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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bucharest on 9/24: T Mobile & Men Playing Games

Got a late start, by our standards at least, and walked past the fountains at Unirii Square, one of the city's largest and which we walked saw twice daily on our walks downtown from the hostel. The traffic situation in Bucharest seemed very chaotic and very congested but that may be colored by our having spent time in Romania's smaller cities before coming to the capital.

One of the city's few skyscrapers visible from downtown; the large, pink squares strung across the street went on for at least a dozen blocks, all thanks to T Mobile's marketing dollars. As tacky and out of place in my opinion as the IKEA sign/monument in the park yesterday.
Kept seeing these triple 5's in the colors of the Romanian flag; turns out this year is the 555th anniversary of Bucharest.
We saw these tiny bakeries all over the city selling mostly pretzels directly from the window. Steven munched his way through Bucharest feaasting on them!
Love the mix of the new and old.
Saw a number of American named streets.
The Romanian Atheneum, built by a French architect, was a lovely change from so much of Bucharest’s rather drab communist-style architecture. The Atheneum’s a sanctuary of Romanian culture hosting musical events, etc.
Ivy: Seeing these posters all over the city made me think of Ben! 

Right across the nearby square from the Atheneum is the moving Rebirth Memorial to the 1989 Revolution.

Across from the Memorial is the Romanian National Art Museum housed in the former Royal Palace. The signs below show how it suffered extensive damage during the revolution. None of that is apparent today.

The Gallery today
Once again, there was the mammoth differential in the ticket and photo pricing: senior tickets were a mere 15 lei ($5) for both of us, I applaud the fact locals can see their museums so inexpensively and certainly wish that most US museums are not only available to see for those with money.

The cost to take photos though, was a whopping 100 lei, i.e. $33! I asked the ticket taker about the policy and he agreed it was nonsense but the pricing decision was set by the Ministry of Culture, not the museum. I again refused to pay and took photos anyway. I daresay I would not have done well living under the Communist regime or at least I can say that being the person I am today having had the luxury of growing up in a free country.
The fabulous wall hanging was actually embroidered with silver-gilt thread on silk. Below was a smaller equally beautiful one also from the 17th C. that was embroidered on velvet.

These icons were just jaw droppingly gorgeous.The picture above is a just part of the previous one.
I wouldn't have cared to run into Bishop Filaret in 1781!

 We kept seeing all over the museum informational signs of Prince Constantin Brancoveanu so it was neat finally seeing the actual portrait. Below are photos of the grand staircase of the palace wing of the Art Museum, the only photos even I dared take!

The museum was fabulous and we were both thrilled to see the museum's two wings. It certainly looks like it could do with a very large infusion of cash as the carpets and some of the displays appeared worn.
Next door was the Kretulescu Orthodox Church where we bought a lovely and very inexpensive icon. The church was built in 1722 and is patronized by ‘The Assumption.’

Alexander, you’d be happy to know that we hung out next in the Cismigu Gardens for a couple of hours. There were lots of almost exclusively older men playing chess, backgammon and majhong who were there when we entered that area of the park and still there when we left. Steven was invited to play chess by one of them but he declined, citing time. What it really was though, he wanted to read his kindle in the sun and they were all playing in the shade! 

Awkward angle for a selfie but a fun way to remember that special time!

After relaxing on a park bench in the sun for a good while reading our kindles, we headed over to the country’s formal Holocaust Memorial to Romanian Jews and Roma. It was unveiled in 2009 and was widely seen as the government’s 1st step in acknowledging Romania’s part in the destruction of European Jewry. Longtime readers of the blog know that we’ve seen Holocaust memorials in most cities we’ve been in this trip which is why we stopped at Bucharest's. Only after looking at the descriptive and very moving signage did the memorial leave a positive impression on me as it initially appeared so stark and emotionless compared to others we've seen.
The memorial from 2 angles. 

There was not a lot to 'see' at the memorial, basically just the very moving signs which I've decided to add below because they have more impact than whatever I could write. 

The memorial could only be walked around except for this one interior space.

Sadly, the dozen or so tombstones could only be seen behind a dirty glass wall.
How truly horrific.
Neither of us had been aware that the Romas had an Indian heritage before seeing this.

Puddles of water still remained in the open tracks from the previous day's deluge.

Each Holocaust Memorial has been different and special in its own way so it's impossible to say which was THE best or THE most moving, etc. With this one freshest in my mind though, the concrete made to resemble train tracks by which the Jews and Roma were deported to the concentration camps made us come face to face again as to what happened in Hitler’s reign of terror and how complicit so many other nations became too.