Bucharest is not a single city. Putting it in another way, there are several cities in Bucharest , each of them living in cooperation with the other.
Bucharest is a city formed of numerous architectural pairings and super positions belonging to various epochs and cultures. In order to understand and, especially to feel the city, you should have a little knowledge of its history and, of course, the way in which it has been reflected in architecture. The 17 th century culminates with the work of prince Brancoveanu , a Renaissance scholar and a protector of the arts. It is the brilliant period of great founders of extremely beautiful churches and monasteries. Brancoveanu's numerous foundations imposed a style, the Brancovenesc style, characterized by sculptured ornaments, mural paintings, stone carefully polished in the Venetian way, bare bricks and glazed roof tiles. Calei Victoriei , the best known street in Bucharest , was built during his reign.
In the 18th century, the Turkish sultans replaced the Wallachian princes, with foreigners, rich Greeks from the Fanar district of Constantinople, a city that had become Muslim. The fanariot princes brought with them the Turkish architectural model, big buildings, with continuous, stark facades and interior yards, with large market places, with narrow, obscure tortuous streets. Numerous caravan inns lay on the Dambovita River let bank, where the historical centre is to be found today, as well as in the city's commercial and banking areas.
Having become a kingdom in 1881, and after having won its independence in 1877, Romania started modernizing its capital city in a frenzy , making an unbalanced, excited effort to acculturate the western civilization. The French model became authoritarian , unique. Bucharest started changing in accordance with principles and architectural models of Paris . Paris of monumental perspectives and the medieval- fanariot city of Bucharest , crowded, chaotic and horizontal were too far apart. Success is only partial, nevertheless remarkable.
The beginning of the 20th century brings about another creative wave over the city on the Dambovita River . The beautiful period sees the Romanians taking pride in their national style, evolved from Byzantine decorative style, from Art Nouveau, and from the simple and elegant style practiced by the peasants in the Danube Plain. The neo-Romanian style magisterially pervades all Bucharest , with a floral, hyper-aesthetic architecture that cultivates the city's origins and original vocation, that of Byzantium after Byzantium .
After the First World War, the 1930s, the crazy years, bring the pragmatic spirit of the new times to an already prosperous Romania . Bucharest , in full process of modernization, builds in a simple and expeditious manner. The city raises on the vertical, the new temples are built of concrete, metal and glass, the gods' names are efficiency, progress, profitability. Wide boulevards are straightened; high blocks of flats are aligned. Bucharest , in its most central part, becomes a modern city, similar to all the other big cities in the world conquered by the pragmatic American model.
Who does not realize that architecture is a political art will receive an eloquent and incontestable lesson in Bucharest . During the Soviet occupation of Romania , at the north entrance of the city there was symbolically raised the enormous Casa Scanteii (Spark House) at present Casa Presei (Press House), a copy of the heavy citadels of the Stalinist culture of the Lomonosov University page.
However, the most surprising Romanian building, erected after the second World War, that continues to amaze by its gigantic dimensions, by its incredible vastness (the frontage is 400m long) is the palace conceived by the imagination of the megalomaniac dictator, after a Korean model.
Lacking an identifiable style except a few neo-modernist elements and having as unique obsession the colossal, even in the luxury of gilded interiors, the palace meant to be a symbol of power has become a tourist obsession of almost everyone passing through Bucharest .
Wondering on without a purpose who can be certain to have a purpose in Bucharest you will encounter, in front of the big building of the City Hall, the most famed park in Romania , Cismigiu Garden . While on Saturdays or Sundays, families go for a pride walk in Herastrau and the other parks created around the lakes in the elegant northern part of the city, anybody goes through Cismigiu when he or she feels like, any day of the week, with or without work to do.
Wherever you wander, in whatever corner of the city you find yourself, you are closed to a terrace restaurant. Both fancy big restaurants and small neighbourhood pubs invite you to dinner, within an old gastronomic tradition, thoroughly put to test in the last hundred years, with egg-plant salad, fried green peppers, cottage cheese with olives, mamaliga (corn porridge) with cheese and cream or oven mamaliga with the huge juicy steaks, which were always the fame of Bucharest. The custom of the place requires a white dry and very cold wine.
Possible no other city in the plains is like Bucharest , so generously surrounded by lakes and forests, by manors and inns, by palaces and monasteries (which drew pubs and hotels around them). One hour drive from Bucharest, in any direction, through picturesque villages (which are becoming luxury satellite towns of the capital), you come upon old and splendid monasteries or palaces, situated on the shores of large and clear lakes, among endless century old oak and linden tree forests.
Of course, there are casinos, some luxuriously placed even in the oldest, the most sophisticated and the most decadently adorned Bucharest palaces; there are, as anywhere in the world, stylish or popular discos, for all tastes and wallets, there are fancy restaurants, with refined French, Italian, Asian, Arabian, African cuisine, and so on.
Bucharest is a strange city. You may love or hate it, despise or dispute it, but Bucharest never leaves you unbiased. This exceptional city is meant to be more generous than the destiny that tries it through earthquakes, floods, wars, blizzards, endless draughts and smothering imperial vicinities. It is written as its sacred vocation, its first vocation, to last.