Published: July 2nd 2012June 30th 2012
Today was basically the only day we had to look around in Bucharest. It was enough to change my images of the city (and country) completely. Kind of embarrassing to admit, but I had images that the city would be full of Roma beggars, stray dogs running around and pick pockets...Sure, the city has lots and lots of ugly Soviet style grey block houses even in the very center, but it has also friendly and relaxed athmosphere (we have again had several encounters with very friendly and helpful locals that would be unlikely to happen back home), excellent quality for the price at restaurants and cafés, good shopping (many international chains which are not available in Helsinki), and also parts of the beautiful old center still exist today. I also find cities like this, which have this run-down look, in a way more interesting than cities which are totally polished up: it seems like here you never know what lies around the corner.
Anyhow, we started the day by having a crappy breakfast at the hostel: chocolate cornflakes and bad coffee. Then we walked to the city center and visited one Orthodox church on the way: we actually visited briefly
3-4 more but they were more or less the same on the inside. First we went to see the city concert hall: we had noticed the day before that there is a classical music festival taking place, so we went to see if we can get tickets. We got standing tickets for the evening's concert. Price was around 2 euros each.
Next we started to feel hungry and decided to take a break at a park to eat some snacks. On the way we still visited one more church :-) and an English bookstore. We sat on a park bench for a while and then walked towards the historic center. That is a small pedestrianized area where old jugend buildings remain. I guess there you can imagine why Bucharest has sometimes been called "Paris of the East". I'm not sure how much of those buildings the city had before Ceausescu times, but anyway much more than today. Hard to believe that nice old buildings like that have been replaced by huge betonic blocks. At least we read that at the place where that huge Parliament palace was built in the 80s there used to be 20 small churches +
other old buildings. Crazy. In the old center we also went to an old beer house for lunch. We almost just sat outside but we saw that the inside seemed to look nice and decided to take a look there as well. Luckily we did, because it was probably the fanciest restaurant that I have ever seen. Well, fancy might be the wrong word as this was not "fine food" or so, but the interior was beautiful old style..see the pic to get the idea. We had two large beers, two soups and two coffees; total price was 10 euros.
After lunch we continued to hang around in the old city for a while and then walked to Piata Unirii, which is the main square of the city. It was a grassy park area and a huge fontain surrounded by huge Soviet blocks and a big shopping mall. By now it was latish in the afternoon and we decided to take the subway back to the hostel, so we could rest for a while before the concert. On the way we still stopped for ice cream, and next to the hostel we got a big Starbucks coffee Americano. That
has been our refershener already on several occasions during our trips this and last summer. Whenever we feel exhausted, a huge Americano from Starbucks helps for sure.
The concert started at 8 and we thought we left early to eat on the way, but when we were approaching the concert hall we saw by accident that it was already 19.55. Luckily we just made it..in the lobby they had sparkling wine serving, and the concert hall itself was definitely worth seeing - one of the most decorative theaters/concert halls I can remember seeing. Perhaps Marinsky in St Petersburg is comparable, even though bigger than this one. Music was, well, classical..I guess it was entirely Tchaikovsky, but honestly I dont know his music enough to even be sure of that. First part often seemed more like just noise..haha...second part was more recognizable and more pleasant to listen to. It was anyway superb value for money: we got seats after all, glasses of sparkling wine and the concert itself - all for 2 euros each. After the concert we walked back to our hostel and had a beer at our private terrace.