The sun is steadily fading over the horizon and nightfall is descending. Yet you aren’t tired, in fact, the opposite. You feel a nervous rhythm in your blood and a strange excitement. You want to go out! But what is there to do in Romania?
Well my friend, if “going out” at night to public places, especially ones with loud music and lots of alcoholic drinks is your idea of fun, you have hit the jackpot in Romania.
Despite the fact that geographically this country is in Eastern Europe, at times you would think that you have arrived in Ibiza. Simply put, Romanians love to party!
The norm amongst frequented clubs and bars is that the facility opens at 10:00 pm and stays open pana la ultimul client or literally “until the last customer leaves”. When is this? Quite often 4:00, 5:00, 6:00 and yes even 7 o’clock in the morning is when the last bleary-eyed drunk will stumble out of the bar. I know this because I too have sometimes been that customer.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s work our way up.
For starters, most comune (towns) and some sate (villages) will have just one bar or two at most, the only nightspot available, usually a “regular” bar during the day and then a place for dancing and revelry as night falls.
The music in these smaller venues will almost universally be manele, which is fairly unpalatable for most foreigners but I myself thrive on it, of course ;)
Many smaller cities (50k to 100k residents) on the other hand, will have a few dedicated clubs that open at night. In general, these clubs are similar in concept and operation as the ones in larger cities, so let’s look at the definition.
To begin with, night club, just like that in English, always, always means a “gentleman’s bar” or “strip club” or “titty bar” or whatever you wish to call it. Always!
A Romanian “club” however always consists of these same elements:
- Alcohol is served liberally
- It’s loud as hell
- Filled with dense clouds of smoke
- Dancing regularly occurs whether there’s a specific “dance floor” or not
- Skimpy/revealing clothes is normal (often called “looking your best”)
- The music is usually high BPM “techno”
Since most of these same elements also occur in bars, the only difference is that slightly more dancing occurs in quote unquote “clubs” than straight bars.
If there is enough of a crowd and enough alcohol has been served, Romanians will then enter a particular state known as the Club Frenzy. This is the magic moment of the night when an invisible hand seemingly pushes a button and the entire crowd goes wild.
This is when people start dancing on tables, grinding each other and yes, occasionally taking their clothes off. The flashing lights and blasting music and undulations of the crowd distort your perception of time and space and for a moment, you lose track of yourself.
In larger cities, there are clubs open seven days a week. In cities like Bucharest, Cluj, Timisoara and Iasi, there are enormous numbers of university students so you can get lost in a Club Frenzy every day of the week if that’s your kind of thing.
Smaller cities with fewer university students, such as Brasov, rarely have a Club Frenzy more than once or twice a week.
In the larger cities only, you can find another alternative kind of nightspot, known as the Rocker Bar (or club) in Romanian (or bar pentru rockeri), although it is almost never labeled that way.
This is going to be populated almost entirely with young people wearing black clothes, including a lot of T-shirts with heavy metal bands on them. The music can be anything from a combination of Nirvana, Rammstein and Metallica to some Romanian music (especially the band Vama Veche) and “classic rock”.
Romanian “rockeri” are rarely what’s considered either “goth” or “emo” in some other western countries but are more “grunge” than anything else, as in the early 90’s “Seattle style” grunge. Also especially common is (white) people with dredlocks in their hair, for some reason, as well as a lot of tattoos and/or body piercing.
And yes, even rockeri occasionally engage in a Club Frenzy, but that’s rarer.
Bucharest, of course being such an immense city, has every kind of nightlife imaginable, up to and including openly gay-friendly bars.
If drinking and dancing aren’t what you’re in the mood for, almost all larger Romanian cities have Communist-era theaters and opera houses with quite busy schedules. Or you can mix and match them, seeing Le Figaro before heading out to get plastered and dance on a table ;)
The other kind of nightspot that’s growing in popularity in Romania is bowling, spelled that way but universally pronounced boweling as in (disem)boweling someone, which always makes me smile.
These too will also serve alcohol, often be quite smoky and have loud music blasting. From my experience, the clientele is usually quite young, as in high school or younger, so if you don’t mind hanging out with the kiddies, it can be fun.
That being said, I once hilariously met a colossally drunk university math professor at a bowling alley, which led to a mighty interesting conversation.
Less common and only in some bigger cities are pool (billiards) halls and places to play darts.
The rarest nightspot to be found in Romania is a bar where it isn’t deafeningly loud so you can actually meet people and strike up conversations. If you find a place like that, hang onto it!
Happy Friday, folks!