1989, the first teenage moments of our generation. The scene in TRT News Channel, where the Romanian Communist Leader Cavusescu and his wife were shot publicly, is dully treated in my mind. Years have passed, but when it comes to Romania, I still recall the gray, frozen squares and the execution scene of Cavusescu. I was in Bucharest last week, participating in the Executive Leadership Forum and co-working with PWN from other city networks to discuss the issues of “Women in the Board of Directors” and “Men’s Support in Gender-Balanced Leadership” with the members of the Management Board. Of course, the energy of a city can be affected by people and the environment that surround you. It is possible that 3 days with great people, the energy and positiveness of being in a great organization may changed my point of view of the city, but I have to admit that Bucharest was a city I ignored.
It is not vain that discussing “Who knows better, the one travels far or the one reads more?” Everywhere you go, you learn new things in every country you travel to, you become a part of the people’s feelings there. My impressions of Bucharest and the information I got; I’ve been impressed by the mental and emotional comments of Romanian friends. For this reason, some information may differ from those written on the internet.
Bucharest is a city close to Turkey which can be reached by a 1 hour plane journey from Istanbul. There are more than seven flights a day from Turkey, it must be an indicator of the intense trade relations between the two countries. With its wide boulevards, green spaces and large parks; it is not a gray city that you may prejudice, on the contrary, it’s green. It is said that there is always a fog condensation on the city because of its climate, especially because it is very hot in summer.
The only capital city in Europe that does not have a river or sea in it is Bucharest. Cavusescu’s life was not enough to finish his project of a channel which would direct Danube river through the city.
You see the influence of the Ottoman, French and Russian cultures in the city’s architectural formation. They describe it as “Little Paris”. Particularly buildings in the area called the Old Town and the boulevard, which stands in front of the Parliament and is longer than the Champ-Elysees, confirm this definition. Surprisingly, I learned from friends there that all this change is the work of the last 5 years. If you ask, they do not like politicians, they say there is no change here and this renovation is the result of a civil, independent initiative; but I think the influence of European Union funds is also great. Of course, the wide boulevards and most of the buildings dating from the 19th century have 150-200 years of history, but the city got a new life after has been renovated in the framework of a plan.
I think the reason why for coming here is to have an affordable and funny alternative for a couple on the weekend. Night life is very active. In the streets, there are plenty of night clubs, cafes, restaurants and they are very busy especially on weekends. Live music alternatives are quite numerous and life doesn’t end at 24.00. There are many restaurants where local cuisines as well as alternatives from different world tastes are offered and the prices are really reasonable. The beer and wine qualities are also pretty good and cheap. Bucharest is a pretty good alternative if you are going to go somewhere different for the weekends and want to have some traveling, listen to quality music, get affordable entertainment and food. The artistic life of the city is also quite mobile. The city is covered by many museums and art galleries. The week I was here was a museum-fair week, so museums were open 7/24 and there were long queues in front of them.
What shall we do ? Where do we go?
I spend most of the day at the meeting, so I wasn’t able to explore so many alternatives but I think I see a good bunch of preferred and suggested places. Let’s start shortly;
I stayed in Hotel Cismigiu. It was located in a very central destination, close to the Old Town. It’s a 4-star hotel. It’s named after “Fountain Park” sits just behind it. The renovation of the rather old building was completed a few years ago. A pleasant hotel in terms of location, quality of service and price balance. I recommend it: www.hotelcismigiu.ro
I strongly recommend you to take a tour with 3-4 hours of a panoramic guide. I will share the contact information of the guide who supported us.
Old Town (Lipscani) – Apart from the old palace, the renovated 19th Century French and Italian architecture dominates the buildings; there are cobbled streets, many cafes, restaurants and antique shops. It’s great that there’s a bookshop here too, where I especially recommend.
There is also a cafe on the top floor of this bookshop called Carturasti Carusel. With its luminous design, it is great to browse through books, CD’s and take a break for a coffee on the top floor.
Caruci Bere: One night you should definitely go to this restaurant. I think the dance show and the music are going on some specific days. It’s a very popular place.
Bordello Night Club: With live music and shows, a night of fun awaits you. We listened to pop & rock music from a very talented band.
Herastrau Park – in the park there is a museum of where all authentic Romanian houses are gathered.
Victory Road (Cale Vittoriei) – One of the oldest avenues. The old palace in the Boulevard carries the signature of an exceptional Romanian architect. A boulevard that links famous Old Town with the city and hosts famous brands.
Revolution Square – The Spark newspaper building, where Cavusescu was being heard for the last time by the uprising people, is also called the Political Building. There used to be a giant Lenin sculpture in the spot of the current Wings statue in the square. The Hilton hotel, located in the same square, also has an important history in the city. At World War II, it was known as Athena Palace and in it, a New Yorker Jewish journalist and a German officer in Bucharest were told in a forbidden love story. As the hotel was under revision during the Communist regime, they say that the building of the current hotel is more ugly than the old one in terms of aesthetic.
Our guide tells us the periods when Cavusescu was overthrown and the communist regime ended.
“It all started after the great earthquake of 1977. Cavusescu is implementing a serious austerity policy in the first place to pay off debts from outside. On the one hand, he’s trying to revive the country with giant projects, on the other hand, the people are tightening their belts to pay foreign debts. Even basic freedoms are constantly limited. A period in which everyone is kept under control. The winter of 1989 is very cold. The people who can’t get enough heat and households lacking food are rising. Numbers are pronounced differently in suppression interventions, but more than 100 people lose their lives as a consequence. Cavusescu decides to make a speech to calm the people. Outside, the angry crowd does not calm down and things go crazy. Cavusescu and his wife Elena escape from the roof of the building with a helicopter, but what he does not expect is the army turning its back on him. That day is December 21st. They take him to a village 40 km further from Bucharest and in a few days, they are executed by bullets on Christmas Day.”
Romanians are a religious society. They are sad because they are executed like this, especially on Christmas Day. They are almost 100% sure that the intervention is outsourced.
Parliament Building: You need to book in advance and have your passport with you. The Romanians have mixed feelings towards this building. On the one hand, they are boasting that after Pentagon, it is the world’s largest administrative building, all the materials, workmanship is 100% Roman, it has been constructed with local resources; on the other hand, they remember with grim sadness that over 30,000 small buildings were demolished during the construction of the Parliament building, especially churches, hospitals, synagogues, etc. belonging to the monarchy period. Under the Monarchy regime for about 70-80 years, they were ruled by a prince of Germany. surprisingly, it’s the period they were most proud of.
The building was built by young Romanian architects in the leadership of a young female architect who is 27 years old and claimed to be the nephew of the Elena Cavusescu. The building includes in-charge administrative and judicial units like Supreme Court, Senate, etc.
It is said that Cavusescu planned this building after visiting North Korea, with the inspiration of collecting all the administrative units in the country in a single complex. The building, which was started to be built in 1984, is reported to have not been completed, although in 1989 Nikola Cavusescu said it was finished.
The discussions about the building never end. Halls for conferences, congresses and meetings are being rented to reduce costs. A few years ago, Trump gave € 2 billion as he wanted to buy the building, but it wasn’t sold to him, again according to the rumors.
The building itself does not mean anything on its own, but the period, the people and the stories make the building different and special. It was also nice to see Bucharest from the large hall balcony and the upper terrace with wide angle. On the inside walls of the building you can also see the paintings of Balasca, who has the unfortunate misfortune of being remembered as the painter of Cavusescu. I think his paintings are impressive. The painter was known for his intense use of blue color.
That’s all that’s left of me after a 3 day trip to Bucharest. There is so much to do, a lot to go around if we treat the country as a whole. I’ve never been to Transylvania or Dracula if you pay attention. As a result, do not leave this country, which has long historical ties with us and is located right under our nose, out of your travel plans.