Today, we started off by going through Park Cismigiu which is a park right next to our hotel. It looked very peaceful at the time since it was still 8:45.
We passed through old town and went into Victory Road which is where the people of Romania had their final stand and won for independence against the Ottoman Empire. There we saw a lot of buildings that we didn't know about yet. As I said yesterday, there would always be something to see no matter where we were and no matter where we went.
First, he told us about the House of Parliament, what used to be the megalomaniac house of the communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. He actually had a contest on who could build the best plan for his house and over 100 architects came. The architect who won was a very inexperienced architect and Nicolae only chose her because it was the biggest! So they did the plan and it took a whole 13 years with over 700 architects and 30,000 workers! The building started in 1984 and finished in 1997, but after the revolution Nicolae died by execution in December 1989 and he hadn't used it since it was only 70 percent done. And guess who was the first person to do a speech in the balcony? Micheal Jackson! He was having a concert in Bucharest and he went into the house of parliament. Just as he came out onto the balcony, he saw some fans and gave a speech and he said something really funny. He said, "I am really happy to hold a concert in Budapest." He mixed up Budapest with Bucharest! And that leads on to another story. There was a match between two Spanish teams in the national football pitch and 500 Spanish fans booked the match in Bucharest and booked the flight tickets to Budapest!
Then Vlad showed us a statue of Vladimir Dracula. This was actually his real name. Later he was nicknamed Vlad the Impaler. Our guide told us a terrible story about how Dracula captured 2,000 Ottoman prisoners and tortured them to scare away an Ottoman invasion.
Next, he told us about a lunch place that in the 19th century, was a trading center for caravans. People used to go inside and start trading with other people in there. It was one of the safest places in the city because there was only one door and was always locked at night so only people with caravans could enter and no one else could enter and there would be 2 archers on guard every day and night so the people could do anything they wanted inside there except illegal stuff. Now it has turned into a restaurant with very traditional Romanian food.
After that, we went into the garden of one of the churches that were moved. When Nicolae was building his big House of Parliament [Tonio: in Ceausescu's days, House of the People], he also wanted a boulevard bigger than Champs Elysees. The biggest boulevard in Europe. They ended up making the boulevard 3.5 km long. But in the process they had to destroy churches. One engineer was not happy about this so he tried to think of a way to move the churches. So he went to a pub for inspiration. Beer number 1. Nothing. No surprise there. Beer number 2. Still nothing. As the waiter was serving beer number 3, he had a brainwave. He could see that the waiter was moving the tray without moving the beer. So Nicolae could do the same thing with the churches. but the idea evolved. The churches could be moved by rails. So Nicolae dug a hole under the church, put some concrete under the church, and put wheels under the church so that the church could move.
We stopped for lunch in Hanul Lui Manuc. The place that caravans used to stop. I had some mici which are sausages without their skin. The story of that is from a pub in old town where the kitchen didn't have any sausage skin and the people were hungry so the owner just said to give them the meat. And turns out they loved it. And Tonio had stuffed cabbage rolls.
Then, we went inside the House of Parliament and it looked majestic. We went to a really big hall which was used for nothing! Then we went to a much bigger room which was also used for nothing. and the rooms kept getting bigger further in. Then when we came back to the hall and it didn't look too big this time.
Then we went back to the hotel to have a rest and watched TV. I told Tonio that TV in Romania is much better than in Belgium. Tonio disagreed.
Then we had dinner in Caru Cu Bere. The oldest beer shop in town. Now it's a restaurant. It was giant with the main dining room that seemed as big as some of the rooms we saw in the House of Parliament! We went in the wine basement and there was a classical music band playing. It was very loud since we were really close but really good.
Then we went to our hotel brushed our teeth, and drifted off to sleep...
Day 3Today, we started off by going towards the Patriarchal Cathedral Complex. But we took a few detours. We saw around 8 churches! All of them looking beautiful and also a lot of variety. Some of them were with mosaic, some of them were white while others with all sorts of colors. But every single church was full of people. There were even crowds of people outside listening. We didn't know why yet.
Then we went to Carol Park where we saw some boats and we were thinking of going to row a boat but Tonio said that there would be boat rental in the other park and that park called Tineretului Park had a much bigger lake to row a boat. So we went there and we tried to find the boat rental but we couldn't. But then we remembered that there was the other boat rental back at Carol park. So we went back there at 5:00 and luckily the boats were still open so we took one and Tonio showed me how to row. Soon I got the hang of it and was rowing in a small passageway of 3.5 metres.
After we gave back the boat, we walked back to the hotel and had a little rest. Then we went to a South American restaurant and even though it wasn't Romanian it was really tasty!
Finally. we went back to the hotel, had a shower, brushed our teeth and went to sleep...
It's the best possible introduction to Bucharest. Our guide, Vlad, was friendly, informative, funny and passionate about the subject. He started off with an explanation about the monstrous “Palace of the People”, now the Palace of Parliament, which we could see in the distance, built by the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu whose autocratic rule and eventual megalomania traumatised the country for generations. The construction of this extravagant palace absorbed much of Romania's resources and severely impoverished its population. Large sections of the old town were destroyed to make way for it, and for the Unirii Boulevard in front of it that was specifically intended to be the biggest in Europe, at 3.5 km beating the Champs Elysees in Paris by a few hundred metres.
The tour covered a number of historic buildings and monuments and ended in Piata Universitatii with an emotional account of the years leading to the revolution and the final few days culminating in the murder of protesters in the same square where we were sitting. Nowadays, the transition from tyranny, corruption and chaos is well advanced and with Romania in the European Union the future looks much brighter. At the end of Vlad’s presentation we all burst into spontaneous applause!
We had lunch at a historical inn, the Hanu’ Lui Manuc, which has a large courtyard and used to serve as a safe haven overnight for traders, their wares, caravans and horses. Now it’s a restaurant, and it’s a pity we had to be careful not to eat too much as we were already booked for dinner later in the evening in the most famous restaurant in Bucharest, the Caru Cu Bere.