5 days in Romania

I was not expecting Romania to be like this..

I thought I should share with you the previous 5 days I’ve had showing 2 clients around Bucharest and Brasov because it captures well some of the nicer aspects of living here.

For the sake of protecting the innocent (!) I will change the names.  Bob, from Dublin,  has an international software company here in Brasov and as such, he has important clients from overseas from time to time here. He also has a house, which we manage for him, and hence is our client in that capacity.  One of Bob’s important clients is here this week from America. Let’s call him Bill.  Bill is an ex US army Ranger, Gulf war vet and ex chopper pilot. In his spare time, for fun, he runs 160km marathons in 24 hours. You read that right.

I picked Bob up on Saturday in Otopeni airport, one day ahead of Bill, due to arrive the next day. To kill time, we stayed down in Bucharest to await Bill the next day.  We went to visit a new Pipera apartment I have just finished, and meet the new tenants to sign a contract with them. From there, we went into Lipscani for the evening.

It’s funny who you meet! My Brasov competitor and friend was walking through Lipscani with his wife and friends, so we have a few drinks together. Watching the world go by in Lipscani is a fantastic pastime. The bars and clubs here are a match for any top international city I have visited. Places I would say I could easily compare for standard, quality of atmosphere, energy and  just general buzz that I myself have spent time in are:  London (Soho), Dublin (Temple Bar), Krakow, Warsaw, Paris (St Germain), Boston, Riga, Tallinn, Limassol and Barcelona. 

The notable characteristic between Romania and some of the other places listed is a distinct lack of aggressive behaviour or loud, drunken party-goers after midnight.  Romanian’s are calm, respectable and civilised party-goers and image is very important to them. As a result, women make a big effort to dress in the latest fashions and men conduct themselves very well, even in the busiest dance clubs and bars.  All in all making for a pleasant but still lively night and it is very common to party until 6am. When I lived in the UK, the clubs I went to (Kingston, Oxford, Birmingham, Coventry, Leamington, Cheltenham and even the west end for a while) were always defined by one common characteristic. Some of the people raced to get smashed, hammering down shots with pints and often , you could sense an aggressive tension with some of the partygoers. It would not take a lot to start a fight on one of those places. Ask the wrong girl to dance for example. I don’t miss that!  As I write this, I’m in London for the weekend & the news is awash with the ‘drunk tents’ being put together to cope with the forecast alcohol abuse for the Olympics. In Norwich for example,there are SOS panic buttons in town to call for help when parylitic with excess drink on a night out.  Hmm, & people say the uk is socially  more advanced that romania? Not in my book I spend plenty of time partying each week.

So, from the bar area, we went on to Club Muse. Top tunes, great atmosphere, full dance floor, very few binge drinkers, excellent on-stage dance display. Can’t beat it. We left at 5am!  That day, we kicked around Bucharest, which I always find depressing because it is indescribably filthy in many places. There is missing, a national pride for cleanliness of streets I feel, which lets the country down.  If I could change one thing about Romania it would be the national state of litter. A gorgeous landscape is spoiled by a single bin bag of plastic bottles.

In the afternoon, Bill arrived from a 4-stop flight from US for a week of project briefing with Bob and his Brasov team. He had limited expectations of Romania but the project is a very important, expensive one.  So he was preoccupied with concerns that the language barrier between the US based clients and the Brasov based programmers would be significant. He started the project thinking he was working with mainly Irish based programmers and was in a state of concern at the realisation he was working with Eastern Europeans on a project that would involve a massive amount of data-explanation, storage and manipulation.  Its fair to say, many American’s from the mid-west don’t have much travel experience and certainly have in idea how sharp European intellect is in the main, born of the fact we are so diverse and have so many neighbouring but different cultures.

So, I was very determined to blow his socks of this week. Not because he is my client. In fact he is a client only to my client, whose property we manage. But I find you get the best out of where you live by showing it off to a visitor. So, we took the slow drive back to Brasov, through uninteresting flatlands before and after Ploiesti.  I find Ploiesti quite uninteresting. In fact, I heard it was heavily bombed in the war and suffered 20 euros worth of damage! I’m being unfair.

After Ploiesti, you start to see some interesting scenery as you climb into Sinaia and onto Brasov. On arrival in Medieval Brasov, the 2 guys stayed in the gorgeous Casa Rozelor hotel. In my book, one of the nicest hotels in Brasov and therefore, Romania.  That night, I took the guys to Bella Musica restaurant. A fantastic restaurant built under the hotel of the same name, in the basement. Great food, even better wine and of course if like me, you like to smoke Cuban cigars, you can smoke here too. In the UK, Ireland, US etc, you can’t do that any more and given that a fine cigar lasts an hour, you have to stand outside for a pretty long time to enjoy them outside Romania.

After that, they guys retired, had breakfast in Bistro D’Arte Monday morning, followed by a long day of project definition and briefing. That night, I introduced both guys to another friend of mine here, a forester and nation archery champion. They guys talked about carbon fibre bows, arrows that travel at light-speed, how to hunt certain animals at night etc. Boys adventure stuff really.  More project work followed the next day, and in the evening, I took them to a traditional restaurant in Poiana Brasov, where they were treated to Palenque (strong spirit) and cuts of wild game meats. A traditional music quartet played at our table to complete the experience and the walls were adorned with skins of various large wild animals.

More project work followed the next day and in the evening, I took them to the excellent Bellagio restaurant on Mihai Weiss to experience the famous steak there. After which I took them to Bamboo, where we had a  pre-reserved table. The stage dancers and the music just added to the first class standard of decor in the club. Brasov is fortunate to have such top rate clubs. That along with Kasho make Brasov a great destination for night life.

Its fair to say, the guys struggled to get up this morning, but Bill went for a run upto the Brasov sign at 8am to shake off the effects of last night. Their story continues & it’s only Wednesday! Tonight, they will go to the Ex-pat meeting in Bar Ritmo before trying Kasho club.

Tomorrow, they will experience Haydn Deane singing in Deanes pub, before revelling in Times Club, an excellent venue on strada Republicii which itself, perfectly captures the spirit of living in Romania. People well turned out, partying, but drinking in moderation, through until daylight, with a packed dance floor & lots of people watching to do.

I’m of to London this weekend but honestly, I’d rather stay here for the weekend.  I do love Brasov!