Bucharest has lots of museums, of all kinds. And, as a person born and raised here, I’ve naturally only visited a few of them. But I’ve decided to fix this 🙂 The museum I picked for the start of this venture is the National Museum of Maps and Old Books. It’s true the target public of this museum is not as wide as it is the case with most of the other museums of Bucharest, but it’s an interesting small museum.
You can find it close to the Victoriei Square, in an awesome building. It’s a cool place where you can hang out for a couple of hours checking out old maps and some old books. Spanning on the buildings three floors and many rooms (I loved the building!) the display features lots of old maps. Most of them are of Europe, but there are some maps from the other continents as well. For me, it was especially interesting to check out how the borders of the European countries changed over time.
The downside is that there’s not much info besides the maps. And the info is mostly in Romanian, but some is in the language the map or book is in (!??). I saw info in German and also Greek with no translation! So I had to google a bit after the visit to check what I was looking at, but I still found the visit interesting.
I bet it’s even more interesting for map enthusiasts and historians and others keen on exploring old books, maps and engravings!
The National Museum of Maps and Old Books was set up, at least in part, by grace of its two main contributors, Adrian and Daniela Năstase, who donated most of the exhibits presently displayed in the 16 rooms of the museums. The collections amount to some 800 items.
Apart from the maps and books, it also holds a small range of engravings, posters and paintings with old scenes from rural and urban life, costumes, old buildings…and also some measuring instruments (at least that’s what I thought they were… ).
It’s a nice way of seeing how cartography evolved over time. Some maps are like miniature paintings, adorned with ornate frames, symbolic figures or flowery and animal motives. But this is seen mostly in old maps. The newer ones, which are also more precise, are a lot simpler and with less ornate symbols.
They also had a copy of the famous Piri Reis map on display, which, I must admit, I’d never heard of before this visit. It’s a pre-modern world map compiled in 1513 by the Ottoman admiral and cartographer Piri Reis. Not all of it survived, only the part that shows the western coasts of Europe and North Africa and the coast of Brazil. Some Atlantic islands including the Azores and Canary Islands are also depicted. The historical importance of the map lies in its demonstration of the extent of exploration of the New World by approximately 1510. It’s only fairly accurate, but it definitely makes up for the lack of accuracy with its drawings. It has lots of ships on it and also some animals from each region depicted on it. It looks pretty cool!
There was also a whole section on Bucharest, some maps to see how the city’s layout evolved over time (the neighbourhood I live in looked totally different, I recognised some of the streets and landmarks, but my apartment building was not there…) and also some paintings and images from the last century. The city surely changed a lot! Of course I knew that, but it’s always much more interesting to see it in pics and maps 🙂 For example, I really loved the display of posters from a parade from decades ago. I forgot what is was for, but all the guilds had a group at the parade. I loved their setup with funny looking costumes and ornate carts. Also the language on the posters seemed old.
So, if you have a couple of hours to spend and you are interested in history and old maps, the museum is an interesting place to visit. Also, don’t forget to take your eyes off the maps for a bit and admire the building as well 😉
Did you visit the museum? What did you think?
- address: 39, London Street (Strada Londra), Bucharest, Romania
- entrance fee: 5 lei (around 1 euro)
- the info next to the maps and books is mostly in Romanian, but some have info in German and even Greek (the foreign ones)
- here are some ideas for accommodation in Bucharest
trip date: August 2014