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Known for its wide, tree-lined boulevards, glorious Belle Epoque buildings and a reputation for the high life, Bucharest - Romania's capital was once known as the "Little Paris."
Romanian legend has it that the city of Bucharest was founded by a shepherd named "Bucur", whose name means "joy". His flute playing reportedly dazzled the locals and his hearty wine from nearby vineyards endeared him to the local traders, who gave his name to the place.
Remodeled, in the late 19th century, by French and French-trained architects Bucharest even features a Triumphal Arch on the elegant Soseaua Kiseleff, a boulevard longer that Paris' famed Champs-Elysees.
Communist rule interrupted Bucharest's cosmopolitan days. Many years after the overthrown of the communist regime, the "House of the People" — the world's second largest building after the US Pentagon — reminds Romanians of the communist years.
Only Romanian materials and products were used — local marble, cherry and walnut paneling, crystal chandeliers, specially commissioned hand-woven tapestries, carpets and draperies — to build what supposed to be the headquarters of Romania's last communist leader. Now renamed the Palace of Parliament, this magnificent building of 1,000 rooms reflects the work of the country's best architects and artisans
. Bucharest is one of the few cities in east-central Europe with gambling. Many 18th and 19th Century palaces and mansions now house elegant beaux-arts casinos, where guests can play blackjack, poker, craps, roulette, baccarat and other games of chance, dine on sumptuous buffets and dance all night to live music.
Today, Bucharest — the capital and largest city of Romania — is experiencing renewed vigor. The city reflects an interesting heritage of mixed cultures influenced by: the old Romanian aristocracy educated in France, the German King Carol I, and the communist society.