I was amazed when I walked under the rain in the old city of Bucharest, mid March 2011; workings everywhere. . .
The neo-classical and baroque buildings bordering the streets in Lipscani area look quite nice, and certainly they will be nice to look at when walking in the future pedestrian zone; in some places, the houses in different styles look a bit like an architectural mess, but the mess is a bit in the works, you do not know where it begins and ends (picture 2), and when you think it is finished, the works machines have to come back, but great care is taken of the new pavements (picture 3). It is a bit difficult to go around and if you want to reach this wonderful restaurant you red about in a guide or a friend told you about, you have to take unusual paths (picture 4). The perspectives of the streets and the views of the big buildings are somehow spoilt(picture 5), but we can hope that in a few months the historical centre of Bucharest will look like a jewel in a new jewel case. . . . hopefully.
Favorite thing: Carol Park (Romanian: parcul carol) is a public park in Bucharest, Romania, named after King Carol I of Romania. For the duration of the communist regime, it was called Liberty Park (Parcul Libertăţii). The park was designed by French landscape artist Édouard Redont in 1900 on Filaret Hill and inaugurated in 1906. The park had an initial surface area of 360,000m², with a 20,000m² lake in the middle. It is officially recognized as a historical monument and is therefore protected by law. Administration of the park is undertaken mostly by the Bucharest City Hall, whereas monuments are in the care of the Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs
You can't avoid them, most of the inhabitants of Bucharest still live in them - the grim, tenement blocks of the communist era. The blocks are huge, but Inside them the flats are small and uniform, generally measuring either 50 sq metres or 70 sq metres. The hot water supply and central heating systems in the blocks are centrally controlled and are not very reliable. Nowadays, the shortage of accommodation in the centre of Bucharest is so chronic that even a basic flat in a decaying tenement block can cost 600 euros per month to rent. According to a local newspaper the price of these flats has increased by an incredible 100% in the last 12 months.
Hopefully, one day they will all be pulled down and replaced by more attractive places to live, like the traditional rows of Romanian houses that you still find in the historic centre.
Bucharest's Centrul Istoric, or Historic Centre is the area around Strada Lipscani. It is the oldest part of the city and developed around the Princely Court from 1459 onwards. It is one of the most interesting parts of Bucharest to wander around, especially on a summer's evening, when the bohemian bars lining its cobbled streets come to life.
Although the streets date back to the fifteenth century, most of the buildings were rebuilt after the great fire of 1847. The most interesting streets today are Lipscani, Gabroveni, Smârdan and Stavropoleos.
The National Day of Romania is on December 1st, this is after the revolution in 1989. Before that it was August 23rd. On December 1st 1918 the three parts - Moldova, Transilvania si Tara Romaneasca - formed the united Romania. The signing of the unity was made in Alba Iulia.
Fondest memory: December 1st is national holiday so it's a non-working day. Many people go to the Arch of Triumph where the military parade is going under it, on the long 2km boulevard from Casa Presei to Piata Victoriei.
Check out the picture set, the blond smiling woman is Elena Udrea, a young (she's my age) politian in close relation with the current president of Romania. Next year (2008) we will have elections so it's an opportunity to increase popularity by taking pictures with people :)
Bucharest’s old town near Unrii square is currently partly under reconstruction. A fair few streets are open and look like archeological digs. You notice that this is a tourist hot spot as there are explanation signs of the sights.
I'm sure that it will be lovely once everything is in order again.
In the last years of the Ceausescus' reign, the southern section of Bucharest around Piata Unirii was designed to create the new civic centre.
You can find many big fountains in this square, which are an embellishment
Former servants and agriculture workers for the Romanian landowners, gypsies have been recognised civil rights in the 1920’s, to be soon afterwards persecuted by the Nazis in the 1940’s and to have their savings (materialised in small golden coins) confiscated by the communists in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Land expropriation meant gypsies had much less working opportunities in the countryside, so they flew to the cities. Nowadays, gypsies account for a fairly large proportion of Bucharest inhabitants. They usually live in the ill-famed suburbs in southern part of the city (Rahova, Ferentari) and North to Gara de Nord in Basarab – Crangasi neighbourhoods. The can also be found living in central areas, especially in the historic centre, where they moved once owners were forced to leave their homes in the 1950’s.
Fondest memory: Despite of prejudices, they are usually friendly and open. However, be aware that buying something on the streets when (insistently) offered a product or service usually leads to either being robbed or tricked.
Endless quarter of concrete blocks of flats, dozens of blocks built after the same plans all over the country.
Fondest memory: A reflection of the communist times, when once-farmers living in the countryside have been stimulated to move to large cities to help the “communist industrial development” of the country. From the point of view of the cities development, this meant that industrial parks were erected despite of pollution they caused, urban population increased rapidly to serve as workforce and replace the “old social order” and bourgeoisie-predominant population.
This is how entire dormitory quarters have appeared in the ‘60s and ‘70s, characterised by the 50sqm apartments built in matches-box like blocks. However, as time passed by, and following the earthquakes in 1977 and 1984, the construction standards and the rooms’ surface allowed to the working class living in these blocks have increased significantly (70sqm standard 2 rooms flat), while on the other hand, the dimensions of the blocks’ windows have continuously decreased, to make flats warmer during savings-driven heating shortages in winter time.
Favorite thing: The river crossing Bucharest is quite small, as per the standards of other European capitals. However, Dambovita was changed its path and debit during the construction works in ‘80s, so that now the river passes below the park & fountains in Unirii square, between 2 subway lines and above an underground road tunnel.
You’ll notice an abundance of advertisements all over the city buildings, as if installing huge posters became a local hobby. If you pay more attention, you’ll notice that brand new, glass-covered office buildings do not bear any advertisement, while some historical buildings are proudly showing laptops or underwear on their hundreds old facades.
Although I cannot recognise any merit in this, it seems advertisement helps paying the bill for the buildings inhabitants, while the authorities turn a blind eye thanking for the extra money they get on the expense of the city’s past.
Despite municipality’s efforts in the last few years, one can still find no-mans’ dogs in the streets, especially off-beaten streets and in the suburbs.
Explanations for their existence and number is varied – from lack of preoccupation from the part of the authorities in the lat ‘90s to the demolitions in the mid ‘80s which lead to many dog owners leaving their dogs on the streets when forced moving from houses (with courtyard) to small apartments in blocks of flats. The reality is as follows: while there still are no-man’s dogs on the streets, virtually every private courtyard has its own dog, barking from behind the fence when someone crosses by.
My advice on dogs in Bucharest is as follows:
- although a sudden load bark from behind a fence may be scary, “courtyard” dogs cannot jump over the fences. However, don’t provoke them,
- street dogs are usually indifferent to your crossing by within a few meters. Should they begin to bark, I use to stop walking immediately, look at them and talk to them by whispering – in this way, they get confused, as only people they are friendly with use to whisper to them.
Cultural events and festivals:
There are a number of cultural festivals in Bucharest throughout the year, in various domains, even though most festivals take place in the summer months of June, July and August. The National Opera organises the International Opera Festival every year in May and June, which includes ensembles and orchestras from all over the world. The Romanian Athaeneum Society hosts the George Enescu Classical Music Festival at various locations throughout the city in September every year. Additionally, the Museum of the Romanian Peasant and the Village Museum organise a number of events throughout the year showcasing Romanian folk arts and crafts.n 2005, Bucharest was the first city in Southeastern Europe to host the international CowParade, which resulted in dozens of decorated cow sculptures being placed at various points across the city.
Since 2005 Bucharest has its own contemporary art biennale, the Bucharest Biennale. The current (2006) issue (curated by Zsolt Pétranyi) will go on until the end of June, the next edition will be in 2008.
Bucharest is the most important centre of education in Romania, even though other cities such as Iaşi and Cluj-Napoca contain a number of prestigious educational institutions. The University of Bucharest is the city's largest and most well-known higher education institution, and, opening in 1694 as the Academy of Saint Sava, it is Romania's first university.
Other major universities in the capital include: the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, the Academy of Economic Studies, the Carol Davila Medical and Pharmaceutical University, the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, the Technical University of Construction, Bucharest, the Romanian-American University and the British Romanian University.
Fondest memory: Media:
Bucharest is the most important centre for the Romanian mass media, since it is the headquarters of all the national television networks as well as national newspapers and radio stations. The largest daily newspapers in Bucharest include Evenimentul Zilei, Jurnalul Naţional, Cotidianul, România Liberă, Adevărul, Gardianul and Gândul. During the rush hours, tabloid newspapers Libertatea and Ziarul are very popular for commuters.
A significant number of newspapers and media publications are based in Casa Presei Libere (The House of the Free Press) a landmark of northern Bucharest, originally named Casa Scânteii after the Communist-era official newspaper Scînteia.
English-language media became available in Bucharest in the 1990s, and has become increasingly prominent since 2000. There are two daily English-language newspapers, Bucharest Daily News and Nine O' Clock, as well as numerous other magazines.
Academia Caţavencu, the usual array of commercial magazines one would find in any European capital.
Bucharest is the host city of the fourth edition of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2006
Portrayal in film and fiction:
* The Romanian-language film Filantropica ("Philanthropy", 2002)  gives a satiric portrayal of the city and of many strata of its life.
* The English-language film The Wild Dogs (2002)  gives a more uniformly bleak portrait of the city.
* The English-dubbed film Entre chiens et loups (2002)  features various parts of the city, suburbs & nite-spots as a backdrop to a French action movie.
* Wesley Snipes starred in 7 Seconds (2005), an action flick filmed entirely on location in Bucharest.  The film features the city's varied architecture.
* Historic Communist Bucharest was depicted in Jack Chick's first comic book, "Operation Bucharest", first published in 1974. It is loosely based on a Baptist Ministry called "Couriers For Christ" based there.
Casa Scânteii (or Press House), is a large white building constructed in Stalinist style, housing many news agencies and publishing houses. In front of the building stood a statue of Lenin, dumped on the Mogosoaia estate in 1989.
The "Press House" was built in keeping with the will of the former communist power, which wanted to imitate as closely as possible the Big Eastern Neighbour. The destiny of the Bucharest Palace has witnessed the reverse condition: it has become the Free Press House, which houses the editorial offices of the most important Romanian publications
Favorite thing: Since the first decades of the 1800's, Calea Victoriei was the street that best signified the European ambitions of Bucharest. From the Senate Place up to Victoriei Square, swank hotels, luxurious shops and famed restaurants.
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