Starting the second leg of my Romanian adventure in Bucharest, this metropolis became the newest playground to explore. A strange mixture of grandeur and harshness, there is a sense of grit and a hard-working spirit about the place. This was not the grand spectacle of Paris, nor the urban streets of East London – but rather something that seemed to combine the two.
As the capital of Romania, there was a sense of mystery shrouding the place, the only knowledge I had glimmered about the country was the information gleamed in Iaşi, and a reading of Dracula, which was undoubtedly dramatised. Bucharest was therefore a blank canvas, and so I let the city take control as I followed the path it laid out.
With the sun beating down, and an overnight train weighing on my mind, I was flagging – but I couldn’t waste this opportunity. Angloville, a wonderful organisation that ran immersive conversation classes for wannabe English speakers, had put on a tour of this capital, and opposite the imposing university building, this tour began.
Exploring the streets, a sense of optimism oozes from every corner. Be it the dazzling CEC bank with its intricate windowed domes, or the beautifully intricate details of the Athenaeum, there is an insurgence of beautifully designed cultural buildings that speak to both the past and the present. The Old Town stands in a magnificent condition and is filled with churches, bars, museums and restaurants, and served as a refreshing break from the screamingly busy outer city.
Revolution Square symbolises Bucharest perfectly. Adorned with art and tributes to the freedom Romania can now boast, the square actively defies the repressive regime it stands to oppose. The building which was the Communist Party’s HQ on the one side stands as a symbol of the former repressive dictatorship this nation once suffered, a building that has been transformed into the new HQ for the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reform. The art is constantly being added to or edited by other artists, allowing Romanian citizens to put there stamp on an iconic piece of Romania’s past.
What is most humbling, however, is the hope that permeates the city. A hope that Romania can rise from its humble beginnings, yet maintain its charm and humility. A hope that it can welcome more Westernised traditions without losing itself in the process. A hope that the world we stop to look and listen to what those in Bucharest have to say, but most importantly a hope that looks inwards, and wants to inspire everyone that exists in the city.
Bucharest is a city filled with wonders and jewels – some ring of happier times, whilst others serve as poignant memories of overcoming hardship. A city that is often overlooked by those travelling throughout Europe, it is a city that should definitely be top of your list.