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Bucharest

January 2010 saw me taking a long weekend to visit Bucharest in Romania. This was my 30th capital city (if you include San Marino and Vatican City) and as most of Western Europe has now been done it means longer flights and longer breaks to make the most of my time in Eastern Europe.

The city had a major public uprising in December 1989 where the Dictator Nicoleau Ceacescu was killed and became part of the EU a few years ago. So to the tourist it offers an interesting mix of West and East.

The view from the Intercontinental Hotel, which for a long time was the only hotel in the city.

This is Ceacescu's Palace which is the second biggest building in the world (after The Pentagon). It is an absolutely immense structure and an unwelcome reminder of his reign. He levelled more than 10% of the city to build this so its not too much of a surprise that its not well liked.

Aside from the Palace the city is home to some amazing architecture such as this building which is now home to a bank.

Bucharest is known as the Paris of the East and with its own Arc d'Triumph you can see why. There is a Champs Elysee equivalent leading up to the palace but there is no Eiffel Tower here.

For the tourist my favourite attraction was probably the Village Museum, which consists of a whole load of buildings relocated from around Romania into a single place. There's a great mix of stunning buildings such as this wooden church.

Another view of my hotel.

On the final day a blizzard came in and having seen London fail to cope with theirs it was a great surprise to see everything running here.

Be very careful of the taxi drivers that meet you at the airport. They are crooks! I managed to get past several and went to the official taxi booth but was met by a man who had the correct ID but even he managed to charge me five times the cost of the journey. For those that are going for the first say "no" to everyone until your sat in one of the fly taxi cabs that queue up outside the station. The correct fare is around 30-40 lei. If it helps remember that the official drivers won't come into the airport. Once you're in the city you're still exposed to crooks who paint their taxis to look like official ones. Your best bet there is to use the hotels to phone for one.

I had planned to travel to Bran Castle and the Peles Castle on the final day figuring seeing them covered in snow would make for some great photos but made a rather fundamental mistake in doing so on the day they were closed to the public. Ah well it does give me an excuse to use Bucharest as a stop over when my capital city hunt takes me further east.

The full set of photos are over on flickr.
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