Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – Romania & Bulgaria has to say about the far-flung sights in Bucharest:
On an island in front of the building on Calea Victoriei stands the Rebirth Memorial – a white obelisk piercing a basketlike crown. It was ridiculed when it was first erected in 2005, but the public has now grown accustomed to it.
George Enescu Museum
??A few blocks south of?? Piat??a V??ictoriei is this museum dedicated to national com- poser George Enescu (1881–1955). The real lure is the chance to peek inside the lovely building housing the museum: the turn-of- the-century art nouveau Cantacuzino Palace.
Museum of the Romanian Peasant
The collection of peasant bric-a-brac, costumes, icons and partially restored houses makes this one of the most popular museums in the city. There’s not much English signage, but insightful little cards in English posted in each room give a flavour of what’s on offer.
Don’t miss the jarring communism exhibition downstairs, which focuses on the Ceauşescu??-era programme of?? land collecti??vization, which almost completely destroyed the traditional peasant way of life.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
On our fifth day in Romania we decided to walk north of our apartment, along Calea Victoriei, as up till that point all of our explorations had been south of our apartment. We wanted to visit the Museum of the Romanian Peasant, and felt that as it was a quiet Saturday morning, we would probably enjoy seeing the sights along the way.
We hadn’t realized that the street housed many of the high-end designer shops and some luxury hotels as well, but once we were past these, we came to the Rebirth Memorial and stopped to take some photos of the strange obelisk. I had meant to have a look at the building right behind the memorial, because that was where Ceauşescu gave his final speech before he was whisked away by helicopter, thinking he had escaped imprisonment. However, I forgot all about him as we wandered through the city, enjoying the warm late fall weather.
Further along we stopped to admire the flamboyant building which houses the George Enescu Museum. It was a little too early for us to peek inside, so we carried on towards the Piata Victoriei. What a disappointment met our eyes there. The vast open space that must have been meant to house something spectacular, but something spectacular was never built. Instead, the centre of the entanglement of traffic lanes is currently used as a rough and tumble parking lot. A real eyesore in my opinion.
However, just beyond the Piata, the Museum of Natural History was an imposing building. As we passed by, we encountered several sets of parents arriving with their children for a lively Saturday morning outing. We’ve seen some pretty spectacular natural history museums in our travels, especially the one in Washington , DC so we gave it a miss and continue on to the next building to spend time in the Museum of the Romanian Peasant.
We were more than a little puzzled to find the huge brick building almost completely surrounded by chain link fencing, but the parking attendant indicated that we should proceed to the entrance at the rear of the building. We did as we were told only to find the door opening into a lame restaurant where a few people were lounging haphazardly. It turned out that the entire museum was closed for renovations, but there was nothing about the closure on the museum’s website and there were no signs at the front or rear of the building. No one seemed to care in the least that visitors were coming and all were disappointed.
Our original plan was to visit the museum and then call an Uber to take us to a Korean restaurant about another two kilometers north. When we were thwarted in our museum visit, we decided that we would just continue walking as we now had plenty of time before the restaurant opened for lunch.
We walked through a relatively upscale neighbourhood, the traffic was light and the weather was pleasant. We eventually found the restaurant on a quiet street, not at all where you would expect a restaurant to be located. There were a few other diners that afternoon, so we weren’t discouraged enough to skip eating there. In fact, the food was rather tasty and though not quite authentic (they used lettuce instead of spinach in my bi-bim-bap).
With our bellies full and our feet rested after our long walk, we’d walked over five kilometers at that point, we set off for the nearby National Village Museum, located at the edge of Herastrau Lake. We envisioned a relatively small outdoor museum filled with some of the typical homes found in rural Romania. To our surprise, we learned that there were over one hundred separate structures on the vast undulating site.
In the end, we spent over two hours admiring the beautiful, fascinating and intriguing buildings in the Village Museum. We were on our feet for the whole time, except for our Korean meal. I checked the pedometer on my phone and it told me that we’d walked almost eleven kilometers that day.
It had been a fruitful exploration of Bucharest and we had enjoyed almost every minute of it, despite being disappointed that the Museum of the Romanian Peasant was closed. We later realized that if it had been open, we wouldn’t have had time to see the National Village Museum before dark set in at the end of the day. In fact, it turned out to be much better to have spent the afternoon outdoors rather than studying indoor exhibits.
I’ve done a separate journal entry for the National Village Museum, partly because this one was getting too long and wordy, and partly because I wanted to share a sizeable number of photos of the buildings for those who might be interested in seeing them. The traditional Romanian buildings left such an impression on me, perhaps because I’m descended from pioneers who left a comfortable life in Ontario to ‘homestead’ in Alberta in the early 1900s.
Twilight set in relatively early in Bucharest and we left the Village Museum as the sun was sinking very low. We were very tired from all our walking and exploring, so we summoned an Uber to take us back to our apartment near the Old Town. We headed back to La Mama’s for a hearty traditional meal and spent the remainder of the evening catching up on news from home. We had only two more days in Bucharest before we moved on to Cyprus.