A Tale Of A City

Dimbovitza river from Izvor bridge, Old Court ruins, Patriarchate Palace, old house on Gabroveni St.

Romania's capital city Bucharest lies in the south-eastern part of the country: there, several centuries ago, the Vlasia Forests were reigning, from which just a few bunches of trees are still alive today. The Dambovita River, which crosses the city, and the intertwined sundry lakes to the north give freshness and humidity to the town during torrid summer days. The honor of being the city founder seems to be disputed between Bucur the Shepherd, the candidate supported by tradition and legend, and controversial Prince Vlad the Impaler, the signatory of the first known document attesting the existence of our capital city and dated September 20, 1459. Actually, historical research and most of all archeological diggings have revealed the vestiges of a fortified settlement, possibly the first one here, which is datable as early as in the latter half of the 14th century. At that time, Bucharest was born; then, around that first fortification of 160 square meters, several constructions were built one by one, such as the Princely Court, the Church of Mihai the Shepherd (1558-1559), and the narrow streets of merchants and craftsmen – namely the political and cultural town. The city developed little by little, coagulating the surrounding villages around the old historical center. Dambovita was a link in this urban settlement, which spread along its natural dimensions, stretching mostly to the north, to the lake area. The reminiscence of the old villages is preserved in the memory of Bucharesters, with names such as Berceni, Floreasca, Colentina, and Pantelimon being now familiar neighborhoods of the city. In 1659 Bucharest definitively became the capital of Wallachia. The city developed, as they built numerous churches, huge, fortified inns, and the first lane paved with wood, the Mogosoaia Bridge (1692), renamed Calea Victoriei in 1878. The Vacaresti Monastery was built in 1724 – a masterpiece of the Brancoveanu-style architecture, which was abusively – and pointlessly – demolished during the later years of the communist regime. In the 19th century, the city was modernized: in 1862, it was chosen to become the capital of Romania, the country that emerged from the union of the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. It is the second largest city in south-east Europe after Istanbul. Streets were paved, first with wood, then with granite from Scotland and Sicily, public lighting was installed, and the sewage system and public parks were built. In the late 19th century, the two axes were drawn: north-south and east-west, which conferred structure to the city. In fact, the reign of King Carol I (1866-1914) was the time when they built the large edifices that became landmarks of Bucur's city: the Romanian Athenaeum (1888), the Carol I Foundation (1891), the Ministry of Agriculture (1894), the Palace of Justice (1890-1895), the Post Office Palace (1894-1900), the Sturdza Palace (1899), the CEC Savings Bank Palace (1900), the Patriarchy Palace (1907), the Military Club (1912), the Athenee Palace Hotel (1914), and so on. (see Public Works From The Time Of Carol I... by Tudorel Urian)
After World War I (1914-1918), Bucharest became one of the most beautiful European capitals: the brilliance of its cultural and social life, its atmosphere, and its architecture brought to it the well-deserved nickname of "Little Paris." Its natural and harmonious development was brutally interrupted by the coming to power of the communist regime (1945-1989). The city became the object of a devastating social and urban experiment. Hundreds of thousands of people were brought to Bucharest for the forced industrialization of the city. Not having any roots in the city, the new inhabitants were placed in dormitory-like apartment buildings, which, in turn, formed the workers' neighborhoods that became satellites of Bucharest. During the years of the Ceausescu regime, an area of the city equal to the surface of Venice was demolished to make room for the aberrant project of the People's House. Dozens of churches, some of which were monuments of exceptional historical and architectural value, fell victim to bulldozers: the St. Friday Church, the Vacaresti Monastery, the Enei Church, and so on. Today the city is a mixture of old and new, traditional and modern, eastern and western, which, on the one hand, makes it look like an eclectic and unstructured metropolis, but which, on the other hand, gives originality and charm to it. From Bucharest City Hall website Translated by Monica Voiculescu

by Bucharest City Hall website