Travelling to Bucharest, Romania
A popular legend in Romania has it that in olden days, a shepherd named Bucur (whose name translates to “Joy”) lived on the banks of the Dambovita River. He loved to play the flute for people and all loved the wine he produced. The surrounding area was supposedly named Bucharest in honor of him. Whether the tale is true or not, it is known that humans have been living at the site of the modern city since at least 500 BCE, and the first documentation of a city by the name of Bucharest dates to the middle of the 15th century. Bucharest, which is the largest city in the country of Romania in addition to being its capital, is today home to some 2.2 million people. It is a cosmopolitan and vibrant city which around the turn of the 20th century gained the nickname “Little Paris” for its architecture and lifestyle. The city is also known for its extensive collection of historical and heritage-filled buildings.
Nowadays, the city is full of interesting sights and experiences that delight plenty of visitors who travel there every year. Sightseeing is always a good option in this city due to its plenitude of impressive buildings and monuments. One favorite destination is the Calea Victoriei, or Victory Avenue, which was laid out in 1692, paved with oak beams, to connect the Mogosoaia Palace to the Old Princely Court. After the Romanian War of Independence, the street was given its current name in 1878. Some of the greatest sites in the city lie along this street. One is the Cantacuzino Palace, constructed in French style in 1900 to house Grigore Cantacuzino, the country’s then Prime Minister. Today, the palace houses a popular attraction, the George Enescu Museum. Nearby is Revolution Square, which gained notoriety during the televised overthrow of the Communist regime led by Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989. On the square are the Royal Palace, which houses the National Art Museum, the Romanian Athenaeum, the Athenee Palace Hotel and the Kretzulescu Church.
There are plenty of more ancient monuments in the city to see as well. The famed Lipscani District, once a classy residential area, is once again becoming an upscale area. Originially named for the numbers of German immigrants from Leiptzig, the area is a jumble of ancient, cobblestoned streets with buildings ranging in style from the art nouveau to baroque to neoclassical. In olden times, the area was home to guilds of craftspeople, and nowadays, there are still plenty of small storefronts in the area. It is also home to art galleries, sidewalk cafes and coffeehouses. Another ancient monument is the Old Princely Court and Church. This building was in the 1400s the home of the infamous Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad Dracula. The site is today in ruins, though visitors can see walls, tombstones and a column. The Old Court Museum houses exhibits of the artifacts found at the site, including the earliest documentation of the city’s name (spelled Bucuresti then), signed by Prince Tepes. The church next door dates from the 16th century, and was the coronation site of the city’s princes.
Bucharest is also known for the buildings that stand as a testament to the Communist legacy of Romania. Perhaps the most interesting of these is the building that is today the Parliament Palace. When it was constructed in the 1980s, the colossal building was called the People’s Palace, and held the Communist administration of Nicolae Ceausescu’s government. A guided tour of the huge building (second only to the Pentagon in terms of largest administrative buildings in the world) shows the halls, rooms and sleeping quarters used by the Senate. The other major reminder of the Communist past is the Civic Centre. Also constructed by Ceausescu, the Civic Centre is a sad reminder of the regime, as it was build on ground once covered in a section of the Old Historical Center of the city, which contained ancient religious buildings, ahospital and a sports stadium. The residents in the area were given only one day of notice before the entire section was leveled to build Stalinist apartment buildings.
As the capital of the country, Bucharest is a terrific place from which visitors can travel forth to the rest of the country. Several Medieval sites can be visited from the city by car, bus, or train. Included among these is the Bran Castle, which Bran Stoker immortalized as the stronghold of Dracula. Although there is in fact no such connection between the castle and the old ruler, the castle was in reality the stronghold of Saxons in the area, constructed in the late 14th century. Another castle is the Peles Castle, which is considered by many to be the most beautiful castle in Europe. It is a great example of German new-Renaissance architecture, with spires and gables aplenty. The Medieval town of Brasov is another destination not far from Bucharest. Set against the Southern Carpathian Mountains, Brasov is second only to Bucharest in terms of architectural and historical attractions. Another similar city is Targoviste, which is full of architecture to see. Nearby is the Poenari Fortress, which was Vlad Dracul’s castle in the Transylvania area.