Saturday, May 10, 2008


I only spent a little under two days in Bucharest, but I think that was about enough time there for me. It was certainly a major change from village life.

Hotel Carpati
My Hotel Room 1 I stayed at the Hotel Carpati, which is conveniently in the middle of Bucharest. The first interesting feature of the hotel that I encountered was the elevator. You have to pull open a door from the hallway and then push open the door in the elevator itself before you can squeeze into the small space, which can be tricky if you have a couple bags (especially since the doors swing inwards, rather than sliding sideways). Once you've managed to get the door closed you get taken to your floor, but then you have to guess which of the two identical doors you're supposed to go out of. If you open one, you see a bare concrete wall. If you open the other, you see what looks like a bare concrete wall, but it has a place to push on it, after which you realize it's actually the door to the hallway.

The other curious feature was the arrangement of the bathroom facilities. Apparently there was no room large enough to fit all the usual components of a bathroom, so things were spread across three different rooms. My bedroom contained a sink and a mirror. Going down one hall and around a corner leads to the gents' toilet. Going down the other hall in the other direction leads to the shower. There was no overlap in functionality between any of these rooms. Additionally, the shower room had a small square shower (no tub) with a hand-held shower head and no shower curtain. That meant you had to be very careful with your aim, since your clothes and towel are hanging very much within range.

Palatul Parlamentului
IMG_2166.JPG On my first (partial) day in the city I mostly just strolled around getting oriented, then went downBulevardul Unirii to see the second largest building in the world. Ceauşescu had entire neighborhoods bulldozed to create this, destroying thousands of homes and historical buildings (he had them classified as "slums" or something like that, to get away with it). It's so big that if you go to the wrong entrance at first (like I did) you have a considerable walk to get around the building to the right place.

Once inside, you can pay a bit too much for a ticket, considerably more for photographing privileges (though they don't enforce that, so you can get away without it), then wait for a long time while they confuse you about how to get in the English or Romanian tour groups. You don't end up getting a tour of the whole thing, of course, but you get to see about a dozen rooms so you get a good sense of it. If you like vast expanses of marble and enormous chandeliers, this is the place for you. Otherwise, most of it looks kinda the same after the first couple rooms.

Arcul de Triumf The Bulevardul Unirii, leading away from the palace, is modeled on the Champs Elysees, though deliberately made a few meters wider and longer. Still trying to out-do the French, Ceauşescu also built Bucharest's own Arcul de Triumf, though it appeared to be getting defeated by scaffolding when I saw it.

IMG_2258.JPG I made it through several museums on my one full day there. I think my favorite was the GeorgeEnescu music museum, in a smaller, converted palace. Enescu is Romania's main famous classical musician/composer, and I hadn't ever heard of him but I'm interested in tracking down and listening to more of his music now. Most of the museum was various historical/biographical artifacts from his life. The video they show was quite good and informative, too, with lots of famous musicians and conductors talking aboutEnescu and his compositions.

IMG_2321.JPG The other best museum, in my opinion, was the Village Museum inHerăstrău Park. It contains actual cottages, churches, and other buildings collected from villages around Romania. They're all assembled into their own motley little village, and a lot are even set up inside so you can see what the interiors would have looked like as well. Very nicely done, I thought.

Natural History Museum The Museum of the Romanian Peasant is another famous one, but after the Village Museum I mostly just skimmed through here. The Natural History Museum has a ton of specimens, but not all terribly good quality, and with very little actual information to go along with them (even less in English). They do have several dinosaur skeletons from Argentina in a temporary exhibit right now, though, and dinosaurs are always fun. I didn't get to go to the art museum, as it was closed the days I was there.

Herăstrău Park In contrast to the rest of the city, the parks in Bucharest in May are beautifully lush and green. The ones I went to all had numerous playgrounds, lakes with boats to rent, plenty of nice walking paths and benches, flower gardens, various statues and memorials, and snogging couples of all ages. All the right things parks should have. My hotel was quite near Parcul Cişmigiu, so that was a nice place to relax after a day of tromping around the city. I also spent a while at the much larger Parcul Herăstrău in the north part of the city. It contained a garden full of sculptures of almost identical giant heads, but also a lot more interesting sculptures, too.

1 comment:

Anil P said...

Enjoyed reading your travels.