From the architectural diversity of so many wonderful buildings, to grey communist standardization, the Romanian capital is a city which wears both its rich history and deep wounds on its sleeve. Having suffered heavy bombings at the hands of both Allied and Axis forces during the war years, Bucharest is a place with stories to tell. It is screaming them in the daylight, and whispering them in the shadows. You just need to make yourself aware.
With only a half broken smartphone in my pocket (talk about lowering expectations), I went on a Summer day walk so we can all see how some things have (or have not) changed since the times of World War Two in the metropolis which was once affectionately described as “The Little Paris”.
We start our journey on Calea Mosilor(Old Men’s Alley), one of the oldest and most historically significant streets in the city. Already a major artery from the times of medieval Bucharest, Calea Mosilor has been expanded over the years, and to this day it remains a major thoroughfare of the capital, although devoid of the glamour it may have had in previous ages. In 1825, Calea Mosilor was the first street in Romania to be paved with cobblestones.
The end of Calea Mosilor brings us to Unirii Square, one of the most important transport hubs and points of interest in the center of Bucharest. This is an area which suffered massive transformations during the post-WW2 communist rule. Of course, those transformations have rarely been for the better.
No more than a few steps are needed, and we arrive at the very heart of Bucharest: Piata Universitatii(University Square). In the 1500s, the area used to be right at the northern outskirts of the city, but as Bucharest evolved and followed the Parisian influences of urban development, ‘University Square’ became both the geometrical center of the city, and the most important road junction. Statues and historical buildings intertwine with more modern architecture, watching the busy mob as people go about their daily lives.
Just a bit further up the street, walking on Queen Elizabeth Boulevard, we reach Calea Victoriei(Victory Avenue). This is another famous street in Bucharest, filled with history and old buildings which survived the test of time. Calea Victoriei (named “Ulita Mare – Large Street” or “Brasov Road” before 1878, when it was given its current name after Romania’s victory in the Independence War) used to be a huge trade route and an area for promenade. Today it is a glamorous shopping strip, filled with cafes, shops, gelaterias and restaurants, and is a pedestrian area during the weekends. It has dedicated bicycle lanes (which is kind of a big deal in Eastern Europe) and is becoming an increasingly popular location between locals and tourists as we speak.
Strolling further down Victory Avenue …
Phew. It was a journey, but as the rain is starting to pour, it might just be time to head home. Bucharest certainly has many more stories to tell, as well as places to show, and maybe you will want to find those out for yourself one day. For now, I did my best to share a small, but significant part of Romania’s capital. And if you enjoyed this read, maybe I’ll do it again. Hopefully with a better camera, a bit more light and a bit more color! 🙂
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