Passengers clapped as our plane touched down in Bucharest. It reminded me of one of the first times I flew in the 1980’s, did people used to clap like that before we all got used to flying so often? It was nice. We had no problems getting our luggage and passing through customs, and we took a bus to the downtown. The city looked to me a mash-up of St. Petersburg – gorgeous 19th century buildings- and Yangon, Myanmar- crumbling buildings that were once gorgeous but have not been maintained. Once again, there was a lot of graffiti. With some help from a taxi driver, found our rental apartment and the hostess met us there. This was an interesting place. It didn’t look like much from outside- concrete, maybe 1950’s- but inside was full of artwork, curious furniture, wood floors, ceramic stoves for heat, and the decor one might expect from a French- Romanian artist, who was in fact the primary resident of the place.
We looked her up on the Internet and indeed she has published several volumes of poetry in addition to her accomplishments as an actress. We soaked up the atmosphere and happily the kids did not break anything!
We walked around town from the apartment. DH and I wandered the immediate neighborhood and found a little museum about the history of fire fighting. It was housed in a cylindrical building that had been built as a fire tower in 1891 and had simple displays with most information in Romanian. With the kids, we walked to the touristy old city and found a gorgeous bookstore there in a sumptuously renovated building. Along the way, we saw many statues and fountains and churches. Again we were extremely lucky with comfortable, spring-like weather and blue skies.
Below: sewer cover on cobblestone street, historic Stavropoleos church, nice arched garage
One day we visited the National Museum of Romanian History. It has an impressive collection of prehistoric artifacts going back 8,000 years and an exhibit on gold royal objects including Romanian Crown Jewels. There is a large display on Trajan’s Column, a structure from Rome in the 2nd century AD commemorating war victories, illustrated in spiral carvings going up the 115′ column. My favorite pieces were the pottery pieces, here are a couple and a gold helmet similar to what we saw (not my photos).
I got a tip (thanks, JH!) about Vacaresti Park, a surprisingly thriving ecosystem in an abandoned Soviet project, and so we went. The place is a giant basin – over 450 acres!-with a concrete retention wall around the perimeter. The wall likely protects the area, which includes trees, fields, and wetlands from people and other outside disturbances while keeping a lot of the flora and fauna in. There have been over 100 bird species found there as well as protected vertebrates such as the fire bellied toad. The park only recently got protected land status, it is an inspiring story, and we wish it the best!
That is ML on the right, there, a US friend who met us in Bucharet. We all rented a car and headed out road tripping in Romania! Stay tuned for those adventures!