on the opposite mountain to the city center – a beautiful, quiet and elegant residential area of Sinaia. Enescu’s former residence, which was built following the great musician’s own plans and instructions, was recently renovated and offers entry tickets and audio guides (in the main foreign languages as well) at a ridiculously small price. The visit is rich in information and is also very personal as you are surrounded by Enescu’s music all the way through. If you feel like having a break after the visit, indulge yourself with a nice coffee or a lunch at Kuib Restaurant located just around the corner.

Another must see is the Tour of Sinaia organized by Asociația Redescoperă Sinaia. The organizers have done extensive research, together with a great team from Muzeul Țăranului Român (MTR). The tours will help you discover great places, architecture and monuments, but are also full of short stories which will help you absorb more of the local history and enjoy some of the well kept and untold stories of the old inhabitants. For the tour contact: [email protected] or [email protected] to see when they organize the next tour. Hiking is great in the area. You can start from Sinaia, visit Busteni and return, or vise versa. For more details you can contact Asociația Redescoperă Sinaia at [email protected] for guide recommendation.

When all is done, indulge yourself with a swim or a massage. And of course, come for ski or snowboard or for paragliding in the winter.

What can you do if you are with kids?

You can have a good time at the Playground Park in Cumpătu – near Kuib Restaurant. Then there’s the Model Railway Exhibition in Sinaia’s beautiful, but sadly rather poorly maintained, railway station. Kids will enjoy the small trains and the diorama, while the entire family can enjoy a hot chocolate.

Sinaia Park offers playgrounds for different ages and a “Tyrolean” experience when the weather allows. On rainy days, you can take the kids to the Carmen Sylva Cultural Center, where they can read and paint. Check up on the schedule as sometimes they organize guitar lessons on Saturdays.

The cable car up the mountain makes two stops: one at 1,400 m, and the next at 2,000 m. On top the view is great. Between May and September, you can enjoy a long or a short hike and from December to April or even sometimes as late as May, you can go skiing. New ski lifts need to be built at the top to manage the high weekend demand, but during the week it’s much less hectic.

Also up in the mountains, but by car (pretty bad road – almost 1 hour drive) is Stâna Regală. It is a hard drive, but once there, it’s great for kids. This summer they even had ponies and other animals. At the top, don’t miss the view from Frantz Iosif Stone – if the sky is clear you should see the entire Prahova Valley, a breathtaking view.

Finally, you can take the family to swim at Hotel New Montana or Hotel Mara, or go bowling at Hotel International Sinaia. Be aware that when the weather is bad it can be full on Friday and Saturday afternoons, so you might need to book it in advance.

Where to eat?

My favourite place by far is Kuib – www.kuib.ro located in Cumpătu area. You can have a pretty heavy traditional Romanian food at Cabana Skiori or might like to try the experience of the Italian food at Cucina Sofia.

Sometimes it is just nice to get a pizza on the go. There is a small pizzeria near Cafeneaua Parcului that is pretty good.

Good to know

In Sinaia it rains pretty often, so it’s always good to have some raincoats and proper shoes with you. Generally the showers are short and you might see the sun again very soon so don’t give up the plan for the entire day if it rains in the morning, you might have a brilliant sunny day after an hour of rain.

Take some warm clothes with you at all times, even if in Bucharest it is 38 degrees celsius, it might get very cold in Sinaia especially if it rains.

Shopping in Sinaia is very poor, I only manage to buy some bio cereals and tea from some small shops in the center so this should leave time for sight seeing tours and other experiences. I hope the shops’ offerings will improve soon as along with the heavy modernization in the central area there is a “wind of change” for better.

At 30 minutes up-north drive from Sinaia you can visit Rhein Wine Cellar in Azuga, where you can see how they produce Rein Champagne, which has been produced in Romania ever since 1889. They also have a small wine shop there from where you can buy really great award winning Romanian wines.

If you stay for a long time or want to help yourself to some food, you can find good fresh vegetables and fruits at Sinaia market, which is located on a narrow street opposite to Hotel Montana. Also, check the Angst supermarket for all the fresh and locally produced ham, cremwursts and various meat specialties for the grill. Fresh fish is hard to find in Sinaia but you can buy fresh trout from Azuga.

If you have recommendation or want to find out more, please write to [email protected] as the association focuses on the sustainable development of the city.

Go to the Sinaia listings directory for more information on the recommendations.

By Ioana Enache

 

Ioana Enache is board member of the Asociația Redescoperă Sinaia, which aims to revitalize the town of Sinaia and reestablish it as an elegant, charming and green city with a good quality of life and rich cultural offerings.

Timisoara

Timisoara, the Western gate to Romania

By Anna Lopes

One of the most striking things I learned about Timișoara is that it was the first city in Europe to have electrical street lights in 1884. This is not necessarily the reason why someone should visit the place, although the vibe of the streets in the summer seems to allude to that early invention.

It is rather the holiday feeling, finding that outdoor cafes and restaurants are almost always full, irrespective of the time of day. So, if you are looking for a chill-out weekend alone or with a partner, it is a terrific option.

It takes one hour to fly from Bucharest and up to four hours from other major cities in Europe. It is also possible to get there by car, despite what is said about Romanian infrastructure. Trains can sometimes be an option, but make sure you take an Intercity or Rapid. One downside would be that on hot summer days there will be delays that can really test the patience. I once waited for three hours on the platform in Timișoara, but was able to order pizza, which was delivered to the train station!

Republic of Moldova

Chisinau, Republic of Moldova

By Ana Mihailov
Ana Mihailov is a citizen of the Republic of Moldova and lives in Chisinau.

 

Chisinau is the capital of the Republic of Moldova and the largest city in the country. The Republic of Moldova is country that can be described as culturally ‘torn’ between Europe and Russia- a fact reflected by the political circumstances this small country. The communist party ruled the country until 2009, and they are still quite powerful. The official languages spoken there are Romanian and Russian.
Officially, approx. 4.3 million people live in the Republic of Moldova. For history enthusiasts, Chisinau offers a step back in time to the bygone days of the Soviet Union with its grid street system and typical Soviet architecture. If you live in Bucharest want to explore another country with close historical ties to Romania, then a trip to Chisinau is definitely one of the most interesting can make.
Hint! As border procedures are taken seriously when travelling there by car, make sure you take your passport along and check their Visa-policy regarding your nationality! There is a night train leaving every 2nd night from Bucharest to Chisinau; a 1st class ticket is approx. EUR 20 and the trip is amazing.
 

Places to see in Chisinau

A visit to the city of Chisinau should definitely start by visiting the statue of Stefan cel Mare, a national hero. It is situated at the entrance of the park of the same name and represents the heart of downtown, as well as the main meeting point for locals.
 
Exiting the park towards the Stefan cel Mare Boulevard and walking to the left, you arrive at the Opera and Ballet Theater, built during the Soviet era.
 
From this point one can see the imposing Presidential Palace, which overlooks another important administrative building –the Parliament. Today, both buildings are under repair after having been devastated during the events of April 2009.
 
Walking along the Stefan cel Mare Boulevard back to the statue of Stefan cel Mare and passing it by, you get to the Grand National Meeting Square (Piata Marii Adunari Nationale), the place where before the ‘90s, military parades and speeches from Communist leaders were organized.
 
The square accommodates the large House of Government of Moldova (Casa Guvernului), which during the Soviet era served as the seat of the Communist Party of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.
 
Just opposite the House of Government is the Triumphal Arch (Arcul de Triumf), built in 1840 by the architect I. Zauschevici in commemoration of the victory of the Tsar troops against the Turks.
 
Behind the Arch arises the Orthodox cathedral “Christ Birth” (Catedrala „Nasterea Domnului”) built in the classical Russian style in 1836. The cathedral is comprises a central building and a separate bell tower.
The original bell tower was destroyed a few times in various military conflicts; therefore the actual bell tower is the result of the reconstruction finished in 1997.
 
The cathedral is surrounded by another beautiful park, on one side of which, along the Banulescu-Bodoni Street, the main flower open market of the city is situated. Flower booths are lined one after the other and stretch for more than 200 meters.
 
Continuing the walk along the House of Government, the first building to mention is the Chisinau City Hall (Primaria Chisinaului), built in 1902 by the architects M. Elladi and A. Bernardazzi in the Gothic Venetian style.
 
Close to the City Hall, on Stefan cel Mare Boulevard, you can see the Central Post Office (Posta centrala), the Organ Hall (Sala cu orga) and the “Mihai Eminescu” National Theater. Just in the area there is a small and attractive park with an open handicraft market which is the best place to buy souvenirs and presents.
Continuing the walk on the boulevard up to the Armeana Street or a little further on the Tighina Street you can reach the Central Open Food Market of the city.
 
Walking back to the statue of Stefan cel Mare and then up on the Banulescu Bodoni Street until the 31st of August Street, you get to the National Museum of History of Moldova which holds around 300,000 artifacts of Moldovan history and culture.
 

Surrounding Chisinau

 

Wine Cellars

 

Milestii Mici

Phone: +373 22 382333.
Web: www.milestii-mici.md
This wine factory and cellar complex is situated 20 km south of Chisinau near a village of the same name. Its underground wine city in limestone stretches for 250 km, of which 120 km are currently in use.  Milestii Mici cellar complex is recognized to be the largest in the world. The tunnel streets, “Cabernet”, “Chardonnay”, “Feteasca”, and “Sauvignon” etc. form a transportation web in the wine city. The “Golden Collection” of Milestii Mici holds nearly two million bottles. Bookings should be made 3-4 days in advance on the phone.
 

Wine Cellar of Cricova

Phone: +373 22 44 12 04
Web: www.cricova.md
The wine cellar of Cricova is the second largest wine cellar in Moldova, after Milestii Mici and is also about 20 km distance from Chisinau. It boasts a mere 120 kilometers of labyrinthine roadways used for wine storage, named by the wines they store.
 

Northeast and Southeast

The archaeological complex of Orheiul Vechi (Old Orhei) is an open-air museum situated between the villages Trebujeni and Butuceni 60 km northeast of Chisinau. It is a system of historical monuments and natural landscapes. Its fantastic views and ancient atmosphere impress everyone. The easiest way to reach it is by car, as public transport is poorly organized.
Roughly 65 kilometers southeast of Chisinau, in Moldova’s break-away Transnistria Region. The city of Tiraspol is considered to be a living museum of Soviet culture. It can be reached both by public transport and by car.
 

Important Info

 

Telephoning Chisinau from Abroad

International Access Code +373 (country code) + 22 (area code) + telephone number (six digit number). To call for an ambulance, dial 903!

Pharmacies & Hospitals

Most of the Felicia pharmacies (farmacie) are open 24 hours a day and can be found in every district of the city.
 

Emergency Clinic Hospital (Spitalul Clinic Municipal de Urgenta din Chisinau)

Address: 1, Toma Ciorba St.
Phone: +373 22 25 08 17
 

Tourist infokiosk network Moldova

Address: 83, Stefan Cel Mare (near the City Hall
Phone: +373 22 32 59 81
Information touch-kiosk network covering Moldova and Romania touristic destinations, best deals, trip advises, free post e-cards, places to see, and special tours.
 

Getting around

Visitors to Chisinau have a number of options for getting around the city and the rest of the country including by car, bus, and taxi. A personal vehicle is the most convenient means of transportation available in Chisinau as it allows the greatest freedom and flexibility in travel. Certain rental agencies will hire drivers along with the vehicles.
 

Car rental

 

AVR Rent-a-Car

Address: 57/1, Banulescu Bodoni, off. 211
Phone: +373 22 92 20 60
Web: www.rentacar.md
There is a good public transportation network in Chisinau that consists of buses, trolley buses, and minibuses whose standard operating hours are from 6am to midnight (see www.terra.md/ro/timetable for the schedule). Taxis are a good way of getting around the immediate city; the best way to get a taxi is to call for a pick-up. Taxis can be reached by dialing any of the following numbers: 1400, 1405, 1406, 1407 or 1408. Most hotels, restaurants, and bars will be happy to make this call for you.
 

Restaurants

 

La Taifas

Address: 67, Bucuresti St.
Phone: +373 22 22 76 92
Web: www.lataifas.allmoldova.com
La Taifas restaurant provides an insight about Moldovan cuisine and national customs.
 

Pani Pit

Address: 115, 31 August St.
Phone: +373 22 24 01 27
This elegant French restaurant is situated in the very center of the town in the National Museum of Arts building, and is famous for its unique atmosphere. The aroma of real freshly ground coffee beans harmonizing with restored ancient photos create an unusually cozy and comfortable atmosphere.
 

Symposium

Address: 78 , 31 August St.
Phone: +373 22 21 13 17
Web: www.symposium.md
Symposium is one of Chisinau’s top restaurants, striving to bring its customers fresh and creative cuisine, along with fine service in a warm, classic atmosphere. It is located in historic downtown, across the National Museum and behind the Government Building. Symposium is consistently recognized by local newspapers and tourist guides as one of the city’s best restaurants.
 

Cafés and Tea Houses

 

Café de Italia

Address: 17/1, Grigore Vieru Blvd.
Phone: +373 22 24 32 32
Web: www.cafedeitalia.md
This is the place to find a big variety of specialty coffees, drinks and good music.
 

Delice d’ange

Address: 117/2, 31 and August St.
Phone: +373 22 24 14 28
This is a small, cozy two-floor café downtown. It is the best place in Chisinau to treat yourself to traditional French pastry and confectionery.
 

44 Jazz Cafe

Address: 44, Albisoara St.
This is a café where people come primarily for the sake of good music and relaxed communication. In the evening you can see local and foreign jazz or blues bands on stage.
 

Pubs & Clubs

Going out in Chisinau is a great time and we highly recommend it!
 

Robin Pub

Address: 83, Alexandru cel Bun St.
Phone: +373 22 24 11 47
Combining pub traditions with a rich restaurant menu, this place is of the British tradition where British dishes are given special attention.
 

Havana

Address: 30, Puskin St.
Phone: +373 22 22 83 50
The pub offers European food in a very cozy atmosphere where travelers can drink a glass of good beer and listen to Latin music.
 

Studio Club

Address: 66, Bucuresti St.
Phone: +373 69 04 04 04
The club is situated downtown and has a very convenient location. It is worth noting that it is a true disco club, comprising all the energy and glamour of the multi-faceted phenomenon called disco.
 

Hotels

 

VisPas Hotel

Address: 26, Lapusneanu St.
Phone: +373 22 24 21 29
Web: www.vispas.com
For over 8 years it has provided a quiet and comfortable environment, truly expanding the limits of hospitality. Due to the convenient location in the center of the city, major business offices and attractions can be reached within minutes. Prices from EUR 100-120.
 

LEOGRAND Hotel & Convention Center

Address: 77, Mitropolit Varlaam St.
Phone: +373 22 21 02 10
Web: www.leograndhotels.com
This four-star hotel, located in the center of the city is close to just about everything. The rooms are big enough and prices vary from EUR 180-230.
 

Elat Hotel

Address: 140/1, Columna St.
Phone: +373 22 29 25 74
Web: www.elathotel.md
Elat Hotel is situated in the business center of Chisinau, near the Presidential and Parliament buildings, Central Park and Theatre of Opera and Ballet. Prices from EUR 70-90.
 

Apartments

Apartments are a good alternative to hotels in Chisinau. Nice apartments centrally located can be found for relatively cheap prices. Seewww.rental.md/apartments/ to select and book.
 

Shopping

 

Handicraft market

Address: 85, Stefan Cel Mare St.
By the National Theatre on Stefan Cel Mare there is a handicraft market located in a small and attractive park. It is open daily, from 10:00 until around 17:00.
 

For constant updates and more in-depth info about Chisinau, visit our website at www.citycompass.ro or check out this link: www.allmoldova.com!

Bulgaria

Bulgaria Outdoors

By Christian Pauls
 

Rusenski Lom Nature Park (Bulgaria, Ruse County)

Sometimes people ask me if there are any nature trips you can do from Bucharest without getting into the standard traffic jam in Prahova Valley, driving many hours, or heading to Buzau Area (which I highly recommend). Well, about 90km from Bucharest, in Bulgaria, there is a stunning nature park, with plenty of hills, canyons, rivers, caves and old churches carved into the rocks above a winding river.
The Rusenski Lom national park is one of Bulgaria’s 11 national parks and is situated along the canyonlike valley of the Rusenski Lom River. It is a great area for easy walks, longer hikes, mountain biking, and the region is very suitable for families with children too.
The park is recognized as a precious site of high aesthetic value preserving beautiful riverside terraces, meanders, and high vertical rocks, areas of rich varieties of animal life, caves, rock formations, and historical monuments of national and international significance.
 

Getting there

From Bucharest take DN5/ E85 direction Giurgiu. Pass by Adunati Copaceni and after the village of Remus follow it to your left (truck road signposted to Ruse). Take care, if you do make the turn, you will have to drive through the city of Giurgiu.
Once you arrive at the Romanian – Bulgarian boarder you will see a first checkpoint where you will have to pay a tax for crossing the Bridge of Friendship (RON 30 / car). The border checkpoint is right after the bridge. After passing border control you will have to pay for the Bulgarian road tax if you intend to drive on national roads and highways. It happened to me and to several more expats from Bucharest that they were asked higher amounts for the road tax than it actually costs. Make sure you will get a receipt and keep it with you at all times. It is also a very good idea to have a good map that you understand at this point, because every road sign will be in Cyrillic lettering.
Then you will travel by the city of Ruse. Follow the road to Sofia/ Veliko Tarnovo (national road no. 5) for about 20km and turn then to the left to Ivanovo. From there you will already see road signage leading to the “rock churches” of Ivanovo.
 

Activities

Outdoor activities in the region include: walking and hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, caves, and climbing.  Also, when you are there, you must visit Ivanovo’s impressive rock churches. These UNESCO heritage sites date back to the second Bulgarian state, 12th-14th century, and have been carved into the rocks above Rusenski Lom River.
Another place of interest is the medieval village of Cherven, where you can enjoy stunning views from the castle (although the castle itself isn’t much more than a ruin now).
 

Accommodation

The region does not offer many guesthouses as tourism is not very busy there. The website Hotels Guide Bulgaria offers a complete list of accommodation offers in the region at www.hotels.guide-bulgaria.com/NC/Rousse.
Personally, I have tried out the Petrov Gueshouses in Cherven. There were two clean and neat houses with 3 double rooms each. Not suitable for families as you share the bathroom with the other guests. The food is decent, but you’d better take your own with you.
 

Deeper into Bulgaria – Veliko Turnovo

A wonderful weekend city break just 3 hours from Bucharest is Veliko Tarnovo. As a former capital of Bulgaria during the Second Empire you will find a city with plenty of history and unique architecture to discover. Its heritage ranges from medieval fortresses and Ottoman inns to the Bulgarian renaissance.
Even today, walking through the streets of the old town you will find plenty of cutlery, tannery, pottery, a carpenter’s shops and a weaving workshop, where the artisans use authentic technologies.
This free online guide about Veliko Tarnovo that should be helpful to prepare your visit: www.theoldcapital.eu.
 

How to get there

If you plan to travel by car it will be an easy 3 hour drive from Bucharest to Veliko Tarnovo. From Bucharest take DN5/ E85 direction Giurgiu, then cross the Danube-Bridge to Ruse. From Ruse follow national road no. 5 towards Sofia and follow the road-signs towards Veliko Tarnovo (Велико Търново). I do not recommend traveling by train to Veliko Tarnovo unless you are passionate about it. It may take you more than 7 hours to get there (192 km).
 

Activities

Veliko Tarnovo is a great weekend escape for all kinds of travelers. The city itself is rich in galleries, artisans and museums. Close by there are several places of interest that can be easily reached by car, including: the old village of Arbanassi; Eco-trail hikes in Emen Canyon; and several monasteries.
 

Accommodation

Veliko Tarnovo offers plenty of hotels and six hostels at reasonable prices. If you prefer high-end luxury, there are Hotel and Spa resorts in the neighbouring village of Arbanassi.
My personal recommendation in Veliko Tarnovo is the Phoenix Hostel, run by a Cathy and Nick, two British expatriates and passionate motorcyclists who settled in Veliko four years ago. From my personal point of view they run the best hostel I have ever stayed in. Just in the middle of the old town, in a wonderful old Bulgarian house that they have renovated with a lot of care and passion Nick and Cathy cater to their guests with great attention, a wonderful breakfast and spotlessly clean rooms and facilities. They are the best source of information for activities in and around Veliko Tarnovo. Book in advance!
 

PHOENIX HOSTEL

Address: Hristo Daskalov Str. 12
Phone: +359 (0)62 603 112
E-mail: [email protected]

General issues

Romania has a state-funded health system, and a slowly emerging private sector, which has seen some major changes in the last seven years. According to Euromonitor, Romania’s expenditures on medical services and goods have more than doubled since 2002, and their have been marked improvements in the system as a whole. Still, the quality of healthcare is quite low by European standards, particularly in rural areas. Additionally, a few newborn babies were killed in 2010 in a fire in a famous maternity clinic- it was a shock for the whole country!

 

In recent years, hospitals have also seen shortages of staff, which have gone to other European countries to work. Furthermore, the typical ‘informal payments’ for higher quality care, even for basic services, are very much still a reality, and many people consider doctors in public healthcare to be corrupt. But it is not only doctors; it is nurses, porters, assistants and anaesthesiologists as well. Here is one explanation to help put it in perspective: The tradition of gift-giving for good services is very old in Romania, but the average salaries in the public healthcare industry as a whole have not seen growth comparable to averages in other sectors (even specialists will sometimes only earn EUR 350 per month), and these gifts have become an expected norm. This trend of corruption and low wages also helps to explain the staff shortages, and the cycle continues.
The private healthcare system has begun to help change the situation, but only very slowly. With Romanians’ increasing incomes the private health insurance industry has started to grow, as well as the number of private clinics and hospitals; this is especially true in Bucharest where most of the growth is occurring. In most cases, you are probably not too far from a clinic that is up to ‘Western standards’.

 

The following overview gives information about general practice as well as specialty clinics.
If you are employed with a Romanian labor contract and have public insurance, new rules have been established: each person has to go to a doctor who sets up the patient’s medical file, and is responsible for everything the patient needs. Everyone is free to pick their own doctor, but must go to that doctor first for all issues, and when necessary, wait for their submission sheet for specialists and hospitals. If you are uncertain in dealing with the public healthcare system, it is best simply to ask a lot of questions. It is not the case that it is impossible to find quality healthcare in the public sector, you may just have to look a bit harder and perhaps pay a bit more.

 

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Pipera – Baneasa – Bucharest’s expat neighborhood

Pipera is an ever-changing area; home to a big community of expats (no official figures however), this Bucharest neighborhood sees new shops, services and restaurants opening up all the time.

In terms of shopping, two shopping centers are at the core of this area: Jolie Ville on the Erou Iancu Nicolae street – the street itself is the backbone of the expat neighborhood – and the Băneasa Shopping City, a larger mall and a shopping park which hosts other retailers as well.

For those who are more into traditional shopping, the Pipera market is worth a visit. You will find contact details for these places in the listings part at the end of this text.

More on Pipera below.

Shopping

Eating & Drinking

Entertainment

Health

Education

(opening photo from Olimob.ro)

 

Electricity Bill

You can pay utilities bills in Romania in various ways. For most of them you will need to have the actual paper invoice. But most of them can also be paid via bank transfer – provided you have all the needed details on your bill – client code and invoice number.

  • In cash at most banks. Check with your bank what sort of utility payments they can receive
  • In cash, at PayPoint locations –  ro-en.paypoint.com
  • Online, through your bank account
  • Online, by card, on the service providers’ website is they offer this option
  • By card, at various banks’ ATMs

 

 

On the invoices the bank account is listed on the upper left part of the bill. Many bills also have barcodes that can be used at ATM or bank branches. Check with your bank for more information on these services.
In Bucharest, the company that provides and distributes electricity is called Enel- the former state-owned Electrica Muntenia.

Every month a collector comes to read your meter and returns a few weeks later to hand you your bill, which you can pay straight away. Alternatively, you can pay your Enel bill at their payment centers, Customer Relations Centres (CRCs) with payment centers, post offices and at Citibank with a payment order.
With an account, you can pay this and other bills at various bank branches, and also through an online bank transfer.

Make sure you always write your client number and the invoice number in the subject!
Enel has also introduced a service which allows you to give the company your current meter reading by phone. Dial toll free: 0 800 07 08 09, enter your client number, which can be found in the center of the bill (“codul dvs”) , then the last month’s reading, and the new reading.

Electricity Bill Payment Offices – Sector 1
Address: 1. Braziliei Str. No.2-4 (CRC1 + payment office)
Phone: +40 21 230.18.80;
+40 21 231.86.09
Address: 2. Calea Griviei No. 198 (CRC8 + payment office)
Phone: +40 21 222.80.19;
+40 21 222.40.47

Electricity Payment Office – Sector 2
Address:  234 Stefan cel Mare St.
Phone: +40 21 210 33 01

Electricity Payment Office- Sector 3
Address: 20 Nicolae Gigorescu Blvd.
Phone: +40 21 340 07 68

Electricity Payment Office- Sector 5
Address: 127 Giurgiului St.
Phone: +40 21 450 34 87

Electricity Payment Office- Sector 6
Address: 74-92 Iuliu Maniu Blvd.
Phone: +40 21 430 09 04

EU Funding Consulting

Romania has set up a new ministry to deal with European Affairs, including EU funding. Their website is still just in Romanian, but you might find it useful www.dae.gov.ro.
The ministry recommends reading this site as well for data on financing lines (Partially in English): www.fonduri-ue.ro. The section “Calls for Proposals” highlights the main financing lines and when projects can be submitted. To read more about these in English, you can also go to www.romania-insider.com, which has a special section on European funding.

Artelia Romania SRL
Address: 14, rue Finlanda, sector 1. Bucharest Romania
Phone: +40 21 409 26 96
E-mail: [email protected]
Artelia Romania was established in 2002 and is the Romanian branch of Artelia group, a major European consulting and engineering group that conducts its assignments in nine areas of expertise: building construction, water, environment, energy, maritime, urban development, transportation, industrial facilities and multi-site projects.

 

We would recommend Teia Consult for these type of services. Please contact Roxana Mircea for an initial consultation. Contact Roxana Mircea for consulting about EU Funding possibilities of your respective domain.
Address: 127, Calea Mosilor
Phone: +40 755 04 64 34
Web: www.teia.ro

Driving in Bucharest & Road Tax

Driving in Bucharest is not the easiest task, although we heard of more hectic driving styles in other countries. The biggest problem in the city is the volume of traffic. The number of cars in Bucharest has constantly increased, but most roads have stayed the same. Some of the streets are also bad, so expect potholes. The municipality has been working on resurfacing many of them.
The rush hours – mornings and end of work day –  are sometimes impossible, while some routes are clogged with traffic all day (Splaiul Independentei, Calea Victoriei, Piata Unirii, B-dul Balcescu, B-dul Magheru, Piata Romana and Piata Victoriei).

Sometimes drivers do not respect traffic lights, nor do they see anything wrong with driving off road or parking on the pavement! The biggest challenge, apart from getting used to these in the first place, will be to stop yourself from doing the same after a while!
As a rule, we suggest that you avoid going from south to north during rush hour (mornings and afternoons). However, on weekends and the July – August summer period, the traffic is a little bit less congested.

Expect to hear a lot of honking while driving, especially during traffic jams. (You can also hear honking in the case of a funeral, this is the tradition).

Road Tax
If you are moving to Romania with your own car, or are even just driving through, you have to pay the Romanian road tax, which is called ‘Rovinieta’. The authorities will be able to check electronically whether you bought the Rovinieta or not, as cameras have been installed at city exits.
The tax can be paid for a period of one day, seven days (EUR 3), thirty days (EUR 7) and one year (EUR 28), and can be paid in lei at current exchange rates. Petrom, Rompetrol, Mol, and OMV petrol stations sell the Rovinieta, as well as all customs stations. Do not leave this purchase until you reach the  last petrol station before leaving the city, as sometimes their system does not work and you will have to find another place to buy it. Be sure to keep your receipt as you may be asked to show it to the authorities that organize road checks. Traffic police will not ask for your Rovinieta, as it is not in their jurisdiction, but if they are accompanied with the Road Authority (ARR), they can fine you if you do not present your Rovinieta.

Winter tires
It is mandatory for drivers to equip their car with winter tyres from 1st November every year. You are supposed to have these tyres at all times on your car, even if it does not snow. But you will be in more trouble if you get caught in the snow and your car is not equipped with winter tyres on. Expect queuing at car repairing and tyre shops in the last days of October, as everybody will rush there to change their tyres.

Police, emergency, security

Police and Emergency Telephone Numbers
 

112 Saves Lives, Protects Citizens and Property

 

Have you been witness to a robbery? Has there been a car accident? Are you in need of help? Don’t hesitate to call the Romanian emergency services number: 112 is a toll-free number and can be dialled from any phone, fixed or mobile. You can dial this number from a mobile phone even if the keypad is locked! According to the website (www.112.ro), English-speaking operators are available.
Call 112 when you need immediate assistance from the police, the fire department or an ambulance. When calling, have this information ready:
 

  • The type of emergency you have
  • The place of occurrence
  • Your location
  • Your name

 
Hint! For emergency Hospital numbers go to health section!
 

Romanian Police

 

Bucharest is divided into 6 sectors, each having its own police stations. To contact any specific unit, see the chart below; you can call 24/7.
If you have special issues, would like to report police misconduct, or have an issue that requires special consideration, you can schedule an audience with the Chief Inspector of your sector. Audience schedule: Monday 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and Wednesday 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm.

 

 

Police unit Address Phone
                        SECTOR 1
Police Unit  1 22 Lascar Catargiu Blvd. +40 21-316 56 87
Police Unit  2 15 Arhitect Ion Mincu St. +40 21-222 96 01
Police Unit  3 34 General  Mathias Berthelot St. + 40 21-313 89 02
Police Unit  4 6 Ion Neculce St. +40 21-222 41 58
Police Unit  5 54 Bucurestii Noi Blvd. +40 21-667 56 98
Police Unit 6 37 Dezrobirii St. +40 21-434 06 03
Police Unit 7 3 Teiul Doamnei St. +40 21-242 26 44
                        SECTOR 2
Police Unit 8 137 Mihai Bravu St. +40 21-316 69 79
Police Unit 9 290 Pantelimon St. +40 21-255 24 33
Police Unit 10 13-15 Stelea Spartaru St. +40 21-313 69 45
                        SECTOR 3
Police Unit 11 43 Vitan St. +40 21-321 72 12
Police Unit 12 2-4 Professor Stefan Nicolau St. +40 21-324 50 15
Police Unit 13 2 Ciucea St. +40 21-345 07 90
Police Unit 14 10  Oitelor St. +40 21-336 23 03
Police Unit 15 2A Emil Rahovita St. +40 21-461 00 71
                        SECTOR 4
Police Unit 16 103 Sg Stoian Militaru St. +40 21-332 44 34
Police Unit 17 10 Dr Grigore Taranu St. +40 21-410 90 02
Police Unit 18 14-16 Constantin Minculescu St. +40 21-335 17 57
                        SECTOR 5
Police Unit 19 17 Amurgului St. +40 21-423 38 91
Police Unit 20 52 George Mihail Zamfirescu St. +40 21-221 40 55
Police Unit 21 37 Dezrobirii St. +40 21-434 06 03
Police Unit 22 19 Brasov St. +40 21-413 10 20
Police Unit 23 52 Rodnei St. +40 21-256 05 66
Police Unit 24 20-30 Bazaltului St. +40 21-332 49 01
                        SECTOR 6
Police Unit 25 46 Raul Doamnei St. +40 21-444 19 06
Police Unit 26 89 Metalurgiei Blvd. +40 21-683 21 08

 

 

Private Security Companies

 

If you live in a shady part of town, have a lot of neat and expensive things, or just have extra money to spend, you might be interested in the offerings of a private security company.
 

Starguard Security Team

Address: 104, Basarabia Blvd, building A4, Suite 2
Phone:+40 21 32 72 371
E-mail: [email protected]
 

Millennium Security Team

Address: 18, Theodor Pallady Blvd., building M5A, B entrance, Suite 48
Phone: +40 21 67 34 073
E-mail: [email protected]
 

Phoenix Guard Group

Address: 564, Iuliu Maniu St.,
Phone: +40 21-434 00 52
Web: www.pgg.ro
 

BGS  

Address: 67, Cuza Voda
Phone: +40 21.9507
Web: www.bgs.ro
 

 

Emergency hospitals


 

Hospital Name Speciality Contact
Emergency Hospital
Floreasca St. 8
Internal medicine, cardiology, gastroenterology,
clinical toxicology, neurology, general surgery,
plastic surgery, cardiac surgery, children, neurosurgery,
orthopedics, intensive care, ENT, ophthalmology,
gynecology, dermatology, and psychiatry
www.urgentafloreasca.ro
+40 021 59 92 300
Children’s Hospital
“Grigore Alexandrescu”
Blvd. Iancu de Hunedoara,
30-32
All specialties for children www.spitaluldecopii.ro
+40 021 21 29 372
Colentina Hospital
Sos Stefan cel Mare
Street, 21
RABIES VACCINATIONS!
Also: cardiology, gastroenterology,
rheumatology, Nephrology; clinical surgery,
general surgery.
www.spitalulcolentina.ro
+40 021 21 03 245
Coltea Hospital
Blvd Bratianu, 1
Cardiology, ENT www.coltea.ro
+40 021 31 42 744
University Hospital Bucharest
Spl. Independentei
street, 169
General surgery, orthopedics, maternity,
ECG, ophthalmology, neurology, internal diseases,
plastic surgery, rheumatology, gynecology
www.suub.ro
+40 021 31 80 555
Orthopedic Hospital of Foisor
Blvd. Ferdinand 35
Ortopedics www.foisor.ro
+40 021 25 20 057
Children’s Hospital
Marie Curie
Blvd. C-tin Brancoveanu
14-20
All specialties for children www.mscurie.ro
Hospital Dr. Bagdasar
Neurosurgery
Berceni Road 12
Plastic Surgery www.bagdasar-arseni.ro
+40 021 33 43 025
Elias Hospital
Marasti Blvd. 17
Cardiology, surgery, gastroenterology,
neurology, nutritional diseases
www.spitalul-elias.ro
+40 021 31 61 600
Hospital of St. Pantelimon
road. Pantelimon 340
Internal medicine, cardiology, gastroenterology,
neurology, general surgery, neurosurgery, orthopedics,
intensive care, ENT, ophthalmology, gynecology,
dermatology, and emergency assistance
www.sfpantelimon.ro
+40 021 25 54 090
Victor Babes Hospital
Road. Mihai Bravu 281
Infectious and Tropical Diseases
and vaccinations
+40 021 32 34 111

Week-end suggestion in Bucharest

A Weekend in “Little Paris”: Suggestions for the Bored

 

If you’re new in town, or just bored because you don’t really know what to do with yourself and your family, check out a couple of our suggestions!

 

So it’s Saturday morning, and you realize that it will be a hot and dry day. Have breakfast before it gets too hot at home. Then pack your swim suits and head off to the Diplomatic Club (see Sports Section). The RON 60 entrance-fees are worth it to spend a whole day underneath old trees and next to a big, beautiful swimming pool (Western European standard) on this blisteringly hot Bucharest summer day.

 

And since it is Saturday, you can treat yourself to an hour-long massage with their weekend physiotherapist. (Swimming alternative: a big family water park in Otopeni, close to the airport; you can also stay here the whole day: www.waterpark.ro)

 

In the evening, it is still hot and the city is glimmering. You can chose: either a Saturday night live music concert at Hard Rock Café in Herastrau Park and a relaxed evening on the terrace there with their typical music, or going into the city center.

 

On the top of the National Theater, there is the famous student terrace “La Motoare”. Take the lift up to the top and enjoy a summer night there (address in the Cafés section). Take a reliable taxi home if you’ve had a drink (see Taxi section).

 

Sleep in on Sunday morning. At around 11, take your kids and go with friends to have brunch in one of the hotels. Yes it is expensive, yes it is luxury…but if you can afford it, do it, because once in a while it is worth it to start a Sunday with luxury. A very good brunch place close to the old town is offered by the big hotels like Hilton, Marriott, Radisson, Howard Johnson, Novotel, Intercontinental and Crown Plaza with separate kids’ entertainment, prices at RON 170-230/person).

 

Or just go to Lipscani quarter (see map on back cover), in 2010 dozens of nice places have opened their doors and the trend seems to continue! There are always new places, pubs, bars, boutiques.

 

Or, head out to one of the traditional markets (see Shopping section). Then, enjoy the evening at home with some fresh pasta and sauce (at the traditional markets you can find quality seasonal vegetables). Alternatively, you could take your kids to Titan Park in the eastern part of the city, or to Herastrau or Floreasca Park, which has new playgrounds that were installed in 2010 – great fun.

 

Some of them seem to be outdoor gyms, not only made for kids. For more info on what to do with kids, check out our new kids entertainment section! If you don’t have kids, have a walk around the lake. The earlier the better; in the morning in summer the lake is breathtaking! And if you don’t feel like going out at all, you should at least have some good meals at home. Saturday morning, quickly go to one of the butchers the authors recommend (see Butcher section) for fresh quality meat, buy a bunch of vegetables at the market, get some good bottles of wine (see Wine Dealers section) and enjoy your week-end at home!

 

If you are looking for a weekend getaway out of the city, City Compass is offering a new Discover Hidden Romania week end trip since May 2010- and if you would like to discover this beautiful country on your own, maybe some hints from our new “Beyond Bucharest” section will be inspire you. Enjoy your week-ends!

Parking

Parking is one of the major problems in Bucharest. You’ll almost always have trouble finding a parking place, both in the city center and in residential areas. Usually, there are paid parking lots in the center with prices ranging from RON 1.5-3 per hour. In 2010, the state internalised the management of certain car parks. Traffic Wardens will present you with a ticket noting your hour of arrival, so you will know how much to pay. Be aware that shady looking people might ask you for parking tickets: try to always make sure they give you a receipt and are wearing an uniform. Driving Drivers in Bucharest are sometimes a threat. The “dangerous drivers” category can include anyone and everyone. It is a good idea to avoid the main boulevards during rush hours and take secondary routes; they are often less crowded. Another thing you should keep in mind is that “Road Rage” is common in Romania: you might have people wave their fist or yell at you if they feel you did something wrong. You can apologize (if you made a mistake), but do not stop for an argument! Unfortunately, the difficulties with driving do not stop at the city limits either. Driving from one city or county to another can be equally dangerous and frustrating. You will see people doing things on the road that you would only see in movies elsewhere. From passing on dangerous bends, to cutting you up in the middle of a rainstorm while driving at 120 km / hour, you must expect the worst. Our advice is to stay calm, and be a very defensive driver. Be very aggressive (passing and keeping your lane) only when you absolutely must. Eventually, you may start to feel right at home on the roads, only to terrify your friends and family when you go back to your home country!

 

Hint! If you hear many cars honking, it is either a traffic jam or a funeral. Yes that’s right. In Bucharest and some parts of Romania this is a tradition. People may also beep their horns for weddings (as in Western Europe), but it is more commonly used for funerals in Romania.

Souvenirs shop in the Old Town

This week’s pick for the newcomers’ corner will be useful to those who want something to remind them (or their friends back home) of Romania. Walking down the little streets in the Old Town in Bucharest, we found a souvenirs shop on Blanari street. It’s the first one to have opened in that area, from what we know. It was opened in June and sells cups, T-shirts, traditional Romanian cooking items (pots, wooden spoons), traditional wooden toys and interesting postcards to send back home. Well, basically what you’d expect to find in such a store, with a Romanian spin to it. You can find it on Blanari 5 street.