Bucharest: Where the Wine Flows Like Vin


As much as Pat complained about taxi drivers in his last post, we elected to take another taxi from Ruse, Bulgaria to Bucharest. It was about an hour and a half ride almost due north, and quite affordable given the speed and convenience relative to the train or bus. Fortunately, this taxi driver was a very good driver and didn’t have a penchant for tailgating semi-trucks at high speed.

Latin is Dead but It’s Thrilling Me

The border crossing from Bulgaria to Romania occurred on a bridge over the Danube River which separates the two countries. There was little fuss. The taxi driver took our passports and his ID card to a tollbooth-looking… booth… one end Bulgarian and the other end Romanian. Stamp, stamp, and off we went.

The Immigration booth. Kinda like those drive-thru wedding chapels in Vegas.

We watched out the taxi window as the Romanian countryside and small villages trotted by; metal-roofed houses, fields of corn, the farmacie, fructe and legume shops. “Pat!” I exclaimed probably a little louder than necessary in the averagely sized taxi, “I think I understand the signs!” I rubbed my eyes. We watched for the next sign: Bancă. “A bank!” we said in unison.

It was as if blinders had been taken from our eyes. All throughout Bulgaria, we struggled with the language because of its wanky alphabet and Slavic roots. A certain level of comprehension flooded our brains. Ahhh… a Latin-based language with a recognizable alphabet and words we could decipher from knowing French and Spanish.

Hail Caesar?

Romania is an island of Roman roots established way back in the Roman Empire days. I guess the name of the country should have tipped us off that Romania and Romans were somehow connected. You don’t have to beat us with a stick.

The Italians and Romanians still have a strong bond. While walking around Bucharest, we happened upon a statue of two boys being suckled by a she-wolf. We didn’t know the significance of the statue and no amount of beating us with a stick would have helped. Do you know what helped? Curiosity… and Google of course.

If it wasn’t for this wolf, Rome may never have existed

The statue is called the Capitoline Wolf and was a gift from Italy. It depicts the twin boys, Romulus and Remus, being suckled by a she-wolf that rescued them from the Tiber River. As legend has it, Romulus and Remus went on to found Rome. (Spoiler Alert: Italy is either very fond of Romania, or they bought a bunch of these statues at a discount and needed to figure out something to do with them. A gift of one from Italy is displayed in just about every Romanian city. Mussolini even sent one to Cincinnati)

Building Blocks and Architecture


Back in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, Pat photographed a Soviet-style hotel quite a bit and lamented the fact that we didn’t think to spend a night in it. Well, our Bucharest Airbnb must have thrilled him. It was as Soviet-style as Soviet-style could be; a big, tall, grey box with all of the character of a cinder block. Our apartment block was in the middle of a line of three or four more of the same. Unsurprisingly, we tried to enter the wrong building once.

The halls and stairwells reminded me of my grade school or a hospital in a horror flick. It was safe, but dim and utilitarian. The apartment itself was unimaginative but functional. The location was excellent, smack dab in the center of Bucharest and in the Old Town mere moments away from Vlad’s, of impaling fame’s, Princely Court.

Creepy hallways, but they get you where you’re going.

Not far from our grey box apartment block were fine examples of Italian, French and Ottoman influenced architecture. We spent a good two days walking around the city photographing buildings. Some of the most palatial looking buildings weren’t government buildings or churches. They were banks.

That’s a bank?!

We Wine Everywhere We Go

A man bearing wine. We liked him. photo:PK, as well as the featured photo

A new country deserves some education on our part. With that in mind, we dropped in at Abel’s Wine Bar to give our palates a lesson in Romanian wine. Abel’s is a cool and laid-back bar with sidewalk and indoor seating. Normally, we sit inside so we can monopolize the bartender, but the inside seating was closed for a group of American military delegates who were due to arrive in an hour. Some clout, huh?

We told the bartender that we were American too, but they told us to go sit outside anyway. As luck would have it, a couple vacated one of the few shaded tables, so we hustled to claim it. And, since there was no one inside and only a few tables outside, the wine-bearers were happy to spend time with us to describe the wines and wine regions of Romania.

We did a five wine tasting: one white, one rose, and three reds. The Cabernet Sauvignon DOC-CMD Dealu Mare was excellent as well as the Negru de Dragasani. Unfortunately, we didn’t try the Feteasca Neagra, Regala, or Alba on our first visit. The pours were not skimpy, our palates were done, and the troops had just marched in and captured our very knowledgeable and interesting wine bearers, we said goodnight and vowed to return.



Two Thumbs Up

Our first impression of Romania from our three days in Bucharest was very positive. Pat fulfilled his dream of staying in an ugly Soviet-era building, we began our Romanian wine education, and the Latin-based language made our lives much easier. Viva Romania!

Hike Drink Live Laugh

~~More photos below~~


The School of Architecture

The Arcade, full of little bars and restaurants Photo:PK

Carol I out for a ride

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