Adventures in Bucharest, or, Why it’s Worth Reading the News

We didn’t have a lot of adventures here. What can I say, February is here with a vengeance – even the sunny days have been brutally cold, some sidewalks are all but impassable, and the grey coldness of everything kind of saps the life from you. Have I mentioned our mattress had a feather topper this week? So we’ve been sleeping *on* a really really thick feather duvet? It’s a nest. We’ve slept like champions (almost as well as we ate last week). It’s obscene, this life.

I did go in to town on Tuesday – after our failed attempt to do a walking tour on Monday, I was totally squirrelly Tuesday morning and wanted to see what the town had to offer. The Cherry Orchard was on at the National Theatre, which I figured would be a good bet since at least I’ve read the play (years ago) in English. I figured I could head in, get my ticket, see some sights, see the show and be back in time for drinks.

I wasn’t sure just how long I’d need around town, so I putsed around the hotel room first – I read a bit about the maniac Ceauşescu and the 1989 revolution and about some of the more recent protests and issues. Please note: I did not actually read the week’s news, and forgot to read a synopsis of The Cherry Orchard. Instead, I reached my squirrelly breaking point and just grabbed my stuff, including a butchered map, and charged out of my room.

I happily shared a cab into town with some folks who had the day off and who warned (again) of scammer taxis to avoid on my way back and told of terrible walking through snow. Meh, I thought to myself – how bad could it be?

Pretty bad.

Old town. It doesn't look that bad here, but it was not nice walking. HARDSHIP.

The streets of the wee little old town (not a ton left after WWII and Communism) were totally snow and ice covered. The main drags mostly just ice covered. It was bitterly cold, and generally kind of a shit day to walk around. AND, with only my butchered map pieces (I didn’t want to be unfolding the whole thing on street corners, looking totally like a vulnerable stupid tourist), I failed at finding the Jewish History museum. True to form, I charged the wrong way down a street for about 25 minutes, before circling back and hunting around some more, before finally giving up and going back to old town get some soup.

Trees were still ice-covered

I got my ticket with minimal difficulty - theatre's being restored

At least the stray dogs have thick coats?

Plenty of contrasts here: view from one direction

View from the other side

The parking spaces here stink for getting plowed-in

When I finally accepted I was lost and turned around, I learned there was a circus in town!

Most commonly-sighted bank. Insert Dracula joke here

View by the water. Do you notice how everything is the same colour?? February!!

Only problem with the soup was that it made me super toasty, so when I stepped back into the bitter wind I was instantly frozen. I trudged back to another museum near the theatre to pass a bit more time inside. I was almost there when I heard some noise… some chanting-like noise. Then I saw some flags and banners and a small crowd, in the park right in front of the theatre. Protests! Yay!

By the time I discovered that the museum was closed, a fellow tour partner had texted me back – the protests might have something to do with the government falling the day before, he said. So you know, don’t get mistaken for being a part of it in case they get violent like those of a few weeks ago.

Remember the part about how I read some recent news, but not the news of the day? Or the day before, for that matter? SMRT!

It was really a fairly small group and they didn’t seem totally agitated. What made me uneasy more than anything was the sound of a helicopter hovering overhead. I couldn’t see it, so I wasn’t sure whether it was a news copter, police copter, or what. But rush hour traffic was going by unimpeded, people were bustling around, so I went to a cafe to see how the next 1.5 hrs would play out.

A woman came in and bought her young son a pastry. A father and daughter came in. Some women came in for coffee. For better or for worse, people didn’t seem too bothered.

Maybe it was kind of fitting that the play I went to see was (well, sort of) about the perils of keeping your head in the sand while the world around you changes and moves on?

The theatre was packed and the audience pretty varied in age – I think it helps that tickets are cheap (well, at least for me): I was in a primo seat for 40Lei, which is around $13CAD. As this article suggests, it seems Bucharest is as crazy for theatre as Sofia. It was playing in the fairly-small “ampitheatre” in the basement of the building, with old gum ground into the carpet and the heat jacked so high I regretted my four layers after 30 minutes of the 2.5 hour, no-intermission show.

It’s funny going to see a play you read a long time ago in a language you don’t understand. While I lost the subtleties of the text (and apparent re-working of it), I thought a lot more about the staging, including the set and lighting design (which were interesting, though I’m not sure they always worked) and the many, varied bits of stage business in this production… the significance of which probs. also went over my head more often than not since I couldn’t understand the text. Remember the part where I forgot to read a synopsis of the play? I think that would have helped. Note to self: stop bursting out of hotel rooms in such a rush.

The audience was rapturous at the end. I was mostly drenched in sweat and stiff, but my desire to go see a play in a language I don’t understand totally sated. And I think, on balance, the performances were strong. Maybe I’ll try again in France.

By the time the show let out, the protestors had moved across the street and their numbers dwindled even further. Despite all the warnings, I managed to get a legit taxi back the hotel where I told Dunc that I think Bucharest may have lots of nice little secrets and hidden charms, they’re just currently buried under snow and ice.

At least I’ve had a warm hotel to come back to and hide out in, of course. I just watched a documentary about how life isn’t so nice for some of the (too many) kids in this town. I can only imagine how this winter is treating them.

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2 Responses to Adventures in Bucharest, or, Why it’s Worth Reading the News

  1. Val says:

    On reflecting on your arrival in Romania and the resignation of the government there, I beg you to return to Canada to see if your luck holds!

  2. spare teeth says:

    Bwahahahah! You give me far to much credit!

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