Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bucharest - The International City

We're stuck in Bucharest for the next few days and with little else to do, we decided to explore the city and continue enlarging our social circle. This is how we ended up at the opening night of a new nightclub (Quo Vadis). Bad weather notwithstanding, the club was full of people who were more than willing to pay $5 for a mixed drink. Sometimes we wonder how in a country where the average salary is $250/month some people can afford to go out every weekend.

After the club, we went out to a Scottish Ball at the National Military Circle, a beautiful building used as a protocol house by the Romanian Army. When we entered the building, it felt like we had just stepped into another world. The beautifully decorated ballroom was resonating with music and the dance floor was full of men (some wearing kilts) and women dancing to traditional Scottish songs. Bucharest seems like such an odd place to host a Scottish ball, but the atmosphere was warm, welcoming and we thoroughly enjoyed this serendipitous moment.

Today we decided to go to Intercontinental Hotel to check it out. For those of you who've never been to Romania, Intercontinental Hotel is a Bucharest landmark like Eiffel Tower is to Paris or Big Ben is to London. In the old communist days it was an intimdating place where foreign journalist mixed with diplomats within the watchful eye of secret police disguised as waiters and prostitutes. Nowadays, the place is tame, quiet and has a business feel to it. It still retains its charm even though it lost the title of Romania's most expensive hotel to the Marriott that opened a few years ago accross town. We had a coffee and tea and spent a couple of hours reading and studying.

On the way back home we decided to get lost through the small streets of Bucharest. We had another serendipitous moment when we stumbled upon a charming little park surrounded by beautiful old houses. Not far from there we discovered the Institute Francais which is currently hosting a Belgian film festival. Amynescu was happy to discover this francophone oasis in Bucharest and we immediately made plans to attend tonight's movie screening.

All in all, an interesting weekend full of surprising discoveries. Who would've thought that Bucharest can be such a cultural mecca?


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