Tourism Bucharest Romania – Lipscani Street
On the topic on Tourism Bucharest Romania, we are looking at Lipscani Street: Despite its lack of a true center, the Lipscani district is probably the real heart of Bucharest. It used to be the economic and political core of Bucharest, now it is one of the most charming and interesting parts of the city, representing the city’s current transition as well as it’s potential. The very character of Bucharest can be seen in Lipscani through its contrast of the old and the new, developed and dilapidated, east and west, brassy and bohemian, or chic and shambling. Of all the parts of Bucharest, Lipscani is the one with the most tourism potential.
Lipscani can be found in a small area surrounding Lipscani street. To its east is Calea Victoriei, B-dul I.C. Bratianu to the west, to its north is Piata Universitatiei, and its south Dambovita River. ‘Lipsca’ is a reference to a German city called Leipzig. The name Lipscan came about as a result of the activities of traders from Western Europe (particularly Leipzig) who sold their wares on that street. The Lipscani area had long before the official foundation of Bucharest city in 1459, built its reputation as one of the most relevant commercial centers in the entire Wallachia area. It was in 1600, when the Turk impaler, Vlad Tepes located the Princely Court in Lipscani, that the area really began to develop, becoming populated with different types of trade and craftsmen, shoes, saddle makers, gold and blacksmiths, and so on. This is why, even up till today, a lot of Lipscani’s streets still bear the names of those trades that were practiced on these avenues. Apart from Romanian communities, the area also had Bulgarian, Armenian, Greek, Serbian, Albanian, Jewish and Australian communities because of the merchants from those areas who all became assimilated into the area, resulting in its rapid development as well as the contrast that can still be felt in the area even up till today, making it a place where poverty and luxury, East and West came together, never truly mixing.
With Lipscani at its center, Bucharest thrived for many centuries, gaining a reputation as the ‘Paris of the East’ because of its romantic setting, cosmopolitan fair, and café culture. Though it might seem unlikely, but from the old pictures of Bucharest that can be found in some of Lipscani’s antique shops, it used to be an idyllic city, humming with activities with its Baroque, Renaissance, and Neo Classic style of architecture. Sadly, the remaining traces of this aspect of Bucharest are concealed in Lipscani’s historic quarter.
As you go deeper into the history of Bucharest, it’s hard not to be moved to sympathy when you consider all the hardship that turned it into the communist wreckage it has become today, which is why it has become a sort of haven to get a glimpse of what it used to be. It was the target of extensive bombing in the Second World War. The Luftwaffe eventually bombed it in retaliation for the royal coup which turned the country against Germany in the course of the war. After 1977’s shattering earthquake (a 7.4magnitude earthquake on the Richter), a lot of Bucharest’s historical structures were in desolation, making it a soft target for the crazy vision of a concrete communist utopia of Nicolae Ceausescu who happened to be a communist leader. Lipscani was plunged into an era of decay and was going to be demolished with many of Bucharest’s other historic centers to create an opportunity for Ceausescu’s Civic Centre scheme, as well as the extensive Palace Parliament which replaced a portion of the historic district which was considered bigger than Central Park, in New York. Ceausescu on his part had a deep loathing for Lipscani and was very happy about its deterioration, urging people to join in his megalomaniacal thinking that everything that existed in Bucharest before his regime was irrelevant. As Bucharest’s historical buildings were brought down, Lipscani’s dying beauty survived to see the Roman Revolution of 1989 and Ceausescu’s shameful execution.
The restoration of Lipscani’s old surviving architecture began in 1900 after the end of communism, but it has not been a speedy process as many of its buildings still require a lot of investment before they can recover their lost glory. All though practically all the districts have been restricted for pedestrian use only, you can enjoy a stroll through Lipscani as all the streets have been torn down, revealing all the ancient thoroughfares and barricades. Planks are used as sidewalks along elaborate buildings decorated with baroque balconies across empty lots, full of abandoned construction implements that have been converted into a playground for the kids in the area. You can see the ruins of what used to be the Princely Court with its Vlad Tepes bust which existed before the broken columns and rundown brick archways.
Despite all the ruins and rubble, a lot of restored relics are still standing, starting with the well-known Stravropoleos Church and the glorious Neo-gothic façade, as well as the inner part of the Carul cu Bere restaurant, all located on Stravropoleos street. Two of the inns built in the early part of the 19th century for merchants who are travelling survived: the Inn with Lime Trees (1833) including Manuc’s Inn (1808) located on Franceza street. A lot of 19th century French Neo-Classic bank structures also survived. The most impressive of all this structures however, is the Calea Victoriei. This is known as the Palace of Savings Bank. It is an eclectic structure, with an enormous central dome as well as entrance archways with pillars supporting them.
The Lipscani district also has a reputation for being the best in Bucharest when it comes to cheap food, bohemian bars, nice cafes, and venues for live music. There also a lot of antique stores in the area where you can find different kinds of treasures like communist memorabilia, strange icons, old photos, and lots of antiques at bargain prices. You can locate some of these shops along Hunul cu Tei’s rectangular courtyard flanked by Lipscani and Blanari streets. Your imaginations cannot even do justice to what you will discover in Lipscani. Although, it is presently under a lot of construction, in the next five to ten years it will go through its renaissance, and we’re sure that at the end of everything it would have established its reputation as Bucharest’s pride and joy as well as its biggest tourist attraction. Right now, we can’t really tell how much of its character it could lose, but considering the fact that this is Romania, odds are that you really won’t have to go far to discover elements of its soul.
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