‘In tara mea fumez unde vreau’

We are not – as we have pointed out on these very pages – in favour of a complete ban on smoking in public places. Although we have become rather evangelical non-smokers in the year and a bit since we gave up the fags, we remain hopeful that the invisible hand of the market will come to the rescue long before drastic measures such as total bans (similar to those in other places around the world) have to be enforced.

Our recent list of restaurants and cafes in Bucharest which are totally non-smoking would suggest that our hopes are not entirely unfounded.

A few more incidents such as the one at our kids’ school this morning however, and we might have to rethink our stance.

One of the Dads picking up his sprog was holding a lit cigarette by his side just as a class of six and seven year-olds came running out of the school; most of the children were about the height of the cigarette. One kid brushed right by the cigarette, which caught his hat (and left a hole, no doubt). The kid was lucky: another inch or so and it could have been his eye.

Politely, we asked the dickhead holding the cigarette if he didn’t think smoking in a crowded playground was rather dangerous, not to mention a bad example for primary school children.

Evidently realising (from the accent) that we aren’t local, his aggressive reply was (and we will leave it in Romanian, for maximum effect):

Nu stiu din ce tara esti, dar in tara mea fumez unde vreau.

And that, we’re afraid, is the problem.

It’s a sign

piata-unirii

We have never really been fans of the blue and green street signs which dot Bucharest. A cheap and rather obvious rip-off of similar signs in Paris, they were put up a decade or so ago in a rather craven attempt to convince people – locals and visitors alike – that Bucharest really is the Paris of the East (it isn’t, and never was).

Nevertheless, if that’s the style Bucharest decided to adopt for its street signs, we aren’t going to lose too much sleep over the fact that we don’t really like them. At least the city has a uniform style, a clear identity and some resemblance of urban branding. The signs are also – we should add – easy to read.

The same cannot be said of the street signs which have begun to pop in the Peoples’ Republic of Sector 3, fiefdom of Glorious Leader Robert Negoita (see Life passim), who has decided that (not for the first time) he is going to do his own thing. We saw these yesterday:

New-Bucharest-Street-Sign

Leaving to one side the fact that Sector 3 will now have completely different street signs to the rest of the city, they are simply awful: the font is far from easy to read and the colour makes them difficult to spot.

They are, in a word, useless. But then that’s the kind of thing we have come to expect from Our Glorious Mayor: pointless expenditure on useless things.

We also think that this is further proof Bucharest is – in its current administrative format – impossible to run. Do away with the sectors and their individual mayors and councils: let one mayor and one council run the whole city.

Hiking with kids in Romania: Two accessible trails

Prapastia-Ursului

Winter – not that it’s been a particularly long and cold one this year, thankfully – at last appears to have given way to spring, which for those of us who live for the mountains means it’s time to put the skis away and get the walking boots out again.

Romania is blessed with some of the best walking and hiking terrain in Europe, and the pursuit is very much a national sport: walking up the nearest mountain has long been viewed as a birthright in this country, something every local does as soon as they are old enough; it is just a shame that more recently the dickhead Dorobanti cocalar brigade has begun to think that driving up the nearest mountain should also be a birthright.

Fortunately, the dickheads do not venture very far into the mountains, and you can leave them behind very easily – even on some trails relatively close to Bucharest, two of which we walked (amongst others) last year. We are highlighting these two for they are both suitable for kids (if far from easy), while also being doable as day trips from the capital (either by car or by train). They also both start and end at the same point.

The first is above Sinaia: a superb (and sparsely-walked) circuit which starts at Cota 2000, goes around the Varful cu Dor and ends up on the Drumul de Vara, which is followed down to Cota 1400. The second is at Timisul de Jos, a trail which passes an amazing series of tiroliane (by the way: does anyone know the English word for tiroliana? Deathslide? Dropslide?) and climbs up through the Canionul Sapte Scari to 1200 metres before descending via the Prapastia Ursului and Drumul Familiar.

There’s not a kid in the world – including the grumpiest of teenagers – who will not enjoy both, particularly the trail through the Sapte Scari.

Trail 1: Around the Varful cu Dor

Screenshot from gis.modulo.ro

Screenshot from gis.modulo.ro

You will need to start early, as access to the start of the walk is via the old two-stage Sinaia cable car. The first leaves at 08:30. In good weather or at the weekend it’s wise to get here early, as the queues after 10:00 or so can be long.

At the top, you need to head out of the cable car station and head for the Valea Dorului chair lift. Built in the stone age the chair-lift is infamous as being the slowest in Romania (which, as you can imagine, is a fairly tough competition). Walk down one of the slopes on either side of the chair lift and after a few hundred metres you will pick up the actual hiking trail on the left-hand side, well marked with a yellow cross.

valea-dorului-chair-lift

Follow the trail – gentle at this stage – and before long all signs of ski lifts and such like disappear. You will likely not see another soul all day, beyond the odd shepherd with his high-altitude flock. As you are well above the tree line here there is little vegetation and the surroundings are generally gorgeous, with extensive and rather spectacular views in every direction.

varful-cu-dor-trail

After walking a couple of kilometres the yellow cross trail meets another, marked with a red dot: it is this trail you want to take, heading left. The trail climbs a little before once again descending, this time into the valley of a spring (the Izvorul Dorului), which it follows for a good few kilometres. Look out for what are known as the lakes (La Lacuri): three small lakes which have formed at the point where the spring meets the Valcelul Clinului. If you’ve been sensible enough to bring sandwiches, a nice spot above the lakes is the perfect place to tuck into them.

The fun really begins when the trail starts to climb away from the river, and back around the Varful cu Dor peak. Almost at once it heads into deep forest, and although no part of the trail is particularly difficult, there are more than a few tricky sections, especially if it has recently rained. For a good hour or so the trail goes up and down like a tart’s knickers, crossing two or three brooks and the occasional waterfall. It’s often misty, and all a bit spooky. As we say: the kids will love it.

misty-sinaia

After around three hours at a decent (but not exactly fast) pace, a final push uphill will bring you onto the Drumul de Vara, a ski run that leads down to the intermediate cable car station at 1400 metres. Red horizontal stripes mark the way down. If you want, you can continue all the way back to Sinaia, but as this is hiking’s equivalent of the M25 it is best avoided: it will put you off the Bucegi mountains forever. Take the bottom part of the cable car back down instead.

In all, including the cable car ride up and down, and a couple of stops for food, you are looking at a five or six hour day trip. Well worth it.

Trail 2: Dambu Morii, Sapte Scari & Prapastia Ursului

Screenshot from gis.modulo.ro

Screenshot from gis.modulo.ro

If the trail above Sinaia is merely very good, then this trail is fabulous.

It starts in Timisu de Jos: take the road into the village from the DN1 (a right turn if you are coming from Bucharest), and after 300 metres or so you will see a makeshift car park opposite a couple of pensions. A number of trails start from here: the one you want is marked with a vertical yellow stripe.

Easy to begin with, the trail climbs steadily through the trees for just over three kilometres, and after about an hour you will reach the newly opened (last autumn, we believe) tiroliane. There are 21 tiroliane in all, of which the longest is more than 2000 metres in length. They are open from 10:00-18:00, and cost from 20-50 lei (depending on how many you want to go on). Note that the tiroliane are only open to those over 12.

You will also need to pay – 10 lei adults, 5 lei for kids – to pass through the Sapte Scari themselves, five minutes or so beyond the tiroliane. Unique in Romania, the Sapte Scari canyon and waterfalls were formed in the Jurassic era and extend for 160 metres, climbing steeply in the process. Access is via a number of steel ladders, usually soaking wet.

cascada-sapte-scari

sapte-scari

2014-09-12 12.10.44

Beyond the Sapte Scari you have a number of options. If you want to head back down the same route (via the tiroliane), take the red dot trail which bypasses the waterfalls. You can also continue along the yellow stripe trail up to the Piatra Mare cabin at over 1600 metres: it is a very tough climb however, and not recommended for small kids. Instead, do what we did and take the blue triangle trail through the Prapastia Ursului (Bear’s Cliff). The first portion up to the highest point of the trail (1200 metres) is tough but short. From there it’s downhill all the way, via what is known as the Drumul Familiar (Popular Trail), marked with a red stripe. As you would expect given the name, it’s wide, free of any real danger and you might even see the odd fox in the middle of the trail. It’s long though: allow a good four hours for the whole trip (and that’s without factoring in any time on the tiroliane).

The only downside of this route is that the bottom part is also used by loggers, and can be horribly muddy. It’s also rather awful to see how huge swathes of Romania’s forests are being chopped down.

forestry-timisu-de-jos

2014-09-12 15.34.29

Bucharest’s non-smoking section (2)

At about this time last year Bucharest In Your Pocket became the first publisher in the city to come up with a thorough list of venues where smoking was not allowed (and not merely venues which have a so-called ‘non-smoking’ section – these are generally pointless and with a couple of exceptions not worth mentioning – but instead a list of places which forbid smoking entirely).

The original Bucharest Life post on the subject, from February last year, is here.

More than a year on we thought it high time we published a new list of non-smoking venues in Bucharest, not least as the number of places which frown upon smoking is increasing (albeit slowly), catering to a growing demand from people who want to go out and enjoy themselves in this city, yet at the same time actually care about their health and/or do not want to come home at the end of the night reeking of tobacco.

Here then, is our updated list. If you are aware of anywhere else, let us know in the comments section. We intend to revise this list regularly and will be creating a dedicated section over at Bucharest In Your Pocket, which we intend to become the definitive non-smoking Bucharest directory.

 

Cafes

Aristocats Bistro

Be Nat

Black Eye Coffee

Bohemia Tea House

Camera din Fata

Coffee Factory

Green Tea

Klein Cafe

M60

Origo

Serendipity Tea House

Starbucks Hanul lui Manuc (and all others)

Tucano Coffee

 

Restaurants

Balkan Bistro

Barbizon Steak House

Barca

Beautyfood

Beca’s Kitchen

Caffe Citta

Casa Satya

Concerto

Corso Brasserie

Dacia Felix

Edo Sushi

La Brasserie

The London Street Bistro

Metuka

Omnivore’s Dilemma

Paris Bucharest Brasserie

Prime Steaks & Seafood

Raionul de Peste

Roberto’s

Sharkia

Teatro

Violeta’s Bistro

 

We must also include of course the Hard Rock Cafe. It is not entirely non-smoking, but given its size and the fact that smokers and non-smokers are separated by a huge space, it is one venue whose non-smoking section is actually entirely free of smoke. Readers Cafe is another place where smokers and non-smokers are kept well apart.

Do let us know of any other places which are non-smoking.

The club with no name: Copa90 on the woes of Steaua

The lads from YouTube channel Copa90 were in Bucharest recently to make a short film about the woes of Steaua, the once mighty Romanian football team currently being dragged through the mud by their racist, homophobic owner Gigi Becali (currently serving a prison sentence for corruption). That Steaua actually remain top of what passes for a football league in Romania (Liga 1) tells you all you need to know about the standard.

Steaua have been in the news for various reasons of late, few of them anything to do with football. Last week they were ordered by UEFA to play their next two European games behind closed doors after their fans displayed racist banners at a game against Dynamo Kyiv in December, while their ongoing dispute with the Romanian Ministry of Defence regarding use of the Steaua brand has forced the club to change name: officially, Steaua are now called FCSB.

Anyway, here’s the short yet rather informative Copa90 documentary.