We woke up hearing the rain falling ... The sky is cloudy, but our morale was high so we decided to take a walk in the city, even under these conditions. Nevertheless, after we started our walk the rain stopped ... the weather, once again, was on our side!
Bucuresti is a great city for me. The 6-year staying there as a student, makes me feel so familiar. After starting wandering to the streets, memories came to my mind, and sometimes, I confuse the present with the past...
At the previous visit to the city in 2007, we visited the main attractions. Because our goal was the site of Maramures and Herculane, our stay in Bucuresti was the opportunity to visit some key points, but also to meet some friends.
According to the legend, Bucuresti got its name from a shepherd named Bucur (in Romanian means "joy") and founded the city by the river Dimbovita. At the early last century, Bucuresti was one of the most elegant cities in southeastern Europe. It was called "little Paris", because the style that famed the city, from the architecture of the houses to the culture of its inhabitants were utterly French. The mansions in Parisian style decorated the boulevards and the upper-class neighborhoods, many of which exist today.
We approached the Central Square Unirii (Piata Unirii) where there is a close market with fruit and vegetables and a massive department store (Unirea). We moved to the main street blvd. Basescu, reaching the historic square Universitatii, where the universities of Chemistry, Geology, Physics, etc exist. Most buildings around the square have a classic style, giving a unique grace. Nearby are the National Theatre and the oldest hospital in the country, hospital Coltea.
Driving on the road Kongalniceanu, we passed in front of the impressive buildings of the Officers' Club, the Prefecture of the Hall of Law, the Opera till we arrived at the Medical School. We made a stop to visit it. I told several stories to George, but I cannot realize how I remembered them ... We continued passing by the Cotroceni (where the prime minister lives), the Academia Militara (Military Academy) with an impressive statue and the district Panduri, my old neighborhood. Memories were "popping out” through the depths of my mind...
We then headed to the "Palace of the People» (Casa Poporului). This is the hallmark of the city. With an area of up to 330,000 m is currently the second largest government building in the world after the U.S. Pentagon.
A typical example of the megalomania of Ceausescu, it was built in the 1980's to house the central committee of the party, the presidential office and the ministries. 20,000 workers and 700 architects worked to raise 12 floors accommodating 1,100 rooms. In the four basements that housed the secret services of the party, there is a rumor that exists a nuclear shelter.
Precious marble and gold leaf decorate the interior and 4,500 chandeliers; with the largest weighing 1.5 tons illuminate the rooms. After the fall of Ceausescu and the overthrow of the regime the new Romanian government struggled to decide the new use of this monstrous edifice, which many people tend to call it «Casa Nebunului», ie the "House of madness". Eventually it was decided to house the Senate and the House, and several rooms used for international conferences.
We made a few minutes stop to the central square in front of the building, which is the beginning of the Unirii Avenue that is a few meters longer from the "Champs Elysees" in Paris. Quite impressive!
We returned to the center and especially near the central Revolution Square (Piata Revolutiei), to relax and enjoy our coffee to one of the cafe that exist there. With the time approaching 3pm. we decided to go for lunch at an Arab restaurant Ali Baba, which was one of our first preferences in our student years. When we arrived we saw with surprise that many had changed dramatically-positive, however the kitchen was like before...
In the afternoon, before returning to the hostel, we decided to visit the historic city center. The heart of the city, once given over to the abandonment of the historic district Lipscani, has changed too, which pushes the hill and house prices in the region. Hotels, shops, stylishly cafe, restaurants, all find their place here next to the remaining old mansions. The wandering at the cobblestone streets was really enjoyable!
On this occasion we visited the famous church Stavropoleos, dedicated to the archangels Michael - Gabriel founded in 1724, the days of Nicholas Mavrocordato ruler of Moldovlachia from the mainland Ioannikios Stratoniki, monk and Archimandrite from the province of Pogoniani, as we were informed from the wall plate with Greek inscription on the lintel of the main entrance. In the courtyard you can find marble crosses and tombstones written in Greek letters and texts!
We roamed on foot for some time ... many things had changed in Bucuresti, hopefully for the better...