Originally laid out in the late seventeenth century as a wood-paved avenue named Podul Mogoşoaiei, Calea Victoriei (Avenue of Victory) has been Bucharest’s most fashionable street since wealthy boyars first built their residences along it. The arrival of the boyars encouraged Bucharest’s most prestigious shops to open along the avenue and, after it was repaved and took its present name in 1918, strolling along the avenue became de rigueur, causing the writer Hector Bolitho to remark that “to drive down the Calea Victoriei between twelve and one o’clock will prove you a provincial or a stranger”. Along the street were “huddles of low, open-fronted shops where Lyons silk and Shiraz carpets were piled in the half-darkness beside Siberian furs, English guns and Meissen porcelain”, while lurking in the side streets were starving groups of unemployed, lupus-disfigured beggars and dispossessed peasants seeking justice in the capital’s courts. An avenue of marked contrasts, the quieter northern end still seems verdant and sleepy with touches of Old-World elegance, while to the south it becomes an eclectic jumble of old apartment buildings, upmarket hotels, shops and banks. A more recent addition is an excellent cycle lane (a rarity in Bucharest), which, encouragingly, the locals seem to have taken to with relish.

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