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.
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.
At first glance you might not suspect that Romania has a good deal to boast of in the world of fashion. Nichi Cristina Nichita is a Bucharest girl made good. The fashion designer has presented her creations on many a catwalk and invariably earned ecstatic kudos. In the shop on Piata Unirii slip into one of the designer's latest creations; you're sure to be won over. Elegant businesswear with that certain something extra, lovely handbags, and clothes for that special event. Too bad Nichi Cristina Nichita only designs for women, but she really knows how to pamper them. The designer plays with classic looks that are never dull because they all have a dash of contemporary spirit. Pick out your favourite dress and reserve a table at a chic bar to show it off.
SIGHTS in Bucharest:
You should have a head for heights when you want to look out of the window from here. The 18Lounge is located on the 18th floor of the City Gate South Tower in Bucharest, right next to the Pullman Hotel. On your way towards it, passing the entrance hall of the office building, you could easily forget about your actual mission. But the moderate background music when leaving the lift picks you up exactly where you want to get - to the huge lounge bar with restaurant. Your vertigo could become a problem on the way to your table, since the view on the Romanian capital is ingenious. The menu impresses with lots of sea food, fish, and T-bone steak. Vegetarians are served baby spinach with peperoncino, garlic and olive oil, for dessert there's mango crème with almonds and crispy rice pastry. If you're not hungry at all, you can bet on Chanel No. 6, not as a fragrance, but a drink!
The Royal Palace merits more than a cursory look from outside: The palace, which dates from the early 19th century, has been the residence of kings, a communist government office, and today houses the Romanian National Art Museum. Exhibited are paintings, prints, and other artworks both Romanian and European from a variety of periods. Taken together the collections are quite extensive, so if you would like to see them all make sure you have enough time and energy. You can also spread your visit over several days. Tickets are sold for each part of the museum separately, so you can do the museum in stages with no damage to your pocketbook. For those stuck on the big names, the museum has several works by Rubens and Rembrandt. Like many other of the city's sights, a visit to the Royal Palace can be combined with an enjoyable stroll.
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.
EAT in Bucharest:
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.
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.
How sweet! A small café where you can also take a piece of your favourite treat home with you. A charming, small chocolate shop where you can find what you've craved all day, and have a coffee as well. The selection of chocolates, pralines, tarts, cakes and other sinful delights is immense: you will feel yourself transported to somewhere between France with its crème brûlée, éclairs, and Forêt noire, and Italy with its profiteroles and tiramisu. Need a starter before devoting yourself to the sweets? Chocolat also serves delectable light lunches featuring soups, pasta dishes and salads made of the very freshest ingredients. The selection of baked goods is equally tempting: bread-rolls, white, dark, and whole-grain breads, brioche and panini, both filled and not. This is a whole new dimension to being spoilt for choice.
STAY in Bucharest:
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.
This is the acme of luxury. The service? First-class, The décor? Pure elegance. The guests? Elite. The Grand Hotel too recalls the 19th century, with painstaking renovation recreating the atmosphere of the era. The building was constructed in 1886 in German Renaissance style based on plans by Emil von Forster. After being renamed Otelul and Hotel Broft, the sumptuous building was restored and reopened as the Grand Hotel Continental. Cinderella was not simply given a face-lift, but brought up to date with 21st century technology.Aesthetes will marvel at the richly detailed decoration. The rooms are tasteful and elegantly appointed. Particularly impressive are the suites in the various period styles: Renaissance, Empire, Louis XV. Simply regal!One night's accommodations in a double room cost 320 euro; the most expensive suite will run you 920 euro.