We’re back with a new installment of Notes from the Field – I’m especially excited about this one. Not only is Emily, our lady on the ground in Bucharest, a down to earth and totally funny (correction: hilarious) writer, we have kind of a fascination with Romania over at our casa so we really enjoyed this one. Emily is fantastic about getting out there and seeing what there is to see, doing what there is to do, all local-style (hello, maxi taxi!), which is part of what the foreign service is all about, and a part that’s often forgotten. You can read all about her Bucharest adventures on her blog, Em Loves Beer (and I love that name!).
Check back tomorrow for Part II to see what makes Emily feel far from home, what’s on her daily Romania fashion agenda and what she’ll whip up if you pop by her place for dinner on a Saturday night – and of course, more pictures!
Diplomat or Diplo-Spouse? Diplo-spouse
Current Post: Bucharest, Romania
Three words to describe your current post: Unsystematic, post-communist, surprising.
Best thing about Bucharest:
The best thing about Bucharest is that you can easily leave Bucharest. While the city has its charms here and there, it’s the rest of Romania and eastern Europe that has the good stuff. Mountains are about 1.5 hours away with endless deciduous/coniferous forests, and beyond the first few peaks are loads of fortified churches, castles, and cities. Flights out of Bucharest can be cheap too, taking you to Budapest, Istanbul, Prague, or even Sicily for a reasonably priced weekend getaway.
You have visitors in town for the weekend, what does the weekend look like?
Staying only in Bucharest? Yeesh. Our visitors must be properly fed with Romanian delicacies if only to say they tried it. That usually consists of grilled mici (sausage), mamaliga (funky polenta) and some sort of cabbage soup in Lipscani, aka “old town,” washed down with bere (beer). They’d walk off the calories by walking through at least one of Bucharest’s MANY city parks, Herastrau being the biggest. The people watching there is always a trip. Parliament is a gargantuan building worth gawking at, at least once. Perhaps a trip to the Peasant Museum for some culture, and I’d encourage a detour to their botanic gardens. Their collection of flora is impressive, notably their roses.
If we are lucky enough to get out of Bucharest, I’d insist on taking them to the mountains instead. Most likely to Brasov, approximately three hours north. It’s prettier. And more fun.
If you’re in Bucharest, you must try:
The farmer’s markets. There’s no such thing as hydroponic tomatoes here.
Most difficult about living in Bucharest:
Driving with a conscience and patience. I’ve heard Turkey is worse, but only in Romania does a vehicle turning left have the right of way. In all directions. Really?
Biggest adventure at post?
Alone: The first time I hopped on the dilapidated #445 maxi taxi to find the metro to get to a downtown park with my 16 month old child. I was 2 weeks new to Bucharest and didn’t speak the language well at all. The doors didn’t close properly while en route, and I was surrounded by gapers who seemed mystified my child only had 1 coat and 1 hat on (early November). They really like to dress their children warmly around here. The maxi taxi clunked down the road barely missing oncoming traffic, passing Orthodox churches along the way. Almost in unison the crowded bus commenced the reverse Catholic signing of the cross, three times. Stray dogs skidded between cars, a pig in a flatbed truck was leashed via nostrils and chain passing on the right. Strangely enough, pheasants were perched on the side of the road, watching the world pass by. The maxi taxi rolled to a stop after 45 minutes to drive 6.5 km thankfully at the metro stop I was looking for. Perhaps this is not exciting to some folks out there, but I heard stories from other expat ladies who had been here 2 years without ever knowing how to take the bus anywhere. It made me pretty happy and liberated.
With family: Driving a packed car of four adults and a toddler, over 500km to see the Painted Monasteries in northern Romania. It was a monster drive with terrible roads, tourists, and rainy weather along the way, heading through single lane gorges with rock on one side, cliff on the other. However, the views of Romania were in some parts insanely beautiful, others just eerie and depressing. The best part? Driving shenanigans were totally forgotten the minute we laid eyes on the monastery walls. See my blog for more pictures and details.
|At the Bucharest Farmer’s Market.|
|A marcelerie in Bucharest: mici, pork chops, beefy goodness.|
|Winter in Romania: operation snow dump.|
|Painted Monastery in Bucovina|
|Love honey? Miere stations are all over the country.|
|Fall in Romania.|
|Springtime in Romania: ten shades of gorgeous!|
All photos by Em Loves Beer