Uncovering Iasi – and becoming an amazing tour guide for your guests

As we walk into our third year of organizing this small in-house event called Community Talks, we’re happy to get to know more interesting stories, and more exceptional people from outside RomSoft.

As stated in our event description, every one of our guests plays the role of the guide. The guide helps the hero of the story navigate through difficult challenges, develop new skills, and adapt to a changing world.

And if there’s anyone in the city of Iasi who can act naturally in this role, that is our guest from last week, Mihai Bulai. ​

Mihai Bulai Community Talks RomSoft Photo 01

​About our guest: a traveler, a guide, and a researcher

Mihai is passionate about tourism. He travelled to a lot of places, from Europe to the US, from far-away places in Asia, like Uzbekistan and Japan, to the remote Australia. Most of these travels were possible, as he acknowledges, through various student exchange programs like Erasmus, that he is strongly advocating to this day, from his position as lecturer and Vice-Dean at the Faculty of Geography and Geology of the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University in Iasi.

Back to Iasi, he puts a lot of energy and passion in every project he’s involved, tirelessly identifying problems, and building tools where they don’t exist, pitching in where help is needed, or simply offering a word of praise, a recommendation, where he sees others accomplishing good things.

Mihai is co-founder and a longtime volunteer in the Iasi.Travel project. Some years ago, he was involved in defining the tourism strategy of Iasi, within the Destination Iasi project. Among other results, he co-authored an Urban Exploration Manual, which includes 7 Thematic Tourist Routes, accessible on the Iasi.Travel website as well.

Last, but not least, you will find his name linked to any important debate about urban planning, sustainable development of the city, or promoting the city brand.

Community Talks RomSoft - Uncovering Iasi with Mihai Bulai

​Key takeaways

If you want to become a better tour guide to your friends and family, here are some key steps, straight from our city’s most favorite guide:

  • When it comes to a place, a building, or another tourist attraction, start with a unique selling proposition, for example: The “Gheorghe Asachi” Library of the Technical University in Iasi was voted the most beautiful library in the world, competing with the likes of Trinity College Dublin, or the National Library in Prague.
  • After you have stirred some positive interest, you can back up this claim by offering more data about architecture, visual elements, or historical facts you think important. This part should be maintained at about 20% of the presentation, always keeping in check the body language of your guests to see if they are further interested or bored.
  • Functionality: does it function as an actual library? Can it be visited? What are the hours? How can you book a guided visit, if possible, in English if the visitor is from another country?
  • At the end you can offer a personal story that is linked to the place you are presenting. A funny thing that happened to you, maybe when you tried to study in this library, during wintertime, back in your student days, and found out that you needed to bring your fan heater with you, as the place didn’t have central heating.

In a more general sense, you can

  • Come prepared. Try to read in advance some details about the places you’ll be visiting.
  • Make all the bookings and preparations ahead, inquire about visitation hours, the possibility to have a guide, and so on.
  • Do not force too many attractions in one tour. Start small and expand from there in future visits. You can start with the attractions that can be visited along the pedestrian part of Stefan Cel Mare boulevard. Another time you could plan a tour in the other direction, Lapusneanu Street, Unirii Square, or Copou boulevard. A third time you could plan a longer trip in the surroundings of Iasi. Galata, Frumoasa, Cetatuia.
  • Take every opportunity, in your trip, to make a stop to taste something local, even if it’s just a bagel, or some sweets.
  • Make room for experiences on your tour: A coffee shop where the barista engages in telling funny stories, a bar where there’s also a concert, or a monastery where you can taste their signature wine. A good rule of thumb is to include some places and experiences that cater to all senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.
  • Participate in one (or more) guided tours organized by the Iasi.Travel organization, to learn from professionals. There’s a free walking tour every Saturday morning at 10:00 that starts in the Unirii Square and ends at the Palace of Culture, all year round. And in the summertime, from the summer to the winter Solstice (April to October), every Tuesday evening, from 6 to 8, there’s a free “business tour”, on the same route. Both tours are in English.
  • A free, beginner level tool you can use in your exploration sessions is the 7 Thematic Tourist Routes, created in collaboration with another one of our Community Talks guests, architect Tiberiu Teodor Stanciu.
  • To enjoy the city with fresh eyes every time, try visiting as many local places and having as many experiences as possible. Being a host takes practice, so invite people over as often as you can.

That is only part of the wisdom we managed to squeeze out of our guest in the short time we had for our conversation. With gratitude and excitement, we’re already scheduling the visits of our first tour guiding victims.

​What is Community Talks

After (almost) three years of remote work, we feel the need to, once in a while, get together and learn about inspiring stories from our line of work or from our community that are relevant to us.

With this idea in mind, we created a program called Community Talks. It is part of our larger discussion about tech storytelling and how to have better conversations in our everyday work.

Once a month, we want to invite somebody from outside RomSoft to share with us an inspiring story, or just to have an interesting discussion, be it in the technical area or anything else that we have a shared interest in.

As stated in the beginning of this article, our guests will play the role of the Guide to any good story, helping us navigate through difficult challenges, acquire new skills, and understand where the opportunities lie in this rapidly changing world.


Community Talks No. 16 - Uncovering Iasi, with Mihai Bulai