April 15 - May 15, 2019

One of the unexpected advantages of my extensive travels has been the time I have spent in the less travelled areas of Europe. I am just winding up a month in Bucharest.

Romania, like many European countries, has a complicated history. There is the recurring theme of being conquered by the Romans, and although there are some Roman artifacts in the museum, by far the most interesting exhibit is the deconstructed copy of the Trajan column.

The Trajan column stands 98 ft. high in Rome. Built in 107 AD it commemorates the Roman Emperor Trajan's conquest of the Dorac's who occupied much of what is present day Romania. So needless to say it is historically relevant to the area.

Veronica and I were thrilled to see the original in Rome, but it was at least as thrilling to see this precise cast copy at the museum in Bucharest. Laid out in 126 segments at eye level, you have the extraordinary opportunity to view the amazingly intricate carving, depicting battles, The Emperor Trajan addressing his army, Roman soldiers building fortress', roads, bridges or conversely setting the Dorac's towns alight, or holding up the heads of their vanquished enemies.

I have so often, in my travels, wished that I could fly up to get a birds eye view of church ceilings, monuments etc. ..this was like a dream come true.

After the fall of Rome, this area which includes the Danube Delta, would subsequently be ruled by Goths, Huns, Slavs, Tartars, and the Ottoman Empire. In 1448 Vlad Dracula ruled. Also known as Vlad the Impaler his enemies met with a grisly end. Little wonder that Bram Stoker found inspiration in the folklore that followed.

The modern state of Romania did not come into existence until the mid 19th century. It was under Communist rule from 1947 to 1989. Bucharest is, as a result, a city of contradictions. There are some stunning churches, a great museum, art gallery,beautiful parks and a very impressive Opera House where I enjoyed a performance of The Marriage of Figaro. ..interspersed with strip joints, an establishment Bordello. ..Sometimes Love is Worth Paying For, and some very ugly buildings dating back to the communist era.

Romania was under Communist rule from 1947 to 1989...when after a brief revolution the Communist President and his wife were summarily shot by a firing squad.

In the 1970's and '80's a program known as Systematisation demolished the "old town" areas of many towns and cities. In Bucharest, 8 square kilometres of the historic centre was levelled, erasing 3 monasteries, 20 churches, and 2 theatres and building "socialist style" tower blocks. The result is quite jarring .

I would not put this on my " must see " list of European cities, but it is interesting and I enjoyed my time there.