Why I think Bucharest is worse than Cluj

Decided to do a city break in Bucharest this weekend and had a few surprises along the way.  I’ll go in order so you feel what I’m saying!

  1. The maps are odd (old)

    Downloaded a few places I could go and visit on my trip and from Google Maps, everything seemed really far away from where I was. When I started walking, I found myself there in a minute or two. DSCN0203There is no in-city navigation that is easily accessible if you are lost. Found two spots that were supposed to be e-info centers but the screens were dead. Found a few maps in the old city, but it looked like it was set on an electricity box.
    DSCN0348If you are paying attention, you can see markings like the one on the left on specific building showing you in three languages what it was used for. But you need to KNOW to look for it. I got smart only half way through the day.
    Arrows for major attractions are few and far between. I had to navigate with “here maps” most of the time but that doesn’t show you city hotspots unless you are near them.

    Cluj has all the landmarks clearly shown through the city and the parks and attractions are also marked. True, the city is smaller than Bucharest so you don’t have to travel a lot to see the Botanical gardens and all of the museums.
    Cluj 1 – Bucharest 0

  2. The city guide is very old

    So, before I went, I got a guide from a government website. A very old and not-up-to-date guide.
    Bucharest Guide
    Besides telling me loads about events that I do not care about, a blunt advertising of a few hotels, all the museum information is plain wrong. The entry fees were almost ten times here.
    If you want to know how much I paid to get in the main museums? (btw, keep in mind that the National Gallery in London has free entry)
    The National History Museum: 25 lei (about £5). 90% closed. Only exhibits running were one with WW2 made up of pictures printed on cards, one with chests from the center of the country used for dowry (loved the old pics tho)


    one with evolution of fashion in the French nation from Roman times to today (exemplified with dolls) (Kinda creepy if you ask me)


    and the last one was with an archaeological excavation of a settlement from 4800BC. This one was kinda interesting as they spent time and money to make it attractive.


    The permanent exposition featured Roman columns and the National Treasure (guarded by some really bored women). I must admit, some jewlery looked really good and I would not mind wearing it on a night out.

    In Cluj – the History Museum is so much more! It has mummies, it has the Roman wars, it has much more bones and bodies excavated!
    Cluj 1 – Bucharest 0

    Second museum: Casa Poporului (People’s Palace). Advertised in the guide as a 5 lei (£1) entry, went there to find out it was 45! (£9). Paying extra if you wanted to go to the top to see the city panorama. Didn’t pay 🙂
    DSCN0186

    Third museum: The National Art museum. Both foreign and local exhibit cost £15 lei (£3). Not a lot, but it’s not free either. Found out that the price is that low because you can’t take any pictures. If you want to take a photo, be prepared to dish out 100 lei (£20) for a photo fee.
    DSCN0309

    By the way, I was surprised that the people in each room were only there to guard the paintings. When I asked one of them about the medium of a painting – ie: wood, canvas, etc, she confessed that they have no training in art, they’re just there to make sure people don’t touch the paintings and to warn them against taking pictures.

    The Art museum in Cluj is smaller in size but the works of art are higher quality. And you can take pictures. And the entry is 8 lei.
    Cluj 1 – Bucharest 0

    Fourth museum: The museum of the Romanian Peasant. The entry fee was 8 lei here (£1.37) and I can see why. Most of the building had been closed off as well and the remaining exhibits, while heart warming (at least for me who has grandparents in the countryside) had nothing to showcase to a foreigner seeing the country for the first time.


    The Cluj Peasant Museum goes over 2 ha of land and has real-life churches and houses you can go into.

    Cluj 1 – Bucharest 0

    By this time, I was getting really tired and I skipped the geology museum from acrossed the street and also the Antipa museum with the animals.

  3. People are weird

    OK, let me explain by what I mean with Weird. It struck me odd to see people in the great capital walking about in clothes my grandma wore in her country-side days. Yes, you do have very modern looking 20-year old, but people over 50 dress like in the middle ages.
    And not once, but twice, people mistook me for a foreigner and in a broken English tried to ask me for stuff. Ummm…. NO.
    And I got honked at while waiting at the crossing. Apparently knee -length skirt and boots is sexy there.
    And I got leered at by a guy who was openly staring at me… and when he invitingly smiled at me showing off his two teeth … I quickly crossed the road. OK, OK, maybe I’m freaking out a little. I travelled by myself, as always, and found that I attracted attention. I can usually blend in quite well and pass for a local (until I open my mouth and my American accent shines through).
    Oh, did I tell you I got hit on by one of the museum watchmen? He was saying if I’m not in a hurry, I can do another walk around the room so we can chat some more. Or maybe come again next Monday, or the one after, or the one after?

    The weirdest thing for me was the accent. I must sound like a country hick by saying this but us people in the North, when we speak it feels like mountains are trembling with each word, it feels like the waves are crashing slowly on a beach. We talk slow and we savour the words.
    In Bucharest, when anyone opened their mouth to talk (not to me, to each other or on the phone), it jarred me. It annoyed me. I was cross with them without knowing them, for talking. And then it hit me.
    Their way of talking is squeaky and like rapid fire. It’s the sound a mouse makes when trapped. It’s how you talk if your underwear is squeezing you too tight.
    Cluj 1 – Bucharest 0

  4. Concrete, concrete and more concrete. Did I mention concrete?

    Everything in Bucharest suffers from a lack of green spaces. There are a few parks (Cismigiu, Herastrau, Izvorului, Ateneului, Gara de Nord) and I have been happy whenever my map was taking me next to a green space. Until I saw the desolation and the cramped space. The buildings are massive by comparison. They eat up from the sky and spit out dark grey colours and a depressive mindstate. Let me exemplify:

  5. After you’ve seen a building, you’ve seen them all

    They all look the same to me. A few columns in the middle, concrete all around. I was hunting for buildings that looked different. There seems to be a theme for all of them and it’s a little balcony, concrete. A tower, concrete. A gold leaf, concrete. I was sick of it after 3h.
    DSCN0117
    Here’s a prime example. Gorgeous architecture, riddled with graffiti at the bottom. Grey. Possible flower van on the right. Or surveillence van (this was taken next to the DICOT building which deals with terrorism and corruption)

    Talking about Grafitti. You can’t see any piece of Bucharest without Grafitti. It’s everywhere. Stenciled, drawn, on the top of city buildings, on the front of them. I started orienting myself based on where the pictures were.

    There is some Grafitti in Cluj but not so bad. I assume with the increase in population, you also have more idiots per square meters that like to point out the obvious like “priveste in sus” – look up
    Cluj 1 – Bucharest 0

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