It is always more fun to be shown around a city by a local. Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be shown around Bucharest by Cristina, who is the girlfriend of Mihai, a friend of mine from Intel. She kindly took the entire afternoon off work to show me round. I'm very glad that she did as I think I would have been pretty lost in Bucharest without her.
Bucharest is very different from the Romanian cities I had been to before. While the other cities had been beautiful pedestrianised cities that I felt I could chill out in forever, Bucharest is a raging car-filled metropolis with the energy level turned up to 11. There are some truly beautiful old buildings in Bucharest, but they are intermingled with modern utilitarian edifices and surrounded by swirls of honking cars, so one doesn't feel the same calming affect from their presence that one might otherwise.
One of the most awe inspiring buildings in Bucharest is the parliament building, which is the second largest building in the world (after the pentagon) and is framed by a suitably green (if still loud from traffic) setting. Bucharest also has the kind of glass and steel capitalism-containers that one expects in any modern capital city, and which have their own kind of beauty. Like most capital cities, the emphasis is definitely on big and magnificent rather than on simple beauty. While Bucharest isn't the kind of city one would choose to go to to relax and enjoy the beauty and history, it feels like a city where things are happening.