We had five days to explore Bucharest, and you can read Part 1 here; on to the rest of our visit! Our pal from the train, George, told us we need to visit the Primaverii Palace and afterward eat at a little French spot, so of course we did. The Primaverii Palace, also known as the Ceaușescu home, which was built for the ex-dictator of Romania, is right next door to the Kuwait Embassy, and in the nicer part of town. It took us a taxi ride to get there, but it was like entering a different world; one where there was good landscaping, great looking massive homes, embassies galore (we passed the French, Spanish, Swiss, and a few others I can’t even remember now), nice streets to walk down, less trash. Anyway, when we arrived we were greeted by Peacocks.
We learned the house was built in the 1960s, and was only for the Ceaușescu couple and their three children. It was saved from looting and destruction during the 1989 uprising by soldiers, and is now a museum. We had a great tour guide and walked through each room, to see the excessive lifestyle of a dictator. (He was considered the greatest chess player in the country, we learned, as no one wanted to beat him in a match. Real dictator stuff).
The house was extended/added-onto in the 1970s, and it was cool to see how the 60s style gave way to that of the 70s. As we saw the private bedrooms, meeting rooms, and each kids’ bedrooms, then we moved to the indoor atrium and mosaic fountains (what?!?).
Then we took the staircase down to the indoor pool:
The pool area mosaics are straight out of the 70s, with star signs and fun suns, fish, and of course, a peacock.
We ended the tour in the outdoor garden, where there is a little cafe. Through the long hallway you see below, with pictures of Ceaușescu with many world leaders, from US Presidents to Soviet Premiers and all others, was the exit. It was an interesting visit, to be sure.
Afterward we walked to the nearby cafe that George had recommended, Zexe Braserie, which is a french cafe with unbelievable desserts. We had a tasty lunch, shared two really good desserts, and wandered the nearby neighborhood. It was quiet and peaceful, and we looked for things to do nearby. We found the Zambaccian Art Museum, which was housed in the former residence of its namesake, and was a private collection, in the neighborhood, nestled amongst the other big homes.
There were many works by famous Romanian Artists, and also famous painters Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne, and Renoir. It did not take more than an hour to see the works, and it was well worth it. Here are some of my favorites:
We continued our stroll through the posh neighborhood, passing a park dedicated to the poet Khalil Gibra (author of “The Prophet”) as well as a very interesting statue.
We next found ourselves at the Muzeul Național al Hărților și Cărții Vechi, or the National Museum of Maps and Old Books. We had never been to a museum like this, and it was fascinating. Located in a 1920s villa, the museum provided a history of map making, had many maps dating back from the 1500s to today, statues to the most important people that helped map making advance in the world, beautiful stained glass, cool furniture pieces, and multiple painted ceilings.
The Stained glass, check out the poles:
and of course, the maps (Lunar, Dacia, Transylvania, Ottoman Empire):
One of the few ceiling paintings:
It was such a cool and unique museum, you do not need to even be into cartography or maps to appreciate it. After the museum, we walked back to our rental apartment, through another square that we walked through often (as it was right near our place) which has the statue of a man on a horse (shown at the top of this post), and behind that, the Central University Library of Carol I.
The statue is of King Carol the first of Romania. His story is interesting, as he was born Prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (in Germany), and was chosen by Romanian leadership to be the Prince of Romania in 1866 (which he accepted), and later was made King when the Russians drove the Ottoman Turks from Romania. Carol is held in high regard as he brought modernity to Romania. Across from the Statue is Romanian National Museum of Art (below) and a statue dedicated the people who died during the Romanian Revolution in 1989, located in Revolution Park.
Jesse and I had plans to visit the Romanian National Museum of Art, but we decided to try a different museum, this one the Museum of Art Collections, which were collections donated to the Romanian State by various Romanians and others. It was housed in an early 19th century palace, and the collections were varied, as you will see. It was organized by the collections donated, and there were laminated sheets, in English and Romanian, about the donors, and their relationships with the artists, if any.
We saw many of the famous Romanian Painters (that we had seen at the other art museums around Bucharest): Nicolae Grigorescu (1838-1907), Theodor Pallady (1871-1956), Gheorghe Petraşcu (1872-1949), Corneliu Baba, Lucia Demetriade Balacescu (1895-1979), Iosif Iser, Alexandru Phoebus, and Ştefan Luchian, among many others.
There was also a large room of Eastern Orthodox paintings; and we have seen a lot of Orthodox art while in Eastern Europe (which makes sense); and Jesse had been saying, “I haven’t seen a lot of orange in their paintings.” Lo and behold, this room:
The furniture pieces donated were also very cool. Here are just some of them that we liked:
But the most surprising and some of the coolest art I’ve ever seen was a room full of pieces by Japanese Artist Shizuko Onda. Using multicolored plexiglass and other items, she creates artistic pieces that look different from ever perspective. Above, below, from the left or right side, each view is different. Truly unique and unlike any art I had ever seen. These pictures do not do her art justice, but I had to post them.
As we left another fun museum filled with great art in Bucharest, we saw the statues that frame the fountain in front of the building.
We finished our day meandering down the streets of Bucharest, appreciating all the buildings and their detailed work, lamenting that many needed fixing up. We ended up at the University Square, where there were many people talking with friends, a guitar player singing, skateboarders, and smokers relaxing in the early evening.
St. Nicholas Church is in the middle of the above picture, but we did not visit as it is under heavy renovation, but we did get closer.
There are are few statues on University Square, but the most impressive is that of Mihai Viteazul. It is the first equestrian statue in Romania from 1874. He was Lord of Wallachia who, in the year 1600, united all of the Romanian territories under one leader, albeit the union was short lived.
After that we packed our bags, had a good night’s sleep, and the next morning boarded our train for Bulgaria!