Happy New Year from Romania!

It has been a while since I last posted, but one of my resolutions for the upcoming year is to write more. So hopefully I’ll keep these going more frequently! I’m excited to say that I’m currently writing from Bucharest, Romania and have been spending the past week with Vlad (my boyfriend) in his home country. I’ve still got a lot to learn about Romania’s culture and history, but will share my journey along the way here.

December 21, 2019 marked the 30th anniversary of the Romanian Revolution.

On my first day in Bucharest, Vlad brought me to Revolution Square. It was here where Romania’s Communist Era ended and where Nicolae Ceausescu, leader of the Romanian Communist Party and President/Head of State (1967-1989) lost control. At the time, there was a lot of suffering across the country. Food shortages, reduced heating, and hospitals that did not have medicine – all of which were a result of Ceausescu’s obsession with paying off the national debt. Debt that funded Ceausescu’s over-the-top industrial and infrastructure projects, including the “House of the People” (more on that in the photos below).

When Ceausescu’s government attempted to evict a popular ethnic Hungarian priest in Timisoara for criticizing the regime, protests began in this city and inspired similar demonstrations across the country. On December 21, 1989, Ceausescu was giving a speech at Revolution Square and violence broke out. Ceausescu and his wife escaped by helicopter but were executed days afterwards (on Christmas Day) when the military turned on them and convicted them of capital crimes.

From top to bottom: Revolution Square, where violence broke out during Ceausescu’s speech on December 21, 1989 and the Parliament Building (“House of the People”), which is a grandiose building (fit for a megalomaniac with over 1000 rooms and 4 million sq ft) that would house Ceausescu’s governing bodies. It was inspired by his trip to North Korea and its construction required a lot of sacrifices from the country. About 80% of the historic center was destroyed to make room, food was rationed to pay for the building and the Romanian people worked 24/7 on this.
Flags during the revolution had the Communist coat of arms cut out.

Old Town is where the nightlife happens but the buildings are not very earthquake-resistant!

Here I am on Lipscani (one of the main streets in Old Town) with lots of bars and restaurants.

Old Town is where you’ll find not only great restaurants and bars, but lively parties that go from midnight til about 4am. However, I’ve been advised by multiple people now to limit time spent inside these buildings because many of them are seismic risk Category 1. This means they are at serious risk of collapsing (should there be an earthquake).

Just for some context, Old Town is full of early 20th century buildings and unfortunately, little has been done to protect Bucharest’s heritage architecture. The city has a total of 349 Class 1 buildings and they are marked with a red dot. In the past, City Hall has been slow with consolidation and repairs. Between 2002 to 2015, the city managed to consolidate only 18 high risk buildings; the question of whether financing will be made from the public budget or through public-private partnerships and the fact that all owners have to approve consolidation to secure repair loans are only a few of the hurdles along the way.

However, things are looking bright. Laws have been passed, such as one that forbids shops, restaurants and other commercial spaces in high seismic risk buildings. And City Hall has made plans to consolidate 200 buildings by end of 2020, including providing resources and housing to residents that are displaced in the process.

From top left to right: C.E.C Bank headquarters (landmark building symbolizing Romania’s modernization; it was built in 1900 under King Carol I’s reign), Stavropoleos Monastery (one of the oldest and most beautiful Eastern Orthodox churches in Bucharest) and Carturesti Carusel (a modern bookshop with cafe located in a restored 19th century building).

TRADITIONAL Romanian food has A LOT of cheese and meat.

Prior to this trip, I’ve had Romanian food once at a restaurant in Seattle and have experienced other Eastern European food on trips I’ve taken (goulash and trdelnik in Prague and pierogis in Warsaw), but nothing could prepare me for the amount of cheese and meat I would eat! I will write a separate post on Romanian food, but have highlighted a few via photos below. These are just a preview until later!

2 thoughts on “Happy New Year from Romania!

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