Gets a Perfect Score from this American Judge
You want to see the Arc de Triomphe on a budget. You like vampires and lithe tumbling Olympians. Perhaps you thought your flight was going to Hungary. Whichever your reasons for visiting Bucharest, you're in for a treat!
Known as Little Paris, Bucharest is the 6th largest city in the European Union, featuring its own Triumphal Arch (Arcul de Triumf) with Calea Victoriei (Victory Avenue) – the city's main drag lined with museums, hotels and restaurants - leading up to the monument. Both cosmopolitan and eclectic, its architecture is a mix of traditional Romanian buildings, Byzantine churches and buildings influenced by French architects.
What else is influenced by France ? The main train station in Bucharest is called Gara de Nord (sound familiar?) providing connections to international destinations and to all major cities in the country.
Unfortunately, during Ceusescu's dictatorship, much of the city's French flavor was demolished and replaced with communist-era architecture. The big kind – tall, bulky, soulless. Like the Palace of the Parliament, Europe 's largest administrative building and 2 nd largest in the world after the Pentagon. In a word? Gross. But historically important.
Not to worry, the country is coming back with even more joie de vivre (or the Romanian version of it.)
For a glimpse into the true past, there are still vestiges of Bucharest 's beginnings. For a view of authentic Brancovenese design, visit the Biserica Stavropoleos church. At the outdoor Village Museum, view more than 300 buildings representing the history of Romania 's rural architecture. The Palatul Cotroceni is lavishly furnished and contains many regal items, which were left behind when the royal family fled in a flash thanks to the commies back in 1947.
Probably in response to years of totalitarianism, the people of Bucharest enjoy the freedom of relaxing outdoors. Head to Herastrau Park or Cismigiu Gardens, the city's largest public park, to chill with the locals. Rest up like they do – because at night – it's time to salsa dance. The capital of Romania is filled with clubs and schools learning this fiery footwork. This could best sum up Bucharest – pre-conceived notions of a place and people don't serve a traveler well. Yes, this is a country known for orphanages, devilish dictators and a little girl named Nadia, but it's so much more.
Yes, it's cliché to talk about vampires, but this is really the perfect jumping off point should you want to see the true blood, the twilight and everything else fang and Bram fabulous.
Be sure to pack your Eurail Romania Pass, Brasov is 3 hrs away by train. Brasov boasts a magnificent German Gothic cathedral and is your gateway to Transylvania and Bran Castle. Close by is the medieval town of Sighisoara, the birthplace of Vlad Tepes, the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula. For the adventurous traveler in you, get the Balkan Flexipass and go where the train takes you.
Filled with hip cafes, fine dining, luxury restaurants and all the other requisite traveler pleasures, Bucharest just may have you doing backflips after your journey here. Go, it's a 10.
Contributed by: Klaus, a project manager from our Information Technology team, who enjoys traveling on high-speed trains like the ICE.