Over, Opulence

Cast your mind back to 1989.

The Cold War was ending, The Berlin Wall was coming down and satellite Soviet States were demanding democracy. Mass protests and revolutions in the streets caused communist regimes to fall in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and on and on. Perhaps you remember watching this, in South Africa, on those old cathode ray Telefunken, Barlow, Hammerstein and if your parents splurged, a Sony Trinitron TV set.

The country I probably remember the best was Romania! Here the tyrant Ceausescu and his wife Helena hung in doggedly. Eventually the dictator was overrun and within days Ceausescu and his wife were executed by a firing squad.

Ceausescu had brought to Romania a variant of Stalinism; more nationalist, more fascist and more populist. He and Helena visited China & North Korea in 1971 and met with Mao Zedong and Kim II Sung. They were impressed by the mass mobilization and personality cult aspects enforced in these nations.

In 1984 he is reputed to tell Romanian women to breed as it is their patriotic duty.

At the time of the democratic revolution the Romanian people are clear; ‘because Ceausescu denied us food he has to be executed,

Linda & I visit The ‘Parliament of the People’ building in the capital of Romania, Bucharest. Here we see Ceausescu’s opulence in the face of then a very poor nation.

This building is the largest building in Europe and the second in the world; only the Pentagon is larger.

With all its marble it remains the heaviest building on the planet.

Designed to be the show piece for the government, Ceausescu never lived there. It was merely used in the day time for matters of state.

Covering 365 000 square meters it cost $3 billion to build in the 1980’s – a cost the nation could ill afford.

It took 20 000 workman and 700 architects to construct, with halls for every occasion.

In the 75 minutes we were allowed in, we covered a distance of only 1km seeing only 3% of the structure.

That’s it , upper left

Another view from ground level

Bikers have to park at the rear. Obliging as always

It is a grand affair with marble throughout, even on all the stairs

which go on for many levels

the curtains needed cranes to hang

on many occasions

A room for every occasion- this one for receiving heads of state

on the right a complete TV and radio broadcast studio

foreign press briefing room

government ministers would meet here

the theater

concert hall

The ballroom has a carpet that weighs 2 tons (a Kirby salesmans dream) – its easier to keep it rolled up .

equally lavish chandeliers -this one weighs 2 tons

while these diminutive wannabes are only a ton a piece- there are so many one becomes blase

huge doors are a gift from a fellow dictator Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko

there are no schematics for navigating ones way around except these marble floor inlays which represent the layout of the building

the city view from one of the many many balconies

with broad boulevards where Ceausescu planned to have military parades. He was executed before this . Oddly with all this space, today ,government ministers have their offices across the road( in the 2 large buildings to the left and right in this picture)

The Parliament of the People was however just the centre of a larger project; a re-design of the heart of Bucharest. It was to become a replica of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. Large administrative buildings now flank the People’s Parliament, together with broad avenues which would have accommodated military marches and the dictator’s speeches. This resulted in 25 % of Bucharest first being cleared. Many shops, schools, residential buildings, churches and synagogues were demolished and 40,000 people were relocated.

All of this while Ceausescu and Helena lived in thier own private palace

Ceausescu “own” home

complete with indoor pool ( in SA we call these fire pools)

But perhaps even more worthy of mention is that, between 1982 and 1988 almost a dozen churches, as well as other buildings, were moved hundreds of metres in order to save them from destruction. Whole buildings were placed on the equivalent of railway tracks and rolled to safety. The tracks were used again and again to save 12 churches. 22 Churches were not saved as Ceasescu become increasingly impatient to complete his project.

We visited the 16th-century Mihai Voda Church that was moved in tandem with its standalone tower. The largest church that was moved, technically a monastery, weighed 9,000 tons and it was shifted 24 metres from its original location. Many of the moved churches, though, ended up being relocated in the shadows of large, soviet-style apartment blocks as you will see from the photos. We went inside the Mihai Voda Church and witnessed the beauty of worship continuing despite another ruthless horror of a dictator.

the Mihai Voda church was moved on rails

and today is hidden behind old Soviet apartment blocks

the church inside today, fully intact

13 Responses to Over, Opulence

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you for this very interesting history lesson! The stats and the inside of the ‘Parliament of the People’ building is fascinating. How sad that leaders can be such dictators and destroy peoples lives. And it still happens in the enlightened 21 century!! Thanks for the interesting stories & pictures!! Amelia xx

  2. Jim and Muriel xx

    What an eye-opener this has been ! The old “stuff” moved and now lives alongside the new !
    Take care please——–we’re looking forward VERY much to your next eye opener ! Thanks

  3. Anonymous

    Lovely photos,and interesting bit of information. Beautiful inside the buildings and very expensive taste, go well on your Journey till next time. Debbie – Durban

  4. Anonymous

    Fascinating insight into that era.
    What a building and most of us don’t even know about it!!
    Thanks for all the great photos and interesting information.
    How power and greed corrupts.
    Stay safe
    Lots of love

  5. Naude.K

    Wow, very interesting (dear I say “heavy”) read indeed. Makes Nkandla look like a playhouse.

  6. Gail and Jan van der Mey

    What many people in Wetern Europe don’t like to remember that when a Russian invasion by the Russians and their cohorts of the Warsaw pact invaded then Checho Slowakia in 1967, when their leader Dubchek began to introduce real democracy. Many people then commited suicide by burning themselves alive. Quite a few people then said they went too far and one must understand that the Russians could not poosibly accept this. In contrast they said look at Roumenia where their leader is far more carefull; that is the way to do it !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Gail and Jan van der Mey

    This is a Grimm’s “fairy Tale” of what not to do. Greed and egotism are everywhere there. What a wonderful description of it all and this is recent history. Most enlightening many thanks!!

  8. Colin

    Beautiful buildings. WOW! Amazing how the lucky ones that were saves got moved. Sad for the ones that never made it. It boggles the mind as to the cost of the heaviest and second largest building in the world,.Why did the people had to starve? Unnecessary suffering. No wonder Ceausescu and Helena were executed. Interesting post.
    Enjoy the rest of your trip and keep safe.

  9. Anonymous

    Why, why, why? The heaviest building in the world, while the people go hungry? Just slightly smaller than the pentagon. What on earth goes through the minds; where is the logic? Is it some sort of insanity that takes grip of these dictators and causes them to lose all reason? Who then go on to build these monstrous unnecessary and rather gaudy huge mansions at the expense of the starving people. Ai. I don’t get it. There is a documented history of mad leaders like this one would think this personality trait was a studied disease with its own name. A personality malfunction that perhaps a simple blood test could reveal. That there would be a fail safe test to ensure any would be president never takes office if he has this as a possible trait. But alas – indeed, we have our own Nkandla with its very own fire pool, and my parents Zimbabwean helper having returned today from leave tells me Uncle Bob wants to run for presidency again. Oh dear. Both he and Zupta certainly failed to get that litmus test. Anyway, what impresses me is how those churches were moved. Absolutely stunning inside!! That is quite incredible! Much like Abu Simble, or was that rebuilt entirely? Sad about those churches and other buildings that weren’t. Thanks again for a marvellous incredible account of your travels. Despite all, you are in Bucharest! How fabulous, despite that mad man who bought marble after he lost his marbles. “Bucharest” – Ag, that sounds oh so enchanting and romantic. Something about the name….”Bucharest” Loving hearing each snippet!! Have fun!

  10. MvdMey@T-online.de

    Great, thank you, linda and harry ! A dictator a day keeps, keeps the peole away !
    put a candle up and zoom towards the Caucasus, Azerbeyan and Persia….
    Michiel and Petra

  11. Anonymous

    Beautiful and sad. Most human achievement from the agricultural revolution onwards built on the exploitation of others. Remember the photo of him posing with hundreds and hundreds of animals he killed in one hunting session? F S! Lots of love to you two

  12. Anonymous

    WOW, Love the visuals and all the factual input. Thank you for your educational input. Amazing…stay safe

  13. Mike

    Wow, looks a bit like a larger version of one of the worlds other worst dictators palaces, our very own Uncle Bob right on our doorstep

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