Note: this post was first published in January 2015 on Roaring Romania and moved here because I deemed it inappropriate due to my semi foul language.
One of the perks of being a freelancer is that I get to spend more time with my family. This Christmas I took advantage of my new status and went home for over a week, thing that I couldn’t do when I worked a 9-5 job.
This abundance of free days allowed me to properly explore and observe the social scene in my home town, Constanta, one of the top 5 big towns in the country.
Most of the places in Constanta don’t fit my criteria of what makes a place likable and pleasant for spending a couple of hours. I either find them too loud- I do not understand why a bar or a cafe has to have music so loud that I need to shout to make myself understood or sit there looking completely dumb because I haven’t heard what someone asked me. It’s very annoying and totally besides the purpose of such a place. I go to a bar/pub/ cafe if I want to meet up for a chat. If I want to party I go to a club. It’s that simple.
Others are just plain ugly with fake crystal chandeliers next to Asian style lamps and maybe some pop-modern decorations to complete the ensemble. And others are those kind of places that make it hard for me to express an opinion on them as they are neither pretty nor ugly and don’t stand out from the crowd with anything.
However, I stumbled upon one place that I found to my liking in the days of rambling the streets of Constanta: Barissimo cocktail bar. Now, I hate to be a fault finder but I don’t understand the name: the place is rather a mix between a cafe and a bar and it doesn’t have anything Italian in it. Otherwise it has the most comfy armchairs that one could ask for.
Barissimo scores extra points for the book-like menu with the history of iconic drinks explained there, for the chess patterned floor, the funny message on the bathroom door and the color palette. The list of drinks has the classic wines, coffees, teas but as far as I experienced the cocktails are the stars of the party. If you can’t choose anything from their list they are open to mix you something that’s not on the menu which is always appreciated. The prices are a nice surprise as well: below the average of Constanta and by far better than similar establishments in Bucharest.
I would make some comments regarding the poor ventilation and the smoke that becomes unbearable if the place is full but this is a national problem and wouldn’t be fair to point out Barissimo for it.
When it comes to social habits, Constanta is one weird place. People living in smaller towns are more inclined of forming a community and the feeling of knowing everybody is heavier. That’s why when you enter a bar/cafe/pub be most certain that you will be scanned from head to toes. People need to know who you are, where you come from, if they know you. If you look a tiny bit out of place be sure that the staring is more obsessive. After a couple of days of Constanta I caught myself staring & scanning people, thing that I would never do in Bucharest simply because the possibility of meeting an acquaintance is too small and random.
On the other hand, if you ignore the staring & scanning, it’s really nice to see people actually being part of a community, the joy when they meet someone they like or the resting bitch faces when eyeing someone less agreeable.
One thing that I am genuinely fond of in Constanta, is that everyone dresses up to go out. Some of the outfits might be too sparkly or badly coordinated with the moment of the day (leave lacy clothes for the evening, ladies!) but in the era of sweat pants and “I don’t give a f*ck”, the art of making yourself presentable when you leave the house is a dying art. I know how I look when I go out sometimes because Bucharest gives me the comfort of making myself invisible if it’s not one of my best days. Constanta not so much and one must be at least in the neighborhood of presentable or that staring&scanning will be followed by some silent disapproval-or a loud one if you meet a friend.
But the number one weirdness must be the status of beer drinking in Constanta. Women don’t drink beer. Ever. It is considered unladylike and you wouldn’t want to be caught with a pint in front of you for all the gold in this world. It’s a beverage reserved only for men. Sexism aside, I have the feeling that it is not generally well regarded to drink it if it’s not summer and you’re not on a terrace. It’s perfectly normal and socially acceptable to go out and drink water. Plain water. In case you feel crazy one night, add a slice of lemon to spice things up.