Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 3-4 Oct; Bucharest – first impressions

Wed 3-Oct-56:   Left 9am arrived Bucharest 2:30. 2 girls met me. Staying at Hotel Athénée Palace.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0033

Hotel Athénée  Palace
Bucarest 3 Wed 56

Darling Dorothy

It was sweet of you to send a cable for my arrival. Two lasses from the Institute met me at the airport. We had hardly completed the formalities establishing our identity when they, with, I think, real pleasure, said they had a cable for me. It did me a lot of good, and on the strength of it, I will never say a harsh word to you again. Thank you little wife.

A car brought us to the hotel at 3 pm after getting my room for me, the lasses left & I had a sleep & a wash. At 5 pm, one of them, who has been assigned to me as an interpreter, returned with the car & we did a trip around the city.

I’m too tired to do this letter justice, so will go to sleep & finish it in the morning. It’s a treat to think that I will not be packing & frantically worrying about catching planes. Goodnight darling & thanks again.

Bucaresti - B-dul Nicolae Balcescu, Republica Populara Romina; 1956
Bucaresti – B-dul Nicolae Balcescu, Republica Populara Romina; 1956

6.20 am. [Thu, 4 Oct 1956] The weather is warm to hot. Somewhere in the 70’s – They are having an Indian Summer, I am told, after a cold September. The leaves have just begun to fall off the thousands of trees which are in this capital. The Bucharestians are extremely park conscious and in addition to what were obviously many fine parks & practically all tree lined streets. The Republic has extended the park lands & playing fields. God what a sentence!

This city has for the past century been under the influence of French culture, which has resulted in a lighter & more elegant approach to architecture & city layout. Practically all the streets look like ceremonial drives. The approach in from the airport is really fine. Two, single way broad streets flanked by trees, parks, and ritzy ex-bourgeois homes (now legations & what not). This hotel happily in the classiest centre & almost alongside the art gallery, is obviously a posh reminder of the pre war days. High class & kept in good order, good service. Telephones in rooms, H & C water, bidets, service call buttons, nice carpets. Just so. A fine dining room, good menu, with many items orchestra, good wine. All is provided, & whatever we do, or have, is fixed up by the girl who signs a chit. They even gave me an envelope with 500+ something lei in it, for spending money. (The average wage for a month here is 600 lei.) Am getting treated like a fighting cock. I like the city – in appearance, as I said, much gayer, most of the buildings light in colour, off whites & cream etc, rather like Sydney. Nice sight from the air too with lakes & a river. Most noticeable is the absence of motor cars. There are singularly few and these constantly blowing horns to clear the myriads of pedestrians who seem to swarm all over the streets. The cars they have are mostly Russian made. Plenty of trams full to the eye teeth. Great contrast in clothing. Some very unkempt – some extra spruce. However, more of that later. I really haven’t seen anything on foot yet. Last night we went for a walk round the shops. Big crowds. Practically all the shops are state owned & show a variety of utilitarian goods. Some few of the state shops are now beginning to feature more individual & better quality stuff, which naturally becomes dearer. A few privately owned shops specialise in hand made wear with the style improved & also the price.

The govt. is really out to raise the cultural level of the people. Books are very cheap, plenty of exhibitions, concerts and plays. I did see an open air theatre & was quite impressed – must attend a performance there. Sport too is intensely catered for. They have built a big concrete Olympiad bowl with a fine field & running tracks etc. They have bull dozed the earth up into a great round ring & poured concrete seats all around the field. 100,000 people capacity. Nearby is the nuttiest thing ever. A high tower with a desk on top. The tower is nearly 300 ft high & is for those who like to try a parachute jump. My interpreter is not of these. Quite a few cinemas showing Russian & Continental films. I am to meet the gentlemen from the Institute this morning – and will then know what’s what.

Most likely looking out over the rooftops and courtyard below fr Most likely looking out over the rooftops and courtyard below fr

[Believed to be the view from Wep’s room on the fifth floor of the Athénée Palace Hotel, Bucharest, Romania; Oct 1956]

It is a lovely morning with sun streaming over the roof tops beyond the courtyard below. I am on the fifth floor of the hotel. There’s not much to add at the present except to say that I feel quite relaxed although tired. I’m happy about my quarters & the city, and am sure everything will be very pleasant.

Lots of love darling – for you an imagined kiss & a frolic – for Graham a big affectionate pat on the head – and for Trellie a vulgar tickle.

Bill

P.S. Am getting the lass (Stefania Rotaru by name) to help me get Graham some music of Rumanian folk songs & some records.

The Rumanian cookery is based on French lines.

Another, & some more of the aforementioned thoughts.

Bye now!

At the moment I am standing in the street in the sun outside the hotel. There is a late American Chrysler standing here – and the folk are around it like flies. Got an American No. plate on it too. ODD.

 1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0034

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