Category Archive for Romania
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!
I spoke at Experience Bucharest conference! Travel influencers Romania tourism event, Bellu Cemetery vampire fashion.
This little vampire had the best Halloween ever. I got to visit the ultimate Gothic destination… Bucharest, Romania!
Since I was a teen, I imagined myself haunting Romania’s cemeteries. This dream became reality, thanks to the hard-working team at Experience Bucharest — who invited me to speak at their October 2017 travel and tourism conference.
Over the course of several days, I got to meet dozens of fellow travel bloggers, influencers and industry professionals. We experienced the best of Bucharest through immersive activities (and some stayed on to see more parts of the country with Experience Romania).
Needless to say, I had the time of my life. I’m so excited to share these stories from the land of Transylvania –– starting with a waltz through Bellu Cemetery in my Japanese vampire cape. (All photography by Joey Wong.)
For a long time, Romania has been an overlooked destination. However, the tide is turning thanks to Experience Bucharest / Experience Romania, the largest independent project to promote tourism in this fascinating country. The passionate team of volunteers invited 100 top travel bloggers, vloggers, digital influencers and media to discover Bucharest’s many attractions, as well as take part in a day-long conference.
Above, I’m with Tudor Maxim (founder and one of the chief organizers) and Jeanette Ceja (travel TV reporter and expert), who spoke on the social media panel along with me.
The conference took place at the Novotel Hotel Bucharest, which also hosted my stay. It’s located by Old Town, with a balcony that had this lovely view of the city’s classic architecture.
Hair: My new purple/red/blue ombre haircolor is by Chad Evans at Stratosphere Salon in Vancouver, Canada. He cut my bangs into a vampire V, and did a fishtail braid in the back. So happy with this new hairstyle!
Outfit details: I wore Gal Stern tights with a silver skull pattern, Alex Streeter pearl necklace, Sleevey Wonders sheer sleeves, and a Moi-meme-Moitie graveyard dress (designed by Japan’s Elegant Goth Lolita icon, Mana of the bands Moi-dix-Mois and Malice Mizer).
I spoke at the “The Future of Tourism in Romania” conference, which brought together travel professionals from all around the world. This Eastern European country has modernized and opened up to visitors especially since 2007, when it joined the EU.
The local tourism organizers first shared success stories of tourism in Romania, highlighting the increasing interest of travelers in Sibiu (historical city in Transylvania), Mamaia (beach and resort destination on the Black Sea), Bucovina (scenic historic region on the slopes of the Carpathian mountains) and other areas.
Next, I stepped onto the Experience Romania stage to speak about “Best international practices in tourism and social media.” I was a speaker on this social media panel along with leading travel Instagrammers Altug Galip and Laiza Souza, and Jeanette Ceja who comes from a journalism background.
For about an hour, we answered questions from the audience and shared personal advice on topics related to travel, digital media, press trips, sponsorships and tourism trends. It was fantastic to hear everyone’s perspectives from their various backgrounds, and have a conversation with an audience of hundreds who are passionate about traveling.
I put together a few clips of my Q&A answers during the travel blogger panel. You can see the video above and here.
Many thanks to the Travel Massive Romania volunteers and local businesses for welcoming us bloggers, and showing us the best of Bucharest!
We got to go on walking tours of the city, try various restaurants… I’ll be showing you much more of my explorations soon.
More photos of this look at the end of this post, but first…
Is there any better place to wear a vampire cape… than in the land of Dracula?
I transformed into a bat and flew to Bellu Cemetery (part of the Bucharest Urban Adventures “Darkside Tour”). This graveyard, officially known as Șerban Vodă, is the largest and most celebrated one in the city.
Bellu Cemetery was particularly atmospheric during Halloween season, with autumn leaves on the dramatic coffins.
Address and access: Șoseaua Olteniței 3-5, București, Romania. If you’re traveling by subway, get off at the Eroii Revolutiei metro stop (two stops from Universitate Station in Old Town). Entry is free, and the graveyard is open daily from 10 am to 8 pm.
I got to live out my Dracula fantasies in this photoshoot, surrounded by wooden stakes and dark tombstones.
Outfit details: I’m wearing my Black Peace Now designer cape from Japan, and a Moi-même-Moitié dress.
The cemetery is located on a 54-acre plot of land, donated by Baron Barbu Bellu (hence the name). Many of the graves date back to the 1850s, when the Romanian graveyard was founded.
My friends and I enjoyed strolling through the many rows of tombstones, some with interesting and eerie statues.
We came across a memorial to someone named Putin, featuring two Sphinx-women carrying a globe on their backs. (Edit – actually, this actually translates to ‘a little’ and has a spiritism spooky story associated with it… see the first comment at the bottom for the history.) On the right, I half-expected a vampire to rise out of this thorny black coffin!
Many famous Romanians lie beneath the soil including writers, gymnasts and astronomers. Two of the most famous residents are the national poet Mihai Eminescu, and playwright / humorist Ion Luca Caragiale.
Count Dracula may have been imagined by Ireland’s Bram Stoker, but Romanians have long-established legends about the dead rising from the grave. According to the local folklore, these “strigoi” crave fresh blood and can transform into other animals, as well as turn humans into ghouls.
Nosferatu vibes… When you’re standing in Bellu Cemetery, it’s easy to understand why Romanian vampire legends have captured the imagination of millions worldwide.
I love seeing how nature enhances the beauty of the chains and crosses. The leaves add a splash of blood-red to these resting grounds.
When night falls, who knows what might rise from these coffins?
(Of course, I also visited Bran Castle in Transylvania, associated with Vlad the Impaler… there’s a giant article to come out soon about it.)
Even if you aren’t captivated by vampire stories, you should spend time wandering in Bellu Cemetery. The local history, art and architecture are fascinating to behold here.
My V-bangs haircut and Black Peace Now cape helped me get into the spooky spirit. Bucharest’s graveyard is truly a Goth dream.
We saw several cats living among the dead. (Dracula’s fellow creatures of the night.)
Vampira vibes, in front of one of the largest and most elaborate mausoleums in Bellu graveyard. It belongs to Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino, a 19th century Romanian politician and lawyer.
Such a pleasure to tour this necropolis with my Romanian Gothic friends, Beatrice and Alex.
In love with the historic architecture and dark decay of the mausoleums.
Most of the burial ground is Eastern Orthodox, with well-tended graves topped with crucifixes and angel statues.
“Out of what crypt they crawl, I cannot tell / But every night I see the rubbery things / Black, horned, and slender, with membraneous wings / And tails that bear the bifid barb of hell.” – H.P. Lovecraft, “Night-Gaunts.”
This photospeaks for itself… Bucharest’s Bellu Cemetery is one of the most beautiful I’ve visited.
You can come here on your own, or join the Bucharest Urban Adventures Dark Side walking tour. It also takes you to other eerie parts of the city, including a serial killer’s alleyway and bloody buildings from the Communist era.
“To walk with me you must die to your breathing life and be reborn to mine.” – Count Dracula in Bram Stoker’s novel
Bellu Graveyard is tended by citizens, rather than the government. Many locals come here to leave flowers and offerings, and maintain the tombs in good condition.
Although this is a huge plot of land at 54 acres, the graveyard has been filled up over the past century and half. The paths between the rows are narrow, which make you feel close to the dead (or undead?)
As you can see, Bucharest was everything this Goth girl imagined it to be… and far more.
I’m very grateful to the Experience Bucharest family for bringing me to their hometown, and having me take part in the conference’s 2nd Edition! (Above, with the lovely Anda Maxim who worked hard on the program, along with the other team members.)
Some of the invited bloggers stayed for an extra two weeks, and toured all around the country with Experience Romania. I’ll have to return soon to see more.
One my favorite parts of Experience Bucharest? Meeting dozens of fabulous travel storytellers, each with a unique niche and medium. (Facebook Live, LGBT, comedy videos, history blogs, desserts, you name it).
We hit it off with our shared love of travel; it’s such a joy to connect with others who walk a similar path. I left feeling inspired, and am sure I’ll meet up with many of these new friends somewhere in the world.
I leave you with some close-ups of my jewelry. My Morbid Debutante white skull and pearls necklace is by Alex Streeter (who created the pentagram Angel Heart ring, most recently worn by Marilyn Manson on the cover of several music magazines).
My vampire nails were bloody perfect for the occasion. Dripping blood, bats, Dracula, fangs, coffins and skulls, rendered by hand in unbelievable detail.
As always, these gel nails are the work of Keiko Matsui at Glam Nail Studio in Vancouver. You can see a close-up of the nail art here on my Instagram, and I’ll post more images soon. (My bracelet cuff is vintage Yohji Yamamoto.)
So thankful to Experience Romania / Bucharest for having me come to give a talk on the social media panel, and capture these stories and photos for you. (All photography by Joey Wong.)
“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” – Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”
This is only the first bite of Bucharest. Many more travel tales to come, including a visit to Bran Castle, and alternative street art tour.
What are your impressions of Romania so far? Have you ever thought of visiting? If there was a land for Goths… I think it would be here!