Sunday, July 26, 2009

Parliament Palace and Nicolae Ceauşescu

Our last sightseeing stop in Bucharest was the biggest one of all. How can you visit Romania without learning a bit about its Communist past, and the dark days of its dictator = Nicolae Ceauşescu?

The Parliament Palace is Bucharest's most famous building, and it dates back to the Ceauşescu era. No one knew what was being built on a hill in the city until after the dictator was shot and killed after being overthrown in a revolution in 1989. The blueprints of his palace were then discovered, and it was cheaper to continue construction then to destroy the building.

The Parliament Palace is the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon, and parts of it are still in use today = by the Romanian Parliament, a conference center and a museum. But the building is so huge, that most of it is empty. And besides that, it was not planned correctly = some of the enormous halls cannot be used because of horrendous acoustics. We took the one-hour guided tour.



The palace is shrouded in mystery and rumors. It was built to withstand not only earthquakes but also nuclear attacks. Reportedly, there were secret tunnels which would allow government ministers to escape. We followed our guide through opulent halls. All materials used in the palace's construction were from Romania, and apparently there was no pink marble left in the country afterwards. Huge chandeliers, fancy tapestries, curtains 20 meters high, hand-made carpets, and golden ceilings. Fancy and big! You were not allowed to leave the tour, which is good, because you could easily get lost.


A look out from the balcony at the wide avenue which is considered Romania's Champs-Élysées = and in fact, Ceauşescu made sure his avenue was 6 meters longer than the Paris original.


Although planned during Romania's Communist era, the palace was finished after the country had become a democracy. As seat of the Romanian Parliament, the palace now serves as a symbol of the country's democratic freedom. (How's that for an uplifting finale to this post!)

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