Interesting Times Team

Andra Manea 2

Meet Andra

That’s when I first thought something should be done, and considered what I could do myself;

Andra is part of the ITB team and we may say she played a big part in shaping our project’s identity. She is most appreciated for her great touring experience, and for being super knowledgeable and exceptionally friendly. We must warn you – that joy of hers is contagious! .

Where are you from and what led you to Bucharest?

I am actually born and raised in Bucharest, first generation though, within my family.

How did you end up becoming a tour guide?

In my early 20s I worked briefly in a hotel in Bucharest, and I could see guests being very confused about what to visit, or going to all the wrong places in my opinion, for getting to really know the place. That’s when I first thought something should be done, and considered what I could do myself; a few years later I was lucky enough to meet someone who had been doing tours in Bucharest in a team that sounded just right for me. I emailed them about joining the next day, and here I am some 6 years later with the same team.

So that every-single-body could have a garden to enjoy.

What about Bucharest makes you proud?

Our parks – I’ve seen bigger ones, and posher ones in other places, but I know how hard we fought for ours. How we scraped every penny we could to tame the swamps they used to be. So that every-single-body could have a garden to enjoy. And because they wanted above all else to be together. How people spent half their lives making sure every tree is next to the right flower in these parks. How they partied like crazy here, and how they fell in love right here, just like i did centuries later. This country never had a lot, but the parks stayed clean and survived the hardest times.

Do you have any favorite local traditions?

I think we have a pretty great way to welcome spring, on the 1st of March boys and men usually gift to girls and women little red-and-white objects (mărțișoare). A lot of the time they’re hand made by somebody, and they are given even if the people involved don’t have an especially close relationship. This is a little gesture that can bridge that distance, start conversations, or get people to see another side of somebody. It’s also interesting because it used to be the other way around a long time ago. I hope to see the day when this morphs into all of us gifting everybody else because we’re all giddy for spring-time.

What’s one thing people need to know about Bucharest before they visit?

It’s SAFE. So safe, relax! I see many people visiting here worried about safety, told they’re not going to be safe by someone. I’ll bet you, you were in much less safe capitals in Europe and didn’t even know it.

Even though we’re growing a lot lately, Bucharest isn’t especially tourism oriented yet, and we don’t have a massive reputation because we’ve never been “Empire”. Most stories will remain untold, if you don’t research a bit before. Get a guide, go on a tour, befriend a local or 10. Locals are still excited about tourists, they will be super happy to talk to you.

What’s your favorite neighborhood in Bucharest?

Tough choice, Drumul Taberei where i grew up is hard to let go. Very typical communist neighborhood, but especially calm and with a bit of extra greenery all over. But then there is Cotroceni, older, longer history, architecturally diverse, and if you walk around there when the magnolia trees are in flower it’s visual poetry. The Armenian neighborhood is a must-see as well, with its 19th century look, a mix of all social classes from its inception, and a few extremely old public green spaces that somehow managed to survive for centuries, because Bucharestians insisted on preserving them no matter what.

...if you walk around there when the magnolia trees are in flower, it's visual poetry.

What’s your favorite spot in Bucharest?

Anywhere up-high. Bucharest is pretty flat, so we’re all suckers for a sky-bar, where we can stare and stare at this city we rarely see from above. You have plenty of choices now for a drink at some altitude; or you can go visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, inside the massive Palace of Parliament, and hope their rooftop terrace is open at that time. Nobody knows exactly when it’s open, it’s one of the great mysteries of this world, even Nostradamus kept silent about it.

What’s your favorite thing to eat and drink in Bucharest?

Without a doubt my favourite food “group” is Ciorbă. Liquid food. It’s like a soup, or a broth, but we have a special fermented liquid we use to make it a bit sour, and it just ends up being more complex and layered than just a simple soup. There are many types of ‘ciorbă’, with just veggies, or different types of meat, there is absolutely one that will be perfect for you. For drinks, we make a hell of a lemonade here, with just lemon juice, water, and a drop of honey, or whatever else you could think of, we’ve made a lemonade around it. Healthy, clean, refreshing and, come spring, imagine you get to enjoy it in a wonderful garden of which we have tons open.