I’ve had a travel crush on Romania for some time. So I was outrageously excited to finally visit, especially since I’ve hardly traveled in Eastern Europe.
And I fell in love with Bucharest the second we took an Uber into the city. I come from Miami, a place where everything is brand new. And while it’s pretty and shiny, I feel like it has no character. Well, it does have character, and that is fake as fuck. And Western and Central Europe, though also beautiful and historical are constantly being restored to a pristine condition. But I adore places that are well-worn, that look like they’ve been lived in and slowly destroyed by time, wars, and suffering. And Bucharest is all those things.
Many of the buildings are stripped of a fresh coat of paint, and all that remains is a facade of weathered concrete. Windows are broken, fences are in disrepair, and some of the nice metal toppers on buildings are bleeding rust. I’m sure it sounds like a dilapidated dump. But I have an affinity for places that don’t look their best and still feel safe. And actually the most beautiful part of Bucharest is that these old and unassuming structures sit side by side with ornate and resplendent traditional architecture. Bucharest is full of unique and detailed churches, statues, and sculptures, so there’s a beautiful contrast all over. I think the city is downright gorgeous in every way.
That may just be me, though. What I see as a really interesting graffiti-covered passageway, you may see and tell me, “Ana, that’s a piss alley.” But it’s kind of nice to find the beauty in things that are imperfect (even if they sometimes smell like urine).
Another thing that’s truly unique about Bucharest is how Romanian it is through and through. Most major European cities have a lot of diversity. I know people from Croatia that live in Austria, Italians that live in Germany, and Spaniards that live in the Czech Republic. Europeans tend to move around.
But I get the feeling that the majority of people in Bucharest are Romanian. They have a really intense sense of national pride. Even the music you hear in restaurants and shops is mostly Romanian. They don’t seem to care for foreign influence, which is certainly unique in this day and age. It’s like the country’s essence is totally preserved by its people.
It also doesn’t seem to be very popular with tourists, which might account for some of that cultural homogeneity. I’ve always lived in cities that are really touristy, including Washington DC and now Prague. Sure, it’s nice to live somewhere with stunning landmarks and monuments. But it’s also exhausting. The nicest parts of town are always crowded, and there’s more transport congestion.
Bucharest, on the other hand, is surprisingly light on visitors. For the first day and a half, we felt like we were the only visitors here. No one is around many of the “tourist spots” of the city taking pictures like you’d expect in any European city. With the exception of one or two tour groups and a small handful of people in front of the Vlad the Impaler bust, this city is empty.
This also makes it dirt cheap to travel to. You know what $29 a night will get you in Bucharest? A modern apartment in Old Town with a full kitchen and a stunning view of the Bucharest Court of Appeals over the Dâmbovița River. If I wasn’t so happy in Prague, I’d be looking to pull another Airbnb rental here this week.