I glanced out of the bus when leaving the airport. Large chunks of concrete created a grey contrast against the thick packs of snow slowly forming against the structures from the penetrating ice rains slamming down gloomy suburbs. To say it was love at first sight between me and Bucharest would be an unreserved lie.
But, I’m tolerant. I believe in second chances. I wanted a slice of the Balkans raw on my plate and to sink my teeth into them. I was, by all means, determined to find the hidden treasures of Romania’s frozen capital. Literally.
Geocaching was going to be the compass to my urban exploration, a digital cupid to slowly, but surely, make me fall with the introverted charm of this destination.
My slippery voyage (made extra adventurous by giant chunks of ice promptly falling down from buildings and branches, crushing entire cars and ripping trees apart – real life Super Mario) led me to all what collectively creates Bucharest’s identity and diverse personality:
Hidden from view – GC6BEFH
Sure, you can glance up at those massive cement blocks marking Bucharest’s suburbia and see traces of a past that once was, but blink a few times and witness a crispy clean canvas. A unique opportunity for the new creative elite, decorating these constructions of local daily life with the colors of a fresh era.
Sometimes even the street itself can be considered an artwork on its own, especially when your wanderings lead you to the elegant roads of the historic center. Let your eyes take in glamorous boulevards like Victoriei, and satisfy sheer curiosity in passages such as Învoirii, Tonitza and lively Lipscani, bursting with life and music until the wee hours of the morning.
I Bucharest – GC75371
My digital compass led me to the prime cultural capsules of town, as well as those hidden expositions that seemed to have escaped the tourist guides somehow.
George Enescu Museum – GC65TFJ
I found caches around the bigwigs such as the National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC), The National Museum of Art (MNAR – housed in the previous Royal Palace), the Art Collections Museum, the George Enescu National Museum and the National History Museum, often equally impressive from the outside as the interior you might or might not feel triggered to unveil. I enjoyed stumbling upon unexpected gems like the Theodor Aman Museum, a compact gallery dedicated to this Romanian painter communicating a unique sense of national culture by pre-impressionism, his style strongly hinting to artistic superstars like Monet & co. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Ateneul Roman – GC4R4ER
Whatever they can do with a paintbrush Romanians do even better when provided a stage. Luckily for the culture vultures among us, Bucharest is jam-packed with top-notch venues. The most famous one, and a symbol of national pride, is the celebrated Roman Athenaeum, the elegant concert hall placing Romania on the European cultural shortlist. Besides one of Bucharest’s prime landmarks, it’s an official European Heritage listing since 2007.
Architecture and Sights
[MR] Casa Poporului – GC5FPEX
Besides the off-the-grid points of interest, I searched for hidden treasures at the more obvious sights every travel guide hysterically raves about. Casa Poporului / Palatul Parlamentului, for example, the Parliament’s Palace (quite literally) and the biggest building of entire Europe and only second to the Pentagon, worldwide. This not-so-modest construction is 84 meters high, has a floor area of 365,000 square meters, a volume of 2,550,000 cubic meters and it contains no less than 1100 rooms. Other useless information Wikipedia provides us with it that it weighs 4,098,500,000 kilograms, which leaves me wondering on how they figured that out.