Published: June 25th 2012June 21st 2012
Romulus and Remus suckle beneath the wolf.
This reinforces the Romanian's supposed Latin ancestry.
Wednesday 20th June 2012
The alarm had us up and about by 0415 giving us time to get dressed and do our last bit of packing before meeting the taxi downstairs at 0445. We were at the airport just after 0500 and even though there were long lines at the departure area we passed through very quickly. For once we were at an airport where they not only had lots of scanning machines and immigration booths, they also manned them!
We still had some time before our flight loaded so we had some of the food we had brought with us. Just as well, the plane was delayed for over an hour, LOT not giving any explanation. We arrived at the modern airport in Warsaw, found the departure lounge and settled in. We got a little perturbed when 20 minutes before our flight there were no staff at the gate and only a few passengers around. Judy then mentioned we were possibly in a different time zone. Sure enough, 1 hour behind Lithuania, that was why no one there! Confusing because our next country, Romania, is the same as Lithuania.
Our 'home-exchangees' house-keeper, Gabi,
with her husband Cosmin, were there to meet us, this a real bonus as it solved any problems we may have had coming into a new place. They drove us to the apartment which will be home for the next 2 weeks, Gabi giving a commentary on the surroundings and on where we will be staying.
The apartment is among a large modern development behind the American International school and is set around a large grassed area with its own pool and gymnasium. We are in an eight apartment block with the other 7 apartments vacant. In fact, many of the apartments are still vacant making the area very quiet. In the first 24 hours here we would have been lucky to see 10 people. We are on the 4th floor in a new 2 bedroom apartment, with everything one would need, overlooking the pool. Very pleasant.
About 1 kilometre from the apartment, down Pipera-Tunari road we came to the Mega Image supermarket, the only shop in the near vicinity. These are common like Coles and Woolworths in Australia. Here we were able to get some cash from an ATM and buy a few
things to supplement the food left for us by the exchangees, Devin and Lowell. Food and drinks are probably more expensive here than at most local shops, it likely to be catering more for the ex-pat community. Even so, they are still cheap compared to home.
It had been a long day, so after a swim and a bite to eat, it didn't take us long to head for bed. The sun still being up well after 2100 still something we haven't got used to, not keeping us from sleep.
Thursday 21st June 2012
Judy hadn't felt very well yesterday, had felt quite ill during the night and was worse this morning so Rags left her in bed whilst he went to the shops again. This time coming home with some fruit and vegetables, fruit juice, muffins, a bottle of vodka, a bottle of tonic water, 4 cans of various beers for a total cost of A$18.20!
The rest of the morning was spent quietly, a swim for Rags, both of us on our laptops, and some research on what we would do when Judy is feeling better.
After working for a
This river flows through central Bucharest.
while Judy actually read a novel she had found on the bookslef here before flaking ont he bed and sleeping for several hours. After this she started to perk up a bit.
From our brief time here we have decided to go out and do things first thing in the morning before it gets too hot. Temperatures are in the high 30s so relaxing in the aircon or at the pool seems to be the way to spend afternoons.
Friday 22nd June 2012
Judy seemed to be better this morning and although Rags suggested she have a quiet day she insisted that we go out, even for only a short time.
We caught the maxi-taxi on the main road about 400m from here, this minibus a privately run service to the Pipera Metro station about 7kms away. (Cost 2.4 Lei) The bus was hot but a little air came in through the roof vent keeping it bearable. We arrived at the station at about 1030, spent 10 Lei (about 3 dollars) on a 10 trip metro card and were just on time to catch the metro.
It was then we realised we hadn't
Palace of Parliament
This building required the destruction of a fifth of Bucharest, including many historic buildings. Some call it Ceausescu's folly. It is said to be the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon!
brought any maps or other information on Bucharest with us, we had taken nothing from the ample pile left for us by our hosts. We decided to continue on, if we only saw Parliament house today that would be a start. A young lady on the train told us what station to get out to see the city, as it was it was two stations too early for what we wanted to see.
After walking one way down the main street, Nicolae Balcescu, and seeing nothing, we asked a young chap who in perfect English told us to walk in the opposite direction for about a kilometre, there we would see the side street to the palace.
Just before the street indicated we used an underpass to cross the busy street and inside was an Information Centre where once again a helpful young man gave us directions and a map to our objective.
The buildings in this part of town are old and huge, many of them completely restored. Most have shops or businesses on the ground floor, with apartments on the floors above. We crossed over a narrow river and after a corner or two came
The old Romanian National Bank building
The roof of this neo-classical building looks like copper. It is one of the few cleaned buildings which shows off its huge Corinthian columns and ornate statues.
to a wide boulevard with 2 lanes each way and a garden strip separating them. Here we had to stop at a cafe for some refreshments as Judy was already worn out. We had almost decided to eat a meal here and had chosen one but our drinks were not chilled and service was poor so Judy feeling a little refreshed decided to continue.
At the end of this strip was the parliament building, Casa Poporului. It was built during the darkest days of the Nicolae Ceausescu regime and was to house almost all of the communist leaders. Now it houses the parliament, a conference centre and a museum of contemporary art, but much of it remains unused.
By now the temperature had risen into the mid 30s and keeping in the shadow side of the buildings we made our way into the old town area. Here, we had lunch at a Turkish cafe, re-acquainting ourselves with Turkish food and Efes beer. Judy could eat little of hers but luckily Rags has a good appetite and always manages to finish what she can't!
Judy had hit the wall by this stage, so we made our way to
the nearest Metro station, caught a train back to Pipera and found the bus or maxi taxi as it is called here, waiting to take us to our street.
After a sleep for Judy, and a swim for Rags the completion of our chores including washing followed. The heat was such that by the time the clothes had been hung out on the balcony they were almost ready to take in. A quiet evening followed.
Saturday 23rd June 2012
When we realised it was going to be another hot day here we changed our plans on going back to the city and instead stay in the apartment and Rags made use of the pool especially as Judy still wasn't up to full strength. This place certainly gets the extremes in temperature, Gabi told us that round Christmas time the ground floor apartment was covered in snow!
We now intend to hire a car next week and spend some time travelling around otherwise we may as well have stayed home if we don't go out and see the sights. The apartment is great, just too far away from anything if you haven't your own transport. Even
No we didn't go to Paris!
Bucharest has it's very own Arcul de Triumf! this is a copy of the Paris one but with Romanian emblems. It is in the middle of a busy traffic roundabout so we didn't get too close!
just getting the basics involves a walk in the heat to the only shop over 1 kilometre away.
Thunderstorms during the night cleared the air, the temperature getting down to very pleasant mid 20s and the humidity dropping. This allowed us both to have a good night's sleep without the aircon. We haven't used the aircon any evening up to now as we don't particularly like it at night, and also in deference to our hosts who have to foot the bill.
Sunday 24th June 2012
Today we decided to go to the Baneasa Mall, a large shopping complex south of the city as after lightening and thunder storms during the night rain was still threatening. We used the maxi-taxi, Metro and then a bus to get there. Luckily, we didn't have to wait too long for any of them and the connections went smoothly. One thing we did notice when in and around Bucharest, were the wide streets and the high rise apartments. This planning was made under communist rule and many old structures were summarily demolished to allow it.
Baneasa Mall is very similar to many malls we have seen on our travels,
although this one seemed to cater very much to the more affluent. This was reflected in the quietness in most of the shops, and there seemed to be more window shopping than actual purchasing. We didn't see anything we 'had' to buy, either by price or being something special. This is a place where those with plenty of cash go to and who don't care what the cost is.
Judy did have her hair cut there though, and they did a reasonable job. Not without a bit of drama. The shop she made the appointment with had overbooked so they took her to another of their shops. When finished they then tried charging her a higher price than originally quoted. Those who know Judy would know that this wouldn't be accepted and even though they were adamant at first, she walked out paying less than they wanted.
On the return journey we saw the Arcul de Triumf (Arch of Triumph) from the window of the bus, so we alighted at the next stop. (Our day pass on the bus means we can hop on and off as needed) This monument was built dedicating the proclamation of the Union
after the success of the Romanian army in WW1. The original was made of wood, in the 1930s the stone Parisian replica was built.
After taking photos we went into the adjacent park, Parcul Herastrau, set next to a large expanse of water and in which stood the Elisabeta Palace, the official residence of King Michael of Romania. We don't think the palace was open to the public, seeing no way of entering it or even getting close enough to view it.
We did get to see a circle of statues consisting of the heads of various luminaries from the history of the EU, presumably a condition for EU funding of the park's renovation. A curious sight.
Just out of the park we got to see at closer hand the “Casa Scanteii” (Sparkling House) an imposing place built by the communists to publish their propaganda. It is now known as the House of the Free Press and since 1989 has published newspapers for Romania.
As it was now after 1800 we decided to have dinner in town before heading back. Easier said than done on a Sunday. Only the ubiquitous Maccas and various establishments selling pizzas
Joseph Bech in Herăstrău Park
Just one of a collection of 12 sculpted heads arranged in a circle. Each statue is about 1.2 meters tall, and shows the name of the famous person who it appears was involved in the founding of the EU. Their author is the artist Ionel Stoicescu. This monument was unveiled on Europe Day, May 9, 2006 when Romania was still a candidate to join the EU.
seemed to be open. We persevered and found a nice little cafe where the waitress was very pleasant and helpful, we went a little bit more 'upmarket' than usual, but then again, why not? Judy has been enjoying her cocktails and here Rags ate seafood risotto and Judy a crispy salmon dish. (Who said she wouldn't eat salmon again for a long time after Norway?) Judy then decided to try the cheesecake but decided it was very bland. Never mind something else for Rags to finish!
Back on the bus which was not a problem as these run so frequently and then transfer to metro was all very quick. Our maxi taxi was a bit longer, but did show up so we were home in less than an hour.
Monday 25th June 2012
Having done our research on the foibles of hiring a car in Romania and as the house-keepers child was suddenly in hospital so we couldn't make use of her husband's offer of being our driver, we decided to go to the town of Brasov by train and to stay there for a night or two. This would give us a chance to explore
the area and as it appears to be considerably cooler there, to enjoy some exploring.
We made our way to the Central Station in Bucharest in the normal way, where we booked tickets on the Inter-City express for tomorrow. We made the booking for the 1110 train to give us plenty of time to get in without having to fight the morning rush.
From there we retraced some of our steps from Friday and explored a little more of the Old Town. Many of the buildings are undergoing renovations and it is good to see how they are restoring many of the fine old buildings rather than knocking them down and replacing them with glass monstrosities.
Many of the streets are now lined with cafes and bars, nearly all of them supplying fast food, Italian or Turkish food, but no Romanian food. We both wanted to try the local food but as a last resort we ended at a cafe selling Italian. Imagine our disgust when on questioning the waiter we found that they had about 10 beers for sale, but not local one. We voted with our feet!
The next cafe was similar, but the
The restored and the not!
The Annunciation church is the oldest church preserved in Bucharest. Next door you can see a building in disrepair which is typical of many of the buildings in Bucharest.
waitress pointed us to a side street a little up the way and recommended a cafe, Caru' cu bere. Here, she said, we would get good, authentic Romanian food. Caru' cu bere, had a large crowd of people outside eating, and smoking, so we went inside through the large revolving doors. We were hit with the sound of lots of people,music being played by a violinist, set in a cavernous room with large wooden arches all around. Almost like being sent back in time to 18th century Europe. The menu was extensive, but poorly translated if at all, luckily Judy found the cabbage rolls she had been craving and Rags took pot luck by pointing to a picture so that our waiter, who had little English, could take our order. We shared the cabbage rolls stuffed with mince on a bed of mashed potato, two large sausages on a bed of beans, fried potato chips covered in cheese, and roasted sauerkraut. We demolished the lot, and although Rags did back off having a second helping of the sauerkraut, he helped Judy empty her plate.
From here we went 'home', the only different thing we did was to get off
Huge apartment block opposite the Parliament Palace
Many buildings in Bucharest are like this large, ornate and untidy looking.
the bus early so that we could buy some more water. The water supply to the apartment is not suitable for drinking and we had almost finished the four 5 litre bottles left there by our hosts. Ten litres of water gets quite heavy when you have to carry them over a couple of kilometres on a warm day, but the swim in the pool soon cooled us down.
There are more photos below