Today was our last day in Bucharest and our last full day in Romania, so we decided to spend the day tying up loose traveller ends in the city – the Palace of Parliament, and the Carturesti Carusel Book Shop.
We had seen many photos of the book shop on Pinterest and other websites. Opened in 2016, the beautiful shining white beacon of book heaven boasts 6 floors including music in the basement and a bistro on the top floor. We love books and book related things, so we were more than a little excited to check it out, and it did not disappoint.
There were plenty of books in English, not just Romanian for us to drool over, as well as a whole wall devoted to one of my favourite things, stationery. The shop was everything I wanted it to be and more. I probably could have spent a whole day there, and if there was a shop like this in the Lower Mainland, I would go there at least once a week.
After getting dragged out of the shop, we headed across town to a concrete Communist colossus – the Palace of Parliament. One thing I haven’t really talked about on here was Romania’s years behind the Iron Curtain under the brutal rule of dictator Nicolae Ceaušescu. Under his thumb the country went broke and starved, all the while he was emptying Romania’s coffers into his selfish passion project, the Palace of Parliament.
Ceaušescu ordered that 7 square kilometres of old town be demolished, including the national archives, several churches and synagogues and 40,000 people had to be relocated. He insisted that only Romanian materials were used – tapestries, marble, wood, crystal. Between 20,000 to 100,000 people worked on the building with several thousand dying in the process, some under mysterious circumstances. The Palace is now considered the 2nd largest administrative building in the world at 3,930,000 square feet (1st is the Pentagon) and the heaviest building in the world (I don’t know), weighing about 4,098,500,000 kilograms, causing it to sink about 6mm every year. Because it’s only actually 65% complete, civilians are only able to view a small part of it. We tried to get in for a tour, but were unsuccessful.
We decided to walk back to the old town and admired some of the faded glory of the city along the way. Bucharest used to be known as the Paris of the East, but due to the extreme poverty that the city was subjected to, it is a mere shadow of its former self.
We found a delightful little ice cream shop called Emilia Cremerie and indulged (I had vanilla and pistachio and almond).
Our last activity before dinner and then locking ourselves in for the night was to check on the Stavropoleos Monastery. It’s a tiny little Eastern Orthodox church with a little courtyard and monastery building. It was built in 1724 and houses many sacred manuscripts and texts, as well as stonework, art and icons that were almost destroyed when the Communist government started knocking down churches.
After a delicious dinner of kebab where I caught sight of my future husband (he is unaware at this point), watched an English bachelor party slowly descend into drunken tomfoolery and listened to an American blowhard wearing a shirt that said “I’m jealous of me too” talk NON STOP about women, girls he’s slept with, how to properly aerate red wine because “no one else knows how to do it”, what he would say to Bucharest to better their tourism scene, etc etc etc, we headed back to Casa DeCaigny to pack for our travels tomorrow, destination Bulgaria.