It was a cold, wintry day in Bucharest. My dorm room seemed to have dropped in temperature, the barely working heater didn’t do a good job of heating my room. I fitted another jumper, hopeful that it would bring more warmth. My roommate offered me more coffee, “to warm you up” she said cheerfully. If I took it, it would’ve been my second one of the day and I preferred to be asleep that night than be awake in this cold room.
I couldn’t believe that winter came that quickly. It was only two months ago that I arrived in the warm Bucharest, enjoying the old town, watching people drinking and eating outside. Rain and snow replaced the sun too quickly, driving restaurant and café owners to put their outdoor chairs and tables inside. I was getting ready for the worst of winter, one of my friends told me that in Bucharest the year before, it got up to -30C. I couldn’t imagine, even in -7C, I couldn’t feel my toes, let alone -30C. I shooed the thought and hoped there was some way to make myself warmer for the time being.
“Aggy, get dress!”
One of my friend said over Google chat. He had the whole evening planned. First dinner at one of the most popular restaurants in the old town, Caru cu bere, then to the Christmas market. If there was a place that could get me out of my already warm bed was this place: Christmas market. I love them. My love for them may occur due to the fact that there is no such thing as Christmas market in my home country. In Europe, I indulged every single one of them, watching each small hut selling different kind of things from food to cute souvenirs. I especially loved the food, oh yes the food in Christmas markets always made me smile. I also secretly looked forward to having mulled wine, my favourite.
I immediately got out of bed and must have put layers of clothes. It was chilly but I was excited. The dinner was not bad at all. A traditional Romanian meal, sarmale and a hearty dessert of papanasi gulped down with fresh lemonade. My stomach was satisfied for sure. We walked to the Christmas Market at the University Square which only took a mere 10 minutes from the restaurant. The atmosphere of the old town was crowded just like any other night, Romanians love to go out at night be it in the summer or winter. The exciting vibe was contagious, I hardly remembered the chilled temperature that unconsciously forced me to pull my jacket zipper to my neck.
I had seen many Christmas markets before this. The one in Nantes was filled with amazing French food, while the one in Zurich had delicious mulled wine. I had several others to compare. I had to admit I underestimated Bucharest. I was welcomed by a gigantic Christmas tree with two angels at the top – as if one angel was not enough to celebrate this festive holiday. The tree changed colour every now and then. The whole square was lit up with small lights twinkling here and there. Many tents were set up by the sides with people selling from leather gloves to candies. The huge bank standing near the square was projected with a light show – it was just magical.
I quickly spotted what my Asian brain thought was tofu, as they were square and white. My friends laughed at me and said it was cheese. Well, you can’t take the Asian out of me I guess. Then I saw some people who looked like they were grilling a long, hollow, white dough. It was my first encounter of kurtosz. The bread originally came from Hungary but is a delicacy enjoyed by the Romanians nowadays. I entered the long line formed in front of the tent, some kurtosz were sprinkled with sugar, some with a dash of cinnamon, some with nuts. I opted for the small one sprinkled with sugar – inside I was a little unsure of the taste.
I regretted getting the small one. I finished it within minutes. It was delicious. The taste was not exaggerated, it was simple bread, but really good bread. Warm and sweet from the sugar. It was this small things of simplicity that reminded me why I love Romania in the first place.
The small, colourful merry-go-round was spinning creating some sweet squealing from the children riding on it. People went passed me, analyzing each tent. A lady selling sausages was wrapped in her warmest, fluffiest jacket and hat. It was cold for sure, but this Christmas market created a warmth inside of me. It was funny that I had this feeling right there in Bucharest. Only a few weeks ago, I was being chased by an old drunken man, not far from where the Christmas market was. Bucharest never scared me, even with all the crazy adventures which may seemed scary for some people. That winter, standing on the cold floor of Bucharest Christmas market, I felt an unbeatable feeling of being closer to the city, somehow connected.
If you are in Bucharest this winter, I suggest you take a walk to its Christmas market. For sure you will see the joyous and festive side of the Bucharestians which will lift your spirit up.
Have you ever been to a Christmas market? Which Christmas market left a special mark in your heart?