Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is a shifting, disconcerting city with the provincial calm of sunlight-spattered streets, lined with secret gardens, town houses and small domed churches that look like cakes of brick sprout. It is also a dispersed city- an urban rift created by the megalomania of Ceausescu. The center of the city is undefined, even though Calea Victoriei remains the principal artery; fulfilling its new role as a luxury showcase for the city, it is once again an attractive boulevard. Bucharest begins to reveal its incommensurable charm once you start to wander through the maze of its neighborhoods by foot, keeping in mind that, if you walk through the city parks which feature numerous bucolic refreshment stands, Romanticism, though gone underground for a time, never completely disappeared.
Bucharest’s taxi drivers have a refreshingly liberal sense of equal opportunities, above all, when it comes to ripping people off, they view anyone as fair game, locals, foreigners, young, old, male, female, anyone who steps in the wrong kind of taxi can expect to be well and truly buggered. This city may just be one of the European capitals with the highest number of taxis per capita, authorities claim to issue about 10.000 permits each year, but everyone knows there are a lot more on the city’s streets. If you want to get by taxi to any meeting point in the city there are several rules you really have to keep in mind if you do not want to get outsmarted. Rule number one: you have to remember when getting into a taxi in this city there are two kinds: those which are operated by a tried and trusted taxi company (of course this is the good choice) and those who are independent drivers (and that is obviously the bad choice). You should avoid taxis with the number 9403 on it, because these are the independent ones, and you should be extra careful around Gara de Nord, Baneasa Airport, Bucuresti Mall, Piata Universitatii and Piata Unirii. Rule number two: only take a taxi that indicates the taxi fare per kilometer, in other words, a maximum of 3 RON (3.6 RON = € 1/ 2.5 RON = $ 1). Rule number three: before getting into a taxi you should ask the driver if he knows the street you are looking for. If not, you’re better off with another taxi, because Bucharest taxi drivers have the unfortunate habit of dropping customers off in the neighborhood, if they have indicated a nearby landmark as a reference. Rule number four: watch the meter, because it sometimes starts to turn rapidly once the passenger gets in. And rule number five, as a tip to all the people than plan to vacate in Bucharest: whenever possible, ask your hotel concierge to reserve your taxi for you.
Divided into six sectors, Bucharest is, similar to Paris, organized around piatas or ‘squares’, whereas sector one is the largest with an amplitude of 67.5 square kilometers. There is a ranger of beautiful streets compartmentalized in those six sectors. The Calea Victoriei, Bucharest’s main street, situated in sector one, leads from Kiseleff Boulevard to the north to the bank of the Dambovita River in the south. Despite all efforts, the Calea Victoriei illustrates a visibly Oriental penchant for disorder: it was not laid out in a straight line. The wealth of Bucharest is completely concentrated along the Calea Victoriei, and turns it into a mecca of shopping, as well as a showcase for western Luxury goods. In sector three you can find the city’s center of commerce in the 18th century, Lipscani, where tiny shops along Strada Lipscani used to sell linens imported from Leipzig back then, but in a poor state of repair and with an indigent population, Lipscani fell into decay during Ceausescu’s reign. A very interesting neighborhood is of course Dorobanti, situated in sector one, whose streets that head toward Piata Victoriei from Piata Dorobantilor are named for major European capitals: Strada Paris, Roma, Londra, among others.
The beautiful Churches of Bucharest
In the beginning I wrote about small domed churches of Bucharest looking like cakes from brick sprout in the midst of concrete complexes inherited from the Communist past – the ‘blocks’, as the Romanians call them. When you walk through the streets of Bucharest you come across the most beautiful churches you have ever seen in your life, above all the Old Court Church (Biserica Curtea Veeche), the city’s oldest church constructed within the walls of the Royal Palace, which is now in ruins (Strada Franceza). After a while of walking through the romantic streets of Bucharest you stop to notice every single church because there are so many of them existing. Constructed on the Metropolitan Hill in the 17th century, the Metropolitan Church (Catedrala Patriahiei) is dedicated to Saint Helen and Saint Constantine. (Strada Mitroploiei). Bucharest’s best choir sings at Zlatari Church (Biserica Zlatari) during mass. Situated on the Calea Victoriei the goldsmiths guild built this church in 1715.
Ceausescu’s Palace is the most controversial building in Bucharest, whose construction began in 1983 on Ceausescu’s orders, who razed an entire neighborhood to the ground – an area that has often been called historic. In truth it was an outlying neighborhood with winding streets, low houses and numerous small churches. Its residents were evicted precipitously and relocated an edge of the city. It took 200 architects, 300 engineers and 20.000 workers about six years to construct this enormous white mass that swallowed about 20 billion lei (RON), but the construction was unfinished when the dictator was deposed in 1989 and it remained unchanged for several years as the Bucharest government did not know what to do with the People’s House. Today this building is known as the Palace of Parliament and became a tourist attraction. A forty-minute guided tour takes visitors through the ceremonial rooms. The Modern Art Museum is now located in the rear section of the building. Concerts and conferences are held here, and it has been used as a film set, notably for Costa Gavras’s ‘Amen’ – for which the walls were covered with icons.
Neither the romantic facets nor the beautiful constructions in between several blocks full of Romanian history will be forgotten if you ever visit this city. Marvelous churches, enormous Universities, Palaces and ruins that tell you a story about the history of this charming country will stay in your mind and remain there forever as a wonderful memory of being acquainted with a shifting, disconcerting and dispersed city called Bucharest.
Flashy, colorful and open-minded...that was Vienna’s motto on July 4th, 2009 when the 14th Rainbow Parade took place in the streets of 1st district, the Ring Boulevard, one of the most exclusive and most beautiful streets of Vienna, which is on this special day staged as ‘the Street of Republic’.
Every year, since its first Organization on June 29th 1996 by Andreas Brunner, Christian Michelides, Guenter Strobl and Hannes Sulzenbacher within the ‘Austrian lesbian- and gayforum’, over 100.000 people travel across their constraints and want to be a part of this very special and unique day in Austrian History in connection with the gay and lesbian community. As an official political demonstration the Rainbow Parade advocates for solidarity, tolerance, equality and equal opportunities for gays, lesbians and transgender people in Austria and works parallel to Germany’s Christoper Street Day. The name for this famous event was brought up by Mario Soldo and his thought of incorporating the rainbow-flag, one of the most-known and spread symbols for the homosexual culture.
For the homosexual community in Austria the Rainbow Parade does not only symbolize standing up and fighting for equal rights and opportunities, but also removing the scales from a lot of people’s eyes and showing the world outside that the homosexual community is open-minded to every citizen of Vienna and kind of invites everyone to celebrate and demonstrate with them. According to Mahatma Ghandi’s non-violent resistance the gay, lesbian and transgender community fights against discrimination and for freedom for the full expression of their personalities. Though homosexuals have to face the issue of being politically unprivileged, the Parade shows a political background on the whole scenario of the Rainbow Parade and even various political parties show their respect and party with the homosexual community on this very special day, among all the Social Democratic Party of Austria and the Greens Party. Once again, the main focus of the 14th Rainbow Parade was the homosexual community arrogating a statute of a civil union for co sexual relationships. Minister for women’s affairs Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek from the Social Democratic Party of Austria and Ulrike Lunacek, Europe assembly woman of the Greens Party proclaim at the closing event of the Rainbow Parade on the Schwarzenbergplatz that they are very sanguine that this would be the last Parade without a law for a civil partnership for homosexuals.
Showing that the homosexual community not only cares about the political situation of gays, lesbians and transgenders in Austrian, an own truck was dedicated to commemorate gays and lesbians in Iran. The truck of the organizers of the Rainbow Parade called HosI (Homosexual Initiative) drove with the Motto ‘HosI: Since 30 year a Hit’, because this pressure group celebrates its thirty years of existence. Every year, after the main march around the Ring Boulevard took place, thousands of people assemble at Schwarzenbergplatz, where the closing event of the Rainbow Parade takes place and where politicians hold speeches and celebrities show their respect through performing their songs on a big stage with draped with the rainbow flag. This year, Valerie, a very famous Austrian singer, Lutricia McNeal, a well-known international singer and many others took their places in demonstrating for the equal rights and opportunities for the homosexual community. The whole march for equal rights, civil union and tolerance ends up in a big party where those thousands of people who assemble are having a wonderful time, full of music, love, tolerance and respect. At 10 p.m. the whole Parade ended with the well-known and famous ‘Blue Danube’ by Johann Strauss, just like it has to be for an event of the Danube-Metropolis.
Beyond all this happy an frolicsome party mood and peaceful demonstrations, there are still a lot of problems unresolved and questions unspoken. What happens to the homosexual community politically in the future? Will they ever be equated in rights and opportunities? Will all this fight and effort one day turn out aided and bring up those issues the homosexual community is fighting for so long and so hard? Problems that will remain unresolved until society finally takes a few steps forward to embrace equality of all kinds of human, whether they are gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgenders, because all that really matter is that we are all one of a kind, humans, with one blood and one need… to be loved.