Sunday, July 14, 2013

Wednesday, July 10. Bucharest, Romania

We crossed the Danube into Romania on Tuesday at Vidin on a new bridge that just opened two weeks ago. We had to clear customs. The Romanian customs officer came on to the bus looking serious and collected all the passports. We waited. After a while the officer returned to the bus and there was a conversation with our Romanian guide. Then officer called out in a gruff voice "Elizabeth Nifort. Please come to the front of the bus." Elizabeth stood up and started haltingly to move to down the aisle. Then someone at the front shouted 'Happy Birthday' and started singing happy birthday to her. It seems that the officer had noticed on her passport that it was her birthday and decided to have some fun!

Romania seemed a little less poor than Bulgaria. It was a long drive to Bucharest. On the way we passed a number of fairly large cities. Sunflowers, grown for their oil, is a common crop.

On Wednesday morning, our Romanian guide lead us for a walking tour of Bucharest.

Across from our hotel is a square in front of a government building. The balcony of this building was often used by Nicolae Ceaucescu, Romania's communist dictator, to give speeches.

It was here in that in 1989, people gathered and demanded that he leave. He went out on the balcony to tell the people to leave, but the people resisted. There was some shots exchanged. Eventually Ceaucescu escaped in a helicopter, but the pilot pretended that he had engine trouble and landed. Ceaucescu and his wife left the helicopter. The most powerful and hated man in Romania started to hitchhike. He offered the man who picked him up a fortune to drive him to an army base, but the man drove him to a police station where Ceaucescu was arrested. He and his wife were given a brief trial and they were taken to a courtyard and executed by firing squad. That was the end of communism in Romania.

We asked our guide if he had been there. Yes he had been in the square during the protests. He said he left when the shooting started. He had a daughter who was only a few months old.

Bucharest is a city with great wide tree lined boulevards. It has many beautiful old buildings. This is the opera house, on the next block to where the square where history was made.

On of Ceaucescu's great projects was to build a huge government building. It is the second largest government building in the world after the Pentagon. Many blocks of historic buildings were destroyed to make space fort the building. The building makes no sense for a country the size of Romania.

Like most of the cities we visited, Bucharest has a nice old town much of which is a pedestrian area full of outdoor cafes and bars.

Our tour had our dinner at an 1879 beer hall. It is a beautiful building and they served a delicious schnitzel the size of a frisbee.

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