It snowed off and on first week we were in Bucharest. Once the snow finally melted we had an ice storm. This basically trapped me in the apartment. I tried to go out one day but there was a sheet of ice all around our building. I wasn’t going to risk twisting my ankle again. It was so bad one day, Howard was helping other people to the door of our building. Once the ice was gone, I was able to get out a bit more. Of course this is when I came down with a cold. Howard had it too but it hit me way harder. I had several sleepless nights coughing and struggling to breath. The one good thing about this was I stayed home and rested my ankle.
We did get out one day to visit the National Museum of Romanian History. Although only 3 of the fourteen exhibits were open this time of year, it was interesting. They have an actual size cast of Trajan’s Column. The original was built in 107 – 113 AD and is in Rome, Italy. The story carved into the sides of the column depict Trajan’s two victorious military campaigns. The museum also holds Romania’s national treasury and a lot of Greek gold.
I really wanted to go to the Museum of the Romanian Peasant, but they are closed for renovations this winter. We had this same problem last winter in Serbia. When you visit these European cities at the off time of year, points of interest are less crowded and have low admission prices, but a lot of time will be closed or partially closed.
We always find some really strange place when we travel somewhere new. In Sofia, Bulgaria it was wandering around in the snowy woods looking for a Christmas Market that wasn’t there. In Novi Sad, Serbia it was walking through a maze of enormous Soviet era block house apartments and having a beer at a funny little stand on the sidewalk. On Crete, it was definitely getting our rental car stuck in the narrow streets of Rethimno. In Hanoi, Vietnam, it was pretty much everywhere. Here in Bucharest it had to be the mall. There are a couple malls downtown, but the Unirea Shopping Center was quite interesting
We can see this mall from our Airbnb and there is a huge sign on the side that says Stradivarius and has a G clef symbol as part of the logo. Antonio Stradivari is famous for making violins during the 17th and 18th centuries so we wondered if there was some sort of violin museum or even a music store there. That’s what brought us to this mall.
The mall is actually a large city building with a facade around the outside to make it look more modern. Inside the corridors were very narrow, unlike the wide open spaces you usually have in a mall. In the middle was an escalator. We decided to go up, and up, past 5 or 6 floors of narrow halls lined with shops. At the top was the food court and it was glorious. There were food stands around the edges but crowded into the middle were all these rattan chairs, fake plants and flat screen TVs. Despite all the tropical decorations, you could see the old drop ceiling and piping. We sat down at one of the tables and ordered a beer.
We were given a menu the size of a book with pictures of all kinds of food. Howard and I both said this place reminded us of Vietnam. How weird is that? A food court in a mall in Romania made us feel like we were back in Asia. Maybe it was just the strangeness of the place or maybe we have been traveling too long. Either way, this had to be the cheapest place in all of Bucharest to get a beer!
On our way out we found the Stradivarius store. They sold clothing. A brief internet search told me they have no relation to the violin maker, but it is interesting that they use a music symbol in their logo.
One thing about Bucharest that we weren’t expecting was the traffic. We could watch it backed up on the streets below our apartment. There are constant sirens too. One afternoon we got a Uber and headed about ten minutes north of town to Beraria H, the largest beer hall in southern Europe. It took us almost an hour to get there. There was gridlock style traffic on these large 6 lane roads. We saw, and heard, 2 ambulances and sixteen police cars on the ride. At intersections there were these huge traffic circles, but that’s where the police would gather, and manually direct traffic. It seemed to be causing more problems than helping. I don’t know what happened to cause the city to send out all the police to help with traffic, but it was a mess.
The beer hall looked like it used to be a sports complex. It was surrounded by Herastrau Park, the city’s central park and near the Triumph Arch. There were walk/biking paths all around, docks where it looked liked they rented boats in the nice weather, and outdoor food and drink stands. A Hard Rock Cafe is in the park, and Bucharest’s nightclub and entertainment district is near by as well.
This city is huge and sprawling. We could spend the rest of our lives here and never see it all. We had one last winter storm with crazy winds that whistled through our building. In just a few days now it should be warming up and all the restaurants and cafes will hopefully put their seating out on the touristy walking streets of Old Town. In just over 2 weeks we will be traveling on but we have a couple adventures to go on before we leave Romania.