06-12-2007, 08:22 AM
Taking another 48 hour shortie--this time to Bucharest. Any recommendations for restaurants or walks? Any must-see sights?
Thanks, y'all"wherever you go, there you are"
07-27-2007, 10:42 AM
Too bad I had to answer my own question!
I just returned from my second trip and have a few bits of wisdom to impart for those who visit Bucharest.
First, my impression is that the city has a long way to go to develop a competitive tourism
business. There is very little to see in Bucharest from organized tour operators. Most just drive you past the sights but then you add packages for the museums, Parliament, etc. The most popular sights are well outside the city--near Brashov, which can be reached by train, as well as car.
Rental cars are extremely expensive and hard to come by--either at OTP airport or at city center hotels. Hours usually start 8 am and end 8 pm. A sample one-day rental for a manual compact car, with insurance+concession fee+VAT runs about $100-120 US. Jack it up $30+ more for a midsize automatic. We dismissed the only car offer avail for us for $120EU because the km limit was 300.
Most of the attractions for tourists are the Dracula-related places, like Bran Castle, which unfortunately, may not have any pertinent link to the real Vlad. But, it looks like the perfect "horror flick" castle. The Black Sea resorts are within 2 hours drive and a apparently some of the best beaches in Eastern Europe/Balkans.
Our experience in the city was HOT HOT HOT--temps well above 100 and all museums/sights but one are closed on Mondays. Most public transportation is not air conditioned, as are many restaurants. The charming cafes, with vine-laced trellises, can be stifling. I am surprised that they don't use standing fans? We had opposing experiences with a popular bistro called La Mama (city center near Victoria Blvd) First time had no one to translate our menu in the non-AC restaurant and it was difficult to even consider staying longer than 10 minutes. We returned the next trip to find that the terrace was available and with an English edition menu (maybe it was new?) we had a nice meal. After ordering, we realized everyone was going inside, where it was NOW air-conditioned. We were not permitted to move, so we waited until the meal was over and moved inside to finished our drinks. Very strange...
There is a lovely cafe called "Atenee" (look for the violins) around the corner from the Hilton that has a constantly changing menu of local specialties. A delightful waitress translated the blackboard selections. Reasonably-priced, both times we dined there were nice--the first being the best; the second was quite busy and the food was a bit salty. Each time the A/C was adequate for the high temps outside (105 that evening).
Our lone foray into the only "attraction" open on Monday, was to the Village Museum--an historic cultural collection of dwellings from hundreds of years of typical lifestyles in Romania. It would have been much more interesting to have some literature to follow, there were few plaques on any buildings and fewer were actually open to view inside.
We arranged a driver from the hotel to take part of the crew around the city for 1 1/2 hours and it was a bit more enlightening, but certainly not adequate.
We walked to the Parliament Building, second largest to the Pentagon, and saw an incredibly massive structure amidst the worst-kept grounds I've even seen around a public building. It was somewhat unsettling to see the decay of the site--much like an American ghetto or a western ghost town.
Once we get the trip extended out of the city proper, there will be much more to share.
I think the generalization for Bucharest city is that in 10 years it might catch up to today's Budapest for tourism. The infrastructure and competitive spirit are so undeveloped. It is not geared for westerners [yet]."wherever you go, there you are"
07-27-2007, 01:23 PM
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Thanks for the report kyshel.
I've seen a few travel shows about Romania and have thought it might be interesting to visit as at somepoint.
Is there an old part of town, with restored buildings, as in other cities in Eastern Europe?
How was the general attitude towards tourists?
07-30-2007, 08:50 AM
I literally stumbled onto the old town. Currently there is no actual pavement. The area is being restored now--the streets have all been graded and I believe they are preparing to replace cobbles, but I couldn't confirm that anywhere. The entire area has small street-level businesses (with apts above) and, oddly enough, most of the retail stores are bridal.
I counted more than 20 within 8-10 blocks. More saturation than Starbucks in NY!! There are just a few food shops, fewer restaurants and cuople of non-stop stores.
It looks to me that the main "corso" will be the widest walking street and should be very charming when complete. It seems to be progressing at a typical post-communist pace. Much of the new airport overpasses have been under construction for years, and the attitude is "sorta whenever they get done".
The people we met were very friendly, even though English is not as widely spoken as in Prague or Budapest. We were pleased to have a older woman stop us to tell us the grocery was around the corner (I guess we looked a bit lost?)
There are so many gorgeous buildings in Bucharest, but somewhat eclipsed by utilitarian structures the communists squeezed in everywhere. It's quite a contrast!
Hope that gives you a better view of the city. I would definitely see the countryside and soak up the ambience and experience the character of the Romanians."wherever you go, there you are"
08-14-2007, 10:17 AM
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What's true about Bucharest, as was so honestly reported by Kyshel, is that the city is hard to uncover by someone who just "drops in" as a tourist. Albeit having the third highest occupancy rate in Europe, Bucharest hotels are largely geared towards the business community, and thus utterly unprepared for tourist and sight-seeing requests.
That's not to say, of course, that in Bucharest has few things to offer. What you need is to either have a close friend originating from Romania, or a different type of hotel, ready to supply tourists with suggestions for activities. Is there an old city? Yes indeed, it is currently being restored however, which is why it may not have any accessible roads at present. Real estate in the "Lipscani" area of Bucharest is currently at pan-European highs because of anticipation that it will soon be a major tourist hub. None-the-less, there are a number of things that an informed tourist can partake in while visiting Bucharest, including museums (such as the Peasant Museum, a Unesco award winning World Heritage Museum), palaces (such as the Cotroceni Royal/Presidential Palace and the Palace of Parliament aka. Ceausescu's palace aka. the world's second largest building), and other historical and cultural sites such as the Snagov Monastery (which actually has a link to Vlad Tepes - his head was buried nearby by the invading Ottomans). In addition the prestigious annual Enescu Festival, in which classical music concerts are held city-wide is taking place in September.
In the end, I believe it is a matter of being well prepared when visiting a place that has relatively little tourist infrastructure developed. A place that can take proper care of demanding tourists, although pricey, is the Carol Parc Hotel. This is a five star boutique hotel in downtown Bucharest, with an incredible view of the city, the most luxurious furnishings in all of Romania, and a well-equipped friendly staff ready to make even Bucharest a memorable experience, 24hrs a day.