The Washington Post:
It was founded by a shepherd, according to local legend, and was later nicknamed the Paris of the East. But Bucharest’s idyllic roots and elegant reputation eventually gave way to a series of 20th century calamities: war, invasions, earthquakes and communism.Today the Romanian capital is home to 2 million people, with a cityscape that ranges from rundown grandeur to communist monstrosities and sleek modernism. Old villas, some dilapidated, from the pre-communist aristocracy, sit next to multi-rise office blocks and modern new villas — many of which are empty due to recent economic troubles. But while Bucharest is messy, overcrowded and shabby in parts, it also hums with a cozy, vibrant and seductive Byzantine charm. Here are some places, all of them free, that help tell the city’s stories.
If you want the drama of history, there is no better place to start than Revolution Square, where the final showdown between the communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and the people took place. Ceausescu gave his last speech here in the final hours of his 25-year rule and was booed and jeered for the first time. Afraid of the angry crowds and his own army, which had begun to desert him, he fled the square from the roof of a Communist Party building by helicopter, the last time he ever saw Bucharest. On Christmas Day, 1989, he and his wife Elena were summarily executed in the nearby city of Targoviste after a 55-minute trial. Revolution Square saw some of the fiercest fighting as Ceausescu loyalists fired on unarmed demonstrators, and the building that housed the dreaded Securitate Communist secret police has been preserved.
Prior to World War II, Romania was a monarchy. The royal palace (now the national art museum), where officials announced that Romania had switched sides from the Nazis to the Allies in 1944, is also in the square, as is the Athenee Palace, a legendary hotel that inspired a book about spies, diplomats, journalists during World War II, and the Cina restaurant, a top place for the latest gossip during World War II. For more cultural pursuits, there is the Atheneum, a neoclassical concert hall built in the late 19th century with a grand columned entryway and domed roof, considered one of the city’s most beautiful buildings.
Bellu is the city’s grandest and probably most overcrowded cemetery in a country where funerals and burials can be elaborate and very public affairs. The cemetery is also considered one of Europe’s most valuable, because its immense collection of sculptures constitutes a vast outdoor museum. Every Romanian academic, writer, scientist and musician of note is buried here. The cemetery is just south of the Heroes’ Cemetery, the final resting place for the 564 people who died in the 1989 revolution. Also buried here are national poet Mihai Eminescu, national playwright Ion Luca Caragiale, and the inventor and airplane builder Aurel Vlaicu.
Bucharesters traditionally seek refuge in the city’s parks during the scorching summer months. Cismigiu is one of the city’s oldest gardens and a traditional meeting place for students, lovers and chess players. It boasts an artificial lake, a skating rink in winter, winding paths, a panoply of trees and shrubs and a memorial commemorating French soldiers killed in the city during World War I. It also appears in short stories written by Caragiale.
Bucharest enjoys a rich multi-faith tradition, revived since 1989, with synagogues, mosques, and Romanian Orthodox churches in every neighborhood. There are also other Christian churches such as the Armenian Church, the Lutheran Church and the red-bricked Anglican Church of the Resurrection, which turns 100 this year. Especially worth visiting are the Roman Catholic St. Joseph’s Cathedral, possibly the city’s grandest church, the 18th-century Stavropoleos Monastery, which has the largest collection of Byzantine music books in Romania, and the Russian Church, with seven gold domes, funded by Russia’s last czar, Emperor Nicholas II.
THE OLD CITY
Once a rundown area, the old city or Centru Vechi, which is basically all that remains of pre-WWII Bucharest, has in recent years become a vibrant quarter for entertainment and tourists, boasting antique shops, theaters, boutique hotels, restaurants, and bars, some of which stay open around the clock in the summer. You can see the neoclassical National Bank of Romania, Hanul lui Manuc, built in 1808, which is both a hotel and traditional Romanian restaurant, and the Caru cu Bere, surely Bucharest’s most famous and popular restaurant, with a spectacular interior that’s virtually identical to when it was built in 1875.
Marie of Romania
Our church has a rich and interesting history. A regular attendee in the early days was Queen Marie of Romania, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Although on her marriage to Crown Prince Ferdinand she had joined the Orthodox Church, she continued to attend the English services in Bucharest, and it was largely thanks to her support that the present building was completed.
Various members of the Royal Family have attended the church at different times.
The land on which the church stands was made over to the British Crown by deed of gift in December 1900, the external fabric was completed by 1914. The interior furnishings had been ordered from England however, and it was not until after the end of the First World War that work was finally finished. Easter Sunday 1920 saw the first service to be held in the new church, which was finally dedicated by the Bishop of Gibraltar on the 5th November 1922.Princess Marie of Edinburgh, more commonly known as Marie of Romania (Marie Alexandra Victoria; 29 October 1875 – 18 July 1938),[note 1] was the last Queen consort of Romania as the wife of King Ferdinand I.
Born into the British royal family, she was titled Princess Marie of Edinburgh at birth. Her parents were Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. Marie’s early years were spent in Kent, Malta and Coburg. After refusing a proposal from her cousin, the future King George V, she was chosen as the future wife of Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania, the heir apparent of King Carol I, in 1892.
Marie was Crown Princess between 1893 and 1914, and became immediately popular with the Romanian people. Marie had controlled her weak-willed husband even before his ascension in 1914, prompting a Canadian newspaper to state that “few royal consorts have wielded greater influence than did Queen Marie during the reign of her husband”.
After the outbreak of World War I, Marie urged Ferdinand to ally himself with the Triple Entente and declare war on Germany, which he eventually did in 1916. During the early stages of fighting, Bucharest was occupied by the Central Powers and Marie, Ferdinand and their five children took refuge in Moldavia. There, she and her three daughters acted as nurses in military hospitals, caring for soldiers who were wounded or afflicted by cholera.
On 1 December 1918, the province of Transylvania, following Bessarabia and Bukovina, united with the Old Kingdom. Marie, now Queen consort of Greater Romania, attended the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, where she campaigned for international recognition of the enlarged Romania. In 1922, she and Ferdinand were crowned in a specially-built cathedral in the ancient city of Alba Iulia, in an elaborate ceremony which mirrored their status as queen and king of a United State.
As queen, she was very popular, both in Romania and abroad. In 1926, Marie and two of her children undertook a diplomatic tour of the United States.
They were received enthusiastically by the people and visited several cities before returning to Romania. There, Marie found that Ferdinand was gravely ill and he died a few months later. Now queen dowager, Marie refused to be part of the regency council which reigned over the country under the minority of her grandson, King Michael. In 1930, Marie’s eldest
In 1930, Marie’s eldest son Carol, who had waived his rights to succession, deposed his son and usurped the throne, becoming King Carol II.
He removed Marie from the political scene and strived to crush her popularity. As a result, Marie moved away from Bucharest and spent the rest of her life either in the countryside, or at her home by the Black Sea. In 1937, she became ill with cirrhosis and died the following year
Several biographies of the royal family described Marie either as a drunkard or as a promiscuous woman, referring to her many alleged affairs and to orgies she had supposedly organised before and during the war.
In the years preceding the Romanian Revolution of 1989, Marie’s popularity recovered and she was offered as a model of patriotism to the population.
Marie is primarily remembered for her work as a nurse, but is also known for her extensive writing, including her critically acclaimed autobiography.
The Communion Cup in use at the Church was presented to us in commemoration of Queen Mary.
WHO ARE WE, AND, WHO WE ARE
The land on which the church stands was made over to the British Crown by deed of gift in December 1900, and the external fabric was completed by 1914. The interior furnishings had been ordered from England however, and it was not until after the end of the First World War that work was finally finished. Easter Sunday 1920 saw the first service to be held in the new church, which was finally dedicated by the Bishop of Gibraltar on the 5th November 1922.
A regular attendee in the early days was Queen Marie of Romania, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Although on her marriage to Crown Prince Ferdinand she had joined the Orthodox Church, she continued to attend the English services in Bucharest, and it was largely thanks to her support that the present building was completed. Various members of the Royal Family have attended the church at different times. A wooden panel at the back of the church records the names of the chaplains over the years, with a telling break from 1940 to 1966. In fact the church was far from inactive during these “blank” years, during which Eastern Europe experienced such trauma and suffering.
Although closed after the Christmas Day service 1940 until Christmas Day 1944, the church thereafter managed to maintain worship throughout the worst of the Stalinist period, with priests visiting from as far afield as Vienna and Malta to conduct services, baptise and marry members of the British and American Legations, and ensure the upkeep of the building. A legendary character all through these times was the original “guardian” and cleaner of the church, Maria, who had faithfully and courageously continued to care for the building when it stood unused during the Second World War. In 1982 she was presented with the bronze cross of the Order of St. Augustine of Canterbury by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, in recognition of her 60 years of service. Forced by the civil authorities to retire at the age of 78, she retained contact with the church until her death at the age of 86 in 1991, and is still remembered with respect.
Among the numerous icons presented to the church at different times is one donated by the Patriarch of Romania to the Bishop of Gibraltar on the occasion of the visit to Romania by Archbishop Michael Ramsey in 1965, a visit of real significance at a time when there seemed to be hope of an easing of relations with the West. 1966 saw the establishment of a full-time chaplaincy, with emphasis on theological study and ecumenical contacts. Chaplains at this stage tended to serve just one year, and among those who held the post during this period was the Revd. Dr. David Hope, later Archbishop of York.
As well as being Chaplain to the Church of the Resurrection in Bucharest, the priests who held this office were also the Archbishop of Canterbury’s official representative, or “Apokrisarios”, to the Orthodox Patriarchates of Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia (this tradition continues, but the Anglican congregations in Belgrade and Zagreb have since formed their own separate chaplaincy).