Metro: City slicker; Bucharest

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Indy Lifestyle Online
As the fifth anniversary of the Romanian revolution approaches, a look at the new country's capital.

Shopping: Bucharest shops sell what they can get. Today clothes, tomorrow food in a bewildering a la carte extravaganza. This makes the city the largest bazaar in Europe, but it means no single shop can be recommended beyond the time it takes to sell outof merchandise. A few department stores have opened, making Christmas shopping feasible for the first time since the last war. Lipscani Street is the place for gipsy stalls that sell fine jewellery, pirate tapes and real fur hats at a fiver or less.

Fads: Pool halls are springing up everywhere. This year's explosion of commerce has left most people untouched, except a few of the very rich - Mercedes is the car, whisky the drink. Also popular are American cars with original licence plates. These are

shipped over at great expense by expatriates to prove they have so much money they can ship over their cars at great expense. Mars bars and Twixes sell on street corners and are snapped up, despite costing the earth.

Obsessions: The official reports on what really happened during the revolution are finally out. The Secret Service's version makes the best reading. It blames Russians, Hungarians and Yugoslavians, plus "sonic waves", for stirring up the fighting. No on e believes it, but it has prompted endless discussion among the conspiracy-mad Romanians about how much of the revolution was in fact a coup engineered by the Communists who still run the country.

Hottest restaurants: The Premiera is probably the only place in town where you can guarantee food and service of high standard. The patron is "The Doctor", a Romanian who practised dentistry for 10 years. The walls feature sepia photos, reminding guests that Thirties Bucharest had splendour and elegance, before war and the Communists ruined it. Elaborate parties see guests dressed up in costumes from the National Theatre next door. Diners include Romania's leading actors, who spend long hours getting drunk.

Caspa restaurant is a reminder of the past, featuring crumbling decorations, waiters and food from those sepia times. But the wine is superb. People's Palace, the most exclusive restaurant, is tucked away in the largest building in the world, a white ma r ble legacy of the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Some of the building is parliamentary offices, most of it is empty. For reservations, see your MP.

The meeting place: Lapteria - "Milk Bar": by day, teenagers drink their milk, at night jazz bands play. This is where Bauhaus meets Bohemia. It is popular with students, whose tiny grants mean one drink must last the night. Also visit Shapele Rosu - "RedSnake" - a bar for the Biznita, those engaged in shady business. Mafia, money-changers and off-duty prostitutes drink the night away in murky red light. Occasional shootings are a recent feature.

The "in" place: Club 30, Martin's and Why Not are populated by the Jeep-owning, seriously moneyed. Tasteful decor, loud music, beyond the pockets of all but the tiny elite of young, rich and beautiful.

Courtesans are found with older Romanian and Middle Eastern businessmen at the glitzy Vox Maris disco. Sexy Club, where the waitresses were chosen for the shape of their bust, is a popular haunt with local business types who can't afford a full-time courtesan. At the bar of the Intercontinental hotel, the prostitutes wait in line on the bar stools facing their bashful clients who sit at the tables. They are expensive, but when business is poor they will sit and chat for nothing.

For foreigners, Dubliner's pub offers Irish beer at Geneva prices. Go to the British Embassy bar for darts, the Sun and authentic potato crisps.

Club A basement disco is run by architecture students. The Lapteria set go here from midnight till dawn for dancing in the sweaty, smoky, jovial atmosphere.

Most ubiquitous item of clothing: Presentation is very important for women. Limited budgets stretch to monocolour coats of bright reds, blues and greens. In winter, long boots and longer socks, but always the shortest of black miniskirts. Brown lipstick,fierce black eyeshadow and hair dyed red. Garish hats of any design, plus fox furs from grandmother's closet for the young. For men, anything that involves a leather jacket.

Catchphrase: Pe Dracu, "On the Devil", meaning something is not true. Also Vodcaroiu, a play on Nicholae Vacaroiu (right), the prime minister who the press claim has taken to drink.

Bestselling book: Anything from the West will do. Pulp fiction romances are selling fast, also anti-Communist tracts by former Second World War fascists.

Rodica Guja

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