I've had an afternoon on the bus to think about what I want to write about Bucharest. The city doesn't have a good reputation: grey, dreary, full of communist remains and not-so-safe. At least, that's what I was expecting.
With a friend living in the city at the moment this weekend was the perfect opportunity to find out what holds true of the above image. As it turns out, not much.
The word that describes the city best is unfinished. It is, quite literally, a city that isn't ready yet. Of course, every city builds, rebuilds, renovates - but Bucharest is the extreme version of it. Some buildings are really not finished; such as Ceaucescu's Palace. He was executed before the second biggest building in the world could be built the way he wanted it.
And there are so many old buildings which just stand empty, of of which only the front is still standing. And buildings that have scaffolding put up around them but no one seems to actually be working on those buildings. The same goes for plenty of broken-up streets.
Luckily, sometimes, there is a building renovated - back to what it was in the early 20th century. Seeing those buildings, and the potential of so many others, it's no wonder Bucharest was once called the 'Paris of the East'.
In the midst of all this urban chaos it mostly feels as a city that's coming alive. People out on the streets are either dressed in expensive brands or just very cheap stuff (there is no in between) - but they are out in the city. Eating, drinking, shopping. Because there's a big range of restaurants and plenty of cool bars and cafes with an edgy underground feel to it.
It's the type of city I like - one that you can see growing, evolving, finding a new fit for itself. Budapest is similar but much further ahead (more later). I wonder what Bucharest will be like in 10 years from now...
* Pictures to be added in later