last day in Bucharest

I’m currently on my KLM flight back to Amsterdam. I can’t say I’m that sorry to leave Bucharest, but I don’t regret going (just staying at the hostel whose bed bugs left me looking like I have chicken pox again!).

Today for the first time I was a solo traveler in a very different country. As I started to suspect in Brussels, and to my surprise given my independent and introverted tendencies, I do not much care for solo travel. It’s just that more stressful, and I get bored with myself! I think I managed pretty well today though.

I decided to hop on the subway to go back to Piața Victoriei to see the Museum of the Romanian Peasant, which turned out to be closed on Monday. Undaunted and uninterested in seeing either of the other museums there, I waited for the Bucharest City Tour bus to come by and sat down on its open air roof deck for a more comprehensive tour of the city. This is run by the transportation company rather than a tour company, so there wasn’t particularly spectacular commentary, but I still got some nice shots of different buildings, particularly the Palace of Parliament. I rode it for the whole loop and then took the subway back from Piața Victoriei to the old center to eat a gyro from a place I’d noticed on Saturday. On the way I got to witness a trash truck attempting to navigate the ultra-narrow, curved streets (I got stuck behind it for five minutes) and a woman who almost got killed by a careless construction worker who dropped some heavy steel cable from above (this resulted in a colorful shouting match). Ah, Romania.

Despite my until-then flawless sense of direction I managed to get a bit lost while taking a slightly different route back to the hotel, but with the help of the gps on my iPhone (which works even without a connection), I righted myself and got back, got into a cab, and got to the airport with no trouble.

Final observations about Bucharest:

  • Communism may have lost Bucharest its status as “Little Paris”, but its jumble of beautiful/old vs. communist/newer buildings is actually really interesting and unique if nothing else.
  • Bucharest isn’t known as being a particularly safe city, but I never felt uncomfortable despite the often shabby areas in which I found myself. I also only saw a few packs of feral dogs.
  • You wouldn’t know Romania was in the EU from being there. I think Bucharest reminded me more of Pristina (Kosovo) than any other city, which is not an impressive thing for Romania given that Kosovo’s recent history is significantly more turbulent. (and I liked Pristina a lot more.) Croatia feels much more modern and western even though it’s still not in the EU.
  • Romanian is harder to understand than the other romance languages – it makes more sense when I read it, but I had a very hard time understanding it when spoken. I think, however, that if you were to go through the other four languages when trying to say something (as in, say the word in all four), in 80% of the cases you’d be at least somewhat understood.

And finally, some of the best and worst of Bucharest. Look at the contrast.

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