Bucharest by Bike

An image many of us hold about Europe: people traveling about the city by bicycle. Typically, this is a person in the Netherlands, even politicians ride to work there. In Eastern Europe let’s introduce another side of this story. Yes, people ride bikes. Except it is more like NYC than the Netherlands. Cars speed right past within inches and at a number of locations there is no sidewalk or bike lane.

Where there are bike lanes, designated paths and obvious ways to get around (which is about half the time) it is phenomenal. About a week ago I bought a bike from a local guy here in Bucharest. His name is Florin. I met up with him near his home in Sector 3. The ride back home took me on a five-mile route providing a nice tour of the city.

It started in Old Town. An area the gives the look of what we envision for Europe. Old architecture with detailed design and cobble stone streets. While riding I had the thought come to mind that this is what I want. That cool European essence from classic buildings.

After leaving Old Town I had an abrupt change of scenery. The Soviet-era architecture here is such a sharp contrast to the classic European style that it almost gave me whiplash. At this point, I had a realization, the Soviet imagery mixed with European is a great way to describe Bucharest.

To this building’s left is the Soviet bloc apartment below

The city has two, if not multiple, stories behind each unique element. In this case I am only speaking of architecture. This topic could easily include more than Soviet and old Europe, but I’ll stick to that. When in a traffic circle a person can see a Soviet-era bloc apartment building, turn 45 degrees left, and see a beautiful French-style building. This is due to heavy French influence at one point in the past.

As I rode north leaving the traffic circles with eyesores and beauty next to each other I came upon acres of green-space. Parks in Bucharest are a highlight. The rest of my ride was full of large trees, green grass, wide bike lanes and a cool Eastern Europe evening.

Bucharest is a complicated city. At the same time as having picturesque French architecture and wonderful parks it also has its Soviet past. This creates a country and culture not quite sure what it is at this time. Is it more a beautiful western European city or is it a post-Soviet gray eyesore? At this moment it is somewhere in the middle. My thought is that as time passes between the present and that Soviet past Bucharest will work its way back to beautiful.

[a few more photos]

While facing this direction turn left and you will see the picture below
Soviet style building.

Me on my ride.

Want to lose half an inch off your waistline?!

Want to lose half an inch off your waistline?! (heat, walking around and food quality)

We have been here two weeks. A phenomenon has been observed. Brooke first brought it up. From the fit of our clothing, we noticed each has lost about an inch off our waistline. After throwing ideas around with Brooke, there are three likely reasons; heat, walking all over the place and food quality.

Isaac is in love with ice cream. First, he adoringly gazes.

In my earlier post the heat was brought up. Yes, it was 90 to 100+ Fahrenheit each day. But we have adapted. Here is a screenshot of the temperature on August 3rd.

That was our second day here. It was toasty. That said, it didn’t have too big of an impact on us. Except for when we walk around…

Then he eyes it up. Gets a strong idea of how good it will taste. Eats it!

Walking in our neighborhood is currently the best way to get around. Once we get bikes we will be riding for our errands. Until then, we are walkers!! While getting our ~ 10,000 steps a day, we are shedding those pounds. As many of you know we need to go for walks with our dog, Jethro. He really needs it. We also walk the area to learn the neighborhood and city. We walk to get household goods (which can be difficult to figure out). Lastly, we walk to get food…

Gets bored with it and goes to the grassy park nearby.

Food! This is different in Bucharest and, quite frankly, Europe. Different standards are in place. Almost every other day (maybe closer to every day) I have had a chocolate croissant, or in Romanian, corn cu ciocolata, or a lot of labels use French so they say pains au chocolat. The taste is different. The cause for the different taste? The flavor is simply chocolate and bread. No added corn oils. No added dyes. To me the flavor is much better and more to the point, the food is a healthier. Another factor with food is portion sizes. We have stopped to get ice cream a few times now. The portion size for a scoop is around ¼ the U.S.

This is an example of packaged chocolate croissants. The freshly baked ones (not pictured) are what I have been eating.

Not everyone is able to jump from the U.S. to Europe for a year. So most cannot do the ‘leave the U.S. for a year weight loss program.’ The point is we notice differences. The impact on our bodies is great. And Isaac loves the foods, especially the ice cream.

The smells. The city. The coffee.

A week ago we arrived in Bucharest, Romania. While living here for a year we will certainly encounter cultural differences. But it would be a shame to overshadow the physical differences. Among the many a few would be smells, layout of the city (including a lack of sidewalk space) and coffee.

We arrived in a heat wave. The smells are overpowering. Garbage in allies is rotting, I am sweating my gonads off, yet that is the extent. It is not the same as Bangkok, for instance. Where the smell of sewage seems to hit you every 10 meters. Our dog, Jethro, loves the smells. Specifically, the smells of Herastrau park. This is a well-done public park and, it is big! According to Wikipedia 187 hectares big with a 74 hectare lake in the middle (a hectare is 2.471 acres). Jethro probably has zillions of new smells to take in. There is a Japanese garden we still have to visit, several restaurants, a museum, a small fair with a Ferris wheel and much more. Here is a link to its page on Trip Advisor: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g294458-d548240-Reviews-Herastrau_Park-Bucharest.html

The layout of the city and lack of sidewalks should be discussed as the same topic. Other than the obvious statement that older cities were not designed for cars. There also does not appear to have been a plan. I am used to a grid system. As we navigate the bending streets it has been a rare occasion when a straight line from one point to another is available.

Similar to many cities outside the U.S. streets will commonly have no sidewalk or a sliver of sidewalk. Where there is a sidewalk, even a sliver, cars are likely parked on it. Think of this circumstance combined with our son in his stroller. That is the difficulty. It works out in the end. But takes a week of getting used to. Bottom line, we have to walk in the street with our one-year old in his stroller, blind corners along with crumbling sidewalks and cars parked on them.

Found this through googling cars on sidewalks in Bucharest. This is how cars park all over the place.

Coffee is part of the Romanian culture. Although we have not joined Romanians for coffee. At some point we shall. Just not quite yet. The coffee experience for me has been strong and is part of the smells of the city. Each day we have started it with a cup of joe. We bought a French press at the local Ikea. World, I ask you, what would we do without Ikea?!? Of course, I have been doing my unsalted butter in the coffee thing. This is related to my eating style that includes good fats for keeping me satiated. Today I am drinking that cup of coffee in a Starbucks souvenir mug. See the pic below. When I saw these mugs I had to have them for us. It was a splurge. But worth it.

Our mugs. On our balcony. On our wicker table.

Our time in Bucharest so far has been both difficult and rewarding. There were a lot of basics to get in place and learn. When it comes to what really matters these physical differences are minor. Keep in mind change is hard. The smallest shift in routine feels like it is magnified 10x due to bringing along a one-year old and a dog. As we push through each challenge we count our successes.

A tally of each would be lengthy, so we won’t get into that. Let’s just say the successes outweigh the difficulties. As the days pass we gain knowledge about our neighborhood, Cartierul Francez (translated as the French village) and our city, Bucharest.

Wish us luck!

Beginning

The purpose of this blog is to explore my thoughts and the world around me. This is a broad objective so topics may appear disconnected. The intersection between topics is me. My interests drive the site’s direction. These are current interests:

  1. My year in Bucharest. It started August 1, 2017.
  2. The place of men in our culture. How men may focus on inner growth and continue to become a better version of themselves. For me, this will end up connecting with hunting, the male mind-set, and nature.
  3. Evolution of culture over thousands of year up to the recent era.
  4. Health for all people, especially me.
  5. Family. I have a wife, son and dog. My interest here hammers in on creating a space for our son’s development.
Our dog, Jethro, doing what he does 23 1/2 hours a day, resting
Our wedding on a beach. It was a beautiful day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me with an owl (not a lot of solo photos of me).
With my son resting on the couch. It does not happen enough.

 

Sources for this information typically come to me from Podcasts. An intention of mine is to credit sources. At times this may not be the original source. Although I fully intend to make a best effort.