But then it took us a while to get going. We had some internet time and a cup of tea, and before we knew it it was 9:30am. Can't be wasting the day away, because there's too much to see!
And so we set off for a long day walking. That's the best way to see a city!
We headed first to Bucharest's Palace of the Parliament, about 3 kms (1.8 miles) away. It was a warm enough day, with very little wind. But it was overcast and they were calling for showers later on.
(Don't forget you can click on any picture to make it full screen.)
The large Marriott Hotel.
The Marriott Hotel in Bucharest is a big building. But it's nothing compared to what we were about to see.
The Romanian People's Salvation Cathedral.
They started building this church almost four years ago. It's huge! When finished, from ground to the top of the steeple will be 41 stories high. Of course there has been a lot of protest even since they started talking about it because of the cost of this grandiose structure.
I found a better view online...
It will seat 6,000 people when it's finished in late 2018.
The church is on the same property as the Palace of the Parliament, arguably the most famous building in Bucharest. The Palace of the Parliament is also a huge building, so it might have looked funny building a smaller church on the same property.
The Palace was built during the reign of communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. It was started in 1984, and was still not yet finished when the communist regime fell in December of 1989.
The side view.
The front. I had to get across the main street to fit it all in!
One of our readers mentioned yesterday that the Romanian people hate this building because it was built by the communist dictator. But our hosts here tell us differently. They said that many of the Romanians are proud of it because it really is so impressive and of course it was built by Romanian people.
They offer several tours, and we wanted to do the balcony tour that gives you a view of the city. It was listed on the prices at the info booth on the side entrance as costing 15 lei ($5.10 CAD, $3.75 USD) each. But when we went to pay, the girl said they don't do that tour anymore and we would have to do it as part of the general tour. The cost was then 45 lei ($15.30 CAD, $11.25 USD) each and we decided we didn't want to spend that much.
We had read mixed reviews of the general tour, and quite a few had said it wasn't worth it. So we decided to save our money for something else.
We then walked along Unirii Blvd to the fountains, but they were turned of that day.
The fountains along Unirii Blvd.
We stopped and bought a snack at a small grocery store. Two apples, a 500 ml tub of cherry yogurt (the yogurts in Eastern Europe are delicious) and a bottle of water. Total cost was 7 lei ($2.45 CAD, $1.75 USD). We would find out later that food is cheap here compared to North America. It might even be cheaper than Mexico.
The fountains would be impressive if they were running. Nobody seems to know about a schedule. Sometimes they are on, sometimes they are off.
An old church surrounded by concrete buildings from the communist times.
Much of old Bucharest was destroyed in the 1970's by Nicolae Ceaușescu to make room for concrete apartment blocks.
We continued on to the Old Town area. It is the section that did mostly survive the communist years, and there are some nice areas, but it is definitely more touristy.
We came across a Vodaphone cellular store and stopped in to get a Romanian SIM card for the iPhone.
We think it's funny to see signs in English.
Cristian was our Vodaphone expert, and he spoke half decent English. He had us all set up and we were in and out in about 15 minutes!
Very cheap cellular service compared to North America. We bought 7GB prepaid internet package valid for five weeks. The total cost, including the SIM card and activation was 37.84 lei ($13.00 CAD, $9.50 USD).
Out exploring downtown Bucharest.
On top of a building.
Looking up inside a church. How did they paint that??
The Birth of the Virgin Mary Saints Martyrs Cuprian and Justina Goldsmiths Church.
Dating to the 1700's, it was last rebuilt in 1850-1852.
Not sure what this building used to be, but now it's a bank.
The courtyard of the Stavropoleos Monastery.
The Stavropoleos Monastery.
It was drizzling with rain on and off, but it never rained heavily. So we got a little damp, but not enough to bother us. Even so, it sure has been a long time since we've seen the sun!
The Macca Villacrosse Passage.
Famous for it's stained glass roof and horse shoe shaped building.
The National Military Assembly.
Anybody need an umbrella?
A guard outside Revolution Square.
This was the former Communist Headquarters until the 1989 revolution.
What a neat building!
Old, or new? That is the way they wanted you to think when you saw the headquarters of the Union of Romanian Architects. They used the shell of an historical building that was otherwise destroyed during the revolution, and built a new structure inside the old building. Neat!
Cars parked everywhere.
There doesn't seem to be any regulations about where you park your car provided others can still get by. They park up on curbs, and on sidewalks. In communist times up until 1989, very few people had a car. They built all of these huge apartment blocks that didn't include any parking. Now, it is a Romanian goal for everybody to own at least one car, even though there is nowhere to park them!
The Central University Library of Bucharest.
I had to wait a while for a gap in the cars to take a decent photo!
There is lots of traffic. This was looking along the other side.
Around 3:00pm, we started walking home. I figured out after the fact that we had done a total of 13 kms (8 miles). We had said that we would make dinner for our hosts Cosmin and Carmen, so we stopped in to a large Kaufland supermarket and picked up some supplies.
It's always interesting doing grocery shopping in a new country. Trying to find what you're looking for, and comparing prices and how to do things. First, I had to find the right coin to get a shopping cart, then learned how to operate the fancy self serve lock box where we could store our day pack while we shopped. Then, trying to read ingredient labels to check that things were gluten free. Fun stuff!
I bet we were in the grocery store over an hour.
Total bill including six cans of beer (500 ml each, the way beer should be sold!) and a good bottle of Moldvan wine was 127 lei ($42.50 CAD, $32 USD). We bought a half dozen eggs, some ground beef, a bunch of fruits and veggies. I'll go into more detail about prices in another post, but they are very cheap compared to Canada.
Ruth and Cosmin. Ruth was making a Shephard's Pie for our hosts.
Carmen and the cat, Katya.
Dinner is served! Cosmin, Carmen, Ruth, and Kevin.
Later on, a friend of theirs came over. We were joined by Razvan, a guy who grew up with Cosmin. They were all a great help in planning our future travels, and we solved all the world's problems! Before we knew it, it was midnight! Lots of great conversation. We hit the sack, and didn't get up until 8:00am.
Today, we're off to explore some more. A lot of people say that Bucharest ranks low on the list of worthwhile European capitols, but we're quite liking it so far!
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