Bucharest, Romania: Erotic Massages and Stray Dogs

Why do we travel? For work? For pleasure? Because we must? Because we want to? For me, even when it’s business, it’s personal. Which is how I find myself in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, what’s referred to as Little Paris for its neoclassical architecture and one time predilection for all things French. So, who got me to come to this gray and distant place?

This comes from the opening of the Romania episode of No Reservations, a food+travel TV series hosted by one of my favorite authors, Anthony Bourdain. While I don’t recommend watching the episode–it’s simply horrible–this quote captures my emotions quite well.

Unlike Ukraine, the Romanian air (as far as I know) is radioactive free. Sigh. I’m nearing the end of my stay, and as of yet have not gotten the full impression of Bucharest that I was looking for. I have to remind myself that it’s impossible to really know a city when I am only there for a handful of days, and when those days are spent working, it is hard to get a multi-faceted perspective. In that sense, being a business traveler has been bittersweet.


I am staying at the Ramada Plaza in the northern, more suburban region of Bucharest. The overall decor has a very space-age-IKEA feel to it, with ultra-modern minimalist furniture and single-hued, ambient artwork. The staff is incredibly friendly, but the pool and fitness center are under renovation. Glad I brought my jump rope. I noticed, on the third floor at least, that a fire hydrant mysteriously serves as a doorstop. Can’t figure that one out. Oh, and my room smells like ginger.

Stray Dogs

There’s an interesting story behind this. In the 1980s, Nicolae Ceausescu, a now-executed Communist dictator, demolished a large portion of Bucharest homes. In classic megalomaniacal fashion, he used the newly razed area to build tower blocks, wide boulevards, and grandiose monuments to himself. While homeowners were rehoused in tiny flats, many of them were forced to abandon their pets. Naturally, the animals ran wild and do what animals do best–bump uglies and make more animals.

In 2006, an elderly Japanese businessman bled to death after being bit in the leg by a stray. Since then, the government rounded up hundreds of dogs and lethally injected them (which I have my own issues with), but despite government efforts, stray dogs still take over many-a-dark-alley at night. I can hear them barking now. Seriously. No walking alone after 5pm for this guy.

Erotic Massages

I’ll put it this way–this is the first map I picked up in Romania. Marvel at the irony.

The best announcements in Bucharest!

13/15 ads on the map are R-rated. Really? There’s not much more to say here.

My first Tweetup

For all you non-nerds out there, a “tweetup” is when you meet someone in person that you originally met over the micro-blogging platform, Twitter. A few months ago, I was looking for web programmers to address a coding issue I had on my blog. I came across Adrian Diaconescu, and when I learned he had started a travel blog called Freelance Traveler, I knew that he was the perfect person to get in touch with. Thankfully, our schedules worked out, and Adrian was kind enough to take me to Caru’ cu bere, one of the few traditional Romanian beerhouses left in Bucharest–it’s been around since 1879!

Boy was it fun. We chatted about travel, Romanian politics, his work, my work, and yes, blogging. To compensate for all the nerdiness, we demonstrated ultimate manhood by ordering beers and meat. There’s just no other way, right? Below is a picture of mititei, a joyful blend of mutton, beef, pork and several flavor-enhancing spices. YUMMY.

Adrian, a big thank you for your company. Noroc to you!

(Noroc = luck, or ‘cheers’ in Romanian)


10 thoughts on “Bucharest, Romania: Erotic Massages and Stray Dogs”

  1. I loved the article, Alan! I dare to say it was perfect: a great mix of interesting facts (I had no idea about the stray dogs story!) + fun + photos. The article length was ideal if you ask me, so I really think you’re on to a winning recipe here!

    That map is crazy, man! But totally in line with what I told you yesterday about how politicians do things around here. When I was in Prague, or London, there were all sorts of museums, events, live concerts, etc. on the map. And the sad part is… we have those as well, there are things to see! Why do we act like Bucharest is the new Bangkok? Beats me!

    What can I say? I’m not all that surprised though. I mean… here’s the Romanian minister of tourism (this is no joke, it’s the real thing). So we’re not gonna get well too soon! πŸ˜‰

    You know what? All that meat opened my appetite for a “mititei” BBQ. I think I’ll post a recipe for home made “mititei” on my food blog! πŸ™‚

    Looking forward to some cool articles from Tirana!

  2. Alan:

    1. In the future, please do not leave pics of your poops on your blog…my mom reads this stuff!!

    2. My trainer, a 30-something Rumainian woman, is going to love this post. I can’t wait to share it with her and to find out if she gives massages!

    Safe travels!

  3. Stray dogs can be pretty scary, see them all of the time in our travels. However I think that a lot of countries are starting to round them up like they did in Romania. Seeing less and less each trip. I am with you on that issue, not sure where I stand.

  4. You’re lucky you didn’t have my friend, Brittany, with you. One look at a stray cat or dog and she turns to a puddle of goo. And this is in China, where the stray animals are especially dirty and gross. I quickly learned to just keep walking when she gets sidetracked by a stray, otherwise I would be standing there for a good 20 minutes.

  5. Actually the big dog round-up took place a couple of years before the Japanese man was killed by a dog. Of course there were still some dogs left, and he was very unlucky.

  6. Those dogs have put me right off a coming business trip to Romania… does it mean I need to take an ultrasonic dog repeller, a jump rope and something to quell a dodgy stomach after a mititei? Presumably the Ramada serves normal “international” cuisine (pray god).

  7. @Dave – I agree with you! I’m quite scared with stray dogs. They’re not disciplined and will suddenly bite you anytime. I hope the government put more effort to resolve this long overdue issue…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *