Bucharest was known as the Paris of Eastern Europe until
Communist president Nicolae Ceausescu began rebuilding,
destroying the tree-lined avenues, tearing down the oldest
buildings and creating his new Bucharest.
The Ceausescu regime
During his despotic regime (1965-89) Romania and its population
suffered. Ceausescu starved the people to pay for a new system
of modernisation that saw farmers forcibly rehoused in grim
housing blocks in the cities. Food and electricity was rationed,
huge amounts of money borrowed from the West, and heavy industrialisation
in rural communities caused pollution and starvation. Romanians
were not allowed to talk to foreigners, allowed 2kg of meat
per year, 2 eggs per month, whilst the Ceausescu's moved between
their palatial residences choosing their meals from 6 menus
Palatul Parliamentului (Palace of Parliament)
The centre piece of Ceausescu's new Romania was built on
the rubble of Bucharest's old quarter; 26 churches, and over
7000 homes were destroyed to make way for the Civic centre
known as the Ceausima. At its centre looms the infamous Palatul
Parliamentului, the Palace of Parliament, the third
biggest building on earth after the Pentagon and the Tibetan
Potala. Over 20,000 labourers and 600 architects toiled to
build the Palace to Ceausescu's exacting standards. On one
occasion they were required to rebuild a staircase three times
because Ceausescu himself was not satisfied.
The palace stands 12 storeys high with over 1000 halls and
rooms and massive underground basements. There is a nuclear
bunker, underground parking that could accommodate Buckingham
Palace and a lobby stretching for 300ft. The rooms are lavishly
decorated in gold leaf and marble and over 4500 chandeliers
(of 11,000 originally planned) hang in the Palace. This enormous
building was originally known as the Casa Popularii,
The House of The People, but the people instead coined it
Casa Nebunului - the Madman's House.
In 1989 Romania finally cast of the spectre of the Ceausescus
and the world watched the revolution on TV. In December, from
a balcony high up at the Palace, the Ceausescu's were met
with jeers and revolutionary cries from the gathered crowds
below. They escaped from the roof in a helicopter, but on
Christmas day, after a quick trial, they were executed by
firing squad as much of the world sat down to Turkey and stuffing.
Visiting Ceausescu's Palace
In 1989, Palatul Parliamentului was renamed the Palace of
Parliament. As the new name suggests, the Palace is home to
the Romanian government and can be visited daily between 10am
and 4pm, except when the parliament is in session, then public
tours are limited to weekends.
Access is via the Southern entrance (A1) and guided tours
take roughly 45 minutes taking in some of the grandest rooms.
The approach along Piata Unirii is the most impressive,
although the Metro stop at Izvor is the quickest way
of getting here.