If you haven’t yet read my previous post on the activities I got up to in Cluj-Napoca, please do read that first as it introduces my time in the city; whereas this entry is more of a critique of the bars and the shenanigans I got up to in them.
The most frequented, liveliest, best bar (in my opinion) is a small dive bar called La Ţevi. It’s a regular haunt of many of the local metalheads, but also some of the friendliest people are found here. The beers are cheap and the shots are almost deadly, everything I look for in a bar. It was here that I would bring guests if they really wanted to see the underbelly of the city or, if I just felt like having a good night out. It was here that I met a lot of my friends from the city as, like I’ve already said, the people are insanely friendly and always eager to chat to somebody who’s not local.
My next most frequented venue was a bar/club known as Flying Circus. It was a place that encompassed a wide range of people, from the standard party bro, to just about anyone who fancied a drink. They had special party events every week, be it actual live shows or just a different style of DJ night. I usually went on a Friday and Saturday night as they often had a rock/metal night called Anger Management. But they also had other events such as Hungarian Karaoke, cinema nights and I even went to a silent disco there. It was at Flying Circus that I also got to see some bands play. On Valentine’s Day I went to see some Dutch Death Metal/Thrash bands called Pestilence and Distillator. I got to see some Romanian Slam-core in the shape of Guerrillas, which I felt was a bit simple, it was just aggressive for the sake of being aggressive. E-Nana and Bucovina are two well known, popular Romanian Folk-Metal bands and they re-instated in me, the Romanian sound again which I was very grateful for. Subterranean Masquerade and Orphaned Land travelled all the way from Israel to play at Flying Circus and having never ventured into Oriental Metal, this was a liberating experience, and a new scene for me to explore. A high point was that Subterranean Masquerade was even staying at Transylvania Hostel, so I got to chat with the guitarist before the show which was good fun, along with an invite onto the stage during their last song. Another venue I went to, to see a band was Form Space, it’s a moderately sized place underneath the football stadium and I went to see Greek Stoner Rock band Planet of Zeus and Hungarian Alt-Rock band Apey and the Pea. The only drawback to Form Space is that as it’s situated under the arena, the supports for the building are firmly in the middle of the crowd so from certain spots, you can’t see anything up on stage.
I feel that I’ve been writing about the local bars for a bit too much, so to break it up, here are some restaurants I visited often. The most traditional one is a place called Roata which in Romanian just means Wheel. It served all the local delicacies including a Tripe Soup, Sarmale (cabbage rolls), Polenta and a very local dish called Varza a la Cluj, which is basically the same ingredients found in Sarmale but served in more of a tray bake instead of the rolls. This can only be found, as the name suggests, in Cluj. Varzarie, another restaurant I took guests to had a similar menu, but it catered more for locals rather than tourists so the decorations and service were a little more down to earth, and it was also cheaper.
On top of a 4 storey shopping mall, Klausenberger Restaurant can be found. Klausenberger is a craft brewery situated only in Cluj-Napoca and has some small outlets within the city, the restaurant being one of their sites. I would often take guests there if I fancied one of their fantastic stacked burgers or a proper pizza. Another selling point was the ability to see a lot of the city from the outdoor terrace on the roof.
The most surreal decorations I found, were in a venue called Q Caffe. They’ve crafted what seems to be papier-mache decorations of various surrealist works including a man with a computer keyboard coming out of his head, a Churchill-esque Pig Man and, among others, a horde of spirits floating along the walls into a void in the ceiling. Q Caffe served some simple meals but I would take guests there purely to see the décor and maybe to have a drink or two.
On the subject of drinks; well, drinks and decorations, a few other bars with unique styles were Atelier, Zorki’s Photo Café Bar, Shadow, and The Soviet. Atelier was colloquially known as The Cardboard Bar, solely due to their choice of material for making the furniture, the whole place is made from compressed cardboard from the chairs, tables and even wall adornments and lighting. Zorki’s is a small little café/bar, but on the walls was a changing gallery of photographs from different periods. When I first arrived it was a selection of pictures from the recent protests in Cluj and Bucharest, not sure what it is now though as I haven’t ventured there in months. Just by museum square are a couple of other little bars that have quirky decorations. Shadow is a dark cocktail bar, they have a weird selection of art on the walls, all portraying some kind of fantasy; including owls, wolves, Pennywise from IT, and even some 3D sculptures of ants. The other bar is very amusing little place with a load of communist and, as the name suggests, Soviet propaganda upon the walls. The Soviet’s menu had drinks all named after USSR and Eastern European stereotypes including Chernobyl and, Lada Colada, and a whole host of others that I can’t recall.
I hope you enjoyed my little review of the bars around the city, the next article will be documenting my time in Vama Veche, watch this space…