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Maria and Gerry’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 27 Jun 2006

Location: Romania

MapIn Bucharest.
Today we were taken in hand by local guide Christian who was with us for the rest of our stay in Romania.Our guide in Bulgaria DanieL had assured us that if our Romanian guide did not within the first 5 minutes tell us that we were in a Latin country he would shout us all a drink.His money was very safe.Yes the Romanians speak a Latin language closely allied to Italian,Spanish etc but are they truly Latin? Well many Roman soldiers stationed in Romania chose to settle on the rich Danube Plain on discharge but they may not have been from Italy in the first place and in any case subsequent invasions by the Goths,the Visigoths,the Huns,the Byzantines, the Greeks,the Turks,the Poles,the Russians,the Hungarians,the Germans and finally the Soviets will have diluted the Roman genes somewhat.
The northern part of Bucharest is vey green and in communist times was the exclusesive preserve of the party leadership so much so that the great unwashed were expressly forbidden entry unless specifically invited.So much for the supposed workers paradise.
When the communists came to power all property belonged to the state,As a result not a great deal of maintenance was done.Now that private ownership has been restored a lot of renovation is taking place.
Nowadays 92% of Romanians own their own dwellings.
Lots of traffic problems for in the last 10 yrs car ownership has increase by 100%.
in the old days one car manufacturer Dacia made Renaults under license so people did not ask what brand of car you drive but what colour and waiting time was 9 yrs..
We had a stop to visit the Patriarchs Church right in the centre of town but on a litle knoll,an oasis of peace and tranquility.Went inside to listen to the great singing which as you know is the best in all Cristianity.The 92 yr. old Patriarch ie the head of the Orthodox Church in Romania was present. The practise of lighting candles on church has been banned as the icons have become very darkened so it is done outside.
Bucharest has 2mill. inhabitans and is not old at least not for an European capital.Its name comes from a shepherd who founded the village from which the city grew.Most if not all big cities are either on the sea or on a river.Bucharest does not fit into that category.
More stops to look at old homes especially that of one of Romanias heroes the composer Georghe Inescu.Before lunch we stopped outside the Peoples Palace to look at the scale of the building and the broad long boulevard leding up to it.
For lunch it was suggested we visit a bistro called Cafe Paris so we did and had a very pleasant lunch in an atmosphere reminescent of Gay Paris before the word gay was hijacked.The coffee,beer and mousaki were delicious.We followed instructions to find a bookshop and they had what we wanted.On the way back to the bus tried to find the gardens but by this time it was 38C so took fefuge under some trees to wait for the rest.
In the afternoon visited the now world famous Poeples Palace constructed between 1984 and 89.The melagomaniac dictator Nicolai Ceascescue a former apprentice shoemaker had the idea after visiting Paris to create his own Champs Elysees. He flattened 20000 houses 40 schools 4 hospitals and numrous churches to give himself space for his crazy ideas.Forty thousand workers working in shifts round the clock created a marble and granite stucture costing around the $2 billion US and covering 393,000 sq meters or almost 2. 5 million sq feet.Chandeliers the size of houses,rooms as big as three rugby pitches,miles of carpets woven on specially made looms,more crystal than Versailles and it was planned that everywhere there would be huge paintings of the beloved leader and his wife.Well it did not work out that way for a fiery Lutheran minister delivered a sermon condeming him and when the secret police though to deal with him they found the house surrounded by his brave parishioners.
To cut a long story short the revolution spread and when the dictator tried to deliver a speech to the assembled masses he was shouted down something quite strange in his experience.He then knew his curtain call had come and took of in a helicopter then a car was arrested for speeding (take note Helen Clark) and three days later after a military trial both of them were shot.
We saw only 5 rooms and a number of gallaries,it has 1000 rooms and is second in size only to the Pentagon.The curtains alone were woven by nuns and include five different materials as well as gold thread.
Today parliament and various government departments have moved in and it is used as conference centre,but the building has yet to be completed and is costing money.
Buildings along the boulavard are now home to the people who were initially displaced when the area was flattened.
We also visited an open air museum started in 1936 where farm houses from around the country were relocated.Also on show are cornmills,animal shelters, hay barns and a number of wooden churches.
That night we ate out at an 1806 caravanserai.Though we sat on the balcony it was still hot the mercury having hit 38 that day.A cravanserai was a place where travelling merchants could stay in safety overnight as a big wooden door was the only way in.We were entertained by some very good musicians and Gerry pursuaded them to play the Rumanian Rhapsody by Inescu.We chose a very good local merlot to go with the meal.We always try to drink the local wine and some of it is very good too.