Life in the Brasov City

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The past month has been super busy for me. I finished up my job and did some traveling, and now I’m back for some much needed R&R. In my time traveling, I had the chance to visit Timisoara and Budapest, and I will have some posts about those cities coming up this week.

I’ve also spent some time apartment hunting. Prices for housing in Brasov are about the same as they are in Bucharest, so you can imagine on my fixed income that finding a place with any kind of requirements is not easy. I also need to be in a certain location and I don’t want to be on the ground level or first floor…needless to say I haven’t found anything yet. I had a really good lead on a great place, but there was some shadiness and I backed out. Leases are different in Romania – not everyone has a contract because you have to register it with the government and then pay extra taxes. Owners don’t want to lose that income, so they sometimes insist on going without a contract, which isn’t an option for me. The owner of the apartment that I found had promised a contract and then later started to complain that he thought we had a deal, no contract, yadda yadda yadda. 😦

So perhaps I will stay in the apartment I have now. It’s affordable, the location is within walking distance of basically anywhere I’d want to go. It has a lovely view of Tampa and on a clear day, Piatra Craiului. If I remain in this apartment, I’m going to paint and possibly invest in a few pieces of IKEA furniture to help me organize some more. The downside is that it’s like a fifth floor walk up, the top floor, and in the summer it’s very, very hot. I have a fan with mist and that’s helpful, but there was a week where it was at least 95 degrees outside and in the apartment. We shut all the doors and windows and tried to keep the sun out with the curtains, but I felt very sick that week. I wish I had some other option for those random days where it’s actually hot here. It’s not realistic to buy an air conditioner for here because you’ll only use it a few days a year.

For the last heat wave, I just did what everyone else did – sleep during the day and then go to the square at night. I think one night we were in the square until after midnight. There were so many people out having dinner or coffee. Children were playing and running around. I understand now why they have siestas in Spain. It’s just easier to sleep through the hottest part of the day and then live your life when it’s cooler out. When sleeping wasn’t an option, we went to Coresi mall and sat in the air conditioning. Hint: the former smoking section of Starbucks has the most amazing air conditioner in it. Best place in the whole mall, if you ask me.

Other than the trips to Timisoara and Budapest, I’m not sure there’s anything else new with me. I started doing a low carb diet because I wanted to see if I could lose my last twenty pounds. For those of you who know me IRL, I’ve been on a weight loss “journey” since 2013. I’ve lost 60 lbs and I need to lose 20 more…but they’re just stuck. No matter what I do 🙂 So this is my last attempt to lose those last pesky pounds. I’ve done a lot of research on low carb diets, and they’re apparently really good for people with insulin resistance like me. How is this related to Romania, you ask? Well, this is possibly the EASIEST place ever to do low carb. Meat, cheese, and fat at every meal. Just skip the starch and voila, done. Fast food isn’t really an option here, so that’s not a temptation anymore. The only roadblock I’ve run into has been finding those weird ingredients, like almond flour (faina de migdale). You need some of these kinds of ingredients to make some of the more complicated low carb recipes. These ingredients are readily available in the US, but here I’ve had to scout Lidl, Carrefour, Auchan, Mega Image…and I’ve put together a pretty good cabinet.

And…that’s it 🙂 I’ll be working on the Timisoara and Budapest posts and hopefully will have them ready for this week.

 

Hai Romania!

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Euro 2016 is upon us and the world has gone football crazy. For my American friends, imagine the SEC football games where the state teams play each other (like Auburn/Alabama or UGA/Tech). People. are. psyched. There are huge sections of every store that have “HAI ROMANIA” products you can buy.

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Pringles…now Pringoooals!

Of course, I bought most of them because I love that sort of thing, and why not? Lidl had a ton of stuff: a 2-pack of tank tops, face paint, a lei, and some wristbands cost me barely anything and now I have all the best Romania swag 🙂 Let’s go team! Do the thing! Get the points! Sports!

I didn’t buy these chocolate soccer balls or players, and I kind of regret it. They remind me of my chocolate snowman from Christmas, Frederick (RIP).

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Romania: where even the beers play soccer!

We played three games – France, Switzerland, and Albania. We lost to France and Albania and tied with Switzerland. Even though we won’t advance in the competition, I had a really great time cheering on Romania and getting caught up in the national pride. I even learned the rules of soccer (football) which was finally explained to me on Sunday – it’s more than just running back and forth on the field 😛

 

The Romania/Albania game was very intense. Both teams played very aggressively – one player was injured enough to be carried off the field in a stretcher. I couldn’t sit for the entire game, I had to get up and walk around the room a bit. And by walking around the room, I mean pacing. I had anxiety! and stress! I’ve seen about a million American football games and baseball games and I’ve never been so worried about a game. So now I get why people get really riled up about this sport – for the first time ever, I was really invested in the players (and all their mistakes – lol). On a side note, soccer games are a really fun way to learn Romanian curse words.

I don’t think I’ll watch any of the other games of EURO 2016, but I am interested in going to some local FC Brasov games.

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Eu sunt 12!! 🙂

 

“Traditional Romanian Food”

 

 

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Really, McDonalds? The McMici?

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McDonald’s has a new campaign where they offer “traditional Romanian food” in the McDonald’s style. You can choose from a few interesting items, the most notable being the McMici. It’s definitely just a sandwich with meat that vaguely tastes like mici. How do I know this? Well, I tried it. For science.

In case you are unfamiliar with mici, it is basically an amazing grilled sausage thing that most people really, really enjoy. Ask any Romanian about mici, and most likely you’ll get a response along the lines of “Mici!” with some patting of the belly. You don’t need a lot of words to communicate how much these little sausages are loved.

I think traditionally it’s a mix of beef and pork, usually grilled outside and served with mustard. It’s the kind of thing you can buy on the side of the road or at a restaurant.

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Claudiu and I went to McDonald’s because we were kind of hungry and it was on the way to Carrefour (grocery store/mall-type place). He got the DOUBLE McMici (omg) and I, being of sound mind, ordered a regular cheeseburger.

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A double McMici

We split a drink and fries and also a Plăcintă casei, which to me sounds like the Latin name for some kind of weird animal, but apparently it means something like “pie made in the home”…or so I’m told 🙂 I’m not trying to be a hater, but this dessert is basically  a lame attempt at trying to make another item Romanian because it’s just an apple pie with ice cream. C’mon McDonald’s, if you’re going to uncomfortably pander to the Romanians, you might as well have tried to make a decent dessert. They really missed an opportunity to do something more special. A McPapanasi? McCovrigi??

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Placinta?

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Always eat dessert first 🙂 or else it will become soup

Speaking of special, this particular McDonald’s was really something to behold. It had not only a play place, but also a full basketball court (!) and a train car that’s painted up all cute specifically for birthday parties. I remember begging my mom to have my birthday at McDonald’s when I was a kid. A train car would’ve made it infinitely cooler.

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The restaurant itself was packed – tons of people eating inside and out. There was even an overflow eating section outside which is where we ended up sitting since there were no other seats. It was a lovely day and we were glad to be in the sunshine…eating a double McMici.

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Hoo boy.

 

Chuck Norris vs. Communism

I heard about this movie and at first I wasn’t very excited because the person forgot to tell me it was a documentary. I just imagined it was a new movie with Chuck Norris fighting the bad guys of Communism – which, now that I really think about it, would have been a cool movie to watch.

Eventually, I found out it was a documentary. Chuck Norris vs Communism is about the way western cinema transformed the way Romanians thought about the world. The illegal movies were smuggled into the country and people had clandestine film nights in their living rooms. Since TVs cost almost the price of a car (50,000 lei!), the impact of having media not controlled by the government was monumental and long lasting to those who had the opportunity to experience it. The documentary explores the effects of these films (dubbed by the mysterious Irina Nistor) on the population of a country controlled by a strict dictatorship and a paranoid government.

Restaurant Review: Hockey Pub

I’ve been incredibly busy this week with my real job (as much as I’d like to blog full time, I have to bring home some kind of bacon – for now, at least). The awesome thing about my program is that I have the opportunity to eat at lots of restaurants around Brasov. I’d like to share one of my favorites today. It’s a great places to eat if you’re a local or a tourist.

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Hockey Pub, or “Hockey” as some of the locals call it, is located just off Piata Sfatului – a few minutes walk from Biserica Neagra (Black Church).

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Hockey Pub has a more local feel and has a menu that would seem familiar to most Americans. I almost always order some kind of soup here, usually tomato based. The first few times I went to Hockey Pub I had some red pepper cream tomato soup with some kind of alcohol (I think gin?). It was good but not as thick as I would have liked. This time I had the tomato soup au gratin and it was probably the best tomato soup I’ve ever had. Very, very filling. Definitely enough for a meal, but I didn’t know that when I ordered…so I also had the hot wings. Don’t let the name fool you, the hot is more of a smokey sweet flavor and you will need the wet wipes they leave at your table. The wings come with potato wedges. I wasn’t able to finish the soup or the wings even though they were delicious. Next time, I will have to make the difficult choice of ordering one or the other.

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Claudiu ordered the quesadilla. It was not really what I would consider to be a traditional quesadilla. There was melted cheese involved, but also hummus and some other things. No spice or cilantro, although we expected that. The saddest discovery I’ve made about Romania is that there is no cilantro! They have coriander but no fresh cilantro. Time to find some seeds and grow my own 😦

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The service here is fast and the wait staff is friendly. There is a new electronic system at each table where you can ring for your server and order or get your check without having to wait (you know, sit and try and make eye contact and then pretend to hold up a bill while you mouth, “Can we have the check?” and then wait some more before it actually comes). It expedited the end of the meal and we were able to leave as soon as we were done eating. Very, very nice.

I forgot to mention that Hockey Pub is also a great place to go and watch sports. Tons of high-def flat screen TVs. I think we’re going to try and watch the Romania/France soccer game there. There is no smoking in the restaurant, but there is a section outside if that’s your thing.

Overall, I really like this place. It’s a chill place to go eat with friends and it’s even nice to go by yourself. You can chat with the wait staff or just watch the game. For more information, you can visit their website: http://thehockeypub.ro/