I had high hopes, a small budget, and an inadequate jacket in preparation of what I imagined New Year’s Eve to be in Bucharest, Romania. Much of that is based on witnessing nightly life in the world’s 9th most alcohol-consuming country the week prior. As it turns out, New Year’s Eve, like Christmas a few days before it, is mostly a family affair in Romania. More accurately, it’s a eat-dinner-with-family-then-drink-with-friends kind of holiday. And since nearly half of Bucharest’s population isn’t actually from the city, those friends and family are in other parts of Romania.
The deserted streets of the otherwise active downtown Lipscani district of Bucharest were surprising, as people huddled in nightclubs behind 350 Lei (~$100 dollar) pay walls of prepaid dinners and drink parties. Usually accessible and male-casual-dress bars (women in Bucharest don’t ever seem to be dressed down) disappear and transform into posh neon light beats.
Up until a few minutes after midnight. The only indication that something – anything – was about to occur were the few folks huddled around the nearby bratwurst food carts lazily munching their sausages in a desperate effort to keep their jaws warm. Yet somehow, before their neck arteries were completely saturated with cholesterol, they were able to turn their heads over to dark patches of sky at the end of the alleys ahead.
Before I go further let me give all of you would-be New Year’s Eve visitors a word of advice – before looking up at the sky, look down. In this part of Bucharest, a few minutes after midnight, you’re likely no further than a few meters away from explosives that barely meet the definition of fireworks. Arsenals of gunpowder being lit by intoxicated bar owners and the odd bouncer or two no matter how close you’re standing. Having spent a few New Year’s Eves in the darker parts of this European map it seems like there’s a law against sober people handling fireworks.
Some of those rockets clumsily bounced off the surrounding buildings before meeting their beautifully colored doom in the sky. The nearly constant 10-15 minute boom barrage was like the call of the wild…night. People with champagne glasses, beer goggles, and silly hats poured out into the streets to watch them glow various shades of yellow, green, and purple. Seemingly never to return, the party was just beginning, albeit slightly behind schedule.