2020 Romania Study Abroad Trip Blog: Day 2

January 5, 2020

Below, Josh Dubiel and Mark Powers have documented our trip to Bucharest, which was the first city in the world to be lit using kerosene (petroleum distillate) lamps back in 1857. While Bucharest has a long, interesting history, the day was mostly dedicated to learning a bit more about the communist era of Romania. The highlight was of course the beautiful Palace of Parliament, which was pretty fancy for something created by the last communist president. How fancy you ask? Well, it has over 2,800 chandeliers (one of which weighs 11,000 pounds), but I’ll leave the rest of the details to Josh and Mark.

Arcul de Triumpf Today we traveled to the Romanian capital, Bucharest. We started out our day with a fantastic breakfast at Hotel Yarus. The spread included authentic Romanian breakfast food, including eggs and breakfast sausages. We then began our adventure to Bucharest, which is about an hour drive from Ploiesti. As we entered Bucharest, we began to see authentic Romanian architecture from before the communist regime took over. We also were able to see the typical type of buildings that were built during the communist era. These buildings were large and concrete, usually taking up entire city blocks.

On the way to the Palace of Parliament, we passed a statue of a lady with outstretched wings as arms, which commemorated all the pilots that fought in the World Wars. We also passed the current Arcul de Triumpf, a large stone arch modelled after Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The original Arcul de Triumpf was built out of wood in 1878 when Romania won its independence.

Once at the Palace of Parliament, we took a guided tour that covered 5% of the palace’s 1100 rooms and included the two largest room in the palace, along with several meeting rooms. The Palace of Parliament is the second-largest administrative building in the world, second only to the Pentagon, with 21 floors and 365,000 square meters of floor space. It was ordered to be built by Communist Party General Secretary Nicolae Ceaușescu. The palace was built to suit Ceausescu with the main entrance and grand staircase being designed around his traditional greetings for guests. While the two staircases are near perfect mirrors of each other, his wife’s staircase has 65 steps while his has only 64 so he would reach the bottom first to be able to receive his wife before turning to greet the arriving guests. However, he never saw the palace completed as he and his wife were killed on December 25th, 1989, four days after the Romanian Revolution began. Since the new government has been established, additional work has been completed on the palace, but, with an abundance of empty buildings in Bucharest, there has been no need to complete the finer details of the construction. About 600 of the 1100 rooms are currently being used by government employees, leaving 500 rooms unused. Some of the more impressive rooms in the palace are available for rent for events such as proms, wedding dinners, and corporate events. The palace has also been used for movie and TV scenes including scenes in The Nun, and a Top Gear episode.

After visiting the palace, we began to walk around old-town Bucharest, an area closed off to traffic. In this area there were several old churches, restaurants, coffee shops, and storefronts. We went to a restaurant that had been there for several hundred years and were able to try an authentic traditional Romanian beverages. Following lunch, we walked around oldtown seeing the Romanian National Bank and several other cultural sites. Following this we traveled to a local Museum of Natural Science in Bucharest. The museum has three floors, the first floor featured local flora and fauna that is native to Romania. This was cool because we got to see the local animals and flowers that we most likely would not have seen or known about without traveling to the museum. Following the museum, we returned to the hotel and had a late dinner of authentic Romanian spaghetti with a local Romanian beer.

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