Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – Romania & Bulgaria has to say about the Palace of Parliament:
South of the historic centre, Piata Unirii stands at the centre of the new socialist city that Ceauşescu began building in earnest in the 1980s (knocking down much of old Bucharest in the process). The area’s broad boulevard, Boulevard Unirii, was originally intended as a kind of communist-era Champs-Élysées. It was never finished, but the sheer scale conveys something of the intent. The main sights, ironically, are a handful of beautiful historic churches that miraculously survived the rebuilding and demolition project.
Palace of Parliament
The Palace of Parliament is the world’s second-largest administrative building (after the Pentagon) and former dictator ??Nicolae Ceauşescu’s most infamous creation. Started in 1984 (and still unfinished), the building has more than 3,000 rooms and covers 330,000 sq metres. Entry is by guided-tour only, and must be booked in advance. Today the building houses the country’s parliament and associated offices – though much of it stands unused.
Former Ceauşescu Residence
This restored villa is the former main residence of Nicolae and Elena Ceauşescu, who lived here ??for around two decades up until the end in 1989. Everything has been returned to its former lustre, including the couple’s bedroom and the private apartments of?? the three Ceauşescu children. Highlights include a cinema in the basement, Elena’s opulent private chamber and the back garden and swimming pool.
The overall effect is fascinating but rather depressing. The finely crafted furnishings, locally made reproductions of styles ranging from Louis XIV to art deco, feel sterile and stuffy.
Ceauşescu’s Final Resting Place
About 3km west of the Palace of Parliament, stands the Ghencea Civil Cemetery where you can morbidly seek out the final resting spots of Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife Elena, who were both executed on Christmas Day in 1989.
The two were originally buried in obscurity in separate graves shortly after the 1989 anticommunist uprising. They were quietly reburied under a common marker in 2010 after the bodies were exhumed to perform identity tests. The tests had been conducted at the request of surviving family members as a way of quelling rumours that the executions had been faked and that the infamous couple had in fact survived the revolution.
The Ceauşescus remain largely shunned in death, though a fair number of nostalgic Romanians do drop by the leave flowers or light candles. The body of their son Nicu Ceauşescu, who died from cirrhosis of the liver in 1996, lies nearby.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
At first we weren’t at all keen to visit any of Ceauşescu’s monuments to himself and his family. However, we read several reviews posted by people who toured the Palace of Parliament and they all described it as a ‘must-see’. In the end, we found we had enough time to book a tour without having to give up something that might have been of more interest to us.
Anil was adamant that he didn’t want to visit the former Ceauşescu residence, and I was completely in agreement. If the Ceauşescu’s had been people we’d admired I might have been tempted to visit their graves, as I’ve always been keen to visit famous cemeteries. There was no question in our minds, we’d see the Palace of Parliament and give the other sites a wide berth.
I was a little awkward getting through to the booking agent in order for them to reserve a space for us, but I eventually figured out how to dial their number using my phone with a UK SIM card. We were told we had to arrive a little early in order to purchase our tickets, show our passports (driver’s licenses were not acceptable) and pass through security screening.
While we waited for the tour to start, we spent the time viewing a temporary art exhibition that was housed in the waiting area. The paintings were huge, befitting the size of the building I suppose, and rather interesting too. The tour began right on time, we were a group of forty visitors from various countries around the world. There were others tours at different times of day, each focused on a different language. There are several options that visitors can choose from, we just went for the 40-minute standard tour.
The building was very stark and unattractive near the entrance foyer that was used for the tours, but almost immediately we were thrust into the opulence of the upper floors. It’s impossible to describe all that we saw, so I’ll leave it to you to view the photos that I’ve posted and decide for yourself how lavish you think it was.
One of the highlights for me relates to a question our guide asked us near the end of the tour. We were in a vast rectangular room that had windows all along one of the long walls. During the summer months, visitors can step outside onto a balcony that runs the length of the room, but it was off-limits to us that late in the autumn.
Apparently Ceauşescu envisioned standing on that balcony and waving to his adoring crowds below. The building was nowhere near ready for occupancy when he and his wife were executed. However, our guide asked us if we knew the name of a different famous person did wave to an adoring crowd from that same balcony in 1992. None of us had any idea who he was referring to.
It wasn’t until he mentioned the name of the ‘King of Pop’, Michael Jackson, that both Anil and I remembered HBO broadcast of the famous ‘Live In Bucharest: Dangerous Tour’ and Michael Jackson’s incredible performance on October 1, 1992. If you’re a fan of MJ, here’s a link to a trailer of that famous concert:
The tour was essentially over and our guide took us down a dramatic staircase and through a Bridal Fair that was taking place in one of the building’s major ballrooms. I quickly snapped some photos of the models on the runway, before I ran to catch up with Anil. I was a little panicked because we had been warned over and over not to wander away from our tour group.
Despite our initial reluctance to see anything related to the Ceauşescu’s, we were really happy that we’d made the effort to see the Palace of Parliament. Suffice it to say we enjoyed the tour and were glad we’d made the decision to tour ‘the second-largest building’ in the world.