Day 11: Bookarest

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.

Day 10: If I Should Stay, I Would Only Be In Your Way

With heavy hearts, this morning we packed our things and spent as much time as we could in our awesome loft at Drachenhaus in fantastic Brašov before having to catch the train to our final destination in Romania, the capital city of Bucharest.  Seriously, if you’re looking for a place to travel that has natural and architectural beauty, lovely people, delicious food, good climate and VERY low cost, Brašov is the place to go.  I can’t say enough good things about it.

We headed to the train station and after dodging the gaze of some rather unsavoury looking adolescent males, we climbed aboard yet another train, pushing further east.  The train ride was mostly scenic – cut through the Carpathian Mountains with its green fields and babbling brooks.  Beethoven’s Symphony 6 – the pastoral comes to mind.  Clear of the mountains, the landscape is again flat, mostly farmer’s fields.  At 1600hrs our train pulled into Gara de Nord in Bucharest, only slightly less sketchy than the Gard du Nord in Paris.  Climbing off of the train we noticed a few regular police, some ERT looking guys as well as Gendarmerie escorting an older man and his wife off in handcuffs.  I really wish I knew what this guy did.

Anyhow, we got a taxi (apparently you’re better off using Uber in Bucharest, but we found that out later) and were dropped off at the pedestrian only old town, clacked our rolling luggage over the cobblestones and found our apartment for the next two nights, RedLotus Accommodation.  Our contact there, Andrei, was a wealth of info and led us up the 87 flights of stairs to our 2nd storey apartment, which is enormous.  We dumped our bags and headed out for some photos and dinner.


A restaurant that both Pa and I had read a lot about is a place 4 minutes from our apartment called Caru’ cu Bere – “The Beer Wagon”.  Caru’ cu Bere is an old Belle époque beer hall with wood and stained glass décor and a beer recipe dating back to 1879.


We grabbed a table outside and ordered beers from our charming waiter who advised that there was only 2 minutes left on their happy hour deal of buy one beer, get the second free, so Pa and I both ordered 2 beers.  Pa and I dined on huge, juicy t-bone steak while Ma had grilled vegetables and mashed potatoes.  Ma ended with apple strudel and Pa and I had some ice cream.


We went inside to check out the amazing interior, and ended up getting blocked in by traditional dancers.


Once we made our escape, we headed out into the cool evening and wandered the street for a few minutes before tucking in for the night.