Romania, 1997

It was 1 degree Celsius when Sarah and I arrived in Bucharest and I had a cold.

Heading to the local department store in search of tissues and gloves, we were confronted by the lack of stock that was held in the shops. The buildings were even more run-down than in Sophia and we didn’t feel safe enough to stay the night.

New large block buildings were found next to old larger ruined buildings. A museum in a Victorian- like building was next to a desolate concrete monstrosity. The Intercontinental Hotel on the main street supplied us with a map and we headed to the House of the Republic which is the largest building in Europe.

Heading down the Victory of Socialism Boulevard lined with various memorial statues, we reached the TV station that was the site of fighting in 1989. Bullet holes could still be seen in the walls outside and there was a memorial out the front.

We went back to the train station as we did not want to get lost in the dark. When we got there, there were soldiers with guns everywhere who wouldn’t let us in the train station waiting room until we showed them our tickets.

The train had no platform allocated, but a man whose wife works at the train station found out for us. He made sure we got on the right carriage with other people and gave me aspirin for my cold. His job was selling Swiss scrap wood, so he gave us his number in case anyone back in England was interested.

It is hard to imagine that Bucharest was once a tourist destination and was called the Paris of Eastern Europe, but we did find an Arc de Triumph exactly like the one in Paris.

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