Category Archive for Eastern Europe
Alternative Bucharest: a hip, street art walking tour! Rick & Morty Romania mural, travel influencers press trip.
Dark greetings from Bucharest, Romania! As you can see from my vampire fangs top, I was excited to be in the land of Dracula for the first time.
In Part 1 of my Bucharest series, I shared a Gothic photoshoot in a graveyard, and my speech at Experience Romania conference. This event invited travel influencers / bloggers / writers from around the globe, to discover the best of this Eastern European nation.
During the three-day event, the volunteers organized optional activities — including small-group walking tours led by Urban Adventures.
Photographer Joey Wong and I signed up for the “Alternative Tour of Bucharest,” a three-hour walk that let us discover street art, emerging artists, and abandoned buildings in this beautiful city.
Our guide took us to historical gems like the Grad Na Capitol Cinema / Summer Theatre. It opened in 1912, but was damaged by a 1977 earthquake and then abandoned. Thankfully, the theater is now being re-vamped. I was glad to see the building maintain its classic arches and carvings, while looking to the future with alien-like street art.
(My hair got a makeover as well… love my slasher synthwave undercut by Chad Evans at Stratosphere Salon in Vancouver, Canada.)
Outfit of the Day: Since I was going to be in Dracula’s homeland, I couldn’t resist picking up this bloody vampire fangs cut-out top from H&M’s Halloween collection. This was only available during spooky season, but you can find a similar style vampire shirt here.
The sun was shining (in late October!), and Bucharest’s walls were a rainbow of street-art… The perfect conditions for a photoshoot.
I’m standing in front of one of my personal favorites. Who knew Romania had Rick and Morty mural? (This is the Adult Swim cartoon that follows genius scientist Rick and his not-too-swift grandson Morty on misadventures throughout the universe.)
Once again, we had an enthusiastic, knowledgeable young guide who showed us Bucharest’s hidden and offbeat sides.
Our guide Elena pointed out works by local creators, which you can spot on walls all throughout the city. This adorable pig-puppy creature is by AEUL.
Urban Adventures always incorporates local flavors into their tours. At the start, Elena handed us each a “covrig,” or Romanian pretzel to try. A bit like the simit I had in Istanbul, this is a delicious fresh-baked bread topped with poppy or sesame seeds. No wonder it’s a favorite snack among locals.
“Quick Morty, **** did another one!” Looks like the drooling Rick Sanchez made a stop in Bucharest, between his space-flights to alien galaxies.
(If anyone can decipher the name of the artist who made this Rick & Morty Romanian mural, please let me know in the comments. Wubalubadubdub!)
I was pleasantly surprised by Bucharest’s street art, which is colorful, edgy and well-executed. Urban Adventures took us to this stretch of wall with panels by different artists.
(If you’re digging my sunglasses, see more below)
A safe space for teens, with heavy metal upside-down crosses… rock on.
Call me the Queen of Pentacles. (All photography by Joey Wong.)
Romanian street art gets an A+ from me. The paintings on this wall were beautifully rendered.
Even the graffiti tags around Bucharest add a vibrant energy to the city. (My black jacket is faux fur, as always.)
The artists do a fantastic job at incorporating the natural landscape into their works. One of the most iconic Bucharest murals is this one by Sweet Damage Crew (Point Art Space, on Eremia Grigorescu street). It spans the side of an old residential building, and creates the illusion of a tree growing out of the painted trunks!
Our guide showed us the exteriors of a few abandoned residences, which are a common sight around Bucharest. These crumbling urban ruins are fascinating examples of “beautiful decay,” which is the topic of another Urban Adventures walking tour.
I think I “dressed for the occasion,” wouldn’t you say?
💖 If you’re looking for Gothic / alternative clothes like mine, click here. 💖
You know you’re in the lair of Count Dracula… when a pedestrian walk sign becomes a vampire-hunter holding a wooden stake!
Speaking of monsters… it appears Bucharest has been infested by baby aliens with toes for limbs.
These little guys are hanging out and waving to you from various vantage points. They’re creepy-crawling over this hipster warehouse.
Bucharest’s creative street art even has 3D components. I noticed a morbid noose hanging down, next to a sign that says The Void.
In addition to modern urban art, we also got a taste of Romanian history. Elena took us to Revolution Square, framed by a statue of King Carol I riding a horse.
She pointed out bullet holes and fire damage on buildings, caused during the Revolution of 1989 that overthrew the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu. Quite the moment to stand here, and see the balcony where Ceausescu gave his last speech.
Is that… a speared, burned potato? An egg on a skewer?
It’s actually the Memorial of Rebirth: erected in 2005 to commemorate the people’s sufferings during the 1989 Romanian Revolution. Many complained that the pillar was too abstract to convey the meaning of the memorial.
In 2012, someone showed his/her frustration by throwing up a balloon of red paint, which stained the pillar. The “dripping blood of the pierced potato” remains there today… and adds a vampire vibe, if you ask me!
Bucharest’s architecture is full of enticing Gothic elements. These spooky faces are carved above windows and doors, to scare away evil spirits including strigoi (the blood-sucking dead that inspired the story of Dracula!)
This devilish, horned face in a circular plate caught my attention.
Someone gave this creature an orange eyeshadow makeover. Classic architecture meets glam rock: I’m into it.
Such a great way to see Bucharest’s hip, underground culture — and with a group of fellow travel bloggers / journalists / vloggers. Very grateful to Experience Bucharest for organizing this influencers press trip, which included three days of food, parties, tours and networking activities.
I had the wrong image of Romania as a dark, somewhat unfriendly “Soviet / Communist” place. Bucharest reversed my expectations entirely. The city has a contemporary, cosmopolitan, European feel; much of the architecture is inspired by French and classical styles.
I was especially delighted by Bucharest’s public parks and gardens. They’re lush and beautifully designed — I couldn’t think of a better place to relax outside on a bright day.
However, to my great pleasure… Dracula lurks in the shadows! I enjoyed seeing Goth elements like this black crucifix door handle to an Eastern European church. So death metal.
As a “Dracula aficionado,” I got vampire nail art to match the theme of my journey. I spy a bat, coffins, fangs, bloody gradients, the evil Count, a skull… Bravo to Glam Nail Studio (award winning Japanese nail salon in Vancouver, Canada) for the intricate designs! These gel nails were painted by hand, by owner Keiko Matsui.
(By the way, feel free to Pin any of my photos to Pinterest. Just link back to my blog, and I’m @lacarmina on Pinterest.)
Our final stop: a peek inside Bucharest’s architecture school (UAUIM, Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism). Founded in 1952, the building has a modern design with a winding central staircase, and light fixtures reminiscent of honeycomb.
Urban Adventures filled us in on a little secret… the back patio / rooftop area is decorated with giant murals. The helix and mathematical themes fit in well with school of architecture.
I relate to the little emo black cloud. Aren’t these Romanian artists talented?
My blood-dripping fangs shirt hints at only one aspect of Bucharest. I was glad to discover that this is one bright, artistic, hipster city.
Thanks to Elena and Urban Adventures Bucharest for the engaging underground tour. They also offer tours with food tastings, biking, dark side legends, history, and much more.
A few of us were craving caffeine, so we went to hang out at T-Zero Coffee Shop. A delight to sip a flat white, beneath these spooky hanging mannequins (they have a Saw horror movie vibe).
I wanted to know if Bucharest had a weird, hipster, underground side — and was pleased with everything I found.
Cheers to Experience Bucharest and all the volunteers who made this tourism event possible. They brought in a hundred travel / digital media leaders from around the world, to see what Romania has to offer. Shout out to S-Club Bucharest and Nomad SkyBar for hosting two of the group dinners and parties.
It was a dream to finally come to Romania and sink my claws into the vampire legends. Next, I’ll share stories of Vlad the Impaler, and a visit to Bran Castle in Transylvania.
“Mortyyy!” I hope my street art walk revealed an unexpected side of Bucharest. Now it’s your turn to travel here, and “get schwifty” with Rick Sanchez!
For me, 2015 has been all about voyage-voyage. It’s only September, and I’ve already flown to a dozen countries this year.
It’s too bad my Scottish Fold cat can’t travel with me… Basil Farrow always likes to look out the window, his round face full of curiosity.
However, thanks to an innovative tour company, he got to have a foreign adventure of his own. Read on to find out how Basil visited a country I’ve never been to, with a group of furry friends!
Basil and I got an intriguing “press trip” email from Panda Tours, a travel agency that creates vacations for toys. The owner, Agnieszka, offered to send one of my stuffed animals on a customized tour of Poland.
Basil convinced Panda Tours that he’s a “plush kitty” (the above photos are proof enough) — so I put him in a box, and mailed him overseas. A few weeks later, Panda Tours emailed me to confirm he had arrived and was napping soundly.
And so, the journey began! I looked forward to waking up every morning and checking the PandaTours Instagram, where I could see Basil’s day-to-day activities.
I’m usually the one posting updates from foreign countries, so it was fun to have the tables turned. I’m sure you will smile at these photos… so read on. More here!
In this video, my Eurail.com journey takes me to floating raft bars, cutting edge fashion stores, and much more. I hope our coverage will encourage you to visit Croatia and Serbia in person.
Video and photography by Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann
Japanese subtitles translation by Jotaro Tojo
Here are the rest of the photos from my coolhunting journey in Zagreb. Our friend Andrea introduced us to divIT, a young tech company that is revolutionizing the way people experience video games.
Do you like my “two buns” hair? I’m wearing a Hello Kitty KiLaRa top, and leggings from Izzue HK.
Inspired by Kineckt technology, this “3D Gesture Recognition” program lets you control an avatar (Iron Man, The Hulk) with your body movements.
divIT is also working on a virtual reality headset that is a giant leap forward from the 1990s versions. Put on the Oculus, and you find yourself in a 360 degree fantasy world (look up and behind you – there are no blank areas). I felt like I was in a rickety roller-coaster, climbing up… and then throttling down. The rush feels real; I was hanging on to my seat!
Speaking of ground-breaking, Andrea took us to Studio Smijeha (Vlaška 92), the first comedy club in the former Yugoslavia. In this region, locals aren’t familiar with the concept of stand-up. As Seinfeld would say, “What’s the deal with that?”
It’s tough, engaging audiences when they’ve never experienced stand-up comedy before. I’m impressed by the Smijeha crew’s ambition and drive; they write hours of new material each week, and set high standards for their performances. Before long, I’m sure they will be making waves.
During this trip, I ate some of my best meals in Zagreb. Near the base of the “funicular” (remember what this is?), there lies Wine Bar Basement (Tomićeva ulica 5). This bunker-like space has a huge menu of Croatian wines, which have recently been getting raves from connoisseurs.
We paired our red wines with a plate of sheep and goat cheese, prosciutto, cranberries and other munchies. Let me tell you… these cheeses from local farms have so much more flavor. Nothing from the Whole Foods specialty corner can compare.
We hung out with Tom, vocals/guitar of the swing and rhythm n’ blues band, Tom & The Twisters. He took us to Strossmartre or “Summer on Stross,” a seasonal festival that transforms Upper Town into celebration of music, dancing, and drinking.
Arr, we behold Pirates! Locals hung out under the colored lights, listening to the live bands and dancing in a circle. Down the street was another free event: Summer Cinema Gradec, an open-air screening of art films.
Thanks to Andrea for being an incredible friend and guide — we wouldn’t have known about these places without her. We hope you’ll get to experience her hospitality too, by renting her Zagreb apartment or Croatian seaside apartment when you visit.
One of the best parts of traveling by Eurail.com train: the front-row scenic views. My film team and I passed through Slovenia, during our final ride from Zagreb to Vienna. These photos don’t do the country justice; you really have to be there in person, seeing the picture-perfect farms and sun reflecting off the lakes…
None of these experiences would have been possible without our partner Eurail.com. Thanks for the comfortable journey, and we hope you’ll check out their passes and bundles — there’s no better way to discover Europe.
Goodbye, 2013! What a spectacular year you’ve been. Let’s continue our look-back with highlights of the last six months.
But first: a peek into a Hong Kong cat cafe! Watch my new video on Huffington Post, where I visit Causeway Bay’s “Ah Meow” theme restaurant. It’s home to dozens of adopted cats, including at least three Scottish Folds.
My round Basil Farrow makes a cameo too… Can you find him in there?
Now, back to the yearly sum-up. As you saw in Part 1, I spent the first half of the year traveling for work. In July, I remained in my hometown of Vancouver — but did I stop to rest? Hell no.
The famous German TV show, Circus HalliGalli with Joko and Klaas, flew in to shoot a challenge about lip-sewing body modifications! When it aired, it caused quite the stir among the tabloids. Watch my evil TV hosting in this episode, if you dare.
Seby and I also appeared as guests of honor, at Vancouver’s Anime Evolution convention. We had a great time meeting you, and hope to be back next summer.
Next, my film team and I did an epic journey in Central and Eastern Europe with Eurail. We “coolhunted” emerging trends, nightlife, fashion and more in Vienna (Austria), Bratislava (Slovakia), Budapest (Hungary), Belgrade (Serbia), and Zagreb (Croatia).
Our videos are getting hundreds of thousands of views, on Business Insider; I’m glad you’re enjoying this series. Here are all my east European travel guides.
Then it was back to Asia. Thailand Tourism sent Seby and me to Bangkok, to experience “T-pop” culture and share it with you. We were hosted by Sofitel So, a blissfully elegant 5-star hotel (this is their funky “Earth”-themed room).
We were enthralled by the colorful local fashion at Siam Discovery, and golden temple of Wat Pho. I still have more Bangkok posts to share with you, so stay tuned to the South Asia page.
I also had the chance to do more TV presenting. Some projects, I can’t say much about yet due to contractual agreements… but rest assured that when things air, you’ll be the first to know.
Every year, I go all-out for Halloween and Day of the Dead. This time, I celebrated my favorite holiday in Portland. Between partying, this space-girl floated to steampunk stores, vegan brunches and Lovecraft bars. Click here for all the PDX, Oregon action.
Are you exhausted yet? The year’s not quite done: a TV job meant spending most of November in Tokyo, Japan. I love seeing the cute Christmas lights and decorations during this festive season.
I was also on two magazine covers in December: the alternative fashion Rebelicious Mag, and the in-flight magazine of Hong Kong Express Airways.
And here we are, licking our feet. I can’t wait to see what 2014 holds. Already, there are meaningful travel projects in the works, and a new destination in January… Keep your eyes peeled for the announcement. Hint, it’s somewhere in the Middle East.
For you Tokyo fashion lovers, worry not: I have lots of Jpop posts coming up. You can get sneak peeks (along with snapshots of my cat) on @lacarmina Instagram.
And don’t forget to watch my new HK Cat Cafe video, wink wink.
Do you feel you’ve grown or changed in 2013? What are you looking forward to in the New Year?