A 1962 guide to Bucharest

We’ve unearthed some gems on our bookshelves of late.

From an old Romanian grammar primer to a copy of ‘Romanian for foreigners,’ we outdid ourselves yesterday when we came across a guide to Bucharest from 1962 (in Romanian), almost certainly picked up for a song at an anticariat many years ago.

Bucharest guide 1962

The guide was written by a collective including Dan Berindei, who 20 years later would co-author the equally excellent (though not as thorough) Bucuresti guide we wrote about here.

Clearly a labour of love the book is gorgeous, and in very good shape, the slightly scuffed dust jacket apart. The pull out maps at the back are all intact, as are the lovingly produced seating plans of every cinema, theatre and concert hall in the city.

bucharest-bucuresti-map-harta-1962
Bucharest 1962: There were still trams running along Strada Smardan
Bucharest cinema seat plan 1962
Seating plan of the 'Infratirea intre popoare' cinema

Running to over 300 pages, the book is one of the most thorough guides to Bucharest we have ever come across. The running order gives an idea of the priorities of the age: History and geography are followed by political organisations, and an in depth run down of the capital’s factories, industrial plants and educational institutions. Only then (from page 134 onwards) do the more frivolous things such as museums get a look in.

We have not read the whole thing yet, but skimming through we have perhaps so far liked the section on taxis best:

bucharest-taxis-1962

A ride in a Volga taxi cost slightly more than in a Pobeda or Moscvici.

There aren’t all that many photos in the book, and all are rather small and black and white. Most (but not all) feature recently constructed buildings and districts:

calea-victoriei-1962

bucurestii-noi
Bucurestii Noi

calea-grivitei

stadionul-23-august

One other thing of interest: published three years before Nicolae Ceausescu became the country’s leader, and long before the personality cult took hold, there is not a single photograph of a politician in the entire book. Indeed, so far we have found only one mention of the country’s then leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej: a quote in the history chapter from the proclamation of the People’s Republic of Romania in 1948.

Oh, and finally, the picture on the back cover is marvellous, the figures (if not the setting) almost Lowry-esque:

bucharest guide book 1962 back cover

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  • Parmalat

    From Mitt Romney’s governance program:

    “Multiple factors contribute to America’s faltering performance. But a major part of the problem over successive presidencies, and one that the Obama administration has sharply exacerbated, is the regulatory burden on the economy. Regulations function as a hidden tax on Americans […]”

    Basescu and his idiots didn’t understand this part.

  • ioana

    Interesting ! Similar style of drawings (possibly the same graphic artist) appear on a “Ghid Turistic” of Romania, from 1979 – 1980 (maybe). As soon as i find it, i’ll scan it and share it here somehow (but now all my things are in boxes, because i’m painting the walls).

    My favorite is architect Gheorghe Leahu, he made so many beautiful water-color paintings, of various faces of Bucuresti. He also painted images from Sibiu and cities of Italy.
    I have his first album, I think i’ve seen some recent ones in Carturesti, quite hidden, in the architecture section. Some links:
    http://arhitectura-1906.ro/2011/07/o-viata-printre-case-si-culori/
    http://altmarius.ning.com/group/altmariusart/forum/topics/arhitectul-gheorghe-leahu
    http://cetatealuibucur.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/prezentare-albumul-%E2%80%9Ebucuresti-portret-in-acuarela-autorgheorghe-leahu/

  • Mr Rearguard

    What were the best pubs ‘n’ clubs to go to in those days? I bet the women were fitter too because they didn’t slap on three coats of paint on their boats (boat race = face) like most of the girls do nowadays. Interesting pictures by the way.

    • Melody Bar – there is even a photo of it.

    • Parmalat

      They were trendy, we’re gonna have to look over the 60s trends to see if they really were fitter.

  • Fritz

    Good find!
    I like the artwork – the good old 60’s indeed.
    How interesting: taxi prices per 150 or 200 m? I guess they didn’t refuse short rides, eh?

    • The price was astronomical: the average annual net salary in 1962 (according to INS) was 880 lei, so just stepping in a taxi cost more than 2 per cent of a month’s wages.

      • Parmalat

        Taxi rides were expensive in Bucharest until the early 2000s.

        Now they’re cheap if you ask me, but don’t tell anyone cause we want them to stay this way, don’t we?

        • Mr Rearguard

          I personaly would like to see the price to go up. That way when I order one, I will never be told “sorry all taken buddy”!

          • It’s rare you don’t get one though, usually only in the rain, early in the morning.

            What I love about ordering taxis is the precise time you are always given: three minutes, seven minutes etc.

            In Warsaw, probably the city I know best outside of Bucharest, it is always ‘five-seven minutes.’ Always!

          • Parmalat

            Make friends with the 3.5 RON / km guys and they’re gonna come and take you whenever you need. You can even arrange in advance and you can be certain that they’re not taken.

  • Parmalat

    Wonderful finding indeed 🙂