August 30, 2023. Travel Day
How long does it take to travel 5,872 miles? 19 hours. Plus, the travel time to the airport, and time after arriving – total 23.5 hours. While it’s certainly faster than traveling from Colorado to the Atlantic, sailing across the ocean, and then traveling to Romania, it felt very long!
We flew on Air France from Denver (5:20pm departure, 10:40am arrival, 8 hours difference in time) – we paid extra for exit row seats for lots of leg room. Unfortunately, their exit row had no window – oops! The dinner wasn’t bad – choice of a chicken dish or pasta. Then a bunch of hours trying to sleep (did the couple in the row behind us not need to sleep, since they had long conversations all night?), then a light breakfast
We had a 4.5-hour layover in CDG airport; since have a membership in Priority Pass (for access to lounges at airports around the world), we decided that would be the best place to wait. I won’t go into detail about the search for the lounge at the Paris airport (5 people told us wrong information, 2 bus trips totaling 45 minutes that we didn’t even need to take, etc.), and let’s just say the lounge wasn’t worth it.
Our 3-hour flight from Paris (3:20pm departure) to Bucharest (7:10pm arrival, 1 hour difference in time) was also on Air France, obviously a much smaller plane. We were surprised when they offered us a choice of a cheese or a chicken sandwich, and 2 cookies.
We arrived just in time to see the end of the sunset! I had arranged for a car from the airport to the hotel, and it was about a half hour ride to the hotel. We are staying at the Marmorosch Bucharest, a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel. In the late 19th century, the building was a bank, and the Vault in the basement is now a bar.
Once in our room, around 8:30pm, we unpacked enough to climb in bed and sleep.
August 31, 2023. A Day In Bucharest
Well rested after a long day of travel we were ready to explore! Our hotel is right in Old Town – here is the view from our window:
After a nice buffet breakfast in the lobby, our guide Cornell picked us up outside.
We had a nice driving tour of many of the highlights of Bucharest, and then we went to the “Spring Palace,” the home of the former leader Nicolae Ceaușescu. He was the head of the Communist party, and the leader of Romania, from 1965 until 1989, when he was overthrown and he and his wife executed. The driver took us to the entrance so we could buy tickets for the group tour, and then waited
for us until the tour was over.
The English-speaking tour guide took us to 50 rooms out of the 176 rooms in the palace (only 88 of which are usable at this time). The palace is almost 54,000 square feet, including the 65 feet (approx. 5 stories) below the ground. There is an external helipad, underground evacuation route, and an atomic bomb proof shelter. It was immediately taken over when Ceaușescu and his wife were arrested, so it has been perfectly preserved.
The style has a lot of French influence (from his wife). As you’d expect, there were some “over the top” things - the wardrobe that held her 7000 pieces of clothing, jewelry and accessories, the “golden bathroom” (many of the fixtures in the bathrooms were gold plated), the indoor pool, and indoor solarium. Over 12,000 items were taken out of the palace and put into the national museum
The iconic building in Bucharest is the Parliament building.
Almost 4 million square feet, it is the second largest administrative building in the world (the Pentagon is the biggest) and has1100 rooms. There are 17 floors – 9 above ground, and 8 below. It is one of the heaviest buildings in the world – 4 million tons, because of all the marble. It houses two chambers of the Parliament (the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies), 3 museums, and an international conference center. They are only using 10% of the building space.
In 1977, there was a major earthquake. The Communist leadership took this opportunity to claim much of the part of Old Bucharest that had been levelled by the earthquake, and then took enough additional space for this building – demolishing the homes of 40,000 people. Construction started in 1984, and was only 60% complete when the Communist government was overthrown, and construction was finally completed in 1997. The British show Top Gear did an episode where they drove race cars through the tunnels of the lower floors, they are so large.
Our driver wasn’t sure we’d be able to get in, as we didn’t arrange for tickets in advance, but we went in and asked, and after waiting a few minutes, they got us into the 2pm English tour (luckily I had our passports with us or we would not have been allowed in). The tour was a little shorter (we didn’t get to see the ballrooms) because they are preparing for a NATO Event.