After twenty years away from my native country, I decided it was a good time to go back and see how much things have changed. I was excited to speak Romanian, eat my favourite Romanian dishes and be surrounded by all things Romanian. Bucharest is where I was born and grew up and the place I was most curious to revisit. Our hotel was near Piața Unirii and the old city not far from the gigantic People’s House built by Ceaușescu during the communist regime. Unfortunately the building was closed for visitors because of Orthodox Easter. The building is said to be just as grandiose on the inside as it is on the outside.
Immediately after our arrival we hit Lipscani street and the old city. I don’t remember this part of the city but I knew about it from conversations with my mom. In truth I don’t remember much of the city and I felt like I was almost seeing it for the first time. Turns out I had changed a lot as well. The architecture in this part of town is quite beautiful, a reminder of how great it probably was back in the day when this was a thriving commercial center. However a lot of the buildings seem to have been neglected over the years. The place was zooming with trendy cafes and restaurants.
Everything was in bloom and we ended up doing a walking tour of the city’s beautiful parks. From the old town we walked to Revolution Square (Piața Revoluției) and the Romanian Athenaeum concert hall (Ateneul Român).
We had a lovely time in Cișmigiu Gardens (Parcul Cișmigiu) where street vendors sold Romanian delicatessen and of course țuică, a Romanian spirit with a 50% alcohol content. The spirit came in different fruit flavours and we bought a bottle of quince țuică for ourselves. I also tried a jam filled gogoasa, a pastry similar to a doughnut. That brought back memories!
From there on we made our way to The Roman Square (Piața Romană) and yet another beautiful park, Ion Voicu Park. I loved these green spaces that popped up all over the city.
We walked on Kiseleff street and stopped at Herăstrău Park for a reunion with my high-school friend who surprised me with Eugenia cocoa cream cookies, our main source of sustenance through our high-school years :). She also brought red coloured eggs to knock in the Romanian orthodox tradition. Thank you old friend for the great memories!
Throughout the trip I tried to eat and drink as much Romanian food as possible and it wasn’t any different on out last evening in Bucharest. We had dinner at Caru cu Bere, a local institution that’s been around since 1879.
Overall the city changed for the better and I had a positive return to the old country. I felt safe walking around, the metro was efficient and an effort is being made to restore some of the city’s major landmarks. I had the best Romanian food while I was there: cabbage rolls with polenta, egg plant salad (vinete), zacusca (vegetable spread) and mititei (ground meat rolls). Stay tuned for more posts from our other stops in Romania: Brașov and Sighișoara.