For New Year’s Eve, I booked a room at the Howard Johnson Grand Hotel in downtown Bucharest, near a square called ‘Piata Romana’. I used Hotels.ca and to my amazement, this five star hotel was available for $137/night (the cheapest rate offered by any hotel). When Laura and I checked into our 10th story room, we found its greatest feature was a tall, deep, window sill. We could both fit in it and could watch the world go by from a bird’s eye view. Laura read a book in that window sill and I took a shower.
At around 7pm we headed out for supper. We walked several blocks because taxi drivers in Bucharest get really annoyed with you if you’re only going 10 blocks. They get paid per km and will actually refuse to drive you if the distance is too short. Taxi drivers are universally disliked in Bucharest because their driving sucks, their attitudes stink, and they’re not that useful. Furthermore, if they know you’re not Romanian, the rate quintuples. Fortunately, the streets of Bucharest are the safest I’ve ever seen. Young women walk the streets at night without fear. I actually met Laura two years ago on a downtown street at 3am.
We made our way into ‘Old Bucharest’, a twisting winding collection of tightly packed, centuries old buildings and narrow cobble stone streets. It’s really quite beautiful. Many of the streets are torn up and architectural digs are underway. Our first stop was ‘The Fire Club’, located in a building that’s older than Regina. We hung out in the basement where the DJ was spinning all sorts of music, most of it currently residing in the reputiour of many a drag queen. It seems Romanians enjoy mocking and dancing to really cheesy songs. 99% of the music was in English. Laura knew all the words, and had a dance routine worked out for every tune. We spent most of the evening laughing at ourselves. Then, ‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe played and suddenly it was midnight. The music kept going… there was no stopping the party to have a count down.
“La Mulţi” could be heard everywhere. That’s how Romanian’s say ‘Happy New Year!’ It’s also how they greet each other for every other holiday occasion, including birthdays. Efficient methinks. Laura and I left soon after to join two of her friends, Raluca and Madalina, at ClubControl, a nearby club. In the walk over, Bucharest sounded like it was under attack. Fireworks exploded and echoed off the walls of buildings all over the city. This went on for several hours. The city was lit up and there was a palpable sense of euphoria in the air.
ClubControl was amazing… packed with people and music and ambience. At one point, the girls left me on the dance floor alone and I found myself dancing with a perfect stranger. We fell into a kind of improvised movement performance in the middle of the dance floor, reading each others’ body language and constantly shifting into different movement phrases. She would throw out an idea and I would take it, work with it, then throw something back to her. It felt like something straight out of our movement class back in Regina. She said something to me in Romanian and I didn’t understand. She smiled and said she thought I was a foreigner because Romanian men have no imagination when they dance. Never in my life would I have imagined someone saying that about me. Thanks Movement Class!
Laura, Raluca, Madalina and I left the club at 5am. We headed out to McDonalds at Piata Romana for a bite. I learned that Raluca will be studying screen writing next year. We made plans to chat over coffee before I leave. Laura and I headed back to the hotel afterwards. I closed my eyes at 5:30. It was the best New Years ever!