I am visiting Bucharest on a business trip. But I will take the opportunity to arrive on Saturday and visit the city. The usual deal is that the company pays for the flights and workday hotel bookings. I pay for any extra hotel days. It’s a nice perk to take advantage of the time I have already spent flying.
If I’m already here, why not to have some leisure time visiting the city?
When I travel for pleasure, the first thing I do when I arrive is to get to downtown. But, I got a transport ready from the company that drive me to the hotel. I had the opportunity to empty the backpack in the room, so I need to carry less weight around. An exchange of time for convenience that I accept reluctantly as the limited amount of flights between Stockholm and Bucharest didn’t allow me to choose a reasonable time of arrival.
I wanted to visit first the Palace of the Parliament. But I was not able to get a ticket in such short notice. I usually prepare my trips well in advance. But, this time it was difficult as I booked the trip in a short notice. From 1st of January to 30th of June 2019, only limited visits of the Palace of Parliament will be possible for a certain number of days. Places available for April and May have already been booked. Information about visiting the Palace of Parliament will be updated every 30 days in advance for each month. Notice on http://cic.cdep.ro (Palace of Parliament official website)
I take the metro at Aurel Vlaicu metro station, named after the Romanian engineer, to Universitate station. I go directly to the National Museum of Art of Romania (MNaR). I have just two hours left before the museum closes.
The MNaR is divided into two galleries. I start by visiting the European Art Gallery. As I walk thru the corridors admiring the exposed canvases I have a strong feeling of déjà vu. Many names of artists that I studied in school are on display here. The works of Rembrandt, Renoir, Monet or El Greco seem better, or just more important than others just because I can still recall their names. I only vaguely remember what their styles were or why were they important.
The National Gallery, the other half of the building, is dedicated to Romanian art. I walk at a brisk pace thru the Medieval Romanian Art, the Treasure Rooms and the Romanian Modern Art rooms. I will come back on another trip with more time.
I have seen across Europe similar exhibits in the past. But, after visiting so many museums in Asia, I see this exhibit with new eyes. I notice how much symbology I can understand without being an expert. As I see crucifixes, crowns, a mother with a small child and winged men, it seems the most normal of setups as I have the background to understand the Christian symbolism. But, I can imagine a visitor from Asia looking as puzzled to the highly symbolic religious art as I am while viewing Esoteric Buddhism art in the National Museum of Tokyo.
As the museum closes, I leave the old town center and walk towards Cișmigiu Park. In the map, it just looks like a green patch of green, so I am not sure what I will find there. I am pleasantly surprised. It is a beautiful park full of people enjoying nature. There is a big lake navigated by rowboats in the middle of the park. A couple of musicians play the violin meanwhile people stops by to listen to the music. Now, without hurry, I slowly walk the paths stopping as I please to take pictures of flora and fauna of the park.
Next day, I wake up early in the morning. I arrive too soon, the Muzeul National de Istorie a Romaniei (National Museum of Romanian History) is still closed. So, I go around the building and stumble upon the Stavropoleos Monastery Church. The church is a gorgeous small building constantly visited by worshipers. Groups of tourists pass by outside the building following their guides. Bucharest has a small old city center compared with some other European capitals, but it is very beautiful and worth a visit. I spend my time looking at interesting buildings and watching the early tourists. Time flies. The museum is now open.
Stavropoleos Monastery Church
The church was built in 1724, during the reign of Nicholas Mavrocordatos (Prince of Wallachia, 1719-1730), by the archimandrite Ioannikios Stratonikeas, a Greek monk from Pogoniani. Within the precinct of his inn, Ioannikios built the church, and a monastery which was economically sustained with the incomes from the inn (a relatively common situation in those times). In 1726 abbot Ioannikios was elected metropolitan of Stavropolis and exarch of Caria. Since then the monastery he built is named Stavropoleos, after the name of the old seat. On February 7, 1742 Ioannikios, aged 61, died and was buried in his church.- Wikipedia
There are two exhibits at the History Museum that grab my attention. A Trajan’s Column reproduction at scale dominates one part of the building basement. It is an interesting exhibit in content and size. The column is of importance for Romania as it is part of Romanians origin history.
The Historic Treasure Hall fills the other half of the basement. Gold items shine under the artificial light of the room. The Golden Helmet of Coţofeneşti, the Turnu Măgurele diadems or the Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza jewels represented different historical periods of the country from the remote past to the present. It is a showcase of the possessions of the most affluent citizens of their time.
After enjoying the works of art and learning some Romanian history I leave the museum and start walking towards Carol Park.
This is yet another beautiful Bucharest park. The Nation’s Heroes Memorial is located in the most prominent location in the park. I have the opportunity to photograph a squirrel that hurries to get up a tree, it's nature in the city. Most of the people in the park seem local. I have not seen so much tourism in the city other than the guided groups in the historical centre. Romania is known more as a country that people leaves that one that people comes to. A changing economic situation and the European membership may change that in the future.
I finish my visit to Bucharest at Cărtureşti Verona. This unique bookstore would be one of those places that I will regularly visit if I lived in this city. It is a mixture of joy and sadness to find such a place so far from home.