Arriving in Bucharest on Wednesday, it was impossible not to notice how the city crackles with energy. The soundtrack of the city is the constant noise of motorcycles, cars, and sirens. On our first night in the Bucharest, a traffic-paralyzing rock concert in one of the city squares near our hotel attracted crowds of fans and the thumping of the music went on late into the evening. And this was on a weeknight.
Bucharest: a city in contrasts and, perhaps, the next major tourist destination
In our short time here of just a few days we have taken a brief walking tour (courtesy of our cruise operator) on Wednesday, a longer walking tour on Thursday focused on the Old Town, and a Monarchy to Communism tour on Saturday evening. We have learned something about the city and its history – some of this is briefly outlined in our previous blog post. One of our most remarked-upon observations has been what a study in contrast this city is. There are numerous beautiful, French style buildings dating back to the 19th century, many in need of renovation and many more currently being renovated. In the block behind our apartment on one side of the alleyway is a modern new hotel, on the other side, urban blight remains. We can imagine the city being a major tourist destination in the next twenty years. My advice to those reading this blog would be to see it now while it’s affordable and not overrun by tourists in the way of many European cities.
A day to rest and relax
The Airbnb we moved to after the official ending of the cruise is a lovely apartment at the edge of the Old Town. It is located at the intersection of two busy streets making it noisy into the night, with noise starting back up again in the morning. We went to bed on Friday night at around 11:00 after a full day that ended with a nice dinner with two couples from the cruise and were amazed the next morning to find that we had slept past 9:30. We had slept more than ten hours. How had we, normally early risers, slept so late? We were clearly more exhausted than we had realized, mostly due to the pace of the cruise having finally caught up. But it was oddly quiet outside. Where were the traffic sounds? We remembered that this morning is the day before Easter in Bucharest — the primary faith here is Eastern Orthodox and their calendar puts Easter a week later than it is at home. The city had quieted down for the holiday weekend.
We discussed what to do with the day, our last day in Bucharest, now that we had slept so much of it away. We thought about taking a 35-minute metro ride to see a top attraction here, an open-air museum showcasing folk culture in Romania. Another option is the renowned Bucharest History Museum, just a block from our Airbnb. There are many other sights to see here as well. We decided, instead, to take a ten-minute walk to the nearby Park Cișmigiu. The park is beautiful, not in ultra-manicured way of so many parks in the U.S. and Europe, but nicely kept with beautiful borders of tulips and pansies, a lovely pathway with a tree canopy of Ginko trees, and a nice little lake and bridge. The lake offers rowboat and pedal boat rentals and there is a charming little café along the banks. We got a table at the café and ordered beers and sandwiches and enjoyed watching boaters on the lake and walkers on the shore.
The time in the park showed a side of Bucharest that we hadn’t seen, a calmer and more relaxed version of families and couples, most seemed to be local, enjoying a beautiful spring day on a holiday weekend. It was just what we needed.