Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Bucharest , our citybreak choice

My family and I recently visited Bucharest. My sister recommended us to search on www.medestino.com for a Belgrade hotel and for any special hotel deals. We picked up Bucharest Hilton as our hotel to stay, booked it online and received our confirmation instantly. We purchased our flight tickets directly from Aegean Airlines to fly from Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport to Bucharest. The flight was great and so was the service. Bucharest's Otopeni airport is situated 16km north of the centre so we rented a car from Hertz which has is open from 8am-8pm. We arrived at the Hilton hotel, checked in easily and got our rooms.

All perfect!!

Bucharest is a city for fantasists with a wealth of history. The Greek Viceroys ruled the city in the name of the imperial government in Istanbul until 1821. Dubbed the 'Paris of the East', for its cosmopolitan social scene and architecture, the city's grand avenues recall its pre-World War II heyday when the Romanian aristocracy were among the richest in Europe. Today, the city is an eccentric cocktail of faded elegance, failed megalomania and flashy
Bucharest is one of Europe's great museum cities. Originally occupied by Dacians, colonised by Greeks and Romans, invaded by Turks, it has a turbulent past. Yet one which has left a remarkable ark of treasures, notably, the National Art Museum and the Natural History Museum.

We visited several museums and places of interest :
THE ROYAL PALACE AND NATIONAL ART MUSEUM: The former Royal Palace is the most imposing of the buildings surrounding the Piata Revolutiei. Since 1950 the Palace has housed the National Art Museum in its southern wing. Open Wed to Sun 10am-6pm.

CALEA VICTORIEI, 'VICTORY AVENUE': This has been Bucharest's most fashionable address, with marked contrasts; elegant and sleepy at its northern end, and an eclectic jumble of old apartment buildings, shops selling cakes and Western couture at the southern end.

THE NATIONAL HISTORY MUSEUM: Calea Victoriei 12. This museum houses plaster casts from Trajan's Column covered with depictions of his Dacian campaigns, as well as Greek, Roman and medieval tombstones and carvings. A basement vault displays Romania's national treasures, a dazzling display of gold and jewellery, from prehistoric finds, to Queen Marie's crown and the casket said to hold her heart, to the sceptres of Ferdinand I and Carol II.

THE PALACE OF PARLIAMENT: This colossal Palace is the third biggest building in the world, after the Pentagon and Potala. It epitomises the megalomania that overtook Ceausescu in the 1980s. Here he intended to house ministries, Communist Party offices and the apartments of high functionaries. The interiors are lavishly decorated with marble and gold leaf and there are 4,500 chandeliers. The decoration was never finished due to Ceausescus' ever-changing whims.

We did try some local dishes: The best known is sarmale, cabbage leaves stuffed with rice, meat and herbs, usually served with sour cream or horseradish. These are also made with vine leaves or with corn. Mamaliga, maize mush or polenta, is often served with sour cream and especially associated with shepherds and rustic outdoor life. Muschi ciobanesc is pork stuffed with ham, covered with cheese and served with mayonnaise, cucumber and herbs. Keep an eye out for regional specialities, Moldavian cooking is reputedly the best in Romania, featuring rissoles and other more elaborate dishes.

Markos Provopoulos

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