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It isn’t Budapest

In a good year, Germany seems to me to have an overabundance of public holidays.

If I’m really objective about it, they don’t have a whole lot more than in Australia. But they do have more than the stingy university system, which only grants national, but not WA state holidays.

But there’s this weird system here, where public holidays are set by date. And when I say ‘weird’ I mean ‘actually totally objectively correct’. But in Aussieland we push everything to the nearest Friday or Monday. Here, if the holiday falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, it’s gone.

So, in a good year, you end up with an extra 11 days off (on top of 30 days holiday!).

But on a bad year, where nearly all of the holidays fall on the weekend, you get close to nothing. They call it an ’employees year’ vs and ’employers year’.

Last year was an employers year. The holidays in May, October, and most of the Christmas days fell on a Saturday or Sunday. Not that I cared too much- I was finishing up my thesis, and by November I had submitted, and was sunning myself on a beach/stuffing Malaysian food into my face back in Perth. For over a month.

This year has been somewhere in the middle. But several of the holidays fell on a Thursday or Tuesday, which meant it was practically mandatory to take an extra day and make a four day long weekend.

Which is my long-winded way of explaining that, on the weekend of the 30th of October, which happens to be Reformationsday, Andy and I went to Bucharest.

  

For those of you who might ask, we didn’t misunderstand where Budapest was. We’ve been to Budapest. And absolutely loved it.

Bucharest was chosen because it was not-too-far away, could be traveled to with a cheap airline, seemed like a good amount of city to see in a single weekend, and seemed pretty inexpensive.

We checked with a friend who had been previously, and he gave it the thumbs up.

So off we tottered.  

If I’m completely honest, the whole thing started out disastrously. Ryanair (who are the worst), cancelled our flight from Bucharest, but not to Bucharest, and then told us they would only compensate the cancelled flights. Luckily we were able to change to a flight on an earlier day, which effectively shortened our 4 day weekend to a 3 day-er, but was otherwise not too painful.

When we arrived, Andy immediately left his card in the ATM (it was one of the kinds where for some reason they give you the cash first), so spent 20 mins on hold to the bank, who could luckily cancel his card, but couldn’t activate his other card because he didn’t have the telephone banking pin.

The next morning, it was raining, and Andy realised that he hadn’t packed any underwear.

You know that stereotype, about women always overpacking?

Turns out I just fill my suitcase up with undergarments. That and sugar.

Sterotype #2. Women love sugar.

And then, to add insult to injury, I spend the whole of the first day photographing with my camera settings on ‘super small postage stamp size’. Normally I would have noticed that my SD card had 9999 photos left available.. but I had just bought a new 32 Gb card.

But after the first few hours, things began to look up. We went to H+M to get Andy some underpants. I bought an umbrella, and after a bit the rain even stopped. We had hipster coffee at a great cafe, ate hearty Romanian food at an old beer hall, including a feta pie that tasted like something my Grandad would make, and generally roamed around the city.

There are no photos of these things, because they are postage-stamp-small.

But you’d better believe that I insisted that we return to this very beautiful church/monastery a couple of day laters to retake a couple of shots.       Here’s a fun fact, that we learnt when we took the free walking tour on the last (and sunniest) day.

Back when Romania had a communist/fascist ruler, in this case Nicolae Ceausescu, the general plan was to get rid of the churches. Interestingly, this seemed to be more about real estate than a general hatred of the Church or religion. So when Eugeniu Iordăchescu, an engineer, came up with the idea of physically moving the churches, instead of destroying them, they went with it.

So they basically dug out the church like a giant tree, and literally rolled them away on train tracks. Check out some photos and details here.

To be completely honest with you, this is not a train-church.

But it is still very pretty, don’t you think?

If you asked me to describe Bucharest, I would say it was mostly, to me, about the visual juxtapositions.

Breathtakingly beautiful old buildings and churches reflected in the shining glass windows of high rises, sitting right next to a nest of cables and another building seconds away from collapse.

It made for a rather stunning trifector.

And also possibly explains why most of my photos are buildings.        

This majestic sculpture is the Memorial of Rebirth, marking remembrance to the 1989 Romanian Revolution that saw the overthrow of communism.

Apparently it’s a bit controversial, with people not really feeling the symbolism of design, and widely referring to it as ‘a potato on a stick’ the ‘potato of the revolution’ or the ‘olive on a toothpick’.

This may make it clear why the (vandalised) base looks something like this….

… and apparently explains the red ‘blood’ dripping from the olive/crown, which Andy and I originally took as a deliberate design feature, but is in fact apparently graffiti from 2012.    

In any case, this mixture of sleek and shattered seems to me to tie in with the rest of the city, which all together left an impression which was diverse and interesting and beautiful.

By the way, apparently Bucharest is fairly well known for having a lot of stray dogs. Our guide book stated that Ceausescu’s ‘standardization’ basically involved moving a lot of families into very small, shared living quarters, which resulted in them not being able to keep their family pet. The dogs, released onto the streets, quickly breed.

I think this may be a case of ‘actual reality’ as opposed to ‘rumour mixed with elitism’, as the guide book actually included a ‘what to do if corned by strays’ section, and our friend who visited back in 2010 or so had lots of photos of little pups.

We were on the lookout, but in the city itself could only see dogs with their owners. So hopefully the situation has come to a happy end.

So, you might have noticed that my photos this time around are highly lacking in order or story. This is probably mostly because of the ‘first day camera mishap’, but also because we spent the majority of time just roaming around and enjoying the city.

But here are two ‘Events’. Capital E.

On the Sunday, I made Andy go waaaayy out of town to go to a flea market.

We walked because we couldn’t work out the bus situation, and because Google said our walk would anyway take us along the river, and then through a ‘nature park’ filled with green and little lakes.

Which seemed nice….

… but was mostly weird:

The market itself was kind of strange, a little overwhelming. We managed to eat a nice sausage, and a chimney cake, and I came away with a pair of caramel stockings. But all in all, it was a bit of a ‘miss’.

Event number 2 was the Theramin.

If you don’t know, this is the only musical instrument that is played by not touching it. Instead, movement of hands in between antennae control the pitch and amplitude.

The sound is extremely ghostly, which was completely in line with the Halloween weekend of our visit.

Walking through the city, we heard the sound, and saw the man’s hands dancing out the music. It was pretty darn spectacular.

Except that he kept on getting feedback.

He paused, turned off the power, paused for a few more seconds and turned it on again.

Feedback gone!

He kept playing and gave us a little knowing nod.

At the end of the song we had a chat to him, and he mentioned that he is planning to visit Melbourne or Sydney some time soon, once he works out the visa requirements for street artists.

So keep an eye out east-coasters!

That’s all from Bucharest friends!  

Capitalism+Communism+Fascism= BAM!

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