Upon my return to Bucharest a few weeks ago I was told by a friend that the repaving of the Old Center was finally over. Since this has been going on for quite a few years I didn’t want to believe it. Which is why when the first ocassion came along I took a stroll around the Old Center and … lo and behold, my friend was right. With some minor exceptions – ike the Splai entrance on Şelari – the paving of Old Center is finally over. No more walking on wooden planks or crossing the street through dust or mud, depending on the weather.
Every time I come back to Bucharest after a long absence I go through the same ritual of doing the things I’ve been missing while away: meet with friends & family, drop by my favorite bookstore to see the new releases, eat my favorite Romanian dishes. Which was why I couldn’t wait to get to Bucharest at the end of December to have a plate of the dish shown in today’s photo. The dish is called “sarmale” (plural) or “sarma” (singular), and if you were visiting Romania and asked someone to recommend you something traditional you would probably be told to try this dish. While considered traditional, sarmale is not originally Romanian and variations of the dish exits, according to this article on wikipedia, “in the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire from the Middle East to the Balkans and Central Europe”. Sarmale consist of grape or cabbage leaves rolled around a filling usually based on minced meat. There’s also a “vegan” version of the dish in which the filling is made of rice and which people usually eat when fasting before religious holidays. In Romania sarmale is usually served with polenta (mămăligă in Romanian) and sour cream or yogurt and is traditionally served for Christmas and New Year. And since I arrived in Bucharest the day before Christmas you can imagine that by now I’ve had my share of sarmale. Pretty yummy but I probably won’t feel like eating it again for the next month or two.
Bucharest is slowly coming to life after the post holiday slumber. Four days after the arrival of the new year the traffic is still manageable and the streets are still quiet. Many of the city’s citizens seemed to have found refuge in its parks, ice rinks and malls. Next weekend the last of the bucharestians who went away will probably make it back – by car or plane – and on Monday the city will be back to its crazy, crowded self.
10 degrees Celsius and that glorious blue sky? Hard to believe.
I’m back home after a five months absence. It’s cold in Bucharest, but not as cold as expected. And the last few days were quite sunny, which I like. No sign yet of the dark gloomy days that are the norm during winter time. Two days ago I took an evening stroll downtown to take photos of this year’s Christmas decorations. As always I took too many pictures and it was hard to decide which ones I like best.
Happy New Year to all my friends. I wish you a great 2012!