Bucharest, the most popullous and most important town of Romania, the principal political, administrative, economic, financial, banking, educational, scientific and cultural centre of the country. Located in S-SE Romania, at an altitude of 60-90 m, on the Dâmbovita and Colentina rivers, at 44°25'50" Latitude North and 26°06'50" Longitude East, at about the same latitude as Belgrade, Geneva, Bordeaux, Minneapolis, and the same longitude as Helisinki and Johannesburg. The town has an area of 228 sq. km. and a population of 2,021,000 (on 01.01.1998), accounting for 9% of the total population and for 15% of the urban one. In terms of population size, Bucharest ranks third in the region after Athens and Istambul.
The climate is one of extremes, with hot summers (July average temperature, 23° C / 73° F) and cold winters (January average, -3° C / 27° F). Rainfall is low, averaging 585 mm (23 in) annually, and comes mainly in summer.

The city has grown rapidly, doubling its size since World War II. The earliest city lay on rising ground on the left bank of the Dimbovita. This rural town was replaced beginning in the 1860s by an elegant capital with French-inspired architecture that caused it to be known as the Paris of the Balkans. The Communist planners extended the wide boulevards begin in the 19th century. They also laid out squares and erected massive buildings-many of them markedly Soviet in style--including the Communist party headquarters and the giant building which housed the government printing and publishing works. Among the post-World War II buildings are many huge, utilitarian apartment blocks of no particular aesthetic distinction. A number of historic churches and synagogues were razed by order of Romania's authoritarian president Nicolae Ceausescu to make way for these building projects.

Under Communist rule many small factories were nationalized and merged into large state-run enterprises. Since 1950 many new industries have been established, including clothing, mechanical engineering, and the manufacture of farm equipment. Bucharest also has many food processing factories.

The first Romanian higher education institution was opened in Bucharest in 1694 (the Saint Sava Academy), and in 1864 the University was established; today there are 21 higher education institutes with nearly 100,000 students in the capital. Based in Bucharest are the Patriarchate of the Romanian Orthodox Church (f. 1952), the Romanian Academy (f. 1867), two national libraries, 40 museums, 230 churches (several of the city's churches, Eastern Orthodox in style, date from the 18th century) , an Opera House, an Operetta Theatre, two symphony orchestras, another 20 theatres. The Parliament Palace, which was built on dictator Ceausescu's orders between 1984-1989, is the second largest building in the world with its 265,000 sq.m. after the Pentagon in Washington (which has an area of 604,000 sq.m.). It is important to visit the Village Museum (1936), in which specimens of traditional village architecture have been gathered from all parts of the country. Bucharest also has many parks and open spaces and stadiums for sporting events.
The town was first mentioned in a document in 1495 as residence of the ruler of Wallachia, Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler, known also as Dracula). But settlement has an older history, going back to the 14th century. The founding of Bucharest is traditionally ascribed to a peasant named Bucur, but no record of the city exists prior to the late Middle Ages. Attacks by Tatars and Turks restricted its growth before the 17th century. Between the 17th - 19th (begining with 1698) centuries it was the capital of Wallachia and in 1862 it became the capital of Romania. The population increased in number from 122,000 (1859) to 639,000 (1930) to 1,452,000 (1966). The town held a dominant position in the national context similarly to the position held by Budapest in Hungary, Vienna in Austria or Paris in France. Heavy fighting near the Palace Square during the revolution that ousted the Ceausescu regime in December 1989 caused damage to prominent landmarks, including the Royal Palace.

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