Laura and I started the day by taking the bus to her favorite coffee shop, a Jazz Bar/Coffee Shop with a tropical theme. Not bad for -4 C outside. The place was packed so Laura and I were forced to sit in the non-smoking section… which consisted of one table, shoved in a corner and covered under blankets. I nearly hit the floor laughing. It really represents the epitome of Romanian attitudes towards smoking. You can smoke almost everywhere… and why not, a pack of smokes costs about $3. It’s not that non-smokers are ostracized, it’s just that with so many smokers in this country, non-smokers are a quiet, contented, minority. You can’t smoke on buses, trollies, or the metro, and there’s a massive building sized poster on Magheru Blvd encouraging people to quit smoking. Cigarettes come with a warning and graphic images on the package. People know its unhealthy… it’s just a huge part of the culture.
After working on a script for IJ for a few hours, Laura and I headed off to Plaza Romania, the 2nd largest mall in Europe. It was a mall just like any other mall, and it was filled with franchises from all over the world. I bought some more minutes for my Romanian Cell phone (6€) and then ate supper at Pizza Hut. I didn’t use Ketchup, which Laura found mind boggling. No one in Romania eats pizza without Ketchup.
Laura’s friend Irene was also at the mall. She offered us a ride to the train station to pick up Vladimir, Laura’s friend. On the way out my jaw dropped, ‘Holy shit, you have Starbucks!?’
Laura responded, ‘What? You think we just fell out of a tree here?’ Despite her sarcasm, she hadn’t actually ever had Starbucks. I bought us all Grande Caramel Lattes ($18 total). Laura never tasted anything like it. Lattes everywhere else in Romania come in smaller quantities and taste great, but very different from Starbucks. They’re a lower temperature and people drink them from a straw. Can’t explain it, it’s just a fact. After the train station, Laura and I took the Metro to Universitate, a square in front of the National Theatre. There, Laura took me to a really cool, artsy, smokey bar on the top floor of the building called ‘The Milk Log’. You could feel the ghosts of past productions still living in that space. Bucharest is a city thick with really great spaces such as this.
Most of them are full of smokers.