The view from the balcony of the Parlimentary Palace in Bucharest.
I hired a private guide today, Buchrest is not a small city (about 3 million) and has little tourist infrastructure plus the damage done during the period of Soviet rule and the insane whims of Romania’s dictator Nicolae Ceausescu has left the city a confusing place even 30 years later.
I booked my guide Cris for a 7 hour tour but we ended up spending the entire day and had dinner after as well, she was fascinating, I was soaking up every bit of information and was glad for the extra time (I later learned that she is an International Master chess player, one step below Grand Master, and is currently ranked 13th in Romania).
Like most of the other Soviet states Romania had a revolution after the 1989 fall of the USSR, unlike Czechoslovakia and Hungary their’s was a bloody one with Ceausescu ordering the army to open fire on the demonstrators on multiple occasions.
Being here today with someone in the locations where things happened who was there and can say “And then we marched over here” or “and then we saw that Ceausescu was trying to leave” was electrifying for me and clearly still vivid and personal for Cris, multiple times during the day she would go distant or would tear up telling me about the students chanting “Better dead than communist!”
Cris also mentioned how much of Ceausescu’s inner circle were also tired of his megalomania, when the demonstrations were clearly turning against him and he asked to be whisked away by the underground tunnels one of his generals told him the tunnel was barred and no one had a key, Ceausescu was instead captured and executed along with his wife, it was later revealed that the tunnels had been open.
Ceausescu centralized press, propaganda and surveillance to this building, it still features the hammer and sickle in the design.
More impressive, if that is the right word, was a tour of the inside of Ceausescu’s pet project to build the world’s largest building, his new Parlimentary Palace:
Ceasescu was determined to make Romania a world power, the building is full of balconies designed for him to address hundreds of thousands of supporters. His execution took place just before the building was complete and instead of having him as the great inaugural speaker it ended up that the first person to address a Bucharest crowd from the balcony was Michael Jackson who said “I love you Budapest!” so… yeah….
He didn’t manage to create the world’s largest building however it is listed as the world’s heaviest and is sinking.
It is also the second largest government building in the world after the Pentagon… for a country of 20 million people.
He wanted it built in 2 years, 20,000 workers working 8 hours shifts 24 hours a day spent 6 years on it before it was considered completed, in actuality only about 400 of the 1100 rooms are finished and despite being the seat of government almost the entire building is empty.
RUG FACTS! It also features the largest rug in the world, weighing just over 6000 pounds and requiring 40 people to roll or unroll.