Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bucharest: The Paris of the East

The Espresso Trek:  In the late 1800's, the boulevards of Bucharest were constructed after Haussmann's Paris and the Cismigiu Gardens were crafted in Viennese style.

Today, the Palace of Parliament is one of the main attractions.  At 365,000 square meters, it's the second largest building in the world next to the Pentagon.

Built in 1983 by the Communist leader, Ceausescu, the interior has one million cubic meters of marble, 2,800 chandeliers, and 3,500 tons of crystal.

In order to know where he was at all times, Ceausescu had a map of the building constructed on the floor of the rooms.

The palace is now used for conferences and other events.  In the glass-ceilinged Sala Unirii room, for example, Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci got married in 1996. 

The Alexandru Ioan Cuza room has a balcony that overlooks the boulevard constructed to mirror the Champs-Elysees.

Interestingly, we've met two Romanians who said they wished Ceausescu's regime would return because there were good things about his government, such as that everyone had jobs.  Another Romanian commented that this is a common attitude, but "they forget that during Ceausescu there were also ration cards".  Bar none, every Romania we've met has gone to work abroad for a time, usually to Italy.

Today's Bucharest still feels a bit drab, the tourist attractions lying outside the capital.  But apparently, the restaurant and dance-club life is as opulent as any other city in the West.

No comments: