As an Albanian who grew up in Greece in the late 1990s, during my first years of travelling abroad, the more I saw famous destinations such as Rome, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam etc., the more I hated the architecture back in my home countries, found it pretty scary and shameful. However, during recent years, because of frequent travelling I have to say that I’ve reached a point where I get bored of great opera buildings, huge cathedrals, majestic shopping streets, lock bridges or super-modern transportation. Better said, not necessarily bored, but feeling the need for an equilibrium between worth-visiting tourist sites, which are of undebatable historical/aesthetic interest, and non-mainstream, as well as “tourist-unfriendly” areas.
Victory Avenue (Calea Victoriei), a tourist-must in Bucharest
Herăstrău Park, the largest in Bucharest
The Press House, a Stalinist reminder from the 1950s
Bucharest, simply put, is the city that gives the willing tourist a double perspective and offers a lot of contrasts. I’ll explain. Along with areas and buildings of “traditional” interest for the average tourist like the Parliament Palace, the Romanian Atheneum, the National History Museum (those I had the time to visit or at least see from outside) and green spaces which I really appreciate in a city, like Tineretului or Herăstrău parks, where I had the chance to have a stroll, this city really got me hooked for being “real”. It misses nothing that other post-communist capitals have, and even more. Plenty of communist housing blocks and communist institutional buildings (e.g. the Free Press House, the Parliament) make up for an evocative scenery which can touch people in different ways, from what I’ve heard other tourists whispering.
The Parliament (a.k.a. the People’s House) and Union Avenue (Bulevardul Unirii)
Bragadiru Palace on historical Rahova Street (Calea Rahovei)
Cotroceni upscale district
Moreover, walking on the side of Union Avenue (Bulevardul Unirii) and behide the buildings lining it, I had the chance to see how old urban planning was severed in order to transform Bucharest into the “new city” proclaimed by Nicolae Ceaușescu (Romania’s last communist leader, ousted in 1989), i.e. wide streets packed with buildings, big boulevards highlighting what the regime wanted: its greatness. While having a walk on historical Rahova Street (Calea Rahovei), I also had the chance to see the beautiful Bragadiru Palace, the really pleasant and bustling Flower Market (Piața de Flori), and got all the way to Cotroceni upscale district. Especially in Cotroceni, one could see how the “mansion area” was simply in contrast with a nearby decaying industrial area, if I’m not mistaken.
Vitan residential district, a non-tourist attraction
No doubts that I would definitely suggest to curious travelers to check out this city that left a really good impression on me! It’s not only about the multiple contrasts that I encountered, it’s not only about the interesting and thrilling history surrounding every area and building I saw, but also about the half-vanished smile in the face of people that have recently suffered from poverty and political unrest. It was a thing that really captured my heart there. The quick pace of people moving around, working, shouting in this city, trying to help, sometimes even with not the best English, a vibrant nightlife especially for the youth and multi-culturalism embracing the city, are some of the things which I had the chance to experience for a short while. It really made regret only staying there for 4 days. I’m really looking forward to experience this city more next time, from a Bucharester’s point of view.
All aerial pictures with the exception of Paris, Calea Victoriei and Cotroceni district are taken from Alex Gâlmeanu’s blog.
The cover photo is also taken from Alex Gâlmeanu‘s blog.
Text sent by Fabio Abazzi. Follow him on Instagram.