The Arcul de Triumf in Bucharest
As promised, here at the start of 2023, I've decided to revisit Europe with you, my readers. Each Wednesday, I'll share photos and insight into my experiences of the places I visited abroad.
. . .
My trip to Romania started and ended in Bucharest. I flew out of Knoxville on Friday, November 11, and, after two short layovers in Atlanta and Amsterdam, landed in the country's capital the next day. Here, I met my friend Vincent, whom I met through my old blog, Shift, many years ago. He lives in Otopeni, near the Henri Coandă International Airport, and was kind enough to show me around.
To be honest, my first impressions were not entirely favorable. Outside of the touristy old town, Bucharest felt unkempt and rundown. The park near my Airbnb smelled of urine and was covered in graffiti. Vincent explained that this and many other features of the city, including the high-rise apartment blocks in which most of the city's inhabitants live, are a testament to the years Romania was under Communist control. (For fascinating information on the history and architecture of Bucharest, check out this article.)
Romania was occupied by Soviet troops in 1944 and became a satellite of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) in 1948. The country was under communist rule from 1948 until 1989, when the regime of Romanian leader Nicolae Ceaușescu was overthrown.
(Photos of apartments above by M. Bird. All other photos are my own.)
Prior to the Communist occupation, the future of Romania was on a much different trajectory. Romania gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, and Prince Charles became the first king of Romania in 1881. To celebrate, the Romanians built an Arcul de Triumf after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The first arch was hurriedly constructed out of wood for troops to march under on their way into the city; it was later rebuilt after World War I and took on its current form in 1936.
Today, military parades are held underneath the Arcul de Triumf the first of December each year, which marks Romania’s National Day. Sadly, I missed seeing this celebration by a few days.
A cobblestone street in the touristy oldtown part of Bucharest.
The former Communist Party Central Committee Building where Nicolae Ceauşescu was publicly overthrown in December 1989. Today, this area at the city center is called Revolution Square.
The Broken Man bronze statue of "Luliu Maniu" in Revolution Square.
Coltea Hospital, the oldest hospital in Bucharest, which dates back to 1701. (Check out this article for more info.)
Mihai Voda (Michael the Brave) Church, built in 1589. The church was relocated to its current spot (about 0.2 miles from its original location) after Bucharest was hit by a large earthquake in 1977.
Marker at the city center.
The Patriarch Cathedral of Bucharest
Entrance and interior of the Patriarch Cathedral of Bucharest.
The Royal Palace in Revolution Square, the Odeon Theater, and the Romanian Athenium.
The Bucharest Christmas Market, Carturesti Carusel (a bookstore) in Bucharest, and a signal for bikes!
Streets in downtown Bucharest.
Before it got dark, Vincent and I visited Herastrau Park and the Bucharest Village Museum.
Herastrau Lake, beautiful trees, and sheep in the woods.
Old Romanian windmill, church, and shed at the Bucharest Village Museum.
Monument to American soldiers who served in Romania in WWII near Herastrau Park.
New skyscraper in Bucharest, Romania's version of Home Depot, and an indoor play place for kids at the mall. (Why don't we have these in the U.S.?)
Views of Bucharest from my Airbnb in Otopeni.
The Henri Coandă International Airport.
Truth be told, Bucharest—or Romania, for that matter—was never on my "must-see" list, but now that I've been, I wouldn't trade these experiences for the world. Europe is so much bigger than the touristy places Americans usually think of when they imagine traveling abroad. Due to its suppression under Communism, Romania is still very much a developing country. But what people! And what culture! And what a climate! As you'll see in my next posts, Romania is a gorgeous country covered in mountains with a history far older than our own. Of all the places I visited (and I visited quite a few), Romania is the only one I could imagine myself moving to.
Stay tuned until next week to learn why!