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Published: April 25th 2015
2nd biggest building in world, next to Pentagon.
Today was our leaving the ship day; we had a few minutes in bed to have coffee, then coffee. We had (too) quickly packed the night before so it was only a couple of last minute things to add, bags out by 7:45. We had breakfast then left at 09:00 and boarded our coach to go to the famous overly rich, over the top Palace of the Parliament that was built by Ceausescu (and trust me I had to google how to spell that - I was WAY off!). The building itself is 2nd largest in the world, only after the Pentagon, and apparently only by a few feet. It’s enormous and while we only toured about 5% of it - I was exhausted just looking at it. Completely and utterly over the top, Ceausescu built it to support his own ego while hundreds of thousands of people were starving and living on the streets. Funny how that works out; once again 1% of the population owns 90% of the wealth. Yup.
Anyhoo; it was interesting to see, Hippie wanted to see it more than me, and I was fine checking out any sight; as my returning to this area
would be slim (I say that now, right?) so what the hell. However Bucharest traffic is definitely worthy of a blog all on it’s own, suffice to say we got to the Palace late; and we had some guests who couldn’t walk very fast (and there were a LOT of stairs) so by the time we were done we were about 1 hour behind schedule. By now everyone is getting hungry, and we still had our city tour to do.
I’m glad we did the tour; we drove around (sat in traffic) for over an hour seeing all the buildings that are famous, worth mentioning, past and future importance. Bucharest likes to consider themselves the Paris of the East, truthfully I might argue with that; but they do have very large boulevards (to replicate Champs-Élysées ) with tree lined streets. While it is beautiful, honestly I think Budapest is far more picturesque but we've not seen all of it yet.
The city tour was interesting nonetheless; a lot of green space and parks which is nice, a replicated Arc de Triomphe that is under construction; but at least the construction cover is a photo of it, so we got
to ‘see’ it. Lots of museums, parliament buildings, embassy's, opera houses, and shops, restaurants, and round about’s that make your hair stand on end. OMG the traffic here is obscene. Now I’d like to clarify that statement by saying I have seen a LOT of bizarre traffic patters in 2nd and 3rd world chaos, where ‘organized chaos’ is a flattering statement. Bucharest. Is. Worse.
Most people (literally) if they are old enough to drive, own a car. 2 million people here aprox and 1.7 million cars. Yup. Do the math. And everyone drives like no one else is on the road and they don’t care. So if they want to turn left, they simply drive in front of you; and if they can’t enter, they don’t care and block traffic. If their lane ends, they will drive on the sidewalk or just push you over. People park everywhere. Every.Where. I’ve never seen anything like it. Hippie and I were walking to dinner last night and a large SUV literally almost drove over us as it pulled up onto the sidewalk on an angle (the parking ‘spot’ was not long enough for his vehicle) and stayed. When we went to dinner
there was a vehicle parked half in the street (seriously) at an intersection with his hazards on. 2 hours later we came back and he was still there. Yup. Un believable. And I don’t say that lightly.
And the most confusing part? Most of the vehicles we see are expensive, high end vehicles. For a country that survives on an average of $350 Euro per month they own Mercedes, Porches, Audi’s, Volvo’s, Jaguars high end Volkswagen, BMW’s and on and on. Absurd. Like they want to give the air of having money so they put everything they own into the car, and probably sleep in a cardboard box. Just odd. Now I’ve heard that a lot of money is earned under the table so perhaps the average salary isn’t accurate; but this is not a rich country; and according to Wikipedia rank in the low 90’s for ‘best country’ to live. It’s still so familiar to me; with my Hungarian background also slathered in Romanian as my father was born and raised in Cluj, carries a Romanian passport; but considers himself Hungarian, speaks Hungarian and that is his culture. Definitely an overlap without question; and with all the border
changes, occupations, communism it’s not surprising they are very similar. Our local guide was a talker; holy! She was funny and reminded me so much of my grandmother; opinionated, fast talker, full of information and quite quirky.
We got to our hotel (Hilton right downtown) completely confused as to where we were as the city tour did so many circles and back routes and main routes and combinations thereof that I really had no concept of where we were or how to get around. But we arrived, and had barely an hour to eat lunch and get back on the coach to our afternoon tour of the equivalent of Fort Edmonton/Fort Calgary Park, but traditional Romanian. Hippie had quite low blood sugar; I’d never quite seen him so lethargic so we simply sat down in the over priced cafe in the Hilton knowing we were about to get financially hosed, but didn’t care. We had 2 delicious Americano’s and 2 fabulous meals - he had a potato and vegetable bowl that was delicious and I had homemade spring rolls that were probably the best I have ever eaten. Period. So yes it cost a silly amount of money (we
had 2 more American’s after our meal as they served us so fast) but damn it was the best food we had to date on this trip!
Boarded the bus with seconds left as we were trying to get our money exchanged however we couldn’t do that until we were checked in, and we couldn’t check in until we gave our passports etc. Point being is we scrambled to get it done, then the local guide tried to take off without Dennis on the bus. I was yelling at her to wait, to stop and she was ignoring me. So everyone else joined in and she still ignored. I finally ran up to her and almost screamed STOP! and finally got her attention and she looked rather annoyed. Which did not impress me. You have a head count and we are not on so don’t go! Dennis showed up 30 seconds later - and we were to leave at 3:30 and we left at 3:31 - not like we were super late - 60 seconds? Breath…….
Regardless; she was still a great tour guide; and we went to the Village Museum and it was really interesting. Seeing the
different houses from different ages, areas and provinces of Romania was really cool. They were all the original houses that were dug up, removed and brought to Bucharest to create the reproduction village. Even a couple of churches, one with hand painted frescos inside, the interior of the church was wood; so the frescos were quite warn, but the love that went into it was obvious. It was an Orthodox church and apparently Orthodox always hide the alter, so you can’t see it (random Ned fact). But we wandered around on our own, got some photos and saw old farm equipment and heaps and heaps of cats. So many cats I even stopped trying to pet and coddle them, but did capture one having a complete zonked out nap in the middle of the crowd, oblivious to everyone!
One thing I will say about Eastern Europe is that they really take care of their animals. While many of the dogs are tagged (literally they have a tags on the outside of their ear - similar to cattle) so you know they are owned but with cats it’s hard to tell. But none of the them are starving or looking
unhealthy, and they are all friendly and obviously feel safe as they have naps literally anywhere! It’s really nice to see. Lots of dogs too they follow us when we are doing sightseeing, I scratch their ears, pet their bellies and then immediately wash my hands LOL!
Made it back to our hotel and finally to our room, checked email (had a great internet connection now that we are on land), shared a glass of wine (I have 3 bottles in my luggage so I just “have” to drink one to go through customs duty free) and then went on a mission to find the Falafal Palace place we had seen earlier on our tour. Within 10 minutes we found it, having truly no idea where it was, had a high five outside, then ordered dinner, and ate ourselves full of protein and burped and grinned like school kids who had just raided a chocolate store! Speaking of chocolate, after wandering around a bit we went to the place called “Chocolat” and spent about 4 times as much on dessert as we did on dinner, but had a soy milk based chocolate mousse which was awesome, and then a
made to order chocolate lava cake with true raspberry sorbet. (insert drooling here). Then realized it was already 10pm and we had to get up at 5:30 the next day, so hustled back to our hotel to pack for the next day and crash.
That’s when I realized that I had forgotten almost all my shirts back on the ship. Yes, I swear I'm losing my mind. We had packed up the previous night, and the shirts were in a cupboard that I kept closing because the door was across from the bed so it would block the walkway to bathroom and closet. I *thought* I had packed everything, checked everything, but sadly no. I can still visualize the stack of neatly folded shirts (of course they are all my favourite ones too) along with some tank tops. How can I be such a moron? Went to sleep knowing there was nothing I could do that moment, hoping I could get them mailed back or something, and feeling very very frustrated with myself. MORE PHOTOS BELOW, AS USUAL.....
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