Date and Time of Visit: July 19, 2018, approximately 11:00 a.m.
Our first stop after crossing the Danube was the capital of Romania in the middle of the Wallachian Plain. The national museum was amazing. I definitely recommend Uber for getting around the city!
Over the Danube to Romania
We leave Ruse, Bulgaria at 9am. We crossed the vast Danube River and entered Romania for the first time. The southern part of Romania is known as Wallachia. Once we crossed the river, the atmosphere suddenly changed. On the Bulgarian side, there were many rocks and mountains, but in Wallachia, there were no high mountains at all, and you could see far into the vast plain.
The languages are also different. Bulgarian uses the Cyrillic alphabet, whereas Romanian is alphabetic. Romanian is said to be Latin and similar to Italian. I think “Good evening” is Bonasera. It’s very impressive to see how different not only the terrain but also the culture is just by crossing the river. That’s how big the Danube River was for the people in the past, isn’t it?
You can park your car for free in front of the National Palace in Bucharest.
The distance from Ruse, Bulgaria to Bucharest is about 1 hour and 30 minutes. It’s not that far.
Before I left Ruse, Bulgaria, I checked the parking situation in Bucharest on Google Maps, and I found that there was a free parking lot right in front of the National Palace, which was the main purpose of my visit to Bucharest. I was worried about whether it was true or not, but I decided to set it as a destination of the navigation system and go there.
First of all, what surprised me was that I could not see the figure of the National Palace at all even if I entered Bucharest from the south and approached 1km from the destination (the parking lot in front of the National Palace). As far as I saw it in a photograph or a guidebook, it was quite big, so I thought it was visible from a distance, but it was not so at all. However, when I turned left on the last road with less than 500m remaining, I could finally see the shape of the huge structure. It means we came from the left side in front of the National Museum.
Well, we arrived at the front and immediately found out the identity of the free parking lot. Indeed, there are many cars parked in the huge square in front. There is no special gate, etc., and it enters freely. Quite large, how many cars can be parked? A lot of cars were parked certainly, but if it is this wide, I can park all I want. It was very convenient in a sense.
I’m not sure if this is a good idea, though. It looks like I won’t have to worry about sightseeing in Bucharest or coming by car for a while.
National Museum, Guided Tour Application
Now, it is a national pavilion, but from where do general tourists enter? Because there was no particular guide, I did not understand at first, but when I followed several groups of tourists moving to the direction of the right side from the front, there was an entrance to enter the inside when I walked about 300m from the front to the fence on the east side. It was also the entrance for the vehicles of the people related to the National Museum.
You can enter the inside of the building from here. When you enter the building, there is a large space and the reception desk is located a little further in.
There is an electronic board that shows the start time of the guided tour and the available languages (Romanian, English, German, French, etc.), so you can decide when you want to go and complete the procedure at the reception desk.
Travel easily and affordably with UBER
The city of Bucharest is quite big. It will be very difficult to move around on foot. Moreover, the season at this time was July, and it was hot and humid. It was unexpectedly hot and humid in Eastern Europe. Public transportation is the best way to get around, but to be honest, the nearest subway station or bus stop is sometimes far away. So we decided to use Uber again this time. I haven’t used Uber in Europe since Prague, right?
There are many cars registered with Uber in Bucharest. Depending on where you are, you can be picked up in less than 10 minutes. We were able to go from the National Palace to the National Gallery in about 10 minutes. The price is only 250 yen. I think it’s much more reasonable than buying a day pass.
National museums are very extensive
The building is divided into the Romanian National Exhibition on the north side, which displays Romanian treasures, and the European Art Exhibition on the south side, which focuses on the works of modern Romanian painters. I was impressed by the large collection and high quality of this national museum. We first visited the Romanian National Exhibition side, and then the European Art Exhibition side.
Romania, like Bulgaria, belongs to the Orthodox side of the church. Because it was a devoutly Christian nation, there are many churches in the country, and there are also many works of art centered on icons. As you would expect from a Latin nation, I felt that the atmosphere was brighter, more flamboyant, and more artistic than in Bulgaria. Nevertheless, I was surprised to see so many splendid exhibits.
As for the paintings, I am amazed at the quality of them. There were Flemish paintings, late Baroque to Impressionist, and many modern paintings.
Most of these were painted by Romanian painters. I had no idea until I came here that the Romanian art world also has a firm grasp of the mainstream European painting trends.
I was really impressed by the really great work, and quite a lot of it. Bucharest, it’s amazing.
Lunch time, a little expensive
It’s been more than 30 years since the democratization of Bucharest, and even though the city still retains the atmosphere of the communist era, it’s still a vibrant capital city, and the old town is being redeveloped, with more and more Western European-style shops. After visiting the museum, we still had some time before the guided tour of the National Gallery, so we decided to have a light lunch in the city center.
We didn’t want to take it too slowly, so we chose this restaurant which was somewhat like a light meal. It was delicious, but it was a bit expensive from the price of Romania and Bulgaria. It was about the same price as Western Europe.
National Museum, guided tour
From the old town where we had lunch, we walked back to the National Palace again, passing through the park adjacent to the National Palace.
This national pavilion was built with a huge cost of 150 billion yen. It is said that it was built based on the motif of the palaces of the absolute dynasties scattered all over Europe. Rather than the luxury and splendor like the palace of Versailles, I felt more strongly the atmosphere that was somehow emotionless and inorganic.
Compared to the scale of 17th and 18th century architecture, I thought it was quite uncomfortably large, probably because it was built in the 20th century and forcibly imitated palaces of hundreds of years ago, despite the rooms that were just too big and wide and the ceilings that were too high.
Anyway, there are too many rooms and I gradually get tired of seeing them. The decoration and design of the building are elaborate, but it doesn’t have an artistic atmosphere. If you want artistic atmosphere, the national museum I visited earlier was much better.
Finally, from the terrace of the National Palace, we looked over the boulevard that Ceausescu once built in imitation of the Champs-Elysées in Paris. It was indeed a nice view, but I felt somewhat empty.
It is said that Ceausescu dreamed of making a speech to the public here before he died, but his wish was not fulfilled and he was forced to leave the capital by the revolution. After all, the first person who could speak to the citizens from here was Michael Jackson, ironically, the guide said.
I didn’t have enough time to stay in Romania this time, because I didn’t have a long itinerary and I wanted to put more emphasis on Bulgaria. Because of that, we didn’t have enough time to visit Bucharest. I could only visit the National Museum and the National Gallery. However, other than that, there are a lot of museums, and also a lot of Orthodox church style buildings are scattered around the city is very attractive, so I honestly wanted to stay one night and sightseeing firmly. Romania is one of the countries I would like to visit again, so I would like to plan to have enough time for sightseeing next time.