Bucharest is the capital of Romania and was the first city that we visited during our trip to Romania before heading to Brasov. We were there in winter and the streets were covered with snow, but we still found it interesting. Bucharest became the capital of Romania in 1862 and was, at one time, considered to be “little Paris” because of its architecture and culture, but due to the wars, much of the architecture was destroyed. Although many of buildings have been restored, the city has evolved over time.
Like most historic cities, walking the streets of the old town area is certainly a worthwhile experience. You will find many restaurants, some old churches and buildings, as well as some modern shops and adult stores. Although there is a definite mix of utilitarian buildings as well as historic buildings, we definitely saw several very interesting buildings. It is certainly worth visiting the Galeria de Arta Romaneasca and the Central de la Universidad de Bucharest, with its statue of Carol I on horseback, has wonderful architectural features. The area is also known as Revolution Square and there is an interesting obelisk that is a monument for the anti-communist revolution of 1989.
There are several old churches that you can visit as well that are very interesting. One of the most interesting is the Church of Stavropoleos Monastery in old town Bucharest. With interesting murals inside on the walls and ceilings, its architecture is done in the Byzantine tradition. It is certainly quite a contrast to the buildings that surround it. We went to a couple of restaurants and found the people to be very friendly, but be sure to always have small change with you as the waiters are likely to tell you that they don’t have change in hopes of getting you to pay more than the actual price. We were fortunate enough to have musicians playing local, folk music at one of the restaurants that we visited.
In general, we found Bucharest to be a city of contrasts. It was our first experience in an Eastern European country and it was very fascinating. Bucharest is the sixth larges city in the European Union with almost 2.5 million residents, so it can certainly be busy. After leaving Bucharest, we went to Transylvania and the city of Brasov, which was quite different than the capital city and something that we would highly recommend. We will be visiting the neighboring country of Hungary and the city of Budapest in a couple of months and are anxious to compare our different experiences.
In just about every city in Europe it seems that you will find a palace, cathedral, and a castle. Obviously, these fortifications were an important defense system for the local citizens and for the country as a whole. Although many of them are in various states of disrepair, a majority of them have been restored to their original grandeur. Regardless of their condition, travelers flock to these grand locations and some of them have even been converted into hotels. A few of them have that fairytale feel that create images of princesses meeting their prince charming, but conditions were likely not nearly as nice as the romantic images of films and books.
Although we certainly have many more castles to visit, we have enjoyed seeing the ones that we have. Just like choosing a favorite location isn’t really possible, we aren’t able to pick our favorite castle. Could it be the first castle we ever visited, Warwick Castle in England, or could it be Bran Castle in Romania with its ties to Dracula? Perhaps Heidelberg Castle in Germany would be our favorite with its idyllic scenery? The Alhambra Palace and Fortress is also something special to see with its Islamic architecture. Whether you have a favorite castle or not, it is likely that you have seen many of them during your travels. Maybe our favorite will be the next one that we discover on a future trip.
There are times, when you travel to certain locations, when you realize how lucky you really are. Sure, on some trips you go to places with palaces and temples of gold that can make you dream of a pampered life. Like most people, we feel that we work hard and can often feel stressed and overwhelmed. Then, we go to a part of the world that doesn’t have all of the modern conveniences and see people truly toiling to make a living for themselves and their families. Seeing those people who work so hard and make so little for their efforts remind us that we are truly lucky. We do work long hours, often getting up before the sun comes up and working late in the day, but we aren’t going to fool ourselves into believing that work is as hard as some of the people we have seen in struggling countries. To do the kind of physical labor that they do with antiquated equipment in weather conditions that would drive most of us indoors is truly impressive. So, the next time that we complain about how tired we are or what a difficult day we’ve had, we will remind ourselves that if it weren’t for the luck of where we were born, we might be enduring difficult conditions just to eek out an existence for ourselves.