Bucharest

Bucharest by CC user alexpanoiu on flickr

Introduction

Only being slightly more than twenty years removed from the lifting of the Iron Curtain, Bucharest is still a city in transition from its Communist past towards a future dictated by its citizens.

While there are many symbols of the period when the forces of totalitarianism dictated public policy, pockets of its medieval and pre-WWII past can still be found by those that are willing to find them.

With the future being an unwritten book, there is a sense of excitement and possibility of the streets of Romania‘s capital that you will no doubt feel during your visit here.

Stavropoleos Monastery by CC user fusion_of_horizons on Flickr

Cultural Experiences

While Bucharest is a city filled with notable churches and cathedrals, the most outstanding of them all is none other than Stavropoleos Monastery.

While it is filled with many decorative frescoes and sculptures that will keep fans of the visual arts transfixed, Stavropoleos Monastery is best known for its work in maintaining the ancient art of Byzantine music, as its choirs put on regular concerts that have put numerous audiences under its spell over the years.

If you wish to take a piece of this special performance home with you, there are CD’s of some of their finest hymns that are available for sale within the church complex.

Want to learn about the romantic aspects and realistic challenges of Romanian village life in previous centuries? Stopping by the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum will give you the best possible idea of rural living in the past without having to step outside Bucharest city limits.

Containing over 262 peasant farm houses, churches and other staple structures in village life, all of which have been lifted off their foundations from all across the country and reassembled over 10,000 square metres of Herăstrău Park, you will able to see how rural folk lived their lives in an era before internet, cellphones or television, complete with authentic antique furnishings.

Normally, government buildings are staid, boring affairs with little to interest most travelers, except for those intimately involved in politics. The Palace of the Parliament is an exception to this rule, as this monstrously sized neoclassical beauty is the world’s biggest governmental building that is accessible to civilians (the world’s largest government structure that has restricted access to civilians is the Pentagon in the Washington DC area).

A monument to political largess, only 30% of the 340,000 square metres is actively used by members of the Romanian government, leaving the other 70% empty.

Herastrau Park, Bucharest by CC user cod_gabriel on Flickr

Other Attractions

While the days of Communism saw much of Bucharest’s past destroyed in a massive spurt of modernist development, a small section of the inner city managed to escape the wrecking ball. Spending some time in Bucharest’s Old Town is a great way to begin or end your trip to Romania.

This corner of this city offers a very high concentration of restaurants, pubs and bars, all of which are housed in what little remains of this city’s pre-World War II building stock. The old classical designs of these buildings are a breath of fresh air compared to the brutalist architecture which can reign in many other parts of Bucharest, so don’t be shy to linger here for longer than you initially planned.

Summer is the best time of year to visit Bucharest, and there is no better place to make the most of a brilliant sunny day than at Herăstrău Park. Once you have finished checking out the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum, head down to the shores of Lake Herăstrău, a picturesque body of water from which this park derives its name. Join the locals out on the lake by renting a boat, or simply take a seat in one of several taverns located along the shore and take in the beauty of the day while tipping back a cheap pint.

Those seeking to learn more about the story of Romania’s landscape will want to check out the Grigore Antipa National Museum of Natural History. Located south of Herăstrău Park, this is one of the best places to take your kids on a day when Bucharest’s weather is being less than cooperative. With the highlight being a wooly mammoth skeleton, you and your children can learn about the flora, fauna and geology that makes Romania distinct from other parts of the European continent.

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