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Bucharest - Home of a Medieval Court

Romania's capital, the nation's center of cultural and economic life, was founded 500 years ago and it is a natural starting point for visiting the country. Any city is what you make of it and Bucharest, Romania's capital is no exception. Founded officially in 1495 by Prince Vlad Tepes (also known as Dracula), on the banks of the Dambovita River, it grew into prominence as the capital of his court. Vlad Tepes was notorious for his cruelty in impaling his Turkish enemies, but was equally a wise and brave defender of the Walachia State he ruled. The name Bucharest derived from the word 'bucur' (joyful) and, like most European cities, it has had decades of joy, decades of greatness and decades of grief. When Romania was recognized as a State in 1862, Bucharest naturally expanded. After 1918, when Transylvania was reunited with the rest of the country, the city developed into an acknowledged European center of culture and good living, earning the name "the Little Paris of the East". French architects, who had contributed so much to its style, its tree-lined boulevards and elegant century architecture in the 19th century, again added grace to its buildings. After the World War II, the falling of the monarchy and Communism, so-called "radial" suburbs were built in starkly utilitarian style to house the workers. In 1977, a devastating earthquake gave to the dictator Ceausescu the opportunity of destroying much of the old city and replaces it with the Civic Centre - a new concept in the architecture of the old town. In spite of the massive reconstruction of the 1980s, Bucharest remains a Garden City, leafy and pleasant, with pavement cafes open in the warm summer, and boating on its lakes and rivers.

What to See


Bucharest's museums are a visitor attraction already, especially the open air Village Museum (1936) in the Herastrau Park. Located in the heart of Bucharest, the museum represents for all Romanians and their foreign guests a sample of the Romanian spirit, a live image of the traditional village, a major expression of our natural art. It is an impressive ethnographic document and of social history. Also, you should not miss the National History Museum, the National Arts Museum and the "Grigore Antipa" Natural History Museum.
The buildings representative of the architectural styles of past centuries include the Coltea Hospital - the first in Bucharest (1704), Manuc's Inn (1804-1808) - still serving as a popular hotel, Sutu Palace (1833-1834) - in neo-gothic style, Cotroceni Palace (1893) - currently the Presidential residence, Catacuzino Palace (1898-1900) - in French baroque style, actually housing the "George Enescu" Music Museum.
Bucharest also contains a surprising number of historic churches: the Patriarchal Cathedral (1656-1658), Old Court Church (1545-1547), Cretulescu Church (1720-1722), Stravropoleos Church (1724-1730), and others.
In 1977 earthquake offered to Nicolae Ceausescu the pretext of demolishing the historic Spirii Hill district to create his "Civic Centre", the center piece of which was a building of monumental proportions - the "House of the People", now the Palace of Parliament. With a total surface aria of 265,000 sq. m., it is the biggest in Europe and the second biggest in the world, after the Pentagon.
A 27 m (88 ft) high Arc of Triumph was erected in 1935 on the handsome Kiseleff Road, itself longer than the Champs Elysee and alive with blossom in the spring.

A Garden City Today


One of the largest cities in Central and Eastern Europe lies in the south of the country, on the Romanian Plain. The Colentina River creates a girdle of lakes - Mogosoaia, Chitila, Baneasa, Herastrau, Floreasca, Tei and Pantelimon - while the Dambovita River crosses the city from the west to east, with a huge storage lake at the entrance, ideal for water sports.
A true "green capital" of Europe, Bucharest has many verdant oases, such as Cismigiu Park (arranged by Viennese architect F. Meyer), Herastrau Park (on the banks of the lake with the same name, a pleasant spot for recreation and water sports), Carol Park (1906), The Botanical Garden (1935) and Tineretului Park.

 
 

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