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Apartments built by CommunistsSadly leaving Sinaia and its beautiful surroundings (you might know we would enjoy being in the mountains!), we caught the bus back to Bucharest and the final stop on our trip. Bucharest is the capital of Romania. It is called the Las Vegas of Romania because of all the casinos found there. It is home to 2.5M people and 2M autos. There's lots of traffic and pollution - the 2nd worst in Europe. Bucharest has no skyscrapers because the land has high water content and lots of earthquakes. From 1968-1989, Romania was ruled with an iron fist by Ceausescu. He destroyed many historic buildings including 36 churches, exported goods that people needed (hence the bread lines), bugged apartments, and allowed only 2 hours of TV/day. The people finally revolted in 1989 and won. The apartments that were built during this time have paper thin walls and no insulation. Today they cost about $100,000 for a 1 bedroom unit.

Palace of ParliamentOur bus tour through the city took us past the Palace of Parliament. Begun in 1984 by Ceausescu, it initially took 20,000 workers and billions of Lei (Romanian currency) to build. It is a huge building rising 276 feet above the ground but is nearly as deep underground. Nearly 1.1 million square feet in area, it is the second largest administration building in the world after the Pentagon. It sits at the end of a long boulevard that Ceausescu modeled after the Champs Elysee in Paris.Apts. for members of Parliament Along the boulevard are rows of residences built for the members of Ceausescu's staff. Unfortunately, to build in this area, many historic buildings and private residences were destroyed.

We passed the Piata Revolutiei, the place where the revolution of 1989 started, and University Square where there is a memorial to those who lost their lives in the revolution. Here demonstrators faced Ceausescu's forces on Dec. 21, 1989.

Statue of Charles de GaulleBucharest is also called "the little Paris"because of its wide boulevards. There's a statue of Charles de Gaulle who spent some time here and an Arc de Triomphe commemorating the exploits of WWI soldiers.

Herastrau ParkDespite all the traffic and congestion, Bucharest is home to many parks, one of the largest being Herastrau Park. This park is located around a large lake. We took a long walk thru the park, admiring the tall oak trees in the peak of their fall colors. There were a lot of people also enjoying the park, some on roller blades or bikes, others strolling thru the gardens and statuary.

Village MuseumThe park is also home to the Village Museum, an open air park containing full scale displays of nearly 300 churches, wooden houses, windmills and farm buildings. This unique museum offers an overview of Romanian village life through the ages.

Caldarusani MonasteryOn our final day in Romania, we opted for a tour to the Caldarusani Monastery. This large Eastern Orthodox monastery was built in 1637 and is currently home to 30 monks. They have lots of land for grazing sheep and cattle, and growing crops. Since this was a Sunday, we were able to attend their service, which was a unique experience. We joined the monks and local people for about 20 minutes of their normally 4 hour service. It was fascinating listening to the chants and watching the people lighting candles, kissing relics and making offerings. It is quite usual for people to come and go throughout the long service.

Orthodox church at the MonasteryThe monastery was built in 1638. It fostered one of the first European schools of religious paintings,Lunch at the Monastery We visited the museum with its many old art objects, icons and paintings, and talked to the monks about their life in the monastery. Then we enjoyed a lunch of fresh food raised and grown by the monks.



Last evening's entertainmentOur farewell dinner was at a local restaurant where we were entertained by a folk band and dancers.Fred joins in the dancing They even got Fred up to dance with them. Then we had a special tour of the city by night to see the beautiful lighted buildings - a wonderful way to end this very special trip.


To view additional photos from our stay in Bucharest, go to the Bucharest Photo Gallery.


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