We had the breakfast buffet at the Radisson Blu. It was essentially the same food as at the Hilton, but with a nicer presentation. We saw one of the families that had been at the Hilton joined us for the cruise. We had time to go upstairs after and collect our things for the tour. We won’t be back to the hotel until late this afternoon.
The bus tour started out with the buildings be had seen nearby-The Palace, the Concert Hall, the Statute of King Carol I and the University building. Next door and almost across from the palace was Revolutionary Square and the communist headquarters building where the protests were and where Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena famously attempted to escape by helicopter in 1989. The helicopter didn’t have enough fuel, so it had to land before the border. The Ceausescus were later captured, hastily tried, and executed. In the square there is now a monument to the protest victims that is said to represent a stake/sword through the heart. The residents think the heart looks more like a potato. I have to agree.
We next passed one of the Oldest Orthodox Churches in the country. About 86% of the Romanian people are of this faith. We went pass the many academic buildings of the University most dedicated to a particular discipline. We made a stop at the military academy, Carol I National Defense University that has been in use since 1889. The communists added the wall carvings outside. They detail the country through its’ pre-20th century history on one side, completely ignores the era of royal leadership, and then highlights World Wars I and II on the other side.
We drove by the Parliament Building, one of the largest in the world. The residents refer to it as Ceausescu’s Palace. The building is only in partial use for the government, having always been far bigger than is needed. Some of the conference space is rented out.
Ceausescu’s wife Elena, with no college degree, fancied herself a chemist. So, Ceausescu built her a smaller version of the building across the street from a side facade as an institute to chemical studies. Across from the front of the Parliament building are two moon-shaped buildings for supportive offices and there is a fountained street with more office and residential space intended for offices and homes for well-connected party members.
Ceausescu wanted a completely new and modern city and he leveled everything in this area of town to complete his dream. Our guide told us that the lighted fountains are particularly beautiful at night. However, she also said that she was glad the construction dream was never fully realized. The buildings are cold and sterile.
After a photo stop to view the façade of the Parliament building, we went to the Lipscani Old Town where we left the bus. The guide gave us a short tour of the area including a small, but very lovely Orthodox Church, a Romanian brewery/pub, and the ancient royal court.
In the Romanian Orthodox church, women stand on the left side, men on the right. There are a very limited number of seats for the disabled, but otherwise the members stand for the 2 -hour services. Except for baptisms and prior to the consecration of the church, the priest is the only one to go behind the screen at the front where the altar is. There is a door in the screen. During the service, the members can hear the priest, but cannot see him. Decoration inside the church is by paintings.
Our last tour stop was the ancient royal court. This was a real residence of our old friend, Vlad Tepes Dracul (Vlad the Impaler). It was to this location that the Ottoman sultan dispatched diplomats to attempt to control Vlad after their military loss to him. The diplomats failed to show respect by removing their turbans. Vlad sensed the insincerely of their words, refused to accept the sultan’s proposal, and ordered that the turbans of the Ottoman diplomats be nailed to their head. They were then free to leave (if they could).
After viewing the ruins of the royal court, we were given free time in the old town to get lunch. Hanul lui Manuc was right by the royal court. Built in 1808, until 2007 when it was closed for renovation, it was the oldest operating inn in Bucharest. The space also contains perhaps the most famous restaurant in the city. It is on the recommended restaurant list and Boris wanted to eat there. I was a little concerned about time. We had just under an hour left to eat and get back to the bus for our late afternoon tour.
In the summer months, you eat in the large courtyard of the hanual lui (translates to “the old inn”). It is a beautiful setting with umbrellas keeping the area cool. We ordered several of the recommended traditional dishes. Boris liked the food. I found it exceptionally bland and dry. Sorry, while I love the feel and the setting, I cannot recommend the food. The servers were also the least friendly we have had in Romania. Stop by, step inside the courtyard and take a few pictures, but pass on the food and drinks. You’ll save yourself the disappointment and some money; this was our most expensive meal of the trip so far and the smallest and least tasty.
We also missed our afternoon tour. Of course, this had been Boris’ intent all along. He had never had any interest in seeing the interior of the Parliament Building. We wandered back to near the bus stop and had some ice cream before catching a cab back to the hotel. It was a really hot afternoon.
I was tired and took a nap. When things had cooled off, I headed out to take pictures of some things we had seen from the bus but couldn’t really get pictures of. All were within walking distance. Then I met up with Boris at the handicraft store we had seen the night before. Everything there was handmade in Romania.
I got some lovely embroidered traditional blouses and pottery. Boris got an icon and some woven bookmarks. I highly recommend My Romanian Store and the very helpful young woman who assisted us. We asked the young clerk for a recommendation for a casual restaurant nearby and she suggested Journey Pub, just around the corner and down a few blocks. We sat in a covered garden-like setting.
Carrying out their theme, Journey presents their menu in a small suitcase with a world map on the outside. We had a friendly server and tried a bunch of small things. Boris was discovering new Romanian beers as well. After dinner we walked back to the hotel. We had to pack and be ready to have our bags out early in the morning. The bags are going to the ship; we are going on a countryside tour. One more day near Bucharest and then we board Uniworld’s River Beatrice.