Thursday, 4 September 2014

A solution to #bucharesttouristproblems

Being a tourist in Bucharest isn't an easy task. Not that being a local is much easier either but you tend to keep your head down and walk the same streets and stick to the beaten path rather than scour around for snippets of history cemented in buildings' walls.

As always, I'm orbiting the 'twilight zone' of the two categories. Not a tourist but not a daily commuter either, for the past years I have been endlessly searching for lesser known but probably more authentic monuments in the form of churches, houses, streets and galleries. And when you do find the occasional hidden gem, a light pounding of your heart takes over - not only do you feel like a veritable explorer deserving of a National Geographic spread, there's a sweet but odd sensation of a sacred place where only a few deserve to see.

Maybe I'm just making up stories but there's no denying the revelation that A.R.C.E.N's 'Cu bastonul prin Bucuresti' (i.e 'Bucharest by cane') tour has been.

The initiative belongs to a group of young but incredibly passionate people who have set up this NGO to raise awareness as well as educate locals and tourists alike of the bygone beauty of Bucharest and the beautiful future that could await it. It's a free 2 hour tour through the heart of what is today's most trendy area starting at the Ateneu Palace, a jewel of neoclassical architecture. There are about 10 points of interest on the tour, all carefully chosen to illustrate the bohemian ambience out of which modern Bucharest was born at the end of the 19th century. Anecdotes on love affairs, stories of the bons hommes as if written by Guy de Maupassant and history lessons all roll into a big jigsaw puzzle amidst the ruins of what used to be the most impressive residences in yesterday's Bucharest.

It's a truly special moment that they create, serious but funny, educational but entertaining and above all, eye opening. It's certainly the beginning of a movement that could potentially solidify Bucharest's past into something available to anyone willing to listen.

There are various tours and activities, all linked and advertised on their website and Facebook pages ( HERE and HERE). There is really no subtle way to go about this: take part if you can, whether you're Romanian or a tourist, and support a beautiful campaign.

The photos below are not mine, source linked below, but encapsulate the atmosphere there:

From A.R.C.E.N's facebook page
From A.R.C.E.N's facebook page 
From A.R.C.E.N's facebook page
    St. Iosif Cathedral - old & new

Casa Monteoru Catargii
Palatul Stirbei

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