After the complete train heat debacle two nights ago I made it into Bucharest knowing that I only had about 14 hours in the city because I had to get to Sofia to meet my friend Mike. I managed to grab a shower and store my bag at a guesthouse where a friend of mine from the train was staying. Not that it really mattered because as soon as I stepped back outside, the record heatwave of the past century would strike again (it was 113 yesterday and humid). But no matter, Buchrest had to be explored.
I had read and heard much about Bucharest that it was a boring run of the mill European city, that kind of looked like a lot of other cities in Europe with no distinctive characteristic to call its own. To be honest, I have to agree with most of those assessments. Bucharest had some lovely buildings for the usual; opera, theater, University and Government Buildings. Bucharest also had some nice museums, none of which were really my taste so I spent most of my time just walking around and strolling the streets and eating at Bucharest’s numerous streetside cafes. The thing I found most interesting about it was its recent revolutionary history and how it has effected the current state of the city.
The Romanian Revolution of 1989 began with mass anti-Nicolae Ceau?escu (Romania’s former ruler) protests in Timi?oara in December 1989 and continued into Bucharest, leading to the overthrow of the Communist regime. Dissatisfied with the post-revolutionary leadership of the National Salvation Front, students’ leagues and opposition groups organized large-scale protests in 1990 (the Golaniad), which were violently stopped by the miners of Valea Jiului (the Mineriad). Several other Mineriads followed, the results of which included a government change as they have today.
After the year 2000, due to the advent of Romania’s economic boom, the city has modernized and is currently undergoing a period of urban renewal. Various residential and commercial developments are underway, particularly in the northern districts, while Bucharest’s historic centre is currently undergoing significant restoration.
New hotels and western style buildings are sprouting up everywhere. The are several McDonalds and many other western names abound in the center of Bucharest. They have upgraded the train station from a hellhole to a decent place with really cheap beer to get stuck in a 90 minute delay as I was last night for my overnight train to Sofia, Bulgaria. Delays for trains in Europe really aren’t that bad because that means that everybody jusat buys beers and just chills out and waits for the train to arrive.
As I have left Romania now, I am remiss a bit that I didn’t get to travel into the countryside which is what Romania is known for and see the castles and of course all of the Dracula stuff in Transylvania. Unfortunately, you can never do everything, although I do try, but it is a reason to come back again to Romania.
I am here in Sofia for the night now and meeting my friend Mike who is flying in from London this afternoon. I am looking forward to seeing him and meeting up with our other friend Jake in Dubrovnik for my birthday in 5 days. We still have a lot to do between now and then though…