Friday, 17 September 2010
Charlie's Holiday - Entering Bucharest
I spent just two days in this city, but it was my first taste of Romania, and to be blunt - I was not disappointed! Bucharest, often confused with Budapest (with regards to nomenclature), but no longer by me anyhow. One of Europe's most chaotic capitals, it also has a charm that has not been revealed by the guidebooks. Unlike the Prague's or even Budapest's of the New EU, Bucharest has been largely ignored. Now it is not a beautiful city, but it is funky, and it has personality. Plus as a capital, there is a lot to do culturally. Bucharest packs a punch and offers a lot more than dainty cafes and silly bars. The people are great and if you can get your head round the brutal communist architecture, there are a lot of gems in this wonderful city...
First, let us dispense with the ugly. There is no doubt that communism screwed this city over. Brutalism is the order of the day and no matter how far development has come, some twenty years after the fall of the old Soviet backed regime, Bucharest is still scarred by the sight of communism.
The Casa Poporulu, built (partly) by forced labour in five years and completed in 1989, it remains one of Bucharest's biggest sights, but horrific in many ways. Today it is used as part of the civil administration of the country, and believe it or not it is the second largest building in the world, after the USA's Pentagon. It is a landmark, but a pretty horrific one. But brutality aside, and there is a lot to choose from in Bucharest -
- there is also the pretty, and my, Bucharest can be a very pretty city. Firstly, it is green, pleasantly so and in the sunshine, there is nothing like walking through the many parks that cluster throughout the city. With trees shading the walkers, fountains providing cool drinking water and cycles to hire, these green lungs make Bucharest a much more humane place to visit and a remarkably relaxing place, far more than can be expected from a city of its size.
Cafe culture, as much as I despise it, does exist in Bucharest. That peaceful cup of coffee, that little cake and those elegant surroundings are easy to piece together. Sit down for an hour or two, watch the world go by. Of course, this is completely alien to me, so I will have my tea on the go!
Ah, the food of Bucharest! Some of the best I have tasted in Europe. Actually, scratch that, the best in Europe so far. French food is, well, French. German food is unappealing, Spanish food is nice, but pretty samey, Hungarian food is just a riff on Germany, Slovenian food was unmemorable but Romanian food is lush! Great munchies, a variety of cuisines and cheap to eat. Plus they have a great snacking culture there. It is easy to pick up something on the go or to sit down and nibble something more substantial...next year I may be in Poland and I am far more dubious about the food on offer here...
It was only two days that I spent here in Bucharest and so I did not see enough of the city. But I did take a lot of the sights in, and I think tomorrow I will spend a little more time on the photographic side. It was a fun place to visit!