The First Days in Bucharest
Previous post – Bucharest, our arrival
Sunday, 22nd March
On Sunday morning, 22nd March, we woke up in the hotel earlier than we had planned. Our alarms hadn’t even gone off. It was before 10am, and checkout was at 12.00.
We took showers, checked messages and emails. We ate the mozzarella and tomato wrap/sandwich that Olivier had bought at the airport the night before. I decided to go to reception and talk to the guy there. The receptionist from the night before had told me that there would be a different receptionist in the morning, but that he would explain our situation to him.
So, I went down in the lift to reception.
The young receptionist guy said that he knew about us, and asked us if we needed to stay longer. I explained that we had now discovered where our accommodation was, and that it was in fact in this street at number 11. The hotel was number 4.
While he was printing out our invoice and receipt, I stepped outside and went a few metres down the very empty cobblestone street, and found our apartment.
Now I knew where it was, and we had all the details about how to get in from the message we’d received late the night before.
After getting the invoice and thanking the receptionist, I went back to our room and told Olivier that we could now go to our new ‘home’. We did, however, stay in the big white hotel room until check out time to enjoy the luxury of the beautiful big bed and big clean bathroom, and the hotel towels.
At 11.45am, with our suitcases re-packed, we went down the lift to reception. He told us where the nearest shop/supermarkets were so we could get some food. I asked him if he needed anything but he said that he didn’t, he was ok.
And off we went, just a few metres from the hotel on the other side of the street, to our new apartment.
The key was in a ‘lock box’ with a combination just outside the front door. It worked without a problem and we were soon inside.
Our new apartment
Here is where we’re living now. It couldn’t be better, there’s everything we need, as you can see.
We investigated the apartment, unpacked a few of our things, and decided that we needed to go out to get some food. We didn’t know what we would find, or for how long we’d have access to shops.
So off we went in the direction that the young receptionist guy told us about.
On the way to the supermarket we found a pizza shop open, so we bought a couple of slices for later, not knowing what we would be able to buy in the supermarket. The young guy who served us was really friendly and spoke English to us. We were served via a window at the front of the shop, it was not possible to enter the restaurant or the shop at all. He said that they would be open also the next day, they had no plans to close at that point.
And here, just across the road from the pizza place, we found the supermarket, Carrefour. It’s a French company which has supermarkets all around the world. They did try to enter the Russian market some years ago, but they were pushed out and closed again after a very short time.
So we went up to the supermarket, and there was a queue outside.
It wasn’t a really long queue, we estimate about 60m long, and people were keeping a distance of a couple of metres between each other.
It was very calm. There was a man selling green herbs, radishes, and flowers from a small table nearby. When we finally came out of the supermarket after shopping he was gone.
We were wearing our masks, but not everybody had them.
A woman came and asked us something in Romanian. I told her that I spoke English, so she turned to the woman in front of us and asked her instead. She was the first person, besides the old woman concierge when we were looking for our apartment, that didn’t speak English.
A man was at the front of the supermarket regulating entry. He was allowing about 20 people at a time to go inside. And there was a gap of about 10-15 minutes between letting people in.
The exit was at another location, a bit further down, from a different door.
At one stage 3 policemen came (well, one of them was a woman but this is not the time for political correctness). Only 2 of them were wearing masks, one wasn’t.
They went to the front of the queue and requested people to put a bit more distance between themselves. They stood for a couple of minutes near the queue, and when they saw that everything was in order they left.
Nobody was aggressive, nobody seemed irritated, everybody was calm and quiet.
Once inside, we took a trolley and started shopping. It was very calm inside. The shelves were full. Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. No shortage of anything as far as we could see.
And there was no panic buying. Nobody had multiple rolls of toilet paper, or big trolleys full to the brim. In fact, most people had only a small shopping bag or two to take their things home in.
Everybody was reasonable, not buying more than their immediate needs, and of course trying to keep distance between themselves and others. There weren’t many people wearing masks.
There was no pressure to hurry while inside. Nobody was telling anybody to hurry up. Nobody was monitoring how much or what people were buying. And one woman even helped me when I couldn’t find ‘oranges’ on the scales to weigh and price them.
As we had absolutely nothing in our kitchen, we bought things like rice, pasta and some other staples. And some vegetables, a huge cabbage along with potatoes, carrots, zucchini. Some fruit, cheese, ham, and some other things which I forget right now.
Oh, we bought a bottle of wine, too. Just one because we’re not panic buying. There’s plenty more in the shop for our next shopping trip.
When we got home, we unpacked the shopping, finished unpacking our suitcases, and ate the slices of pizza that we’d bought.
I’m not a big fan of pizza, too much bread. But this was delicious!
We spent some time just catching up on emails and messages, letting people know that we’re ok and just trying to find some balance after such a traumatic time.
I just want to say here, that although it’s a drama, and there are tears (a lot of them from me), we are in a much better position than a lot of other people in the world right now, so we’re not complaining.
So, we were just hanging out in the apartment, trying to de-stress, and looked for information about what was happening in Bucharest.
We read that from 10.00pm that night, Sunday 22nd March, they would start strict measures to keep people separated. So, the rules from 10.00pm Sunday night were/are that from 6.00am until 10.00pm it’s ‘recommended’ to go outside only for essential things – food shopping, medical, helping children or old people.
And from 10.00pm to 6.00am it will be absolutely forbidden to go outside.
We thought about the old man concierge who had spoken French to us the night before, and wondered if he had food, family, help. We decided to buy some food for him and take it to him to thank him for his assistance.
So we went out to get some air before the curfew started. It was about 8pm and the streets were almost empty. We found a kind of a bakery which was open, and bought a few things for the old guy.
We went to the building where we had talked with this old man. Looking through the window, we saw a concierge, but it wasn’t the same old guy. We decided that whenever we went outside for shopping from now on, we would look in the window of his building, and if our guy is there, we’ll buy him something – a croissant, or some kind of pie or something to say thanks. As I’m writing this, we haven’t been outside again yet, but I’ll let you know when we finally meet him again.
We walked around the border of the old town, just to get some air before we had to lock down in the apartment.
As we went past our pizza place, where we had bought the pizza earlier that day, we decided to buy a bottle of wine. We had bought one already from the supermarket when we went shopping earlier in the day, but we want to support the local businesses as much as we can.
Also, we like wine.
The guy from earlier was still in the pizza shop, and we discussed what wine he had for sale. We ended up buying something far more expensive that we would normally buy, but it was Romanian wine and he promised that it was very, very good.
So we bought it.
And off we went back home again.
In the evening we had a very slow invasion of flying ants in the kitchen. We don’t know where they were coming from, although we looked everywhere for the entry point. There weren’t a lot of them, and Olivier swept them up from time to time, so it wasn’t too much of a problem.
We didn’t have any dinner that first night, just nibbled on some ham, cheese, ate some chocolate that I’d brought with me from Moscow. After the busy day and the stress of the past few days, we were ready for bed at around midnight.
Monday, 23rd March
We woke up at about 11.00am. There were still some flying ants in the kitchen, but they had stopped coming in.
We showered, and were happy that the shower was more or less functional (water was changing between hot and cold at times, but it was better than nothing).
I decided to cook, while Olivier continued to send information to his family and friends, and to get more information about what was happening around the world.
While we were living in Russia, we didn’t eat a lot of cabbage. But my life in Moscow gave me the skills to use this very versatile and delicious vegetable.
We all remember boiled cabbage from our childhoods. Not very tasty, but of course it gave us the vitamins that we all needed.
In Moscow, I learnt of a recipe called ‘тушеная капуста’, which is a lot more exotic than the English name – ‘Cabbage Stew’! I made it a few times in Moscow. I really enjoyed learning to cook Russian food when I was there.
Here’s the recipe:
I didn’t have any vinegar, which is really essential for the unique taste of this dish, but I had everything else. So our first lunch in our new home was this traditional Russian dish – to allow us great memories of our time in Moscow.
We decided to drink the wine which we had bought from the pizza place, with our lunch. Although I’ve never been one for day-drinking, I think I’ll get used to it.
There was only one wine glass in the apartment, so we decided to drink from coffee cups.
The wine was very, very good, just as the pizza guy promised us. And quite strong. It provoked lots of conversation between us – old stories, memories, and also tears. I’m becoming a specialist in crying (as if I wasn’t already!).
So we spent Monday basically inside, eating, talking, getting used to our new temporary (we hope, because we still want to travel) life here in Bucharest.
I’m happy to say that there were no flying ants the second night in the apartment. I can’t imagine why not.
And we had тушеная капуста for dinner too! Um, can I say here that it’s not a good idea for two people to eat so much cabbage when you’re stuck together inside such a small apartment!
Tuesday, 24th March
We woke up again at about 11.00am, after having had a late night (we are both night owls, even if we’re just at home we prefer to go to bed in the early hours of the morning).
The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was cry. I think it’s going to be a regular thing for a while.
Next post in the series – Bucharest – 24th – 28th March