After Dorobanti neighborhood and the Armenian Quarter, I really wanted to write a piece on my favorite neighborhood in Bucharest: Cotroceni.
Postponing the article had one good reason: magnolias. The quiet streets of Cotroceni are famous for their magnolia trees which turn the neighborhood into a pink’n white flower show every April. If you add all the other spring flowers, we may say that Cotroceni is the city’s flower-garden.
All that pink prettiness!
But let’s go to the beginning and see how a deep forest became the crown jewel of Bucharest’s neighborhoods.
Four hundred years ago this forest was the hideout for wrongdoers. Even the name „cotroceni” comes from a Romanian expression that basically means to go into hiding.
One of the Wallachian Voyvods, Serban Cantacuzino, got hold of the lands and built here manorial houses that were used as princely residence once the old fortress was destroyed in a fire.
Later on, in the 19th century, the old manors are demolished to make room to the new Cotroceni Palace. The palace has been the royal residence of King Ferdinand I and Queen Mary. During communism the palace was converted into the Palace of the Pioneers. In the present day, half of the palace is a museum open to the public and half is the Presidential Office.
Having a Royal Palace here and the Faculty of Medicine in its proximity, Cotroceni is a neighborhood build by and for the elite. Unlike the boyars and old families of Victoriei or Kiseleff Blvds., this elite was made out of the bourgeoisie: doctors, professors, writers, businessmen.
The middles class was something new in Romania and was a consequence of the rapid modernisation of the country brought by the beginning of the 20th century. The chic townhouses of Cotroceni are a loyal representation of this period.
The early 1920s ones are all about Art Deco and the streets are showered in one story villas with porthole windows. Cotroceni is considered one of the biggest exhibitions of this style in South East Europe.
Next to Art Deco there’s Cubism, Neo-Romanian mansions and, from time to time, we might come across Spanish revival villas.
In the 1980s Bucharest lost two important neighborhoods: Uranus-wiped out to make room for the House of People and the Jewish Quarter to make room for the Civic Center.
Spanish revival villa
Cotroceni somehow managed to survive ugly communist buildings or the 1980s urban planning. Amazingly enough, it even managed to dodge the invasion of new, shiny and out-of-place ones. Even if there are new constructions, at least they've had the decency to respect the unity of the place.
Cotroceni is a representation of what could have been if it weren't for communist demolitions and the post communism urban chaos.
I personally perceive it as a slice of normality. If you want to get to know Bucharest better and leave the beaten path then Cotroceni is the perfect place for a stroll.
However, if it’s magnolia season or you are an architecture aficionado then it’s a must do.
NO. just NO.
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