This past Friday morning, we flew from Brussels to Bucharest. Upon our arrival, we took the scenic route to our hotel during which Alina Opreanu, an Atlanta staff member for Georgia Tech Lorraine who was born in Romania, pointed out some of the major landmarks in Bucharest.  As the sixth largest metropole in the European Union and the capital of Romania, Bucharest has a lot to offer including Herăstrău Park, Piața Victoriei (Victory Plaza), and Piața Revoluției (Revolution Plaza).  One thing that I found really interesting during our tour was when Alina Opreanu explained the French influences in Bucharest which is sometimes referred to as “Little Paris”.  We saw the Arc de Triumph, similar to the one in Paris, and the Piața de Charles de Gaulle, named after the former French president.

Route of our bus tour

After touring the city and stopping by the hotel, we went out to dinner at a restaurant called Caru’ cu bere.  We got to try traditional Romanian food such as mititei (skinless sausages), sarmale (stuffed cabbages), and mămăligă (a type of polenta).  It was all delicious!  Like the food, the atmosphere of the restaurant was also amazing with live dance performances which I really enjoyed.  After dinner, we walked around downtown Bucharest and got to enjoy a light and fountain show.  It was a nice welcome and perfect ending to our first day in Romania.

Traditional Romanian food!

The next day, we visited the Palace of the Parliament.  Finished in 1997, it is the second largest administrative building besides the Pentagon in the United States and is larger than 60,000 square meters in size.  We took an hour tour, walked about one kilometer, and still only saw about 5% of the building; it truly is a massive building!  The inside was just as impressive as the size with beautiful chandeliers, marble staircases, and spacious conferences rooms.

Walking into the Palace of the Parliament

Tour in the Palace of the Parliament

After our tour of the Palace of the Parliament, we went to the “Dimitrie Gusti” National Village Museum where we got to see and walk inside some of the actual houses from villages around Romania.  It was interesting to see how the style of housing changed based on the time period and the location it was built in.  My favorite house was the Half-Buried House, as shown below, which was built in the early 19th century in southwest Romania.

Walking into the Village Museum

The Half-Buried House!

Later that day, we visited the National Museum of Contemporary Art which is located in the Palace of Parliament.  Started in 2001, this museum displays around 30,000 Romanian and international artworks in all different styles and time periods from the 1920s to the present.  One of my favorite exhibits was called “Seeing History-1947-2007” which includes artworks that celebrate the history of contemporary artwork in Romania.

Contemplating contemporary art with Dr. Markley 

Our next day in Romania was a free day.  A group of students decided to travel to the Transylvania region to go on two castle tours.  First of all, we went to Bran Castle which was built in 1377.  This castle is referred to as Dracula’s Castle because it was possibly the source of inspiration of the novel, Dracula.  It was fascinating to hear about this legend while enjoying the beautiful views from the castle. Next, we went to Peles Castle which was built in the late 19th century by King Carol I of Romania.  It was the first castle to have electricity in Europe, has a central heating system, and an opening stain glass roof.  The interior is magnificently decorated with impressive wood, mirror, and silk detailing in its 160 rooms.  Our daytrip to see the castles was a nice break from the busy city and a great chance to explore the beautiful countryside of Romania!

At Peles Castle!

Overall, during our first days in Romania, we’ve done a lot to explore the city of Bucharest and its surrounding areas.  With our program’s focus on the European Union, it is very appropriate to be visiting Romania at this time.  In earlier lectures, we learned that the Council of the European Union has a rotating presidency that lasts six months, and Romania just recently finished their term.  We’ve been able to see all of the remnants of their presidency still around Bucharest including signs on buildings and in the Palace of the Parliament.  One of my favorite things about this study abroad program is how we connect what we learn in a classroom to the real world, and our experience in Romania is another example of that wonderful opportunity.

The signs for the Romanian Presidency can be seen everywhere!

There are even signs in the Palace of the Parliament