Romania was the only EU country I had not visited. Therefore as I found myself close, I simply had to make a stop there. Thus from I took a plane from Istanbul to Bucharest – a very short flight. Now my score for EU member states is 28 for 28. I decided to spend three days in Bucharest – arriving on a Thursday and leaving on a Sunday.
Easily the most important – dominant – structure in Bucharest is the Palace of the Parliament. Formerly known as the Palace of the People, it is the monstrous child of Ceaușescu’s imagination that required razing half of the centre of Bucharest to clear space for it. The view from the East – the closest it comes to a façade. I have got a photo with people and cars in front of it, but this photo – underlining its aloofness – seems more fitting.
The Palace is the heaviest building in the world, as well as the second largest after Pentagon. Ceaușescu conceived it as a unitary seat of power, the residence of all branches of his communist government. The Palace was built over many years, consuming the resources of what was (and still is) a very poor country, but he never moved in – the revolution intervened. The area that had to be cleared is the size of Venice, and farewell was bid to the old Bucharest, the Paris of the East. Looking at this bizarre building, you cannot help remembering the Egyptian pyramids or the otherworldly Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, also never to be finished.
The view from the main balcony of the Palace to the main avenue that juts off to the East. From here Ceaușescu was meant to salute the passing military parades. The blocks of flats to each side were meant for the workers of the Palace.
The fences surrounding the Palace. It takes up an incredibly large territory. To get to any entrance you have to walk for a good part of an hour – unless you have an administrative car. Obviously the totalitarian regimes have no regard for individual effort.
One of the entrances – from the South – this one leads to the Constitutional Court. The Palace today houses both chambers of the Parliament as well as the Contemporary Art Museum. The President and the Government have other residences – the Palace is considered impractical for them.
The view from the South-East. I am walking on the designated path to the Contemporary Art Museum, in the Western part of the Palace.
The overview of Bucharest from the rooftop of the Museum.
Looking back at the Palace.
The Romanian Orthodox cathedral. Built in 1654, somehow it managed to survive both the Turkish and the Ceaușescu years. Apparently a new Catherdral is being erected currently – a monstrosity comparable to the Palace – and this causes some controversy.
A courtyard facing the Cathedral. To the other side behind a fence the Patriarch’s palace could be seen, which frankly dwarfed the Cathedral and the surrounding buildings.
Inside the Cathedral. The Romanian church is of Orthodox rite, and the iconostasis is quite reminiscent of the Eastern Orthodox churches.
The dome of the Cathedral.
The very place where Ceaușescu gave his last discourse – or rather attempted to give it, which came to be a fateful moment for him. The gathered crowd simply refused to listen and shouted and roared. He had to flee in a helicopter from the roof of the building. This public weakness spelt his doom. Just two days later he was arrested and executed.
A rather atmospheric flea market in a (former?) library building on Strada Academiei. O tempora o mores!
A tiny Stavropoleos church in the very heart of the Old Quarter. The Quarter generally leaves a very bizarre impression. It most reminded me of Singaghi, a restored town in Eastern Georgia that stood rather empty when I visited. Here was the same feeling of a fake place, which perhaps took some investment, but did not quite approach any semblance of authenticity, and consequently invokes no emotions.
The courtyard of the same church – one of a few place that seem to have an atmosphere in the centre.
One more pleasant place – the restaurant Caru’ cu bere. I was enchanted by the choice of the forest mushrooms-based dishes.
A pork steak with forest mushrooms – that’s it!