Happy Dutch Pancake Goes Romanian!

Making new friends is always fun, and is nothing better than joining a group of people from all over the world, to exchange opinions, ideas and bring incredible experiences into the same room.

Only a few weeks ago I heard about the tradition of Dutch Pancake Party, which started in Hong Kong, a while back, as a thank you dinner, for the hosts of a group of Dutch students.

Starting with a nice gesture, the party became more of a tradition for Robin Vogelaar, who travels every week to a new city around the world, and organizes a new party. Meeting people through CouchSurfing and social networks, Robin finds a place to stay, someone willing to provide a location for the Pancake Night, invites as many people as possible, and gets busy cooking and making new friends.

Photo Credit – Aida Ivan

With over 90 such parties already taking place all over the world, from Europe to Asia, between 30 and 150 people present at every party, the Dutch Pancake Night became a phenomena.

When I met Robin, he told me about his idea to organize such a party in Bucharest, so I just had to join in. It was quite impressive to see so many people of all nationalities (Netherlands, Mauritius, Greece, Belgium, Albania, UK, Brazil, China, Romania), going into the kitchen, helping with the snacks, ingredients and cooking the pancakes.

Even if we had great plans in mind (making a lot of pancakes, for everyone present), with only a few pancakes going out of the kitchen door, we had to put an end to it sooner, as the neighbors got irritated with the noise. From what I understand, this happens all the time, in every location, so we really fast came up with a backup plan, and moved to a nearby pub, to continue the celebration. No one puts a stop to a determined group! 🙂

Photo Credit – Aida Ivan

The best part about such events is the cultural exchange. I always love to meet people with similar passions, skills and interests, and find out more about other cultures and traditions. Even better is to meet fascinating adventurous world travelers and start new friendships.

With the next location already in mind, so many amazing people and a few new wonderful friendships, I’m pretty sure the end of the party is only a see you later, not a goodbye. Looking forward to the next meeting!


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Special thanks to Aida Ivan for the event pictures

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Bookstore and a Cup of Style

At the request of one of my friends, I went to take a look at the new Carusel Bookstore. Located on Lipscani street, in the Old City of Bucharest, the store takes the passion for reading and book shopping to the next level, through the surrounding atmosphere and unique style.DSC_48944

Hosting a bistro, a media centre, an art gallery, and the most beautiful design of all the bookstores in the area, the store invites you in, to tell you its beautiful story. 

The very elegant building, dating back to the nineteenth century, was originally owned by a famous family of bankers, until it was confiscated during the communist period, together with many other similar buildings. After 1990, the building was recovered by Jean Chrissoveloni, the current owner, who started the full restoration, bringing the beautiful construction back to life. After looking around for a bit, I would say a project well done!

Sadly enough, after my first visit, I realized not many people go there for the books, but for the building design or to get out of the cold weather, and the people who go there for the experience books have to offer, can’t really enjoy it, as the place gets really busy and loud. 

All in all, a gorgeous building, with a lot of potential. The best part is that a historical building was saved from a very slow death, adding more value to the old city of Bucharest.

Life After the Next Big Earthquake – History Repeats Itself?

March 1977 is known as a dark month in Romanian history, when a 7.2 earthquake, lasting 56 seconds, took the lives of 1,570 people, injured over 11,300, and destroyed over 35,000 houses and 33 large apartment buildings (most of the damage was suffered by the capital city, Bucharest).

Being located in a highly active seismic area (with at least one small earthquake taking place per day), and after such a catastrophic event you might think Romania learned its lesson, and building consciously and consolidating the existing buildings became our number one priority. If only this was the case…

The Harsh Reality – Corruption vs Well being

After 1977, every new construction was checked, double checked and tripled checked, to make sure such a disaster will never repeat itself. When communism was replaced by democracy, in 1989, the country developed its own version of democracy, in which corruption ‘solves’ any problem. As building cheaper and faster is one of the dreams, surely the right people, paid other right people, to ‘not notice’ the lack of materials, which were stolen or not brought at all, used for building the modern constructions, which look good on paper, but structurally you never know what you deal with.

To make matters worse, the entire old city, and not only, is at risk, as the buildings are very old, some are lacking a foundation, while others are not safe for living, as it is. Pretty much all the buildings in the old city are at risk of demolition, according to the latest inspections (estimated 190 buildings from with 113 are risk one buildings, which means they will for sure not make it through an earthquake 7 and up). To make matters even worse (yes, it is possible), some of the buildings weren’t even inspected, so for some of them we have no idea what’s the risk factor.

Why things don’t get done

Bucharest used to be called the Small Paris. The old city is a rich historical area, reminding us of the glorious past of the city. Glorious in the past… but not anymore.

earthquake risk 1 buildingQuickly turned into the location of the city where all the pubs, bars and restaurants are situated, the severity of the problem was masked by a few buckets on paint, which distract people from the huge structural issues of the buildings. Also, the warning signs placed by the authorities were either taken down, or masked behind various ‘Eat and drink here’ banners. So, the majority of the population has no idea about the issue in first place.

As it all comes down to money (the area is a paradise for foreigners and foreigners means a lot of cash, and a lot of cash means we need to stay in business), the restaurants and bars owners don’t want to shut down their business in order to consolidate the buildings, and the apartment owners (most of them elderly) don’t want to be moved anywhere else while such an operation takes place. Because according to the law, they all have to be in agreement in order for the construction to start, if one person says no, it can’t be done. So, obviously, it doesn’t get done.

Now let’s pretend that’s not a problem, and they could start the consolidation process. Then a new problem arises: Romania doesn’t have the money for such a project (up to 600 euro/sqm). And even if it did, with the well known Romanian speed of making things happening, the estimated time of the project is … 150 years! Yes, 150. Who hoo… Now, if you want to believe you will be lucky for so long, that’s great, but what if you are not in luck?

So the authorities blame the people and the people blame the authorities, and nobody does anything, so we hope a miracle will happen, and as hope dies last, the miracle is called “Let’s hope the earthquake won’t come”. But it will, eventually. Until then we place warning signs with: “Caution, falling plaster!” (sometimes, even bricks – darn gravity, turning plaster into bricks…).

Capital city without utilities – apocalypse loading in T minus…

So, we’re passed the hoping and doing nothing stage, which worked ‘lovely’, as you can see. The earthquake happened, almost 200 buildings came to the ground, a lot of victims, deaths, chaos and so on.

If you are lucky to have someone arrive to remove you from under the debris, you face an even worse problem: how do you survive in a city which will be shut down? And by shut down I mean, you own nothing, except the clothes you wear (in case you weren’t caught during your evening shower 🙂 ) there is no place from which you can get food, there’s no electricity, gas, water, mobile phone networks.

As authorities, you can’t turn on the electricity as long as you don’t dig under the ruins to fix the gas pipes leaks. And no electricity means water pumps don’t work, and apartment buildings have no water (yes, that also means no toilet). No water means no life, as you can’t cook, drink, or take care of any urgent body hygiene. As the estimated time to restart the normal life flow is over 1 month, and most people care about themselves only, I wouldn’t be surprised to witness an increase in criminal rate, as stealing and killing for resources might be the way to ensure personal survival. Oops!

After the last press conference, the city mayor declared they’re already working on a plan to turn local schools into temporary shelters in case of such a disaster happening anytime soon. So, the solutions are: taking the law back into the Parliament, and force the people to move out/shut down their business, and start working on the buildings (with the legal system in Romania this might take 15 years or so, and also, we don’t have the funds for such a project, and it’s taking too long as it is, according to the estimation), or we just get ready for the inevitable. For now, we do the latter and also consider the first (as in, maybe…).

What we’re losing

According to the authorities, we can rebuild in around 160 years… Again, we’re talking in terms of centuries here. How can we work and live between ruins? I remember a building coming to the ground about 1-2 years ago, and it took them almost one year to clear the derbies. What if we multiply that by 200?

Either way, it will never be the Small Paris again, no matter what they do. Metal and glass giants, will replace the gorgeous constructions from our past. Our history, as a city, will be erased, because there’s no interest into keeping it alive. To make it even worse, the interest is inclined towards bringing them down, and build new metal giants, which will bring even more money to the ‘right people’, as the cost of rent/buy in the old city is ridiculously high.

Every time I see the old city, I wonder if this is the last time I see the beautiful historical constructions. It might just be …

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Mesmerizing Dusk

There’s no tomorrow without a yesterday. What appears to be the end may really be a new beginning.

Don’t start your day with the broken pieces of yesterday. Every day is a fresh start, a new beginning. Every morning we wake up is the first day of the rest of our life.

Have a lovely day, everyone!

Saying Goodbye to 2014!

It’s been a crazy journey, and I don’t know about you, but for me 2014 went by so fast, I still have troubles believing it’s already the end of December.

With the end of the year fast approaching (only a few hours left) I would like to wish you all a better 2015, filled with love, laughter, joy, accomplishments and beautiful moments spent next to your loved ones.

Before I go, I want to share a few pet safety tips, for tonight. While you enjoy the fireworks, please keep your pets safe inside. Loud noises terrifies them and can affect their sensitive hearing. Also, make sure you keep all alcohol, floral arrangements and party decorations (especially confetti) away from your pets. We want them to have a happy new year as well, right? 🙂

Also, I would like to share with you a few pictures with the New Year Fireworks, from December 2008, in Bucharest, Romania.

Thank you all for reading, and see you in 2015! Happy New Year!!! ❤

Cycling in Bucharest – Extreme Survival

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a very active person, constantly involved in all type of activities, switching from jogging to basketball to swimming to rollerblading to hiking to Pilates and others.

As traveling, reading and getting informed always opens your mind, I wanted a change in lifestyle, to pollute less, exercise more and stay healthy. Having said all this, I’ve decided a few month ago, to start cycling, like most people do in any civilized country from the West. But this isn’t easy in a country where the national sport is sitting on a bench in the park and listening to loud music on the phone speakers while eating sunflower seeds and making fun of the people who exercise.

Extreme Survival – How to Guide?

You want to become a cyclist in Romania? Then you have to be ready to fight the drivers who turn you into a moving target, nasty looks and stupid questions like: ‘Why don’t you just get a driver’s licence and drive a car like a normal person does?‘ ( news: I already have one!).

To make it even more interesting, there is no such things as bike paths in Bucharest. Besides this, riding the bike on the side of the road puts you in danger, as passengers open the car doors without any warning, drivers turn left or right without looking into their side mirrors, and pack of strays try to bite your legs off.

In a country where everyone drives only thinking about themselves ( and sometimes not even this much) cyclists have a very hard time! It’s not a day in Bucharest in which I don’t witness an accident and see many more about to happen, being avoided in the last minute.

After getting the bicycle, I’ve spend half a day on the internet trying to figure out where can I cycle safe in the capital city, like you do in any other European city, on a bike path. Hours later, the answer: you can’t! You either cycle in the park ( for a beginner is ready hard when needing to avoid unpredictable dogs and kids) or on smaller roads of very poor quality ( cracks and street bikes just don’t go together) or the only bike path in Bucharest, a very small one, which looks like this.

The choice you have to make in Bucharest: shall I risk hitting a dog/child in the park OR get my wheel stuck in a crack in the perfect Romanian concrete from side streets or smaller roads OR hit a pole/car on the famous bike path above?

Decisions, decisions …

Proud Cyclist

As every change always starts with yourself, ignoring all of the above, it was time to find the right bicycle, MY bicycle, and I’m sure the right choice has been made.

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And I couldn’t be more proud. I feel like a kid, who finally got the desired toy, when I ride my new baby. Now I can’t say I’m an expert when it comes to bicycles, but she’s definitely a work of art!

It was complicated to learn how to ride it properly ( the bicycle is wicked fast so it took me a few hours to master it), and the bad road quality, mixed with the constant stress of being hit by a car or hitting a pedestrian or a puppy, made it even harder. But, practice makes perfect!

It’s been less than a month now, and after 100 km of riding it, I’m happy to say the only problem I had was with a fence which jumped in front of my bike when I passed by it ( this is exactly how it happened and I stick to my story! 🙂 ). Even so, I try to ride on small side roads, parks and forests, later in the evening, when the chances of getting into conflicts with the traffic or pedestrians are significantly smaller. Other option I’ve found, was to travel by car to a remote location, and cycle on the secondary roads in the area. Ideal? Not in the least, but is better than no cycling at all.

My biggest wish for Romania: a change in mentality. You are not ‘cool’ if you make fun of joggers/cyclists and you won’t become any ‘cooler’ if you drive a car and show no respect for the other people in traffic. I wait for the moment when people will start driving conscious about other traffic participants and see the benefits of cycling: less traffic jams, health improvement, cleaner environment.