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Cruising Spots


Alley in Cișmigiu Park where gay cruising was prominent

Because private places were largely a luxury, gay men did not have anywhere meet partners under the Communist regime, and so they frequented some public places in the center of the Bucharest. Some were public restroom.

The dangers of such 'promiscuity' included vice squads that would patrol these cruising spaces to arrest homosexuals and prostitutes. They often showed up dressed in civilian clothes, trying to entrap gay people alone or with the help of mobs of teenagers ready to assault gay men. 


The "Polish Gay Guide on the European Socialist Countries" was written in the late 1970s and early 1980s by Ryszard Kisiel, the founder and publisher of one of the first queer zines in Central-Eastern Europe, Filo, published in Poland. In his guide, he recorded various the queer culture and lifestyle of the region, from which the pictures in this section are from. 

What cruising spots meant
Although men’s same-sex relations often left them feeling desperate at the situation they were living, they found an escape in the multiple cruising spaces in Bucharest, which in comparison to the former-USSR, did not have a name for them. Having few places to socialize made it awfully hard to build a collective identity and community, or stable romantic relationships. Sexual relations between gay men often took place in parks, movie theatres, and public restrooms where the spark ignited, the need was met, and each continued with their own lives once they left the premises. Gara de Nord (train station in Bucharest), movie theatre Feroviar, and the public restroom Grivița were notorious meeting spots for gay men.

Cișmigiu Park

Cruising in Cișmigiu
In an interview with the Museum of Communism in Romania, Păun narrates how certain benches in Cișmigiu indicated that one had gone fishing’” and was waiting for suitors to claim their due. Wearing a red tie, for example, indicated the same as did various mannerisms that the regulars recognized as a sign that it was safe to engage in conversation to reach the “essential question: are we putting it? Who’s receiving gifts and who’s giving them? And that was all.” Equally so, saying certain phrases such as asking for a “țigaretta” instead of a “țigara” (cigarette) were also a signal for gay men to recognize one another.
Kisiel remarks that one of the pick-up techniques he observed was a group of men getting together in a tight group to analyze the scores of football matches. While discussing about everything that didn't have to do with being gay, they would fondle over each other's crotches and pair up to go off in nearby bushes under the protection of the shadows.


Gara de Nord Train Station

Cruising at Gara de Nord
The surrounding of the Gara de Nord [train station in Bucharest], where one could go further go the former movie theatre Feroviar and the public bath Grivita, but also some public toilets. The train station, a transit space, was an epicentre of people of all ranks, from peasants who came to the city to intellectuals and artists, searching for a sex partner was less risky that bringing a perfect stranger to one’s place as that person could turn out to be a militiamen undercover.
The famous Spartacus Gay Guide pointed to the public restroom in Gara de Nord as a location to be avoided for cruising due to the frequent militia raids. Gay men who frequented cruising spots faced the threat of the Morality Police (Miliția de Moravuri), under Communism, and later just the militia, that went undercover in places known to be frequented by gay men and arrested those who made a pass at them.


Grivița public bath

Cruising at Grivița Public Bath
In a public bath gay men could meet men without nudity being used as evidence against them under Art. 200 P.C. Thick steams hid intimate touching, and the brave ones could find solace in the last shower cubicles. Despite some ability to cover same-sex relations, danger remained here as in other cruising spots; oftentimes, a day in Grivița ended with someone threatening to call the police. Public baths were appreciated for their eclecticism, bringing together people from all classes (peasants, proletarians and intellectuals). Florin Buhuceanu, former director of Accept and activist, has referred to the baths that "they were truly democratic from the homoerotic point of view." Encounters in the public baths frequently ended up in movie theaters as it provided the necessary cover and greater intimacy.


Timpuri Noi Movie Theatre

Cruising at Timpuri Noi
Besides the public restrooms, movie theatres were another meeting place, especially Timpuri Noi, where the movies ran non-stop from seven in the morning to midnight and so one could buy a ticket for a minimal price and stay all day. There was never the lights on, and so gay men took advantage of the dark room to carve a safe space for themselves and their one-time partners. The films were not erotic or pornographic, it was a regular movie theatre where gay men could fondle over each other and find a moment of solace.
In a collection of Romanian queer love stories Un spatiu doar al nostru, edited by Luca Istodor (2020), we find many accounts of gay cruising in the last decades of communist Romania and in the nineties. In this work, Adi P. notes that "Timpuri Noi which was non stop. You gave 2.5 lei and you could stay all day. The films screened one after the other. At the balconies, there was grinding."

Cruising Spots