In a secluded but central spot in Bucharest, next to one of the Cismigiu Gardens entrances, is the James Joyce pub. When I discovered it, I found not only a pub, but a little community – British and Irish and at the same time local and international. (Interestingly, the name of the owner is Aidan Joyce.)
This island of British/Irish lifestyle in Bucharest lies in an area steeped in Romanian history. The pub is next to Piata Valter Maracineanu (a Romanian soldier hero who fought in the Romanian War of Independence – 1877), the entrance to the Cismigiu Gardens from the Royal Palace. Cismigiu Gardens is the largest park in Bucharest’s central area and was built in 1847, at the time when Bucharest was the capital of Wallachia. The name of the Gardens, Cismigiu comes from the Turkish word “cismigiu”, which is the title of the person responsible for building and maintaining public fountains. Austrian land architects Carl F.W. Meyer and Friedrich Rebhuhn contributed to its development and re-development in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
The pub that bears the name of the famous Irish novelist and poet certainly draws plenty English speakers, but it is more common to see them enjoying a beer and watching sports events, especially football and rugby, than reading Ulysses. The way of watching, the comments and the behavior of the pub’s clientele is often very different to the Romanian way of doing things.
An English language pub quiz is held at the pub. Pub quizzes have become quite popular in Bucharest, at least among the ex-pat community. It’s good to hear questions about Romania in the quiz, for me it shows an interest in and respect for my native country.
This pub also organizes special food themed evenings, such as curry night, fish and chips and Sunday roast evenings. The food is good and the atmosphere and music are excellent. They also organize parties with very diverse topics, from the 80s music to pajama parties, which gather many English language speakers, not only British.
On June 16, they will host the Bloomsday festival, organized by the Irish Embassy in Bucharest. The day is dedicated to Leopold Bloom, the main hero from James Joyce’s novel “Ulysses”. Famous actor and National Theater manager Ion Caramitru will read from the book.
When I have time to go to the James Joyce’s pub, I’m delighted to remember going to a quiz night in Glasgow or enjoying a great curry in London. Until I visit those wonderful places again, I at least have the James Joyce pub in the heart of my home town.