Bucharest part 2: an evening in the Old Town

The capital of Romania might not be the most beautiful in general – it’s nice, yet outside the center it has tons of the things that would remind you of the “past times” when Romania was under communist rulling and obviously – the life was much different than now. But the Old Town is really a great part of this 2-million-people city!

But let’s start from the beginning – I visited Bucharest around 3,5 years ago, so some things could have changed since then. I remember quite a lot of great things from the city, starting with gazillions of trolleybus’ wires above the streets, and finishing with Bucharest’s own Arc de Triomphe (which is called in Romanian: Arcul de Triumf). It’s not a surprise that many call Bucharest “A little Paris” or “Paris of the East” :)

When I arrived, I was surprised with a size of the airport – it was quite big, it took good few minutes to get from arrivals to departures hall (where the hotel transfer car waited for me). And while we are with the hotels: I decided to spend the first night in Hotel Charter in Otopeni where the airport is located, as I arrived very late at night. It’s a very nice place, I can recommend it for a night or two. The next day I moved to X Hostel which is a hostel mixed with a basic hotel. I had a hotel room and it was very nice and cheap (I paid less than 56 euros for 2 nights). Even though it is also a hostel – it is relatively quiet and I liked it a lot!

The walk on the Old Town

Enough with the hotels. The same evening when we visited Caru’ cu bere (if you haven’t seen my pictures from there, click here), we also had a chance to take a walk with my Romanian friends on the Old Town. I think that it is really special at night as the city takes enough care for good lighting of the building. In the below pictures you can see Banca Naţională a României – The Central Bank of Romania.

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I am also usually paying a good attention to details, like the the way they put street or building names on the wall. The one on The Central Bank was made really nicely.

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The nice thing that I really like about Bucharest (and Romania in general) is that all the “Historic Monuments” (Monument Istoric in Romanian) are clearly marked. You can read not only about their history, but also about the authors. Information is available in Romanian, English and French. The last one is not a surprise as Romanian and French are in the same language group and I heard that many Romanians can speak French quite well.

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Now let’s see something a bit more “scary”. Ok, maybe scary is not the right word, but this building dates back to the 1980s. As you might know, that day Romania was under the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu who decided to rebuilt the city of Bucharest after the horrible eartquake of 1977. The city of Bucharest was heavily destroyed and thousand of people were killed during the earthquake. Ceaușescu wanted to make a reconstruction and create a city looking like Pyongyang in North Korea. The Palatul Parlamentului (Palace of Parliament) is now a place where you can find the Senate of Romania, a lot of institutions and various museums.

This building is a second largest administrative building in the world (behind The Pentagon in the US). Catching it on camera was just impossible – I would have to be like 200 metres away to be able to do so. I heard the story that it is not only very tall, but is also has 12 basement floors, not sure how true is that.

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Another very impressive building is the place where CEC Bank has its headquaters. This bank is a state-owned Romanian bank and I suppose that is why they are based in such a prestigious building and location.

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On the other hand… oh well. This statue is something that Bucharest might not be so proud of. The statue of Trajan and she-wolf is located in the footsteps of the National Museum of Romanian History. I know the Bucharest citizens are not really happy with it (even the director of the Museum of Romanian History said it has a “doubtful artistic quality”). My friends were quite straighforward and they just said it is “ugly”. There were also some positive voices on that statue, but it was rather a minority. Anyway, judge yourself.

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Now, after you probably could not believe your eyes for a few moments, time for something very, very nice. Bucharest’s city center is very diverse – there are also places where you can feel like in some slightly different world. One of these is here:

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This is just a restaurant located in the back side of one of the buildings. My friends decided to show me that places due to quite unique and pleasant architecture. I absolutely love the balconies and I think it looks a bit like a tiny castle.

I also loved the way the tiny buildings (probably some tiny power control building or something like that) were decorated. I would never think it is a building used for the utilities control, as it was done just the way to put your eyes somewhere else :)

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In the Old Town you can also find some small cafes and restaurants. This “Egyptian cafe” is known for having a very good shisha (also known as nargile). At least this is what my friends told me and I have no right not to believe them.

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Last, but not least. If you are interested in sports, and in particular – in sports gymnastics, you probably heard about Nadia Comăneci who was one of the most successful Romanian athletes in this sport ever. After finishing a career, Comăneci used her fame to create several charities. One of them is a Clinic for children where the help is provided for free or at a low cost. I absolutely admire that!

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Why Bucharest is interesting?

First of all, Bucharest is a great place to visit. It takes time to see everything and Old Town is big and impressive. I have to say that I did not see all, I saw quite a lot though, but if I come back sooner or later, there would be much more to see!

A few things that might be quite useful:

  • When you are taking the taxi, make sure that the taximeter is on. Sometimes it is off and you might end up paying more than expected. I paid 50 lei from the Airport to the Center once and it turned out to be a bit too much, as back then it should not cost more than 35.
  • Do not make pictures to flute players on the Old Town. They might be a bit aggressive after that (yeah, we were forced to delete the picture).
  • The stray dogs used to be a big issue, but should not be a problem anymore. I know there were lots of them and there were some histories of being bitten by them, but I have not seen any.

Apart from that – all standard precautions should be enough :)

Have a great week ahead!

Adam

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