My first impression of Romania was that this is a surprisingly westernized E. European country. The fact that Bucharest is the largest (2.1 million population) of the three cities I’ve visited on this tour could have much to do with that. My first stop was to the Banesa Shopping Center and what to my wondering eye did appear….Starbuck’s!!!
The second impression I had of this city is that there is a lot of beautiful parks, old architecture, amazing statues, and traffic & parking nightmares all around! I later learned that during communistic rule, it was extremely difficult for Romanians to have cars so now that the veil of oppression has been lifted, people have indulged as much as possible but the infrastructure of the city hasn’t kept up.
Our hotel was located quite far from the city center so there wasn’t much opportunity to explore the sites, but I did get to see some things driving to work commitments throughout the week. On the way back from the mall, we saw the Palace of Parliament, which is the 2nd largest building in the world (it has 7 floors below ground level) after the Pentagon. And on the way to my Romanian TV debut– that’s right I’m turning into quite the celebrity in E. Europe, and this week we were featured after some very cool Romanian pop stars!! – we saw the scene, marked with 10 stone crosses, of a revolutionary massacre in ’89. The ruler, Ceausescu, who they were protesting was executed by firing squad just 4 days later, on Christmas no less, and a new day dawned for the people of Romania.
Before I wrap up, there is one last fun fact about Bucharest I’d like to share --- it’s known as the city of stray dogs. There are an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 lonely pups roaming the streets, and they are everywhere! There were 2-3 hanging out at our show, in fact one of them even swiped a bottle of water from our group of local partners and proceeded to gnaw off the cap to get himself a drink! Those dogs might be homeless, but they sure do have street smarts.