It took me about 5 weeks to begin to like Bucharest. 

The city is a sprawl of concrete, haphazardly linked by communist-era metros and trolleys. It was built with seemingly no sense or order at all. And to make matters worse, it’s not a very friendly city at first. It doesn’t open up easily, especially to foreigners, instead preferring to quarantine them to the city’s expensive, scam-infested, and trashy Old Town. It keeps its secrets close to its chest, and demands that you earn its respect and the respect of the locals before it lets you in.

But I gave it time. Took the steps to learn some of the language, befriend its people, understand how its neighborhoods work and how to get around. And slowly as the weeks went on, I became aware that there was something incredible going on in Bucharest.

The city is sometimes referred to as the “Paris of the East” owing to Paris being the original inspiration for the city’s layout. And the people who dubbed it that were right, just not in the way that they thought. Hidden beneath its surface layer, there’s an art and culture movement beginning to emerge that I can only describe as an echo of the early 20th century Parisian avant-garde. It shows itself in the DIY art galleries, anarcho-punk bars, jazz clubs, spoken word shows, and motley collections of artists I have met who drop acid and chainsmoke in their flats and listen to drone rock and make extraordinarily weird things. And it’s so refreshingly uncritical, not stuck in the mud of irony and self-effacement that killed off most of our visionary artists. In Bucharest of all places, there are green shoots of something amazing punching through all the concrete and traditionalism.

It’s like I told one of my friends as I laid on the floor of her apartment overlooked Piata Unirii; “If there is a god, he’s roaming the streets of Bucharest, strung out, tripping over the cracks in the pavement. But he hears music in his head, and he’s got something to say.”