Modern, chaotic and eclectic are but a few words that describe my hometown, Bucharest. The capital of Romania, Bucharest is easily associated with the perhaps un-exciting idiom “Eastern Europe”. But in recent years, Bucharest has become more and more cosmopolitan, with a blooming nightlife and art scene that keeps its residents and visitors alike well entertained.
Born and bred here, I find it a curious mixture of old and new. The communist legacy looms in the shape of massive residential neighbourhoods of grey blocks. While a bit monotonous, they exude a certain kind of charm, particularly as they are budding with life and the characteristic hearty, exuberant Romanian spirit.
But the city centre managed to escape this architectural downturn and enjoys its own specific character. Old buildings, monuments and classical architecture combine with large glass buildings, modern architecture, high fashion stores and shopping malls. Starting from Piata Victoriei, to Piata Romana and Universitate, the central areas never seem to sleep. Be it day or night, the city’s crowds are always moving.
The ancient houses forming the Old City have all been transformed in bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants to suit the most peculiar of tastes, from fancy and expensive to incredibly cheap (if you know where to go, you can even find a pint for a pound). There is a lot to do any given evening – even on weekdays I sometimes have difficulties finding a place to go for a drink. The many different kinds of people mixing in the Old City give it a bohemian, busy vibe. The good part is that there is a lot of choice – from urban, stylish bars to more traditional breweries, where you can try types of beer from the most obscure places in the world.
Perhaps what I like the most about the city is that there are always events going on. Most of the weekdays see concerts, theatrical performances and even opera or classical music concerts held in public squares. The cultural scene has plenty to offer – and its audience is always hungry for plays and shows, as the city’s theatres are almost nightly bursting with people. The large number of art students and graduates is happy to provide visuals for frequent art exhibitions. Museums are also very popular – in fact, often “white” nights take place, when museums are kept open all night long. This is a great opportunity to explore culture, as well as meet and socialize with friends well into the night.
If you’re really not into art and culture, shopping is always at hand – you can find a shopping mall within walking distance virtually anywhere in town, new ones being built yearly to satisfy the seemingly unending shopping appetite of the city’s people.
As far as eating out is concerned, Bucharest has a lot of diversity to offer, with a fair share of fine-dining restaurants and fancy chefs, as well as traditional Romanian restaurants and varied other cuisines.
One of the city’s landmarks is Cismigiu Park, one of its oldest and most renowned parks and gardens. A walk there will take you back to the 19th century, aided by old-fashioned benches, kiosks, statues and even a mini-zoo.
As St Andrews is quite demanding of my time, I am not so much at home these days. But whenever I go home, there’s always plenty of fun to be had. Even in small doses, Bucharest exudes hectic charm and a distinctive, exciting atmosphere where you can hardly get bored.
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