Back in Bucharest

Trip Start May 05, 2008
Trip End May 09, 2009

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Flag of Romania  ,
Wednesday, August 13, 2008

 Bucharest is a city of many contrasts. Once Tavi's home turf, it is certainly not of of Romania's prettier cities, indeed a case could be made that it is one of the ugliest. But it certainly is interesting. The city had its glory days in the 19th century, when its architecture caused it be called Little Paris. Since then though, the ugly stamp of communism was perhaps nowhere imprinted as deep as in Bucharest. During Ceausescu's dictatorship, much of the historic downtown was demolished to make way for North Korean style buildings, headed by the old "Palace of the People" which is the second largest building in the world and dominates Bucharest with its pharaonic proportions. This was complemented by communist style appartment buildings in the suburbs whose facades are now starting to crumble. After the fall of communism, the new economic boom times have increased dramatically the price of land and the wealth of Bucharesters, which causes all kinds of modern buildings, American-style malls and sumptuous villas to be built, often right next to the old crumbling neighborhoods. In addition, a million new cars in a city of two million with an infrastructure which is completely inadequate, make Bucharest a driver's nightmare. Oh and did we mention the dogs? Back when the communists were razing the old neighborhoods, many dogs were left in the street because their owners were forced to move in tiny flats. This resulted in a giant stray dog population which had reached a peak of 400,000 about ten years ago and has now been culled to about 50,000, despite Brigitte Bardot's repeated attempts to ensure the stray dogs' continuing dominion over the city. Furthermore, in a city where there is a marked difference between the rich and the poor, the owners of new houses have all bought guard dogs for protection. We are staying with Tavi's family, who happen to have a dog as well, and everytime he needs to go out for a walk, this turns into a veritable symphony of barking and yelling from guard dogs as well as from the strays.
Speaking of Tavi's family, we were received extremely well and made to feel at home. We will feel sorry when we will leave. It has been a break from the backpacker life we were getting used to.
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