I love what I do with my day job and while I’m usually smiling through the long hours, pressure and blink-and-its-here deadlines, there are a few surprises that make me smile even more. Travel. Anyone who knows me knows I spend a lot of time travelling between cities because of my advertising career. I’m greeted on most flights with a, ‘Welcome back Mr. Victor’, the coffee guy at the departure lounge gets my coffee without me having to order it and Revati often asks me how long I’m checking back into our house when I return. So when the opportunity to spend 3 days in Bucharest when a film shoot came up, I wasn’t really celebrating. Going for a day or two within India is ok because I’ve seen these cities and I’m not thinking about what I’m missing on while sitting indoors. But going to Bucharest really had me in knots. Firstly, we’d just returned home after 2 weeks in Italy and I had lots to catch up on. Secondly, I knew I was leaving to Bangkok (probably for the 50th time!) again on a film shoot in a few days. But most importantly, because I’d be in a whole new city in Europe and won’t have the time to get out and discover it.
3 Days in Bucharest
The first short walk
After a long, delayed flight that I boarded an hour after my birthday, I landed at Frankfurt to discover I’d missed my connecting flight. Thankfully, they put me on one later in the evening, so I pretty much spent my birthday in the Lufthansa Business Lounge. Finally landing in Bucharest, I zipped away to my hotel at the Bucharest City Centre, just a block away from the Revolution Square. Jet-lagged, groggy and dying for fresh air, I checked in, freshened up in a few minutes and stepped out for some much needed real air!
The minute I stepped out, I kicked myself for not having brought my photography gear. The light was beautiful and crisp and everything seemed to have the wonderful golden glow of the setting sun. Phone in hand, I decided to take a small walk before dinner. The Cișmigiu Gardens were just behind my hotel and I decided to walk the other way towards the Revolution Square. Walking around, I caught sight of the 18th Century Crețulescu Church. Drawn like a magnet, I immediately hopped down the few stairs and walked around to the entrance, only to discover that it was shut. It was after 8 pm! It just seemed bright enough to be 4 pm back home. Further down, I walked past the famous Revolution Square, known as the Palace Square until it was renamed in 1989 after the revolt. The former Royal Palace, the Athenee Palace Hotel, the University Library and the Memorial of Rebirth are all located at the square. Quite contrary to it’s name, it’s a wonderfully peaceful place to walk through, with a lot of art installations scattered around.
I was shooting my film at two very different sides of Bucharest. The first was at Mogoșoaia Palace, about 10 km away from Bucharest. Built in the late 17th Century in what was known as the Romanian Renaissance style, the Palace is built on the banks of a small lake with a beautiful adjoining garden. I would’ve loved to walk around and explore the Palace and the grounds, but I wasn’t there to do that. The second leg of my shoot was at a studio, the highlight of which was a little recreated French town. Nothing as grand as the Palace from the previous day but interesting nonetheless.
One plate at a time
From the time that I landed, the one thing everyone was talking to me about was the great food, especially the steaks, in Bucharest. Given the fact that I’d just returned from Tuscany a couple of weeks ago, I wondered how it would hold up against the unbeatable Florentine Bistecca. And I wasn’t disappointed. The guys knew just where to take me on all the three nights I was here. The first night, we headed to Caru’ cu Bere (the beer wagon) housed in a historic monument built in the 19th Century. It was mesmerising walking inside its art nouveau interiors, where patrons seemed divided by the ones looking at their plates and the ones looking up at the ceiling. Night two, took us to a place I’ve been hearing about quite often ever since I landed – Vacamuuu. Once my dry aged steak arrived on my plate, I realised the hype wasn’t just hype. The food was divine and I was wondering how I could take some back home! The last dinner was at Buitiful and it was exactly what the name suggested – beautiful. A beautiful setting by the lake. A beautiful spread that we couldn’t stop eating. And those beautiful, beautiful desserts that we wanted to live in.
Honestly, Bucharest hasn’t featured on our travel radar. But there’s something about this city that kept me smiling all through. Was it the food? Was it the architecture and the wonderful wide streets? Or was it just the few smiling locals I’d met, who I now count as some of the most wonderful people I’ve worked with? Whatever it is, I’m sure we’re going to go back to Bucharest some day when I’m not working. To discover much more of this wonderful city and it’s people. And the next time I go, it won’t just be to spend 3 days in Bucharest.