Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Bucharest: Week 1

In fairness my brother-in-law tried to warn me.  "You shouldn't come in August" he told me as we were booking flights in February.  "It's hot here then."  In February "hot" sounded just about right.  He left off the right terms.  "Fucking hot" would have been better.  Unbearable, hell-like, atrocious.  Much better descriptors. The guide book we looked at even went so far as to say "Avoid Bucharest in August at all cost".  I should have listened.

"I like it hot, heat doesn't bother me", I told him as a reply.  At the time this was true.  But I wasn't pregnant then.  Now the heat bothers me. 

We had selected our dates to visit my in-laws not around dates that worked for my husband or I but to line up with the dates that worked best for my family.  We were doing one last hurrah vacation with my family and we were going to Spain.  At the time it made sense to merge the two trips, thinking that we could get a cheaper flight within Europe than by having to flight over once for Spain and again for Romania in the fall.  My brother and his wife, who have a nanny, wanted to take the vacation when she was going to be away in the Phillipines.  It saved them money.  My husband and I had another trip planned in August but we agreed to cancel that trip (it was to a nerd convention) and make all of our travel plans around their schedule.

The day we arrived in Bucharest was the hottest on record.  We were told it was 43 degrees Celsius in the shade in the countryside.  That's 109F.  Without taking into account the humidity.  Without taking into account the fact that Bucharest is a utilitarian city with few strips of grass or trees to break up the radiating concrete.  That's fucking hot.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that very few of you have visited Romania.  It's not exactly a tourist hotspot.  It's beauty was really beaten out of it during the communist era and it is now filled with concrete blocks and uninspiring architecture.  There are thousands of feral dogs that roam the streets with no home. The walls are covered in graffiti and even the city parks are not maintained.  There may be no grass on median strips, just dirt, or weeds.  There are a few beautiful parks, but they aren't well groomed the way a park would be in Canada. 

The purpose of the visit was for me to meet my in-laws.  My husband left Romania when he was 13.  His mother had left more than a decade before and his father had finally agreed to let him go and visit her.  She refused to send him back.  My husband didn't return for almost 20 years.  He still has 2 half-brothers, a sister-in-law and a niece, his father and step-mother who live there.

My in-laws were lovely... although neither of us spoke the other's language, so it is hard to get into fights.   They were very kind and are hoping we will come back in soon.  I have told them never in August.

One of the places we visited was the People's palace.  Ceaușescu, the communist leader,  had thousands evicted from their homes and moved into apartments so that he could use the land to build the world's heaviest building, the world's largest civilian building with an administrative function and the most expensive administrative building in the world. 

We toured the palace one day and it is awe-inspiring in size and design.  From Wikipedia the description says :  The building is constructed almost entirely of materials of Romanian origin. Estimates of the materials used include one million cubic meters of marble from Transylvania, most from Ruşchiţa; 3,500 tonnes of crystal — 480 chandeliers, 1,409 ceiling lights and mirrors were manufactured; 700,000 tonnes of steel and bronze for monumental doors and windows, chandeliers and capitals; 900,000 m2 (9,700,000 sq ft) of wood, over 95% of which is domestic, for parquet and wainscoting, including walnut, oak, sweet cherry, elm, sycamore maple; 200,000 m2 (2,200,000 sq ft) of woolen carpets of various dimensions, the larger of which were woven on-site by machines moved into the building; velvet and brocade curtains adorned with embroideries and passementeries in silver and gold.

 My in-laws also took us to the mountains for a weekend where it was a "refreshing" 36 C (98 F).  They really wanted me to see all the beautiful spots in Romania... the problem is that they wanted me to see them all on foot.  One day they took me on a "short walk"for lunch.  It was 2 km...uphill... on a mountain... starting at 1.5 km altitude... in the heat.  I was gasping for air  and water by the time we arrived.  I was afraid by the end of the week that I had boiled the baby.  Fortunately she seems to be doing just fine. 

The beds however were awful, the apartment we stayed in had no air conditioning, the shower had no shower curtain (i'm not even kidding... this was the most annoying thing... after a shower everywhere in the country that we stayed we had to mop the floors afterwards because of pools of water).

We will be going back to Romania... how can i prevent my child from an opportunity to know her roots.  But if I didn't have family there I don't know that I would be going back. 


  1. The palace sounds lovely... the heat- not so much. I didn't tolerate heat well while pregnancy either. Enjoy the air conditioning now that you're home!

  2. I am way behind in reading! Sounds like it was quite a trip. Glad you got to spend some good time with the in-laws. And survived that heat!

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