My time so far in Bucharest has still been characterized by having a cold; it’s not unusual for me to take 2 weeks or so to recover. I mentioned trying a few remedies such as taking an Epsom + ginger bath and drinking chicken soup during the first days of symptoms. Did they make a difference? It’s impossible for me to say anything conclusive, but I did start the phlegm-expelling phase significantly sooner than usual. (I have to expel about 95% of my total produced phlegm in order to go back to normal.) From an objective (i.e., non-scientific) point of view, if home remedies make you feel better (without actually harming you)—even if it’s only due to the placebo effect—that’s all that matters.
I’ll just share a few snippets about living in Bucharest so far. I’m staying in Hello Hotels, which is in Sector 1. I eat just one or two proper meals a day due to my cold. (I would probably have recovered quicker if I forced myself to eat more, but nevertheless an interesting thing I found was that eating cakes seemed to help the most for coughing up phlegm.) It’s been difficult adjusting to 11 hours time difference. Since this is my first taste of Europe, most items on a menu are unfamiliar. Basically just pizza and hamburgers would be my only comfort options. Apparently Romanians eat breakfast at home, so few places are open in the morning. Past midnight it’s not so convenient either (Google seems to have inaccurate opening hours sometimes), but you can find a 24/7 supermarket or maybe even a 24/7 McDonald’s.
When you research about Bucharest and Romania in general, there’s lot of conflicting information about healthcare, the chances of getting pick-pocketed, etc. Everyone agrees that Bucharest has changed a lot for the better, so my running theory is this: don’t always trust what locals say, especially older ones. They’re probably more likely to hang on to old impressions and act overprotective.
Food here is cheaper than in NZ, but not that much cheaper. Portions served at restaurants are not big; whoever said that was perhaps referring to the countryside (but I can’t confirm this yet). And ordering a soup certainly isn’t enough, but it’s still an efficient choice if you order it with bread. I frequently spend around $20 for a meal in NZ (more than the average student), and with that amount you can have more variety (a drink other than water, plus soup or salad) for the same price. Keep in mind that with food and services in Romania, price doesn’t dictate quality.
From what I’ve read, the most likely way that a tourist’s life might be at risk is from a traffic accident. Not to say that the risk is high, but it does seem to overshadow the risk of dying as a result of undetected exposure to rabies or to violent crimes. (To confirm, both of these risks are rather low. I did consider getting a rabies vaccination, but it is moderately expensive and requires weeks for a series of jabs that I didn’t have time to do. I’m a hypochondriac in case it’s not obvious.) Anyhow, the basic rules are to obey traffic lights, cross at pedestrian crossings, follow locals if in doubt, and definitely look both ways (there are plenty of one-way streets so you can’t always look one way then the other). However, traffic lights take a while to toggle so many people do decide to jaywalk. Interestingly, it seems to me about half of locals jaywalk at a given crossing while half do not. There’s an almost tangible sense of wariness among those who choose not to jaywalk; it would seem to suggest that cars can speedily appear out of nowhere.
Many people smoke, young and old alike. Rubbish heaps are often stacked on the street. Dogs are like people here—there’s social class, poverty, segregation, disabilities, violence, and homelessness. Romanian women do indeed dress well: stylishly and not scantily. I doubt it’s just because of the colder early spring weather. A random thing I noticed was that when people walk together in mixed-gender groups, with the exception of single couples, there are almost always more guys than girls. I have no particular theory for this. I can also confirm that Romanians do like their PDAs, including people lying down together in embrace. I suppose parks are a relatively romantic setting compared to in NZ. The large parks are big, with stalls and small shops within, plenty of seats, water features, and of course lots of plant features. The spaces are really designed for many people to share, and it makes me think of NZ parks as somewhat minimalistic in comparison. (Though there simply aren’t that many people using them anyway!)
Considering I haven’t ridden a bus or subway yet, I’m not in the most informed position to say this, but Bucharest does seem uniform in its convenient metropolitan nature. There are many supermarkets, especially Mega Image stores, and there are always food outlets here or there. But that’s also a downside in the sense that there’s no one street or block that is tightly packed with things of interest. The buildings and architecture here is a key highlight for many visitors, but I’ll talk about that in another post.
Another thing people disagree about is the drinkableness of tap water in Bucharest. Some say it’s fine to drink untreated tap water, others say boil it and filter it and also get a shower filter because there are contaminants in the water that can affect your skin. Because I live in NZ where tap water is clean (and in fact I drink water from a well), I’m fairly picky about the taste of water. Romanian is meant to have really good bottled water, although I find the taste just okay. I buy a 2L bottle from the supermarket on most days. Tap water has a bad odor so I rinse my drink bottle with bottled water. (Ironic?) I’ve decided not to be quite so paranoid, so when I make instant noodles or tea or Nesquik I boil tap water rather than bottled water. Maybe the water still tastes bad, but the flavor gets masked. I haven’t noticed any residue collecting in the kettle (which I bought from Kaufland supermarket), but there seems to be residue on the shower head in my hotel room. I can also say that my hair has never been so rebellious. It refuses to go smooth or flat.
Note: It turns out that I was drinking the mediocre brand of bottled water, Dorna. This post describes water and other beverages in Romania in good detail.