The collective bass from dozens of nightclubs reverberated through the
winding streets of Lipscani, Bucharest’s old- town district, while higher
notes and burlesque dancers competed for the attention of the tightly
packed crowd milling past. Located a ten- minute walk away from the black
market, the newly gentrified Lipscani development suggested in 2014 that
another kind of life entirely had finally arrived in Bucharest. The historic
neighborhood’s corridors were clogged with revelers. Half- clad women
stood on tabletops and inside empty window frames. They shouted shot
prices and, with puckered lips, forced eye contact with passersby in an ef-
fort to lure people into dance clubs bearing names like Bordello, Banker’s
Bar, and Sin City. Just beyond their doorways, strobe-lit dance floors flick-
ered, showcasing an undulating mix of expats and tourists but also Roma-
nian professionals and aspirational college students.
The effervescent affluence of this newly developed nightlife district
stood in sharp contrast to Lipscani’s decades of neglect. The historically
stately neighborhood had been, in the time before communism, the home
of artisans and craftspeople. Its baroque architecture, cobbled streets, and
winding roads had contributed to Bucharest’s once- proud reputation as an
epicenter of art and culture. Its bourgeois aesthetic, however, had placed
the neighborhood out of favor during communism. Following the earth-
quake of 1977, communist-era planners and bureaucrats neglected Lip-
scani entirely. Rather than repairing shaken walls and damaged roofs, the
neighborhood’s residents and businesses relocated into new construction
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