The Palace of Parliament or People’s House in Bucharest, Romania is the second largest building in the world, after the Pentagon. But the People’s House is barely occupied. Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena died of lead poisoning from a 1989 Christmas Day firing squad just before its completion, so they never got to live in this extravagant building.
Bucharest Peoples Palace
After Nicolae’s death there was a debate about the future of this building. It was determined too expensive to tear down, but too expensive to heat and cool. It is now the main tourist attraction in Bucharest. Our Uber driver acted quite insulted when asked if he had ever been there for a tour. He hadn’t and apparently did not plan on doing so in the near future.
Almost 30 churches were torn down and 40,000 people were booted from their homes to make room for this monstrosity. These figures include the road leading up to the palace, which was ordered to be 6 meters longer and a meter wider on each side than the beautiful Champs Elysees in Paris. The entire project was simply to feed the ego of a cruel dictator.
Cruel Dictator, but he Pays his Debts
Of course Romania did not have the money to pay for such a project, so they took on huge foreign debts. Not wanting the humiliation of defaulting on the country’s debts, Nicolae strictly rationed gasoline, electricity and food. Most of what the country produced was shipped overseas generating cash to repay these foreign debts. The standard of living in Romania sank to an all-time low. Blackouts and empty grocery shelves became the norm. The citizens lived in squalor while the Ceausescu family lived in ostentatious homes and extravagance. Only cans of Chinese sardines were available in one grocery store according to one reporter.
The Heaviest Building in the World
We toured this building and noted there are no wooden floors, everything is marble. This is how it achieved the title of world’s heaviest building. Every year this building sinks six mm due to its extreme weight.
There is very little artwork in the People’s Palace. Mostly statues of old Romanian rulers.
Michael Jackson Blunder
Our People’s House tour took us to this balcony which is famous for a Michael Jackson blunder during a 1990 concert tour. While touring the building, he stoped on this balcony addressing the crowd of fans below. He said “Hello Budapest” instead of Bucharest. Apparently many other visiting musicians have made the same mistake like Lenny Kravitz, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake and others. Poor Ozzy, the one time he spoke clearly and he yelled the wrong city. A more recent and worse mistaken identity between Bucharest and Budapest happened when 400 football (AKA Soccer) fans flew from Spain to Budapest instead of Bucharest to support their beloved team in the European finals (AKA Superbowl). Obviously they missed the game. As fate would have it, their Spanish team won for the first time in 28 years.
To help educate people between the two cities, Romania began a national campaign. This includes the ROM candy bar with Bucharest molded into the chocolate on one side and Budapest on the other. I’ll need to look for this candy bar, as research of course.
The Grave Site of Nicolae Ceausescu
Nicolae Ceausescu is buried within a mile of the People’s House. To complete my Romanian tour of communism, I visited the Ghencea Cemetery where he, his wife and children are buried. There were flowers on his grave as expected. Every 26th of January, his birthday and 25th of December the day he was executed, the older generations will gather and long for the good ol’ days. Jobs and homes were provided by the communist government. As your family grew as Nicolae wished, the growing family received a larger home. You could only get fired from your job if you refused to cheer at the rallies.
Conspiracy theories circulated in 2010 that the filmed execution of Nicolae and Elena was faked. The Romanian government then exhumed the bodies and took DNA samples. Seems as if it really was Nicolae burried here. The grave markers were upgraded from a simple pauper’s grave stone to what you see here.
Astoundingly, in 2010 the Romanian Institute found that 63% of the people felt their life was better under Nicolae. Worse, 41% said if he were running in the 2010 election, they would vote for him. Most said Communism was a good idea, it had just been poorly applied in Romania.
- From 1945 to 1989 more than 600,000 Romanians were imprisoned, for up to 10 years with no trial.
- In retaliation for a mining strike, Nicolae Ceausescu ordered doctors to give the strike leaders 5-minute chest X-rays to ensure their development of cancer.
The Jetsons … MEET the Jetsons
Bucharest was preparing for some large concert event in front of the People’s Palace. The stage, trucks and fenced area prevented me from getting good angles for my photographs. On the plus side, I was able to see an automated bartender in action. The clip below shows two automated bartenders. The mechanical arms select the proper amount of alcohol, the mixer, pours and mixes the beverage, washes the mixing container and waits for the next order. All of this on a portable trailer pulled from one event to the next.
What is the advantage of such a mechanized set up?
No over pours
No free drinks for your friends
No free drinks to the bartender
No maternity leaves
No minimum wage issues
No health insurance premiums
No showing up late
No theft from the till
OK, there might be a few sick days, but it would seem doubtful both arms would get sick at the same time.
For those who are skeptical such automation will occur, think back to a time when a friendly gas station attendant would pump our gas and take our payment. In most states, that job has been eliminated. Now we pump our own gas and pay at the pump. Who ever visits a bank teller for money? Most consumers, other than a close relative of mine, use the automated ATM. We can now bag and check out our own groceries. Throughout Europe we have seen that McDonald’s uses an automated kiosk for ordering and payments. Automation is coming for many lower paid jobs….
Finally, no more Bucharest posts. Next week we harvest hay, Romanian style…. The Road Goes on Forever and the Party Never Ends!