20 Interesting Places of Bucharest – Part 1 of 3
Whether you have lived for all of your life here, or are just visiting our capital city, there are a few truly interesting places to see, places very different from the ones presented in all the brochures and tours guides.. Here is a list of the top 20 most unusual places of Bucharest.
The house of Mita Biciclista
Bucharest and its people have had, for many decades now, a popular character, the source of many jokes and legends. Her name: Mita Biciclista (pronounced Mitza Bichiclista), in translation, Mita the Cyclist. A lot of people use her as a day to day expression, as part of a joke or just for small talk, but very few know her true story and where she got her nickname. Mita, or better yet, by her real name, Maria Mihaescu, got her fame after becoming the first woman to ride a bike, in trousers, on the famous Victory Avenue of Bucharest, a very inappropriate act for a lady in the early 1900’s. She was a very extravagant character: She had a coupe car, ate only at the very prestigious Athenee Palace Hotel (nowadays the Hilton) and had a very….simple bathing suit (for those days). Other women or her time would enjoy a day at the beach fully dressed, even when entering the water. Her extravagant way of life got the attention of many young men: famous writers like writer and politician Octavian Goga, the king of Portugal or even king Ferdinand of Romania himself.
Legend says that this house on Amzei Street (a famous little street in the middle of Bucharest, famous for it’s very lively atmosphere), which belonged to her, was a gift from a very rich lover. Nevertheless, the story and the beautiful architecture of the house make for at least a photo and a minute of pondering. Be sure to stop by if you’re in the area of Amzei street, next to Victory Avenue. The area also has a great array of restaurants.
The witches pond
When exiting Bucharest heading north, towards the Bucegi Mountains, next to the village of Stefanesti is Boldu-Creteasca forest. The wooded area is home to a pond, only a few meters across, but with a very interesting history. Local legend says that the pool has existed since the time of Vlad the Impaler himself, and that here the famous prince was beheaded (historians cannot confirm this fact and many other local legends and writings say that he was killed by his own brother at Snagov Monastery). After the earthquake of 1977, the authorities ordered the pool to be filled with several tones of debris and dirt. Once poured, the pool was completely covered, but by the next day, it had eaten up all the materials. Also, many of the local witches used to gather in certain nights of the year around this pool, in order to replenish their powers. Popular belief also tells us that, in the past, women would come here to get rid of any unwanted pregnancies (they would just enter the water). Sure, all of this might seem like fire side stories, but everyone finds it very weird that the pool exists there without any spring nearby to fuel it. Plus, no animal will come near it. It doesn’t even have any frogs or toads. For those who want to visit the pond, the best way to do so is by car, on the main road leading north from the city, or as part of our Jewels Around Bucharest Tour.
CEC Palace (National Savings Bank)
Situated on Calea Victoriei, CEC Palace is a landmark building of Bucharest, the construction of which started on July 8th, 1897, at the order of king Carol I of Romania and of queen Elisabeth. Before this beautiful edifice was here, on the land where it sits used to be the monastery and inn of St. John the Great, which dated back to the 16th century. Even though consolidated many times, because of the pour conditions in which the inn was, it was deolished in 1875. The one who designed the current palace was architect Paul Gotterau. The design blends the gothic style with French architecture from the late 19th century. Presently, the building is the HQ of the CEC Bank, the descendant of the of CEC (National Savings Bank). To visit the building, one can take the local subway system and come off at Universitate of Piata Unirii stations, or take the local buses.
Fort 13 – Jilava
The construction of the 13th Fort at Jilava started in 1884, on the plans of military architect Henri Alexis Brialmont. It was supposed to be an addition to the romanian prison system. At that time, there were 18 such constructions and the maintaining them cost more than 3 times the budget needed for the entire military core. The Renaissance architectural style attracted the appreciation of critics from all over the world, putting the building of the list of most interesting destinations of Bucharest. Even though this fort is outside of the city, in Jilava village, it is still worth a visit, if not for the architectural structure, but at least for the history lesson which it offers. Even from the time of King Carol I, this place was designed for prisoners, but only as a transit place, because of the unbearable conditions. Even with all of this, the communist regime in Romania turned this the fort into a penitentiary and displaced here a lot of political prisoners. Messages like “If you want to live put straws under your clothes” (refferences to the fact that prisoners were severely beaten) can still be read on the walls. Among the political prisoners executed here one can remember: Marshal Ion Antonescu, Chivu Stoica.If you want to visit it, Jilava Fort is near the Bucuresti-Giurgiu road, 10km south of the capital city and 3 km east of Jilava village.
The island of Morii Lake
Morii lake is an artificial lake, created by the communist authorities to prevent the Dambovita river from over spilling. It has 246 hectares and it was built of the site of the old St. Nicholas church and the cemetery with the same name. In the middle of the lake the communists wanted to build a sort of island for the people of Bucharest to visit on their free days. Initial plans included shops, promenade areas and such activities, but work was stopped in 1989. Although this island served, after the Revolution, as a venue for many concerts and art festivals, in ordinary days it is nothing more than a parcel of land on which one can find trees and bushes. Still, it remains on the list of the most appreciated destinations for photographers, searching for unusual scenes. The visit it, one would need a car, as it is not very close to any public transport system. Just follow the lake side road to it.
This cemetery sits at the intersection Giurgiului, Oltenitei, viilor and Serban Voda streets and gets it’s name from the place on which it was made, which used to belong to the Barbu Bellu baron. Work for the cemetery started in 1852, under the guidance Alexandru Orascu. The painter Constantin Lecca, was the one who finished the chapel and all the decorations in it. From 1860, Bellu cemetery went under the maintenance of the city hall. It is one of the best known cemeteries of Buchares and Romania, maybe because of the fact that on the Artist’s Alley are buried the most important artists of Romania: Geroge Bacovia, Nichita Stanescu, Ion Barbu, I. L. Caragiale, Toma Caragiu, Tudor Musatescu, Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu, George Pruteanu, Marin Preda, Florian Pittis and many more.
But what makes this cemetery a much more interesting place is the story woven around it’s graves and monuments. There is a beautiful statue, with emerald eyes, made by Rafaelo Romanelli, which represents Katalina Boschott, a woman who remains shrouded in mistery. A mysterious French inscription can be read on her grave – This damned doctor killed me!. Her death was never explained, not even in 100 years from when she passed away. All the stories lead towards the jealous wife of Katalina’s lover. The tomb of the Poroineanu family also bears the signature of Romanelli. Their story is even more interesting – they committed suicide when they found out they were brothers.
To visit Bellu cemetery one has many options: Eroii Revolutiei subway station, many buses or trams. The cemetery website is really nice, too (www.bellu.ro), offering a detailed and interactive map of the tombs.
Melik House – the oldest house of Bucharest
The Melik house, or better known as Theodor Pallady Museum, lies on Spatarului Street, no.22 and it is the oldest house of the city. It was built in 1750 by the Armenian Hagi Kevork Nazaretoglu. It currently holds the paintings of Theodor Pallady,over 800 paitings and drawings dating back from the period when the Romanian painter was studying in Paris. Along with these, one can still admire 1270 pieces belonging to the Serafina and Gheorghe Raut families.
To visit it, one needs to make a reservation. The get to it, the easiest ways are by bus or tram.