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Dates of visit:
March 28, 2007 -
April 14, 2007

We rate this trip a:

Trip Highlights:
 Revisit Bucharest
 Bucegi Mountains
 Revisit Sibiu
 Maramures Region
 Wooden Churches
 Peasant traditions
 Merry Cemetery
 Bukovina Region
 Painted Monasteries
 Railroad Excursion
 

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Poland
Ukraine
*** Romania ***
*** City of Bucharest ***
*** Bucharest Village Museum ***
*** Bucharest Mogosoaia Palace ***
*** Busteni and Bucegi Mountains ***
*** City of Sibiu ***
        Map of Romania
        Travel Route
        Romania - An introduction
        Bucharest - Parliament and Mogosoaia Palaces
               Site Gallery - Bucharest and Palaces
        Busteni and Bucegi Mountains
               Site Gallery - Busteni
        City of Sibiu
               Site Gallery - City of Sibiu
Romania - An introduction

Romania is situated in Southeastern Europe. The country has an area of 237,750 sq. km, being the twelfth largest country in Europe, and a population of over 22,000,000, composed of Romanians, Hungarians and smaller minorities, German, Roma, Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish and many others. Romania is bordered to the North and East by Moldavia and Ukraine, to the Southeast by the Black Sea, to the South by Bulgaria, to the Southwest by Serbia and Montenegro and to the West by Hungary.

The People - Romania has 22 million people, 89.5% of whom are Romanian, 6.6% Hungarian, 2.5% Roma or Gypsy, .3% Germans, .3% Ukrainians, .3% Turks, .2% Russians and .3% all others. Religions represented here are: Eastern Orthodox 87%, Protestant 6.8%, Catholic 5.6%, other (mostly Muslim) 0.4%. The country has a very high 98.4% literacy rate.

The Romanians - Romanians are descendants of two ancient peoples: the Dacians and the Romans. The Dacians were the original inhabitants of this rich land, but in A.D.106, the Emperor Traianus crossed the Danube river and conquered the territory for Rome. Many Roman soldiers remained there and intermarried with the Dacians, creating a new mix of peoples who were called Romanians. The Romans’ Latin language was adopted and evolved into today’s Romanian. (Traianus's Column in Rome was built by the emperor to commemorate his great victory over the Dacians).

Bucharest - Parliament and Mogosoaia Palaces

Bucharest Location of Bucharest

Bucharest ... known for its wide, tree-lined boulevards, glorious Belle Époque buildings and a reputation for the high life (which in the 1900s earned its nickname of “Little Paris”), is Romania's largest city and capital, a bustling metropolis. Romanian legend has it that the city of Bucharest was founded on the banks of the Dambovita River by a shepherd named Bucur, whose name literarily means “joy.” His flute playing reportedly dazzled the people and his hearty wine from nearby vineyards endeared him to the local traders, who gave his name to the place.

In the 15th century, the princely court of Vlad Tepes (thought to have been the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula) was established here and by the end of the 17th century, the city had become the capital of the province of Walachia. In 1862, Bucharest became the capital of Romania. Remodeled in the late 19th century by French and French-trained architects, the city features large neoclassical buildings, fashionable parks, and even its very own Arc de Triomphe on the elegant Soseaua Kiseleff, an avenue longer than the famed Champs-Elysees and home to the city's mansion district.


Video recorded: March 2007
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Video recorded: March 2007
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Bucharest - Arc de TriompheThe Arch of Triumph (Arcul de Triumf) ... Initially built of wood in 1922 to honor the bravery of Romanian soldiers who fought in World War I, Bucharest’s very own Arc de Triomphe was finished in Deva granite in 1936. Designed by the architect, Petre Antonescu, the Arc stands 85 feet high. An interior staircase allows visitors to climb to the top for a panoramic view of the city. The sculptures decorating the structure were created by leading Romanian artists, including Ion Jalea, Constantin Medrea and Constantin Baraschi.

Bucharest is laden with historical charm – from the streets of the Old City Center, which are slowly being restored, to the grand architecture of the Royal Palace and the lush green of Cismigiu Park. The city also claims a large number of museums, art galleries, exquisite Orthodox churches and unique architectural sites. Nicolae Ceausescu’s legacy, including the Parliament Palace (formerly called the People’s Palace), which at 3.76 million square feet stands as the world’s second largest building after the U.S. Pentagon, provides an interesting introduction to the dictator’s megalomaniac vision. Bucharest's is a buzzing cultural city – 37 museums, 22 theaters, concert halls, opera house, 18 art galleries, jazz clubs and hip nightclubs.

Every two years, Bucharest is host to the George Enescu International Festival, a prestigious cultural event named after the famous Romanian musician and composer. Renowned orchestras, conductors and soloists perform at the Romanian Athenaeum, a hall with acoustics comparable to Milan’s La Scala. (See Gallery)

University of Bucharest (Universitatea Bucuresti) ... Bucharest remains first and foremost a hub of higher education. The University of Bucharest was founded in 1864 by Alexandru Ioan Cuza, ruler of the newly united principalities of Walachia and Moldova. Work on the neoclassical building began in 1857 and finished in 1859. Between the two World Wars, the libraries and corridors of the University hosted an impressive number of Romanian personalities, including Mircea Eliade, Emil Cioran, Eugène Ionesco, Sergiu Celibidache. Year-round, you can find book merchants near the University building selling anything from antique books, records, discontinued newspapers and illustrated broadsheets from another age to secondhand books.

Village Museum (Muzeul Satului) ... Founded by royal decree in 1936, this fascinating outdoor museum, the largest in Europe, covers some 30 acres on the shores of Lake Herastrau in Herestrau Park. It features a collection of 50 buildings representing the history and design of Romania’s rural architecture. Steep-roofed peasant homes, thatched barns, log cabins, churches and watermills from all regions of the country were carefully taken apart, shipped to the museum and rebuilt in order to recreate the village setting. (See Gallery)

Palace of the ParliamentPalace of the Parliament ... The Palace of the Parliament (Romanian: Palatul Parlamentului) in Bucharest is, with a floor area of 350,000 m², one of the world's largest buildings. Its original name was the House of the People (Casa Poporului), but it was renamed (in the post-Communist era) as the Palace of the Parliament.

Description ... The structure combines elements and motifs from multiple sources, in an eclectic postmodernist architectural style. Edward Behr wrote that "the combination of cultural and aesthetic illiteracy, rigid Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy and an innate taste for gigantism was… devastating " for the architecture of the edifice.

It measures 270 m by 240 m, 86 m high, and 92 m under ground. It has 1,100 rooms and is 12 stories tall, with four additional underground levels currently available and in use, with another four in different stages of completion.

Estimates of the materials used include one million cubic meters of marble from Transylvania, most from Ruschita; 3,500 metric tons of crystal - 480 chandeliers, 1,409 ceiling lights and mirrors were manufactured; 700,000 tons of steel and bronze for monumental doors and windows, chandeliers and capitals; 900,000 cubic meters of wood (over 95% domestic) for parquet and wainscoting, including walnut, oak, sweet cherry, elm, sycamore maple; 200,000 square meters of woolen carpets of various dimensions (machines had to be moved inside the building to weave some of the larger carpets); velvet and brocade curtains adorned with embroideries and passementeries in silver and gold.

It is the second largest administrative building in the world by surface area of its floors, just behind the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. It is 10% larger by volume than the Great Pyramid of Giza. The building is constructed entirely of materials of Romanian origin; it is reported that during the latter years of construction, this building and Centrul Civic created such a massive demand for Romanian marble that tombstones throughout the country had to be made from other materials.

Effectively, the building, due to its immense size, cuts the city into two—an urban planner's nightmare. Constructing the Palace and Centrul Civic required demolishing about one-fifth of the historic districts of Bucharest.

The two neighborhoods with 19 Orthodox Christian churches, 6 synagogues and Jewish temples and 3 Protestant churches (plus eight relocated churches) were razed to make way for the behemoth are remembered to this day.

Construction ... Built on the site of a hill variously known as Spirii Hill, Uranus Hill, or Arsenal Hill, which was largely razed for the project, the building anchors the west end of Unirii Boulevard (left, 2 images) and Centrul Civic. Construction began in 1984. The building was originally to be known as the House of the Republic (Casa Republicii) and was intended to serve as headquarters for all the major state institutions. However, the project was just nearing completion at the time of Nicolae Ceausescu's overthrow and execution in 1989.

History since 1989 ... Since 1994, the building has housed Romania's Chamber of Deputies that had previously been housed in the Palace of the Patriarchy; the Romanian Senate joined them there in 2004, having previously been housed in the former Communist Party Central Committee building. The Palace also contains a massive array of miscellaneous conference halls, salons, etc., used for a wide variety of other purposes.

In 2003-2004 a glass annex was built, alongside external elevators. This was done to facilitate access to the National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC) opened in 2004 inside the west wing of the Palace of the Parliament, and to the Museum and Park of Totalitarianism and Socialist Realism, also opened in 2004. (See gallery)


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Mogosoaia PalaceMogosoaia Palace ... is situated about 10 kilometers from Bucharest. It was built between 1698-1702 by Constantin Brâncoveanu in what is called the Romanian Renaissance style or Brâncovenesc style, a combination of Venetian and Ottoman elements. The palace bears the name of the widow of the Romanian boyar Mogos, who owned the land it was built on. The Palace was to a large extent rebuilt in the 1920s by Marthe Bibesco.

The Palace had been given to Marthe by her husband, George Bibesco, who later also deeded the land to her. She spent all her wealth from the many books she wrote in its reconstruction and it became the meeting place for politicians and international high society, a quiet retreat during the growing turmoil of the 1930s.

The Palace is now a popular tourist destination, but although the grounds and gardens are beautiful, the interior of the palace itself is under reconstruction and presently houses a museum and art gallery (Muzeul de Arta Brâncoveneasca).

During the Second World War, Prince Antoine Bibesco (a cousin of George Bibesco) and his wife Elizabeth Bibesco, refused to flee the country despite their outspoken anti-fascist opinions. When Elizabeth died of pneumonia on April 7, 1945 she was buried in the Bibesco family vault on the grounds of Mogosoaia.

It may surprise visitors to see her grave here with its poignant epitaph in English - "My soul has gained the freedom of the night." Neither Elizabeth Bibesco's husband, Antoine, or George Bibesco's wife, Marthe, could be buried beside them, as they both died during the Communist regime.
(See Gallery)


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Site Gallery - Bucharest and Palaces
 
City of Bucharest
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Village Museum (Muzeul Satului)
Village Museum Village Museum Village Museum
Village Museum Village Museum Village Museum
Palace of the Parliament
Palace of the Parliament Palace of the Parliament Palace of the Parliament
Palace of the Parliament Palace of the Parliament Palace of the Parliament
Palace of the Parliament Palace of the Parliament Palace of the Parliament
Palace of the Parliament Palace of the Parliament Palace of the Parliament
Palace of the Parliament Palace of the Parliament Palace of the Parliament
Palace of the Parliament - Panorama
Mogosoaia Palace
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Mogosoaia Palace Mogosoaia Palace Mogosoaia Palace
Mogosoaia Palace Mogosoaia Palace Mogosoaia Palace
Busteni and Bucegi Mountains
Bucegi Mountains Location of Busteni

Busteni ... (Romanian pronunciation: /bush.'teni/; Hungarian: Bustény) is a small mountain town in the north of the county Prahova, in the center of Romania. It is located in the Prahova Valley, at the bottom of the Bucegi Mountains that have a maximum altitude of 2505 m. Its name literally means tree-logs in Romanian. Busteni's average altitude is 900 m.

It is one of the most popular mountain resorts, offering spectacular views, with lots of year-round tourism opportunities, ranging from skiing to mountain climbing. The town and the surrounding mountains were the site of military confrontations during the World War I (1916).

A large commemorative monument (about 25 m high), Heroes' Cross (Crucea Eroilor) (right) lies atop nearby Caraiman Peak, at nearly 2260 m. The monument is lit at night and is visible from virtually everywhere in Busteni. The average population is 15,000 inhabitants. A cable car climbs from Hotel Silva to Cabana Babele, on the top of the mountains. This area features unusual rock formations like Sfinxul and Babele. Omu Peak is the tallest in the Bucegi Mountains, 2504 meters.


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Site Gallery - Busteni and Bucegi Mountains
 
Busteni Busteni Busteni
City of Sibiu
City of Sibiu Location of Sibiu

Sibiu ... known in German as Hermannstadt, has always been the centre of Romania's German minority since medieval times. Even today, it contains Romania's largest German community, and, due to initiatives by the local government, the Germanic feel of the area has been maintained. Sibiu also has a significant Hungarian minority, remnants of Transylvania's past as part of the Hungarian Empire and, later, Austria-Hungary. Despite this, Sibiu is also distinctly Romanian (95% of the population is ethnic Romanians) and manages to fuse these three cultures, as well as smaller minorities of Roma, Slovaks and Ukrainians into a city that is as wonderful as it is vibrant.

Sibiu may be the loveliest of the Transylvanian cities. Medieval buildings with gingerbread-house designs of carved wood and old houses painted blue, green, gold, turquoise and pink, tiny roof windows that look like sleepy eyes (left) peeking out at you. Doorways and gates have intricate ironwork figures. Sibiu was named the 2007 European Capital of Culture.

Its most famous building is 200 year old Imparatul Romanilor Hotel (above), which housed Emperor Franz Joseph II of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Liszt, Johann Strauss, Johannes Brahms and poet Mihail Eminescu.

Piata Mare (square, larger, first image in second row of Gallery) is the focal point of Sibiu, surrounded by 16th & 17th century merchants' homes that now house small shops, cafes and businesses. Standing watch is the Council Tower, one of the city's original defenses. First erected in 1366, it was rebuilt in 1588. As in the other Saxon towns, Sibiu's craftsmen belonged to guilds.

The Large Square being the historic center of Sibiu, first time mentioned in 1411 as corn market. The public executions and public meetings used to be held here. In 1538 documents mention here a fountain, and in the 1550 the infamy pillar is erected, to be removed only in 1783. In 1703 the county leader Johann Sachs von Harteneck is beheaded in this square. Between 1724 and 1757 a 'cage for crazy people' was put in the middle, where were barred, during the day, those who troubled the town during the night.

Piata Mica (square, smaller, first image in third row in Gallery) has the arcaded old market hall museum, built in 1789, and connects to the 1850 Iron Bridge, also called Liars Bridge. Legend says that no one can tell a lie while standing on it without the bridge collapsing. Alongside is Fingerling's Ladder, a steep staircase that leading from the lower town's artisan area up to Piata Mica.

Old Town Hall, built 1470-1491, is now the History Museum. The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral was built in 1906 to resemble Istanbul's Hagia Sofia.


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Site Gallery - City of Sibiu
 
City of Sibiu City of Sibiu City of Sibiu
City of Sibiu City of Sibiu City of Sibiu
City of Sibiu City of Sibiu City of Sibiu
City of Sibiu City of Sibiu City of Sibiu
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