Friday, 29 July 2011

Day 3 in Romania: Guided Bucharest walking tour

Day 2 in Romania

I went on a free walking tour, called Guided-Bucharest. They also have one in Brasov called Guided-Brasov. I think it's a fantastic idea. Although it's free, they appreciate donations so most people gave about 10 lei, so our guide made about $30 for 2 hours of work. Not bad. Maybe I'll end up doing that if we go back to Peru. They have tours during the high season: May to September. Our guide was young, about university age, but spoke English very well. There were about a dozen people on the tour, everyone was young and most people were from Europe.

We walked all over. We started at Piatia Unireii and found out that Bulevard Unirii is 1 metre wider than Camps Elysees in Paris. Ceausescu wanted to out-do everyone. We also saw the People's House, which supposedly has lots of underground tunnels and is still not completely finished. Ceausescu basically used the people's money and tore down neighbourhoods to build it, trying to show that Romania was rich. Some of the churches were literally hauled away to other parts of the city so that they weren't destroyed. Churches are often hidden and hard to get to thanks to him.

Nearby we went to an old inn called Hanul Iui Manac which is now a resturant. Locals still like to meet there.

We walked around Lipscani District, which is a famous tourist attraction and has lots of little overpriced bars and restaurants. The Old Princely Court and Church is there. For being so touristy, it's very decrepit and delapitated. There is lots of construction and our guide told us that it has basically been going on since he was a child. Open manholes and electricity lines are everywhere, it's amazing people don't sue.

The stray dogs are there too, but people seem to like them. They look clean. A couple years ago the government wanted to put them down, but the people protested. So the government said they had to adopt them. So they did, then released them. I don't see the point. Some of them have ear tags and that means that they've been fixed. Others have tattoos, and that means that they're part of a gang. I haven't seen any of the tattooed ones. I haven't seen many beggars either. I thought there would be more.

In Lipscani District we saw The Beer Car Restaurant, which is one of the oldest in Bucharest. They have a rooster and a cat on either side of the door, which symbolises that they're open from the time the rooster crows to the time the cats come out.

We walked a bit more and came upon the National Bank of Romania which has ironically never ever been robbed because it doesn't have any money in it. We saw a part of a building that had been burnt. There was a fire and businessmen threatened that if the fire department wouldn't help them, the whole city would be destroyed because of money. So they helped them and the city was still destroyed. You can stand on the street level and look through the glass below.

We saw Pasajul Maeca Vilacrosse which is a small horseshoe shaped passages famous for its hookah places. The roof is green and there are lots of pigeons. If they poop on you it's good luck.

Once again I saw Kretzulescu Church at Piata Revoluntiei and the Revolution Monument that some people say looks like an olive on a stick and others say looks like a potato on a stick. The artist says it's modern art. There is a wooden path that leads to it which symbolises that people united and there is also a plaque with all the names of the people who died that day.

The Romanian Athenaeum is close by and has paintings of famous people up near the top. Next door is the Athenee Palace Hotel and the Statue of King Carol 1. That's where we ended our tour.

I went to La Mama to eat, It was nice, but smokey like every place else in Romania. Food and prices were good and I think the majority of the people there were Romanian.

Be sure to read about what has happened so far. You can find everything in the quick summary of dates.

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