As I mentioned in my last post, I effectively had this last week off of class since my last final was on Monday. To take advantage of this extra break, I decided to travel to the city on the top of every person’s must visit cities list: Bucharest, Romania. For whatever reason, whenever I told someone where I was going, the first thing they asked was always “why” to which I always cunningly replied with “why not?” To actually summarize my thought process in planning this trip, the idea began to brew when I saw that there were cheap, direct flights from Vienna to Bucharest. This reminded me of an episode of Top Gear that was filmed in Romania. After rewatching the episode in question, I was basically sold, so long as it was easy to get to the city from the airport and that I didn’t need a visa to visit. With affirmative answers to all of my important questions, I booked my trip.
While Bucharest has a rather extensive public transport system, it was designed more with the city’s citizens in mind, rather than tourists. Because of this, other than taking a bus to and from the airport, I walked everywhere. Luckily, the weather was exceptionally nice and everything worth seeing in Bucharest is fairly close together. The only thing about this trip that was unlucky was that because it wasn’t tourist season in Bucharest, almost every museum I was interested in seeing was closed for renovations. Since walking around a city doesn’t lead to that interesting of a narrative, I’m just going to dump a bunch of photos here:
One museum that wasn’t closed was the National Museum of Old Maps. When I arrived at about 2 pm, the doors of the museum were open, but all of the lights were off and there was nobody in sight. For whatever reason, I decided to walk in and was almost immediately stopped by a security guard. He only spoke Romanian, so he told me to wait while he got someone else. The second person also only spoke Romanian, so she told me to wait while she got someone else. Luckily, the third person spoke English. After I paid him the entry fee to the museum, he went and started turning on all of the lights. Despite being the only person in the entire museum, the security guard didn’t follow me around, like I was expecting him to. However, when I was leaving the museum, I realized that there was somebody following me around, turning off all of the lights once I was done with a room. I suppose this is how I know I have rather obscure interests.
Another place that was open was the Palace of Parliament. For the equivalent of about 4 dollars, I was able to take a tour through what is the fourth largest building in the world by volume and the heaviest building in the world. It was started by Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu in 1984 and enough of it was completed before his ousting that the new Romanian government decided it would be cheaper to mostly finish it and use it for both houses of Parliament rather than to tear it down. One last interesting fact about the building is that almost the entire building is made from materials from Romania.
Although I was only in Romania for a couple of days, on four or five different occasions someone tried to ask me for directions in Romanian. This amused me since I hadn’t made a particular attempt to blend in, but apparently I looked Romanian enough. Also, in the couple months that I have been in Vienna, I have yet to be approached by an Austrian for any reason. On my way back from Bucharest, I was asked by a Turk for help navigating the trains to get from the airport into Vienna. Since we were going to almost the same place I got to talk with him a bit and I discovered that he is a professional mountain climber who has summited Mt. Everest. So if you ever feel stupid for being unable to navigate a city’s metro system, just remember that even someone who navigates mountains can have trouble navigating through a metro system.