A couple of shorts flights moved us from Dubrovnik to Bucharest, Romania. We arrived at night but easily found our new apartment. We’ve spent the last couple of months in suburbs, but here we are right in the city center and close to all sorts of landmarks.
Bucharest is a stark contrast to Split and Dubrovnik. The city is much newer – the Old Town is mostly from the 1800s rather than the 1300s. The buildings are on a much grander scale, both because it is a city of two million and partly because it was rebuilt to be a royal capital modeled after Paris and then a capital to showcase Communist power.
Bucharest is more spread out, but without many hills, so it is easier to spend hours walking, our preferred way of exploring new places. Croatia was still experiencing the middle of spring, but here we’ve fast-forwarded to summer. We gained ten degrees and lots of leafy trees.
The National History Museum seemed like the best place to start since we don’t know as much as we’d like about Romania’s past. Unfortunately it is undergoing (apparently indefinite) remodeling. Only a few rooms were open, but there were some pretty impressive things on display.
A life-sized replica of Trajan’s Column took up a main gallery. Its panels show the conquering of the Dacians, who lived in the region 2000 years ago. Since the column is in sections at eye-level, we could see the carved details. It was interesting to me that many scenes focus on building bridges and forts and meeting emissaries rather than on fighting (though there is plenty of that as well). Trajan clearly wanted Romans to think he was capable in all situations.
Royal jewels were also on display. The King’s crown was my favorite piece; it’s made of steel rather than precious metal. Forged from a cannon captured by Romanian troops fighting the Ottomans for independence, the King wanted it to be a reminder of the soldiers’ bravery and the price of creating a sovereign nation.
Roman funerary tablets and inscriptions and miscellaneous jewelry from the last 2000 years rounded out the collection.
Romanian Orthodox Churches seem to be on almost every block in the city center, sometimes quietly sandwiched between massive apartment blocks. They remind me of churches we saw in the Catalunyan Art Museum in Barcelona. The interiors are dim, but covered in paintings and murals. No space is left plain, and it would be easy to spend hours studying the scenes in each church.
Finally, an item that caught my eye at the History Museum was a photograph of the street outside our apartment building. Since the December 1989 Revolution, the trees have grown and blocked the view and the tanks have gone. It really drove home how recently the repressive regime was thrown off.