Why Bucharest? and The Old Quarter
Some trips come about because of popular festivals or Bucket List items that are “Have to See” places. That was not the case for Bucharest. This trip was initiated from one of those special flight deals you see on Facebook or SecretFlying.com or Flytertalk.com, or any of several similar travel services for under $300 roundtrip. Jim Read, our travel mentor and frequent traveler, found the deal, sent a message out to a few others, and quickly a trip was booked. I was a little late to the group, but upon hearing of a trip to Romania, a former communist country, with travel into Transylvania, I was in, and quickly booked.
The trip over was uneventful and the airport in Bucharest was serviceable, not too large, making it easy to get around, and the trek through customs went smoothly. Unremarkable as far as airports go, but that is not a bad thing.
Our online research had shown that Bucharest was established in the early 1300’s and that Vlad Tepes (aka Vlad the Impaler/ Dracula) had a palace there in the mid 1400’s. It has been influenced by first the Romans, the Turks, German Saxons, and in modern history by communist rule. In 1989, the last communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu was overthrown and executed. He was a brutal dictator who spent lavishly. His palace, now the Palace of Parliament is the second largest office building in the world, second only to The Pentagon. Our research has also shown that the “Old Quarter” or city center was being revitalized and now was a central hub of restaurants and nightlife. We booked an Airbnb in a nice modernized apartment with sleeping for four, and only a 5 -minute walk to the “Old Quarter” with a view of the Palace of Parliament off our back balcony. Visiting Romania is also easy on the wallet. The Airbnb only cost us $80 per night (split four ways is $20/ night) A slice of pizza was an equivalent of .85 cents and pint of beer cost about a $1 making for a very affordable trip.
After settling into our apartment, we made the trek over to the Old Quarter, and immediately came upon the ruins of Vlad’s palace which had a large statue of him right out front. After reading up on him, we continued our journey around the block and along the cobblestone streets we found ourselves in the heart of the restaurant area, with outside cafes and nightclubs lining both sides of the streets. It was nice to meander around, occasionally stopping for a beer and people watching, the meandering further to the history museum which had lots of great exhibits, including a replica Trajan’s Column. Trajan was the 2nd century Roman Emperor who conquered Romania. The food was tasty but lacked any green vegetables. Sausages and potatoes were the offerings on most menus.
One of the neat things (in my eyes) in visiting a former communist country is the awakening that you see in the city. On one hand, we saw apartment buildings with Soviet-era propaganda engraved into the building. On another street, we saw several artistic murals painted on building walls. I saw similar things in Prague, where a good segment of the city is made up of old square, grey, dank buildings, but a combination of fresh vibrant colors, street art and planned murals are starting to brighten the streetscape, like spring flowers erase the greyness of winter. We almost always take a walking tour in the cities we visit, and Bucharest was no different. It is always interesting to hear the locals talk about the experience of being under communist rule, where everybody earned the same, there was no incentive to do a good job and everything was the same. People dressed up to go to McDonalds the first time. They thought McDonalds gave incredible customer service, because they “Thanked” them for coming in. The things we take for granted were a welcomed change.
Bucharest is not always the first place you think of when planning a trip to Europe, but I found it very enjoyable, and the cost was incredible. So if you ever have the time, I highly recommend giving it a visit.
For more awesome pictures of our adventure in Bucharest check out our Instagram!
Find Part 2 here.