The only way to really get to know a city, I find, is to get lost in it. Which is how I found myself walking towards the railyard on Bucharest's inner ring road. Literally kilometers and kilometers of high-rises from the bad old days. I doubt if they've ever been the focus of so much tourist appreciation before.
Now, I am going to be contrary here, and say that by recent global standards of architecture, the Ceaucescu-era buildings are not absolutely horrible. True, they're vast malignant shoddy wastes of concrete. But that was hardly unique to Romania. Consider Governor Rockefeller's showpiece center in New York's state capital, Albany. It's almost exactly contemporary with old Nic's rebuilding scheme. Then turn away, quickly. An eyewash might be indicated.
And in fact, when I saw these remarkably ugly buildings, I couldn't help but imagine them in an American context. So the state television building on the north side of Bucharest, a long low-slung concrete affair tiled several improbable shades of sea-green (and site of some major violence during the revolution; there are memorials), looks almost exactly what an aquarium in Cleveland built during the Johnson administration might look like. The infamous Palace of the People looks strikingly like the world's largest Ramada Inn. And so on.
The real crime isn't that Ceaucescu built ugly junk. Everyone was doing it at the time: east, west, north, and south. It's that he gutted a lovely, perfectly functional city to do it. There's enough left of old Bucharest to figure out what it must have been like. But it's rather like Cuvier extrapolating an extinct mammal from a single tooth.