SIGHTS in Bucharest:
From Piata Unirii it is just a short walk up the small hill where the patriarch's residence is located. For fans of religious architecture, this excursion is a must. But even those who are less interesting in churches should wander up here. A few moments earlier you were surrounded by the hectic traffic crowding the broad boulevards, now you find yourself in a peaceful courtyard. If you crave even more quiet, enter the patriarch's church. The floor is covered with thick carpets, and the sanctuary's interior is suffused by gentle light shining through the stained glass windows. If you come at the right time, you can experience the rituals and chants of the faithful. Just a few hundred metres from the turbulent activity of the big city, you have seemingly been transported to a remote rural monastery. This is the place to kiss icons, and perhaps yourself be kissed by the muse.
In and around Bucharest there are many parks that beckon you to take a stroll, unwind and relax. These landscaped gardens are given their distinctive character by long and winding lakes. A glance at the map shows that Bucharest is studded with green areas and bodies of water. The biggest such leisure area is Her?str?u Park. It impresses by sheer size?187 hectares. In relation to the city's area it is thus a good deal larger than New York's famous Central Park with its 349 hectares. The lake gracing the park's centre is so long and narrow that it looks more like a river, whose banks make the perfect setting for a picnic. When the weather is warm, the Her?str?u Park is great for people-watching and soaking up the city's flair.
E-Book and Kindle are its enemies. Soft leather binding and paper rustle sounds two of its greatest strengths. It's about the book which holds its ground in our over-digitalised age. But offering reading material alone does not suffice anymore - it's about the overall experience. Bucharest knows the answer: Carturesti. Carturesti is an empire with 13 bookstores in Romania. One of them is the Verona bookstore near the Patria Cinema in the centre of the capital, located within an aristocratic mansion next to the Magheru boulevard. Carturesti fans are particularly intrigued by the broad range of English literature and art books as well as its selection of CDs and DVDs. But they also come to see contemporary artworks. But that's still not it. They want to have a tea and grab a little bite - because the stay under the stucco vault could take a while, especially if they later move onto the terrace to sip an espresso and bury themselves in their favourite authors' books.
STAY in Bucharest:
This hotel is rich in tradition: it was opened in 1852 by Grigore Capsa and straight away became the place to stay for Romania's crème de la crème. Only here did one feel at home, if one was rich, beautiful, or artistic. In 1886, the Capsa was given a make-over to turn it into Romania's most elegant hotel. The aristocratic and cosmopolitan atmosphere can still be experienced. You will feel definitely feel special, in part because the hotel has only 42 rooms, all of which are individually decorated. What they have in common is a luxurious, regal décor that recalls ancient tales of princes and princesses. They were all here: the guest list reads like a who's who ? even Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria slept at the Capsa.One night's accommodations in a double room start at 185 euro.
Friendly service is priority number one at the Pullman, so it's not uncommon for the charming manager to welcomes guests herself. The second lesson in hospitality comes from the staff that attends to guests' wishes around the clock, and turns a business trip into something more like a holiday. For a large hotel?203 rooms?it is surprisingly quiet. If you are looking for company, then try the restaurant, or stroll through the centre of town, it's just five minutes away by foot.Our favourite extra in this hotel: room service delivers gourmet treats?even warm dishes?to your door around the clock. So slip into your pyjamas and get on the phone.One night's accommodations in a double room start at around 134 euro.
Opinions are split on the rooms' decor that tries to impress with kitschy red and gold braid. Either you find it fantastic or dreadful, there's nothing in between. There is no dispute however about the staff. Their friendliness and warmth make a stay at the Suter Inn relaxing and enjoyable. With just 16 rooms and one apartment of course they can afford to take time for their guests.The building was constructed in 1900 by an architect by the name of Suter. The house was restored to its former glory in 2003. The hotel is located not in the busy centre of town, but in a quiet neighbourhood not far from Piata Unirii and parliament.A night in a double room starts from 43.50 euro.
EAT in Bucharest:
Here you will be served authentic Indian cuisine. Be careful: if order your food hot, it comes hot! But if you prefer not to give your taste-buds a good singe, no problem: the chef will prove that Indian cuisine can be spicy but doesn't have to be. It is all about an alluring mix of spices that can be mild as well. The restaurant won't win any design awards but it's inviting and comfortable nonetheless. The rooftop terrace in particular is a great place to meet for those who favour a modern and southern ambiance. Three chefs stand watchfully over the pots and seem to be competing in a contest. Where else will you find ten different lamb dishes? Vegetarians will also feel right at home. They may like to choose one of the home-baked breads from among eight variations as an accompaniment to an exotic vegetable-based speciality.
Lacrimi si Sfinti
Mircea Dinescu is a well-known Rumanian writer. He works as a journalist and fell from favour during the Ceau?escu era for his socio-critical viewpoint. But that wouldn't be enough for him. That's why he was looking for 100 years-old recipes whose forgotten tastes he now reinterprets in his restaurant Lacrimi si Sfinti in the historic district of Bucharest. Dinescu's focus thereby lies on the revival of local culture. He uses regional ingredients and organic meat from small farms. The kitchen windows in his restaurant come from an abandoned house in the surrounding area and the door comes from a former pharmacy in a Romanian county. For his decoration the revolutionary has arranged 16,000 lego stones from Copenhagen and works by local artists. All this is well received in Bucharest. Just like the wines that are produced by Dinescu himself on his manor.
Romanian cuisine? Simple, delicious, and good. You want to sample cooking typical of the country without the hand-woven folk art tickling the back of your neck? Had it with that pair of jolly musicians sidling up to your table at 9:30 sharp? Then it's high time to reserve a table at Casa Doina. At the villa which dates back to the 18th century the capital's most elegant meet for dinner. So take a tip and make sure you dress at least as smartly as the waiter. Nothing then stands in the way of an evening savoruing wonderful Romanian specialties. At Casa Doina they are prepared with a refined touch worthy of the surroundings. When the weather is fine, you should by all means take a cool drink in the garden.
SHOPPING in Bucharest:
Rozalb de Mura
The Rozalb de Mura label was launched in 2006 and ever since customers have wondered about the name that combines the words for ?rose' and ?blackberry'. That is meant to signal an scintillating and creative mix. Designer Olah Gyarfas is himself a mix of equal parts Hungarian and Romanian. He takes an interest not only in fashion but promotes an exchange between artists, musicians, and other creative people from all over the world. The concept works: Rozalb de Mura is a lively showcase with a wealth of fresh, imaginative creativity that you will try hard to find elsewhere. Shop, showroom, and exhibition space all rolled into one?no limits here as long as the line is aesthetically pure and the artistic claim ambitious. The outfits are made for today's yuppy. And especially if you are among those who absolutely reject this distinction, then you should have a look inside. Here you find fashion of the day after tomorrow. Just the thing for exhibition openings, graphic artists, writers, artists, club nights-out, or DJs. Most of it is in black and?at last!?there is men's wear too.
How do a Dutch hotel owner and a Chilean architect get together? By jointly opening the Beros & van Schaik wine trade in Sofia. Jerry van Schaik runs a hotel, his partner Christian Beros designs houses. They both like good wine and have established a wine trade in the historic district of Sofia where they sell gourmet wines that cannot be bought in the supermarket. These come from France, Spain, South Africa, Australia, Chile and Romania - among other countries: for example Corcova, Terra Romana, Avincis or La Certa. Additionally they serve small snacks in their bar including smoked meat, cheese, olives and daily specials. The wine partners celebrate gusto. They also arrange regular wine tasting sessions in the stylish setting of their wine bar. No time? No problem - Beros & van Schaik also deliver to your door. And the matching goodies can still be bought at the supermarket.
Yes indeed, the Romanians are proud of their imposing shopping malls and have plenty of them. So take part in a total shopping craze at least once, and stroll through one of the popular malls. Why not the most typical of them all, the gargantuan Bucuresti Mall. Opened in 2001, it boasts over 140 shops on an area of some 99,000 square metres. The building dates from Communist times and is appropriately massive, grey and heavy on the cement. Still, the locals continue to crowd the place, to shop, bowl, drink coffee, or take in a film at one of the ten cinemas. The shops include all the usual international labels?Adidas, Esprit, Marks & Spencer, Levi's and the like. But there are also less well-known brands, like Aldo Shoes, the local wedding outfitter, Alb ?i Negru, and Romanian designer, Irina Schrotter. It's well worth having a look around, although you probably won't pay less for international brands than you would at home.