the paris of the east

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Despite a day in Transylvania, my knowledge of the capital city of this South Eastern European country was in all honesty slim to none. So slim however, that my perceptions of Romania and Bucharest were embarrassing really; that human trafficking was rife and Gypsy culture was largely present. Not my finest hour given it’s the sixth largest city in the European Union.

A three and a half hour drive, a skid across tram tracks and a peak hour traffic sing along later, we were back from Transylvania and in Bucharest – I practically threw the keys at the valet, this girl needed a drink. The girls were on it and we had a reservation at Joseph – one of the chic’est French restaurants in the city. Romania is known for its high-end restaurants, as we know Paris also is, but Joseph was simply stunning. The decor, the service, the food and the wine all far exceeded our expectations. However, the elegant and sophisticated night we started off with quickly merged with the eclectic nightlife of Bucharest and things got messy. Bars that sell only shots, in quantities of 20 are a dangerous trap to fall in to…a fun night out nonetheless.

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With our heads on the sore side the next morning, we took our time wandering through the city that is home to around 1.9 million people. We marveled at the elegant and beautiful architecture but without sounding stereo-typically touristy, we found ourselves shocked at the amount of abandonment among buildings, homeless people on the cold streets and tricky gypsy’s in action; it was easy to see that there were definitely two sides to Bucharest.

Bucharest is commonly nicknamed “The Paris of the East” – and for good reason. This neoclassical city is well-known for its art and its architecture – their house of Parliament alone is the worlds largest and most grant civilian building. The buildings are simply beautiful with intricate details and an elegant glamour. Alongside its luxurious restaurants, its eclectic nightlife and culture and the stunning architecture which already mirror Paris, the city itself was literally modeled on the French city. Bucharest even has its own Arc de Triumph.

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However while the facade of this city is pretty gorgeous, sadly the many empty, derelict beautiful buildings and even the most glamorous, well-to-do areas seem to be surrounded by poverty. Our Sunday stroll showed us just how prevalent religion and Christianity are in this country but it also showed how prevalent the notorious Romanian gypsy culture was. They were ever-present lurking around churches, shopping hot spots and public squares trying to scam you for a quick buck Leu, or to get in to your bag. Without sounding close minded and like a classic Western World tourist; money, phones, passports all seemed to be wanted items by this notorious European group. Top tip for this city sadly has to be to not only keep your wits about you, but to also keep your bag in front of you and zipped up at all times.

Despite sounding like I’m ending on a bad note, the city was cool. We may not have exactly fit in but it was cool, it its own Romanian way. A stunning countryside, beautiful architecture, a vibrant and diverse nightlife and culture – Romania has it all. While I may not be racing back, travel isn’t always about visiting somewhere you want to live for the rest of your life.

Sarah x

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