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May 12, 2008

Bucharest - city of surprises

Bucharest is a fascinating city. It has a long and interesting history and has seen many ups and downs in the course of its development. Being built on a major earthquake fault it suffers serious damage from time to time, the last major quake taking place in 1983. The architecture is a strange mixture of French Third Empire, Austro-Hungarian, Germanic and Balkan. And then there is the hideous 1950 - 1989 Communist "functional" architecture. Wandering around this city reveals surprises at almost every turn. There is a huge amount of work to be done to repair and renovate some of the gems of its heritage, but that work has started - and where it has been done, it is stunning.

Every street has its surprises - like this gem from the late nineteenth century surrounded by later "Empire" structures. Not the "sixties" tower behind it!

Sometimes the renovation is controversial. The example in the next picture will, I'm sure, have all our "heritage" gurus foaming at the mouth and reaching for their smelling salts - but, considering that the building was considered to be so badly degraded it could not be saved, the architect has, I think, made a good stab at saving at least the appearance of the original. Elsewhere, of course, the originals are being preserved and restored and the city has some real gems to be proud of.

I had to look twice at this building to see what had been done. The outer facades were preserved and the use of glass in the superstructure almost deceives you into thinking it is a building standing behind the original.

The classical buildings in the French Third Empire style also incorporate features which stamp them as "Romanian" and the city's Opera House is reputed to be the finest of its type anywhere. Interiors often put the Baroque period to shame and certainly the little Romanian Orthodox churches scattered everywhere are gems of their kind.

The grand facade of the Opera House, recently fully restored.

The city has the potential to become a "must see" for tourism and it will certainly repay any visitor even now.

Posted by The Gray Monk at May 12, 2008 08:36 PM

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