Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bucharest - Calea Victoriei (Victory Avenue)

Date of visit: 9th April 2014

I have not known about the road without information delivered by the cab driver in his broken English. He described the Victory Avenue as the old road of Bucharest. After passing by the Arcul De Triumf, Romanian Atheneum and Revolution Square, the cab driver took us to the avenue. We went "argh" "wow" etc etc looking at what the avenue has got to offer, especially when we get down to pose in front of the CEC Palace building. He was happy to see our overjoyed expression while posing for the photo.

CEC Palace
Calea Victoriei is a major avenue in central Bucharest. It leads from Splaiul Independenței, avenue which runs parallel to the Dambovita River to the north and then northwest up to Piata Victoriei, where Soseaua Kiseleff continues north.

Initially, the road was known as Ulita Mare @ Large Street and also known as Drumul Brasovului @ Brasov Road, being part of the trade route between Bucharest and the city of Brasov, in Transylvania. In 1692, ruler Constantin Brancoveanu paved the road with wood and partly regularized it, making it pass through the domains of the Balaceni, of the Saint John Monastery, Zlatari Monastery and of the Cantacuzenes up to the Sarindari Monastery. Since 1692 it was known as Podul Mogoșoaiei (Mogoșoaia Wood-Paved Road) because it also was connecting the Bucharest's center with Brancoveanu's Mogosoaia Palace some distance outside the city.

Novotel - Modern & old combination refurbishment, a true beauty

Most roads in the Balkans at that time became muddy in the spring and autumn, and the wood is the only way to prevent this. Consequently the road was one of the most important construction works of the area and a source of pride to Bucharesters. The area surrounding the road became the most fashionable part of Bucharest where 35 boyar houses were located on the road itself in 1775. Podul Mogoșoaiei was the first street in Bucharest to be illuminated with candles during the night, starting in July 1814.

Cercul Militar National
The wood was not a very sturdy material and often it was in a bad state, despite being repaired several times (including in 1793 and 1814). During the Russian occupation of the Danubian Principalities, in the aftermath of the Russo-Turkish War (1828–1829), an extension from Piata Victoriei northward was built by Pavel Kiseleff, the commander of the occupation troops, and is today named after him (it is where the Arcul De Triumf is located). In 1842 the road was paved with cobblestone. It was later upgraded to asphalt.

Shopping Boulevard
The road was renamed "Calea Victoriei" on October 12, 1878, following the Romanian victory in the Independence War of 1877-1878. Today, it host a lot of luxury brands like Rolex, Gucci, Burberry, Prada, Hugo Boss, Armani, Ellie Saab, Ermeneglido Zegna and many others wich makes it the boulevard with the most expensive shops in Bucharest.

National Museum of Romanian History
The following are major buildings and monuments along the street include (from north to south):

  1. The Cantacuzino Palace, hosting The George Enescu Museum;
  2. Museum of Art Collections;
  3. Stirbey Palace; 
  4. The Athenee Palace Hotel, now a Hilton;
  5. Romanian Athenaeum;
  6. National Museum of Art of Romania;
  7. The library of the University of Bucharest;
  8. Kretzulescu Church;
  9. Revolution Square including the Memorial of Rebirth;
  10. Palatul Telefoanelor;
  11. Odeon Theatre;
  12. Casa Capsa;
  13. Cercul Militar National;
  14. Pasajul Macca-Vilacrosse;
  15. Bucharest Financial Plaza;
  16. Casa de Economii și Consemnațiuni (CEC)
CEC Palace surrounding

It was also a long home to the Constantin Tanase Revue Theatre (as of 2006, relocated to the Lipscani district), and was the site of the old Romanian National Theater just north of Palatul Telefoanelor; the departed theatre's façade is replicated by the front of the Bucharest Novotel that opened in summer 2006. The Romanian Athenaeum is set back slightly from the street, with a small park in between.

Court Building snapped from the cab

Calea Victoriei was Bucharest's showpiece street in the Interwar years. The National Museum of Art of Romania (the former royal palace) and the University Library across the street from it (both damaged in the 1989 Revolution) were restored in the 1990's; Palatul Telefoanelor was restored between 1997till 2005; and there has been an ongoing refurbishment of the street's many hotels, including the Athenee Palace, the Majestic, the Capitol, and the Capșa Hotel. As of 2010, the Grand Hotel du Boulevard is undergoing restoration, while renovation of the Continental and Novotel has been completed.

Closer look

My most favorite building among all above is the "CEC Palace", built in 1900 and situated on Calea Victoriei opposite the National Museum of Romanian History. It is now the headquarters of the national savings bank C.E.C. called CEC Bank. Before the construction of the palace, the location was occupied by the ruins of a monastery (Saint John the Great) and an adjoining inn. The 16th century church was renovated by Constantin Brancoveanu during 1702 - 1703, but later deteriorated and was demolished in 1875.

The palace was built as a new headquarters for Romania's oldest bank, the public savings institution Casa de Depuneri, Consemnațiuni si Economie, later known as C.E.C. (Romanian: Casa de Economii și Consemnațiuni). The land was bought by the institution and the building constructed with the institution's own funds. Work started on June 8, 1897 and was completed in 1900. The project was designed by the architect Paul Guttereau, a graduate of the Ecole nationale superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris; construction was supervised by the Romanian architect Ion Socolescu.

After 106 years of service, the building was deemed no longer fit for modern banking and was therefore sold for €17.787 million to the municipality of Bucharest to be used as a museum. Although no longer open to CEC clients, the bank continues to rent the building as its headquarters until a suitable replacement is found or built. In 2009, it was the venue for the 60th birthday celebrations of Princess Margarita of Romania. Built in eclectic style, the palace is topped by a glass and metal dome. The entrance features an arch supported by two pairs of columns in composite style. The four corners are decorated with gables and coats of arms and ending in Renaissance domes.


We really made a right choice getting the cab driver with most experience to take us around within a very short period of time spent in Bucharest city. To him, we owe our gratitude.

Source of information: Wikipedia. Photos of buildings along the avenue are shared in this entry.
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