Friday 8 May 2020

2017 Bucharest

24.6.17 Bucharest

Well, it has been a long time since I last scribbled here, but I'm determined to travel more now.  I chose Bucharest partly because I'd never been here, and partly to give Wizz Air a whirl – it had a crazy good offer: I paid £100 return including exit seat, priority boarding etc.  Turns out pretty good.  From Luton, but the Overground route via West Hampstead was easy, and I'm flying back to Gatwick.  Main reason I knew about Wizz Air is that they fly to Kutaisi (and also to Astana via Budapest), so I wanted to see how they were.  Flight was good, check-in not picky like Ryanair.

At Bucharest airport, had fun with the taxi – you have to get a ticket with taxi number to be safe – drivers here famous for ripping you off.  Paid 30 euros to the hotel, which is the going rate.  Staying in three-star Hotel Tempo, east of the university.  Pretty cheap, room small but decent – aircon works, wifi quite fast, even with VPN.

Got up at 7am – 5am body time – today for rather exiguous breakfast.  Then off around the old town.  Which is pretty nice.  Reminds me of Tbilisi, Fethiye, Crete etc. - something exotic and slightly forlorn.  Bought ten metro tickets for £4 – metro system not hugely useful, but good to eat up the big distances, which are Bucharest's main problem: everything very spread out, built on an insane Ceaușescu scale.

End up in Pukka Tukka for food – good, if rather too healthy – big salad.  Nice salmon.  [Local folk band just started here – very out of tune.]   After lunch, I went to the main National Art Museum, which is huge and the main cultural attraction here.  Only saw two bits – ancient Romanian art and modern pix.  Really exhausting, but some interesting stuff – for example, early Romanian religious books in Cyrillic.  Some nice pix, but I was really tired and flagging so took metro back to National Theatre, University stop, and 40 minutes sleep in my room.

One big change travelling in places like this is that mobile calls and data are cheap, often free.  Currently in Caru' cu bere, which is very full, especially of tourists, but nicely atmospheric (pity about the folk band…).  With its stained glass ceiling, it reminds me of the fancy tea room in Rio de Janeiro.  Interestingly, Romanian is easier than it looks.  Listening to the TV last night, I could understand big chunks – sounds like Italian/French, with a few odd words thrown in.  The conjugation of nouns plus definite article, also verbs, a bit of a bore.  Certainly, I want to come back here to see the mountains etc.  At least seems easy to get here quite cheaply.  

One problem is that practically everything closes on Monday, so I need to see stuff today and tomorrow.  Luckily,  Bucharest is not over-endowed with must-sees… will leave Ceaușescu's monster palace for Monday.

25.6.17 Bucharest

What a morning.  Got up later, went for a walk through the centre to the Palace of Parliament.  Will leave that to tomorrow.  Wanted to go to the Modern Art Gallery it also houses.  Walked and walked around the grounds, looking for the entrance to the gallery – for about an hour.  Uphill, hot, not sign of an end.  I recognised this kind of desperation as a quintessential part of travel – as its name indicates.  When I finally found the entrance – almost back to where I started, the guard told me it open at 12noon – even though outside it said 10am. Sigh.

Still, on the way, saw an amazing construction – the new cathedral, which is enormous.  Reminded me of Tbilisi's Holy Trinity Cathedral, but far less inspired.  Back to the Modern Art Gallery… which is bizarre.  Huge rooms with classical elements stacked with canvases, sculpture...all looking rather forlorn.  Certainly not great art, but atmospheric.  Up to the fourth floor, where there's a small bar and a terrace with views over the cathedral and the huge garden.  Reminds me of the Pompidou Centre, but again, rather random and sad.  

Along to Hanu' Berarilor Casa Oprea Soare – very busy, but plenty of room.  Inside in the cool, eating vine leaves stuffed with minced goose.  Finished off with Romanian doughnuts, with syrup and jam.  Freshly-cooked, heavy but very nice…

26.6.17  Bucharest

Got up early – in fact, woke up at 6am local – to go to the Parliamentary Palace.  Rush-hour metro pretty busy, but efficient.  Also there is 3G for much of the metro network.  Got to the Palace, was told first ticket 11.30am – damn tourists.  Now sitting in the main boulevard, Bulevardul Unirii, waiting for a while.  Striking: there are few dogs here.  Lots of people with moles.  Everyone has a mobile.  Back in  Hanu' was close, and good.

The Big Building was amazing, sad of course.  You can't make a cathedral by blowing up the scale of a church, and you can't make a great palace just by making a small one bigger.  Inside, everything looked rather dismal, whereas outside it has a certain grandeur.  For the first time that I've seen, there was a big group of Indian tourists – men only.  I suppose greater disposable income, but not sure why here.

27.6.17 Bucharest

Last day here – about right.  Main National Museum still closed… Metro up to Victory Place – those huge pseudo-classical buildings.  Walked down Calea Victoriei – long, long, way.  Back in French café of first day here.  Need decent coffee.  Then back to the hotel, need to leave at 12noon.  Alas, couldn't pay for half day…

So the heavens have now opened… Took refuge in the nearest restaurant, Izvorul Rece – one I saw last night, but didn't feel like trying.  Reviews online quite good, quite traditional.  Seems nice...

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