Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Visiting the local Piaţa

Back in Bucharest

Hey everyone. After a mid-summer re-uniting with Dana and Maria and a nice visit with my side of the family in Schenectady, NY, I'm back in Romania for the 2nd leg of my "Bachelor" summer. Seeing Dana and Maria was definitely a shot-in-the-arm for me, but Dana and I decided that even 4 weeks is too much. We're going to try to make our future travel separations shorter.

Ok, So what's a Piaţa?

In Bucharest, the word "piaţa" (pronounced PEE-AH-TSA) literally translates to "square". It is used for two things. First, it is used for major intersections in the city (Piaţa Victorie, Piaţa Unirii, etc.). However, it is also used for what Dana and I call the local farmers market. Especially with Dana and Maria gone, I visit our local Piaţa almost every day.

Not your average farmers' market.

Although the piaţa is the best place for fresh fruit and veggies, calling it a farmer's market doesn't quite do it justice. You can by all sorts of stuff here. Let's take a quick tour. I'll start with the fruits and veggie area. This pic shows the indoor section, although it spills outside on 2 sides.

Summer, as you might expect, is a great time to get all kinds of homegrown stuff. How are the prices? Cheap! Right now, the Romanian peach crop is coming in. I bought some at 40,000 lei/kg (about 60 cents per pound for you Americans, heh heh). I also bought grapefruit for about 30 cents each. Above right, there are farm fresh eggs going for about 8 cents each. As more stuff is harvested, the cheaper it gets. Cherries had dropped to less than 1.50 per pound last time I checked. The quality is good too, with much less chemicals used during growing as compared to the US.

Besides the produce section, there are different alleyways the lead to many different Mom and Pop specialty and convienence stores.

There's a butcher, a baker, and a can....sorry got carried away. You get the idea. You can buy shoes, go to the post office (the one that doesn't let you mail packages but you can pay your phone bill there), the pharmacy, coffee beans, etc etc.

This place is also a hub of neighborhood social activities. The next photo shows several older guys playing chess (left) and backgammon (right). As more guys get home from work, this area will have several games going on at once until dark. The terrace bars, like the one below, will also fill up after working hours. In addition to Beer and Wine, you can dine on sausages called Mici (pronounced MEECH) which are very common here. They are served with mustard and fresh bread. They're greasy, but good, so you need a strong stomach with you when you try them.

In Bucharest (as well as other low income countries), there is always people selling stuff on the sidewalks in busy areas. In Bucharest, there is no rhyme or reason to what some of these people will sell.

This old guy here (he's behind the tree) is selling all sorts of things. Today's fare included framed art, classical music records, figurines, books on poetry and foreign languages. Thankfully his usual assortment of XXX magazines was not there today. This other guy is selling scissors. I was in my car earlier today stopped at an intersection. A guy walked by selling bullhorns (as in the loud speaker, not the animal). Near our metro (subway) entrance, I've seen people selling underwear, nail clippers and making keys.

Shopping at the piaţa is always fun, but you have to work on the language skills before you go. Many of the stores are run by the older set, which speaks less english than the younger Romanians that you find in the larger western type grocery stores. For me, its nice to avoid the crowds (and the always hazardous driving that's required) at the new larger western grocery chains, especially when you only need a few things.

Over the river and through the woods...

Well, that's all for now. Next up for me is another weekend trip to Camp Living Water to try to assist the Stepping Forward missionaries in getting the camp ready for its first group of orphans next month. I'll have the camera ready for all the building action!