My vision of Bucharest was of a city demolished of charm and authenticity to make way for the drab and lifeless structures of communistic city planning, After all, the megalomaniac dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu did use Pyongyang, North Korea as his inspiration. I imagined a city leveled and sparse, with wide uncrossable avenues lined with sinister gray blocks devoid of the quirks of inhabitants.
As is often the case, Bucharest was much more multidimensional than that. The city’s architecture is a mix of neo-classical, art nouveau and what I call fancy communist, most of it falling somewhere between total disrepair and moderate gentrification. The elegant and grand structures built mostly in the twenties earned Bucharest the nickname Paris of the East. For a city that was systematically communistified, a surprising amount of these buildings remain. In fact their biggest enemy is economic decline and a want of a coat of paint. Bucharest has the architectural bones to be one of the most enchanting cities in Europe.
As for the communist behemoths of the Centul Civic, there is no doubt that they were built at a great financial and historical loss to the city. But, honestly, I’ve seen much worse. The Parliament is captivating for it’s sheer size. Unlike much similar architecture of the time, the lines are not purely utilitarian but have details and flourishes. Even the apartment blocks and other government buildings in the area have extra classical touches like ionic pilasters. It’s not all sickle-wielding farmers.
With increased renewal of the historical center, Bucharest has a serious chance becoming the charming and elegant city of the twenties. All is certainly not lost for the Paris of the East.