14 January 2021 / Bucharest

A November weekend in Bucharest, Romania or how "before destruction the heart of man is proud"

A November weekend in Bucharest, Romania or how "before destruction the heart of man is proud"

I spent a November weekend in Bucharest, Romania in 2018. Not enough to really get to know the city. Therefore, in this post I am sharing bits and glimpses. The city is interesting and worth exploring further. 

An Empty Palace

The wise king Solomon says in the Bible:

"Before destruction the heart of man is proud"Proverbs 18:12

It is a general truth, but in during my weekend in Bucharest, Romania, I saw a standing proof. I visited the Parliament building, built originally as a palace for the last communist dictator of Romania. I won't mention his and his wife's names deliberately.

The dictator was a proud man. He wanted his palace to be large. He had large parts of Bucharest demolished to make place for it. Thousands of people were displaced. Then thousands of people labored on his grand residence. In times of economical hardships, he didn't care about his people. He only cared about himself. 

Romanian Parliament
Romanian Parliament

The palace was built. It became the second largest building in the world. However, before all the work was completed, the people of Romania had risen. The revolution of December 1989 brought the dictator down. He and his wife were promptly executed.

The symbol of the dictator's ego, became the house of the Parliament of democratic Romania and a museum. Now, tourists can visit it and reflect upon History. I took a tour and it was the weirdest museum tour in my life.

Inside the Parliament building
Inside the Parliament building

We toured long corridors and enormous, empty rooms. Empty was the word of the tour. While parts of the building serve the public, large swaths remain empty. The guide told us the history of the construction. However she could not tell us the history of the rooms we toured. She could not, because there had been no history.

Inside the Parliament building
Inside the Parliament building

The History had brought the dictator down before he managed to settle in this grand building. A fair irony of History, I would say.

A City of Boulevards

Bucharest is a city grand boulevards. Think Paris' Champs Elysees, but wider and longer. The November weekend in Bucharest was a warm one. With my hotel not far from the Parliament, I had an opportunity to enjoy a stroll down the long and wide Uniri Boulevard, past the Piața Unirii, all the way to Alba Iulia square. 

Fountain at Piața Unirii
Fountain at Piața Unirii

The historical Old Town is like of any medieval city in Europe - cramped and full of narrow streets. This said, my overall impression of Bucharest is - spacious and open.

Historical Center of Bucharest
Historical Center of Bucharest

Synagogues of Bucharest

Visiting European cities, I love to follow Jewish history. For that reason, I spent half a day finding synagogues of Bucharest. Adjacent to Unirii Boulevard, there's Bucharest' former Jewish district. There were several synagogues. The largest, is now a Jewish museum. I was there outside of visit hours, but a very friendly hostess offered a tour.

Jewish Museum in Bucharest
Jewish Museum in Bucharest

The museum documents the history of Romanian Jews. The more influential Jews arrived to Romania from Spain, therefore their building bore traits of Sephardic architecture. It in turn borrows heavily from Moorish style, typical of southern Iberia. In the museum we learnt how both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews arrived, thrived and perished.

Inside the Jewish Museum of Bucharest
Inside the Jewish Museum of Bucharest

A Theater Company

My November weekend in Bucharest ended in front of the National Theater. I spotted an interesting sculpture there. It's made of bronze and portrays Luca Caragiale, a Romanian playwriter with a troupe of actors.

Theater Troupe in front of the National Theater in Bucharest
Theater Troupe in front of the National Theater in Bucharest

Those who know Luca Caragiale would recognize himself and the characters from his plays. I don't, so for me the sculpture is just an interesting object.

Freedom is not for granted

Revolution Square in Bucharest
Revolution Square in Bucharest

The last photo of my November weekend in Bucharest is from the Revolution Square. It is here where in his last attempt to cling to power, the late dictator ordered to fire at protesting crowd. More than one thousand laid dead here. Fortunately for Romania, the dictator was dead few days after the protest. I  honor the brave citizens of Bucharest who stood up to the dictator and brought about the changes that lead to free, democratic society. 

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