During the second millennium BC, Romania was inhabited by Thracians, an Indo-European people. The Greeks called them Getae, the Romans called them Dacians, but they were actually a single Geto-Dacian People. From the 7th century BC the Greeks established trading colonies along the Black Sea at Callatis (Mangalia), Tomis (Constanta) and Histria.
In the 1st century BC, a Dacian state was established to meet the Roman threat but the last king, Decebalus, was unable to prevent the Roman conquest in 105-6 AD. The slave owning Romans brought with them a superior civilisation and mixed with the conquered tribes to form a Daco-Roman people speaking a Latin tongue.
Faced with Goth attacks in 271, Emperor Aurelian withdrew the Roman legions south of the Danube, but the Romanised Valach peasants remained in Dacia. Waves of migrating peoples, including the Goths, Huns, Avars, Slavs, Bulgars and Hungarians, swept across this territory from the 4th to 10th centuries. The Romanians survived in small village communities and gradually assimilated the Slavs and other peoples who settled there. By the 10th century a fragmented feudal system ruled by a military class had appeared.
In the 10th century the Hungarians began to expand into Transylvania, northwest of the Carpathian Mountains. By the 13th century all of Transylvania was an autonomous principality under the Hungarian crown, although Romanians remained a majority of the population. After devastating Tatar raids in 1241 and 1242, King Bela IV of Hungary invited Saxon Germans to settle in Transylvania as a buffer against further attacks.
The Romanian-speaking feudal principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia appeared south and east of the Carpathian Mountains in the 14th century. Throughout the 15th century they offered strong resistance to Turkish expansion north. Mircea the Old, Vlad Tepes and Stefan the Great became legendary figures in this struggle. Vlad Tepes 'the Impaler', ruling prince of Wallachia from 1456-62 and 1476-77, inspired the tale of Count Dracula by his habit of impaling his enemies on stakes. (The vampires originated in the imagination of 19th century Irish novelist Bram Stoker.)
Wallachia and Moldavia paid tribute to the Turks but maintained their autonomy. In 1600 the three Romanian states were briefly united under Michael the Brave (Mihai Viteazul) at Alba Iulia. There were major peasant uprisings in 1437, 1514 and 1784.
When the Turks conquered Hungary in the 16th century, Transylvania became a vassal of the Ottoman Empire, while retaining its autonomy by paying tribute to the sultan. The Austrian Habsburgs conquered Transylvania at the end of the 17th century and suppressed an independence struggle led by the Transylvanian prince Ferenc Rakoczi II from 1703-1711. In 1812 Russia took Bessarabia, the eastern half of Moldavia, from the Turks.
Turkish suzerainty persisted in Wallachia and the rest of Moldavia well into the 19th century despite unsuccessful revolutions in 1821 and 1848. Romanian nationalism grew, and in 1859, with French support, Alexandru Ioan Cuza was elected to the thrones of Moldavia and Wallachia, creating a national state which took the name Romania in 1862. He was replaced in 1866 by the Prussian Prince Carol I. The Russian-Turkish war of 1877 brought Romania independence from the Ottoman Empire and Carol I was crowned as its first king 1881.
In 1916 Romania entered WW I on the side of the Entente and gained Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina as a result. The greater Romania did not last however as the USSR occupied Bessarabia in 1940, Dobruja was given to Bulgaria and Hitler imposed the cession of north Transylvania to Hungary. In 1941 the fascist general Ion Antonescu seized power and joined Hitler's anti-Soviet war. In August 1944, Antonescu was deposed by a coup and Romania changed sides by declaring war on Germany with the result that Transylvania was returned.
Soviet occupation led to the creation of a communist People's Republic in 1947. Nicolae Ceaucescu became head of the communist party in 1965 and head of state in 1967. His denunciation of the 1968 invasion of Checkoslovakia and his choice of an independent foreign policy brought credits from the west that fuelled a rapid economic development but he gradually lost all sense of reality and embarked on such megalomaniac projects and draconian repression of any dissidence that the US turned against him in the late '80's. It took only a spark to set off a massive uprising in Bucharest on December 15 that forced him to flee with his wife Elena. They were soon arrested and shot.
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From Varna, I took a bus to Ruse on the border and a train to this station in Bucharest.
It was cold and raining when I arrived at 6 pm so stayed in the first hotel I found outside the train station, hotel Brucegi shown here. I had a small room with TV and a sink for 14 $US.
The Brucegi was OK but I soon moved to the Villa Helga youth hostel. I had a 6 bed dorm for myself and the place was well located and friendly.
The old and the new meet in this picture showing the "Economic Consortium Palace" in front with the "Bucharest Financial Plaza" in the background.
Much of the old city was destroyed to make way for Ceaucescu's grandiose remodelling of the city but lovely Stavropoleos Strada was spared. At the western end can be seen the "Economic Consortium Palace" of the last photo and under the awning is the famous "bererie" Caru cu Bere, Bucharest's oldest restaurant (1875)
Here is an inside view of the "Caru cu Bere" restaurant mentioned above. An evening here with good company must be terrific if the food is as great as the style.
Just next door is the equally attractive bar shown below left, where I stopped for a beer.
And 50 metres up the street can be seen the 1724, UNESCO protected, Stravropoleos Biserica (church), shown on the right.
The Dambrovita is led through Bucharest in an orderly manner in its well controlled riverbed.
In the background you can see the "Bucharest Financial Plaza" and the tip of the dome of the "Economic Consortium Palace".
Just south of where the last photo was taken, rises one of Ceaucescu's extravagant follies, the enormous Stalinist style Palace of Parliament with its 330 000 square metres of floor space. I don't know if bigger is better but only the US Pentagon is bigger than that.
This Stalinist" Press House" building, located at the opposite northern edge of Bucharest, was built to centralise the offices of the various media in communist times. It is still familiarly called "The Palace of Lies" by the people.
Between the House of Lies and the Arcul de Trumf, built to commemorate the reunification of Romania in 1918, is the large Herastau Park featuring a "Village Museum" that I found interesting enough to reserve all of the next page to it.
Moving south, past the train station, we come to the Royal Palace on George Enescu Square.
Across the Square stands the Ateneul Roman concert hall.
A short distance further south is the Senate building with the statue of a flayed man representing the victims of totalitarian regimes.
Just across Revolution Square is the 1722 red brick Cretulescu Church shown below on the left.
The Russian styled Student's Church on the right is close to University Square shown further down.
On the way to University Square you will see the "Cercul Militar" clubhouse on the corner of Calea Victorei and Blvd Regina Elizabeta.
Here is University Square with the high rise Inter-Continental Hotel and the National Theatre.
Still further south you come to Piata Unirii (Unirii Square) from which you get this view looking east along Blvd Unirii.
And this one looking west towards Ceaucescu's Palace of Parliament in the distance.
I liked Bucharest, there was a lot to see and people were friendly.
My next stop was Moldova but I will first show you the sampling of Romanian village architecture that I found in Bucharest's "Museul Statului".