Sunday, 5 April 2015

Bucharest: Bearing right

Decision Time
This Easter, my holiday would already have been planned for me if the young man who so pressed me towards the end of last year to be the uncle of the day at his nuptials had kept in contact after he got another job.
I would have jetted over the Atlantic to Toronto, Canada and that will have been some adventure.
Much as I am a creature of habit, some good, others unmentionable, I felt more like going somewhere new and the choices were Krakow in Poland, Bucharest in Romania or Sofia in Bulgaria.
The limitations of flight connections within my SkyTeam Alliance partners’ preference of KLM and Air France online meant Bucharest won out.
Flights and hotels were easy to book and I determined the hotel had an airport shuttle service which I availed myself of.
Bearing right out of the hotel
I did not get to do as much as I would have liked on a first visit, but my hotel could not have been more central than it was. Calea Victoriei is an artery for a tourist's walk rather than for vehicular traffic than you walked from monument to museum to church to whatever else that seemed to have a road branching off leading to it.
On my way to the Old Town, I walked past the bust of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern day Turkey, at a time in its history, Romania was part of the Ottoman Empire. In the Old Town, Old Court Museum with active excavation work ongoing was at one time the site of the court of Vlad the Impaler, his patronymic name was Dracula.
One legend I read, which I will not care to verify, because it makes such horrific reading was he arranged a banquet in his own honour and invited beggars, peasants and the destitute to it. Once they sat at the table, he had them surrounded and set fire to the building. This was his way of ridding his city of 'undesirables'.
In the evening, I went to Cismigiu Gardens, which had a lake, a grand house and for all the talk and the menace of stray dogs, now reduced to a tenth of the some 40,000 high had Bark Park, just like a children's play area, you could take your dog there to bark its vocal cords raw.
Grandiose beyond belief
Without much of a guide and the apparent unhelpfulness of the hotel concierge, I could not appreciate the sights as well as one should. The tour buses I was informed do not operate in the low season which extends to the end of April and I was not keen on a private taxicab tour.
Surveying the map at dinner I realised the Palace of the Parliament was a 15-minute walk away. It was one of Nicolae CeauČ™escu’s grandest projects. It is second only to the Pentagon in size as the largest single building.
The chief architect, Anca Petrescu, was only 28 when she led the team of architects who designed this monstrosity that you can visit if you come along with you passport for a fee. However, this weekend there was a motorbike event in the grounds and I didn't really think it was worth the bother asking if I could go inside.
Another great Romanian lady
That will be the quest of another visit if and when I return to Bucharest. However, there was a lady, Ana Pauker, who was de-facto leader of Romania long before CeauČ™escu, she was for while the Foreign Minister from 1947 to 1952 and she made the cover of the Times magazine as the most powerful woman in the world.
Sadly as the Politburo system of socialist and Communist governments work, keeping in favour is an inscrutable craft of power plays and Machiavellian politics, rivals got her labelled and discredited, having once survived breast cancer she was just allowed to become a translator at the end of her career. A relapse a few years on killed her.


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