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Monday, September 29, 2014

Bucharest on 9/25: Home of the 2nd Largest Building in the World!

We only had 2 more places we wanted to visit our last day in Bucharest before heading on to Sophia, Bulgaria at 4 in the afternoon. After packing up and leaving our bags in the hostel, we trotted off to see the mammoth Patriarchal Cathedral Complex located in a lovely quiet area away from the hustle and bustle of Unirii Square. The complex, built in the middle of the 17th C., includes the Patriarchy Palace, the Orthodox Church of course and a number of other buildings that we had no idea what they were.
Our initial view of the complex.
We entered the area behind this building which had a wonderful gift shop on the bottom level; no idea what was above it.

Frescoes from the rotunda in the building above.

The icons below are from the spectacular church above. I managed to take a couple of photos from the entranceway only

How glorious sitting on the steps for a while in the sun figuring out how to best get to our next stop. The priest below was texting in the open corridor on the right. 

Leaving the cathedral

Peeked in at this minute fabric store; Bucharest was choc a block full of home decorating fabric stores, unlike any other city I've seen.
The controversial statue, added in 2012, of Emperor Trajan holding a Dacian wolf in front of the National History Museum quickly became the most ridiculed and photographed monument in Bucharest. This one’s for you, Polish girl!

Bucharest's love affair with all things French continued here at Francophone Sq. by the Parliament Buildings, our final stop of the day. We'd thought the entrance to the 2nd largest BUILDING in the world (after the Pentagon) was just by here but soon found out that we had a loooooooong way to walk still.
The imposing front of The Palace of the Parliament also known as The People's House. The visitors' entrance below though is actually from the back waaay past this around the corner. Not realizing how far away the entrance was, we really had to hustle to get there in time for our 1pm reserved tour, the only way to view Parliament. I DID buy a photography permit deciding Parliament was not the place to run afoul of the law!

Of course we then had enough time to wander through the small Art Gallery/Show just off the security area.

Building of the gigantic Parliament began in 1964 under the guidance of the dictator Nicholas Ceausecu during the Golden Age of Communism. The lead architect was a woman in her 30’s, our guide said. It took 20,000 workers working 24 hours a day to construct the 1,000 room palace, including 30 conference halls, but it was not a place to live. Included in the workforce were thousands of soldiers who were involved as part of their duty to the country. Exclusively Romanian materials were used in its construction apart from the light bulbs, the guide said!

The Gallery of Honors

Parliament's 2nd largest chandelier (at 2 tons!) was in the meeting room below which contains 60 chairs around the table, There were supposed to be a 61st chair, or rather a throne for Ceausecu, but that never happened!

The staircase in the imposing Reception Hall. Ceausecu, being a very short man, ordered the steps be only the same height as his ankles, so that he'd look taller and more imposing as he climbed them. He had them remade several times so that each step is 15cm high compared to the normal 17.5cm height. Below is the entrance to the Reception Hall.

In the corridor's open spots above are these posters from one of Costa Gravras' movies that was filmed years ago in the palace to make it look like the Vatican.

A better view of the grand staircase.
Nuns made all the curtains in the room below that was designed to be a ballroom but is now used for trade fairs, fashion shows, etc. Each time we left a large room, the guide had to turn out the lights because of the high cost of lighting all the rooms. If all the lights were turned on, there would be enough to light up a town of 15,000 people. Most of the rooms had few lights on, thus appearing very dim.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Romania’s Parliament is the most expensive and heaviest building ever built, with 1 million cubic feet of marble alone.
Another trade show room; the large open spaces at either end of the room were designed for the portraits of Ceausecu and his wife but they were never put up.

We stood on the balcony which was designed for Ceausecu and future presidents to speak to the people during celebratory parades. The parades were to come down the street, initially called the Victory of Socialists, that faced the balcony. Ceausecu, who had a love affair with all things French, made sure that the street, now called Union St., was longer than the famous Champs D’Elysee in Paris.

The beautiful ceiling in one of the rooms.
This lovely couple on the tour with us from was enjoying an adult only holiday thanks to her mother looking after their children back home in Brookline, MA. We enjoyed exchanging travel stories and information while wandering through Parliament.
Walked back to the hostel as quickly as we could down the beautiful tree and fountain lined Union St in front of Parliament. Then picked up our bags and made a mad dash for the bus station for the 7 1/2 hour ride to Sophia, Bulgaria.

The small Filaret (remember the bishop with the same name in the last post?) bus station only served buses going to Bulgaria and Greece.

 Bulgaria, here we come!

We were waiting in no-man's land bewteen the 2 countries when Steven noticed the truck behind him going to Romania!
Steven proudly showing me he still remembered his Cyrillic alphabet from last year's trip: the word above his hand is Sophia!