Sunday, August 26, 2012

Burcharest, Romania: Lipscani, Old Town

Romania souvenir shop.  Clay figurines.

Much, this time, as the last, referencing my first visit to Romania while on tour with Michael Jackson  years ago, there was little time to explore much of what Bucharest has to offer.  

It's all a bit foggy and a distant memory now, but what I do know, is that on a grey day in September of '96, the breaking news of the day, via TV, not internet, was that Tupac Shakur had died from multiple gun shot wounds sustained from an altercation had days earlier.  Odd, but true, this is one of my more poignant memories from my first, ever, visit to Bucharest.  I'd rather be sharing stories of a great time had at street cafes and local pubs, but that was not my experience.  It's interesting, what clouds ones memories.

In general though, I remember Bucharest as a city that overall felt dark and depressed.  In a word, sad.  The streets seemed desolate, the buildings old and unkempt, trees and grass, a bit thirsty and the roads in need of repair.  Hmmmmm,  that could also sum up Detroit.

Anyway, I'm thankful for a second chance to experience Bucharest, to see a city seemingly very alive and well.  From my observation, I could see the obvious efforts toward gentrification of the historic Old Town in particular, also known as, Lipscani.  Businesses were thriving and tourist were evident.

Streets of Lipscani, Old Town.

Myself and friends walked the pedestrian streets and alleys of Lipscani, being entertained by street performers and people watching.  The streets were full of hustle and bustle, with cafes, restaurants and night clubs, spilling over.  We blended in, stopping for a bite, al fresco, near the Rembrandt Hotel at the Grand Cafe Van Gogh.  I'd definitely recommend it.  The vibe was chill and charming, and the setting casual.  I had a ham and cheese toastie and the burning lemon and Bols strawberry drink.  Nice.

Grand Cafe Van Gogh

We roamed a bit more, seeking photo opts and souvenirs before finding The Tiki Bar.  A wonderfully small space, with an eclectic groove, Maori inspired wall art and bamboo upcycled light fixtures, attracting local hipsters and tourist alike.  The star of the show and masterful mixologist, is an expat from South Africa who, upon request of your palette, will almost magical concoct a brew of spirits to ensure you wanting more.  We loved it!!!  We were so inspired that we felt compelled to leave the bar with signed and dated tiki glasses as souvenirs.  Our server extraordinaire seized the opportunity to get us familiar with Palinka, a Hungarian moonshine of sorts.  All I'll say about that is, smoooooooooth!!!

The Tiki Bar

While in Old Town we made time to visit the Old Court Church known as the oldest church in Bucharest and a sort of hub in Old Town.  The original site dates back to the mid 1500's.  It was worth the trip.

Old Court Church interior.

Rounding out a great afternoon and evening my friends and I stopped at Gyro Thessalonikis for the most amazing souvlakis.  By far, one of the best I've had in a long while.  Yum!  It was also a great chaser for our Palinka and tiki drinks. 

Gyro Thessalonikis in Liscani.  Bucharest, Romania.

Gyro guy.

Well,  until next time Bucharest.

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