Paloma and the our leap of faith crew are parked among the trees, at possibly the only campsite in Bucuresti Casa Alba. We checked our apps, consulted books and even Googled it, but it would seem that their is only one choice.
It’s a strange site, like most Romanian campsites we have visited, camping seems to be more akin to our idea of Glamaping, staying in small huts (although somewhat rougher around the edges). But Casa Alba, welcomes the motorhome world into its Carpark for the princely sum of around €20 per night – ( which is a small fortune in this country)
Helpful Reception man (very little English) we think has sorted us out with a couple of all day bus passes for 5 RON each. He gave us a really badly photocopied map with some Romanian on it, 2 pieces of card and said bus 301, go left then left, it goes to city ……….
Climbing on board we proceeded to attempt every possible combination of buttons and waving of card, but the green LED fails to come to life, RED !
In the end we just sat down and rode ticket-less.
The bus is modern, a red scrolling LED system tells you the next stop and the numbers of the bus connections you can make there, it’s small and a bit modern and westernised, not at all like the Romania we have experienced so far ….
Looking out of the window, it’s all familiar stuff from Northern Europe, KFC, McDonald’s, IKEA and huge Decthalon wiz by. Their are more BMW and Mercedes here than Romanian Dacias, but surprisingly No horse and Carts, The road’s perfect and wide. What’s going on, have we flown across the pond ?
Thanks to help of a Romaina, we get off the bus at the right stop, good job he helped us out as the bus turns around at that point and travels the route backwards……
A quick look at trip advisor, thankgod the EU roaming charges have been scrapped we can now use the mapping service all the time and we are off to the first landmark.
I think at this point it would be fair to say that before arriving( I’m getting very sad you know with time to research) and something any visitor should do, is read a little about Ceaușescu and his grand plans.
I think the British politician Lord Acton, probably summed it up well in his famous saying “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”
Ceaușescu plan was to turn Romania into one of the worlds greats, and its capital city one of the most stunning. A plan which also included repaying all the national debt.
At the centre of all his grandeur and possible madness was and still is “The peoples Palace”.Ceausescu conceived the idea after a visit to North Korea’s Kim II-sung. The palace would be the largest, most lavish palace in the world and would hold all the functions of his socialist state, as well as serve as a handsome residence for him and his wife.
Leading to the Palace would be Boulevard ‘Victory of Socialism’ (now called Boulevard Unirii), which was to be the Champs Elysees of Bucharest, but very deliberately designed to be 1 metre wider on each side and 6 metres longer than the Paris’ thoroughfare to show how much better they were than the French nation.
To build the Palace and Civic centre Ceausescu set about demolishing most of Bucharest’s historic districts. This included Over 20 churches, 6 synagogues and Jewish temples. Approximately 30,000 homes were also raised to the ground.
In total, one-fifth of central Bucharest was demolished for his regeneration project, despite the mass destruction of parts of this then historic city, account has to be taken that larger parts of it lay in ruins from the effects of two world wars and a huge earthquake in 1977.
This epic project still lies in an unfinished state, with only about 400 of the places 1100 in a finished state, listening to the Romaina tour guide it seems that the everyday people have no idea what is inside this massive building – but one thing is for sure apprently it’s the only manmade structure visible from space !
All of this created with forced army labour and and a monetary cost that reduced standards of living to the point of rationing basics like gas and power.
Next stop for us was Revolution Square, the site of the fateful day in December 89, which would lead only days later to the fall of the communist government. Today standing in its centre is the The Memorial of Rebirth
In 2012 the monument was defaced with a splash of bright red paint ( if you look hard at the picture) that is just at the bottom of the monument’s “pierced world “. This caused it to look as though it is bleeding. The paint is so inaccessible that it has remained in place since, it’s just so hard to believe, in England there would be a pubic outcry, community groups would be formed to protect and repair such an important piece of history.
Normally I would shy away from touristy thing like a hop on hop off bus service, but with a spread out city and tickets only 25 RON each ( That’s about £5) it was the quickest away to get around the main sights
Arcul de Triumf ,The original wooden version was erected in around 1922 to celebrate the Romanian army’s victories in WWI and the Great Unification of 1918. And then in 1936 the current one replaced it.
Free press house, home to many of the country’s newspapers. Originally home Scînteia the Romanian Communist Party’s official newspaper.
The bus also drops you off at Michael Jackson avenue who is forever linked to city following his blunder, In 1992, a few years after the fall of communism, Michael Jackson arrived in Bucharest, ready to perform to a crowd of 70,000 people.
“The mob was ecstatic – times were changing and one of the greatest entertainers of the era was performing live in their city! The stadium was pulsating with energy, the revellers eagerly anticipating what was to come; Bucharest was ready to welcome Michael Jackson. That’s when the superstar hollered, “It’s great to be here in Budapest …”
Although I guess he has been forgiven ?
After the stars avenue we end our day in Herăstrău Park, a large and beautiful park on the edge of the city.
Hidden right inside the park is the small “Island of roses” which is reached via arched bridges. There, among flowerbeds and walking alleys you can find the “Monument of the Founding Fathers of the European Union”, a collection of 12 sculpted heads arranged in a circle.
The statue of Trajan and the She-wolf, on the stairs of the National Museum of Romanian History.
Bucharest is like no city I’ve ever been to, it is along way from immediately being striking, it doesn’t grab you and hug you tight, but scratch the surface and you’ll find the heart of Romania beating its
own rhythm, in a city that has seen unimaginable change in the last 30 years a gem is starting to form.