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Posts Tagged ‘bucharest’

Farewell Bucharest

Sep 26, 2014: My last day in Bucharest it rained. Clearly a museum day, but unfortunately, one of the ones I wanted to see, the National Village Museum, was outdoors. I would visit a similar museum later, outside Sibiu, but there would be no substitute for a walk down Soseaua Kiseleff, the northern extension of Calea Victoriei, out to Herastrau Park.

Instead, I started the day at the Museum of the Romanian Peasant (seems a somewhat politically incorrect name, but I didn’t choose it). This museum was a bit of surprise, as it concentrated very heavily on religion, as if nothing else in people’s lives was of interest. The curator saw crosses in everything, including embroidery where I couldn’t see them myself. However, a huge room of not very good icons was balanced by a complete cottage, and a collection of costumes. The museum had been kicked out of the building under Communism and there was a display in the gloomy basement devoted to that gloomy period.

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My afternoon museum was the National History Museum, fronted by a recent and quite bizarre statue of a naked Emperor Trajan, looking stoic, holding a dog (Dacian wolf, I gather, but it looked like a dog to me). Inside I found another good costume display, including a set of diplomatic uniforms, a form of dressing up I don’t think I had previously encountered. The display of a few crown jewels in the basement was way outclassed by beautiful gold artifacts, some prehistoric.

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The museum also contained a complete replica of Trajan’s column, broken into pieces so you could get a good look. Now, the column celebrates the victory of the Romans over the Dacians, who were the inhabitants of the area at the time, but rather than identifying with the Dacians, the Romanians seem to have sided with the Romans. In almost every town I visited, a copy of the Romulus and Remus statue was displayed on a tall column in the main square. Any discussion of language would include a reference to Latin roots.

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In between the museums I ate lunch, a good mushroom omelet, at the popular Van Gogh cafe in the old town. Thanks to the rain, instead of the usual crowds outside, I shared space inside with just a scattering of people – cigarette smokers, one and all. I also bought my train ticket out, checking the route to the station as well. Buying a metro ticket was easy – a woman in a booth sold them right by the entry turnstiles, two rides for 4 lei ($1.15 US). Navigating was easy – plenty of signs and a simple layout. Changing lines and getting from the metro into the station was not so easy. Bit of a trek, involving stairs, and the metro was very hot and very crowded. I booked the same car and driver who had collected me at the airport for my Saturday departure. Indulgence is a slippery slope – one ride led to another, to another. Of course, once I got out of Bucharest the taxis were very, very cheap.

At first I had thought to spend four nights in Bucharest, but almost every tourist sight in Romania closes on Monday, and the palaces I wanted to see in Sinaia closed on Tuesday as well. So I cut Bucharest to three nights, leaving on Saturday. I had enjoyed my time in Bucharest more than I expected. In some ways it reminded me of Budapest ten years ago: a work in progress, with possibilities. Although, of course, Budapest was much bigger with more possibilities. But Bucharest didn’t seem overrun with tourists, unlike Budapest these days, so I would consider visiting sooner rather than later. It didn’t make my “must revisit” list, but is on my “would revisit” one.

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Greeting Bucharest

Sep 25, 2014: Shortly before I left on this trip I been reminded of the “Greeter” or “Welcome” system, which I had used before in Japan and Argentina. The results had been a little mixed, but I had spent a wonderful evening with my Kyoto greeter (see: https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/moon-over-kyoto/ ) and had been pleased to be able to arrange for a greeter my first afternoon in Bucharest.

We met at my hotel, and I spent a delightful afternoon with the young woman volunteer (AC). A modern languages graduate, she spoke perfect English, and I was seriously impressed to learn that her other language was Dutch. She had just left her job to start a new venture as a tour guide, and we talked about travel as well as about life in Romania.

We visited the old, a nicely frescoed monastery, the newer, along Calea Victoriei, and the very new, in the form of an aggressively modern glass bank building reflecting its much older neighbor.

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I had voted absentee right before leaving on this trip, unhappy to discover that I had to chose between 19 unknowns for a seat on the NC Court of Appeals, and now I learned that Romania had an upcoming Presidential election with as many candidates. But at least that was only the first round. The slate included a strong woman candidate, who had been Justice Minister, but I was told, not only by AC, that a woman stood no chance. The run off was likely to be between the enterprising mayor of Sibiu, and the Socialist candidate, Socialist apparently being misused as a euphemism for ex-Communist.

She told me about apartment living in Bucharest, and about the traffic. We walked past the monument to the Revolution, now 25 years in the past. We finished a walk through the heart of Bucharest with coffee at one of AC’s favorite cafe-restaurants, and I had intended to go back there for dinner, but in the end felt that I had walked far enough for one day.

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Beginning Bucharest

Sep 23-25, 2014: Once upon a time, dear reader, flying across the Atlantic was fun. If you arrived short of sleep it was because you had been partying in the back of a half empty 747, not because it was impossible to get comfortable, never mind horizontal. Instead of mostly inedible, if not positively hazardous, food, you didn’t have to fly business class to eat well. Transfers at Heathrow did not require you stand for half an hour in a queue in order to redo the security check you endured before boarding the first plane. And so on.

So, correctly anticipating that the journey would be an ordeal, I booked a better than usual hotel (helped by a discount for booking from Tripadvisor and another for booking three nights), the K+K Elisabeta, not in the old town, but nearby and close to a metro stop. And even though I could have taken public transport in from Bucharest’s airport, I allowed myself to be tempted by the offer of airport pick up on the hotel’s website. Whether the 20 euro cost was extravagant or not is a matter of opinion, but when I emerged into the arrivals hall, towing my checked bag, the sight of a man with a sign with my name on it was very welcome indeed.

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Although I wasn’t thrilled by my room, a bit small and with no view, I approved of the shower and of breakfast, and headed off to explore in a good mood. I zig-zagged through the old town, which was not in the best of shape, towards the epitome of hubris, CeauČ™escu’s hulking Palace of Parliament. Said to be second in size only to the the US’s Pentagon, and only partially used, it loomed in undistinguished modernity at the end of a tree-lined boulevard. I rather liked the boulevard, which besides some welcome shade offered a sequence of mosaic-floored fountains, but was wryly amused to discover that it ended, at the foot of the folly, in a large parking lot.

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