For a little bit of German in the Carpathians, we spent the night in Brasov after visiting Bran and Peles Castle. On our way down to the city center, just before the sky dimmed, we stopped off at a view point and looked across the medieval town, originally inhabited by Germans , while the Hollywood-like Brasov sign protruded from the top of Mount Tampa.
We dined in the basement of a traditional Romanian restaurant, Restaurant Sergiana. From the lively and smoky atmosphere, we gathered it was a popular joint for Brasovians and tourists that stayed the night . Our thoughts on Romanian cuisine? It was our last Romanian meal. I can’t even remember what I had. Not a good sign.
The next morning, before heading out to the capital, we entered Schei Gate, and walked the narrow streets of Brasov. As we were walking, we came across Rope Street, the narrowest street in Europe for reasons that involved firemen, defense and freaking 110-135 cm in width. We took a turn into a much wider cobblestone street that slowly unveiled the Gothic Black Church, once destroyed by a fire in the 17th century. It takes up most of Brasov’s city center also a victim of the fire. Unfortunately, the Church was closed on this frosty Monday, so all we gawked at was the Gothic exterior blackened by the fire, some parts peppered with bullet holes, as opposed to the restored Baroque interior and the richest collection of Anatolian prayer carpets in Europe!
Alternatively, we walked through the council square and exploited Brasov’s ‘lively’ shopping scene nestled within colorful German-style architecture. Before we knew it, we were blown away with local prices. A solid winter jacket cost $20! Ka-Ching!
A couple of hours later, we lunched at a Chinese restaurant, the best in Bucharest, according to said tour guide ex Florist. With hardly any customers in sight, we ordered chicken corn soup. The least oily dish on the menu, which lacked an essential ingredient, corn. For an alleged Chinese culture nerd, it was a mistake to believe that epicurean Chinese exports are appetizing everywhere in the world. In light of exports, our first stop in Bucharest was the former communist headquarter party in the Revolution Square. We stared at the balcony reflecting on the past (history lesson from tour guide), walked along the gates of the former Royal palace, now National Art Museum and FINALLY washed off the taste of our lunch with drinks and cheesecake at Caru cu Bere, a legendary brewer in Bucharest.
We explored Bucharest’s old heart, Lipscani, with cafes and shops everywhere. Contrary to Brasov, Bucharest, once considered a “Little Paris” exposed a little bit of everything from all things French to half torn down buildings ‘reorganized’ then ‘recreated’ by the Communist Party. The victorious Arc De Triumph to commemorate Romania’s unification in 1918 was still standing under cover, to our luck, because it was getting its clean on.
And then there was the colossal ginormous Parliament Palace that took up half the city originally built to house Nicolae Ceausescu’s regime. What gives? Bulldozing churches, temples, hoods and the historic district. Built on debt and round the clock construction, it whipped up controversy. As is the custom, the neo-classical style building, inspired by architecture in Pyongyang, stands at the end of a super wide boulevard, the Champs Elysees of Bucharest. As construction neared completion, what started from the balcony at the Revolution Square led to the destruction of the ideology that stimulated the construction of the palace in the first place.
Our tour of Bucharest, unwittingly in chronological order of melancholic history, came to an end. So did our vacation in Romania. For our last meal, we devoured delicious Lebanese food at Piccolo Mondo, strangely enough in a small world kinda way, owned by my friend’s Lebanese father in law.
The next morning, we crossed the Danube and headed to Bulgaria. Stay tuned..