Art and influence around every corner.
Part "Paris of the East," part "Moscow of the West," Romania's capital wears its past influences on its sleeve - some like open sores - making a walk through bustling Bucharest one of Europe's most memorable. On the wide boulevards, centuries-old Orthodox cathedrals are (purposefully) hidden away behind communist-era buildings. Most striking is modern and grey Unirii Boulevard, which leads to the mammoth Palace of Parliament, once officially called the "House of the People" but derisively nicknamed the "House of Ceausescu." A few blocks north, past a few cobble-stoned remnants from Dracula's times, is Revolutionary Square, where the 1989 revolution is remembered with monuments and a bomb-blasted building turned into a café. Crusty in some patches, Bucharest nevertheless celebrates its greenery - its buzzing parks are surprisingly refreshing, particularly Herastrau Park in the north, with its open-air Village Museum and the nearby Arcul de Triumf, modeled on the Parisian original. Also here is the heartfelt Museum of the Romanian Peasant, with hand-drawn signs and exhibits devoted to grandmothers. Romanian food is meaty and filling - tripe soup and polenta dishes appear on every menu - and bars boom with student life around the historic city center. While the subway and bus lines traverse the city, trains regularly connect visitors with Transylvania just a few hours north.