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Monday, September 30: Day 161 – Palace of the Parliament

The Palace of the Parliament is the number one attraction in Romania.

Outside

Romania had a dictator for 50 years. In the 1970s Ceaușescu visited North Korea and saw what it was like to be a super dictator. He came back superparanoid with super big ideas.

Bucharest was called Little Paris at the beginning of the 20th century. It was built on a hill with beautiful French style buildings with 40,000 residents. Today nothing remains.

In 1977 there was a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that destroyed the city center. Ironically, churches survive earhquakes. Rebuilding was needed. The land to build the Palace of Parliament was deemed as the most resistant to earthquakes.

People were displaced and given apartments in the suburbs. Buildings were razed and replaced with concrete communist apartments.

There aren’t many buildings that remain from the royals. Ceaușescu wanted to erase their memory. It is unusual for a church to have a portrait of royals…and to survive is miraculous. Up until about 10 years ago no one knew about the potraits because the interior walls were black with smoke from candles. They were discovered while cleaning. In the photo is a small patch of black to indicate what it looked like before.

The Palace of the Parliament holds the record for being the most expensive administrative building ever built and the heaviest building. It is even sinking. It is like an iceberg with more levels below than above.

It took 3.4 billion dollars to build and it takes six million dollars for heating, lighting, and additional electricity each year.

Today only ⅓ of the building is in use. One can rent private rooms for almost any occasion.

Romanians have a love/hate relationship with the building. They love that the building is made entirely of Romanian materials. They hate that it appeared. It scarred the city and the livelihood of the people with its huge price tag and using political prisoners for workers. They refer to it as Ceaușes-hima named after Hiroshima.

Many architects submitted models in the 1980s from which Ceaușescu selected. He chose the biggest model which was made by a 27-year -old woman.

Every Saturday at noon Ceaușescu and his wife Elena would come and inspect the work. The staircase was demolished and redone 32 times.

A balcony was needed. That was added although he never used it.

It was first used in 1992 by another King: Michael Jackson. This was a huge event. The West had arrived. MJ went out on the balcony to this view and saw tens of thousands of people. He addressed the huge crowd and said how happy he was to be in BUDAPEST!!!! Oops!!

Our guide Catalina lived in the north so she did not attend. A neighbor from her town went and was invited to dinner to tell her family what it was like. He was like a celebrity. He brought her a can of Pepsi. She relished her taste of the West. All summer she drank water out of that can to the envy of her friends.


Inside

Our tour inside the Parliament building started much like airport security. We had to show our passports and go through a metal detector.

Our tour guide Roxanna said we must stay together and were not allowed to walk alone.

Construction began in 1983. It covers almost four million square feet of land. There were 700 architects on the project and construction occurred 24 hours/day. There were 20,000 workers.

In 1989 at the time of Ceaușescu’s assasination the building was 70% completed. He never was able to use the building. There are 1,000 rooms and if you spent one minute in every room it would take 3 days. We saw 4% of the building interior.

There are huge halls with huge pillars.

The theatre has 600 seats. On the ceiling is a huge chandelier, the biggest and heaviest of the 2,800 chandeliers in the building. Changing the lightbulbs is done from the top, and there is room for four workers. Theatre attendees are afraid to sit below it.

The inside of the building was finished after Ceaușescu died. In 1991, they had a big decision to make. Do we finish this vanity project or abandon it? Construction was resumed in 1991 and completed in 1994.

Inside is a small city with a pharmacy, barber, etc. In the great halls there are art exhibits and political candidate interviews.

All of the carpets are original. The biggest pieces are spliced. The largest carpet weighs 7 tons and takes over 40 people to move it.

The curtains are huge AND heavy.

All of the marble is from Romania. Maybe there is still some left! Pink marble is only found in a few places in the world. This is one of them.

Only one room has no windows. It is the central point of the palace. There is a natural ventilation system of holes in the ceiling and walls.

The largest hall is the Union Hall, meant to be used as a ballroom.

Another room was used to sign important treaties.

In this room there is a secret door to escape to the underground tunnels to be used in case of attack.

Today the building is called the Palace of the Parliament. All of the office space is maxed out. Rooms intended for one occupant now have six. Our said they resist automation because they want people to have jobs. Office space is piled high with papers. (I am sure that adds to the weight.)


In the evening, we went to the 6th annual Art Safari featuring the works of Romanian artist, Nicolae Tonitza. His fame is portraiture, especially children.

We think that his treatment of eyes and eyebrows were especially interesting. He must have been criticized as later works showed the backs of models or closed eyes.

We also saw other interesting works. Today artists in their 20s and 30s are defined as supercontemporary. This means that their art can be viewed as soon as it is completed due to online exposure.

Here are some shadow works.

Here is an interesting concept from an artist from China. The first image is the entire art piece. The second is a close-up of the nails used.

And this one uses small chicken wire and yarn. One really appreciates it close-up.

Here is a poster art that I liked. I liked the subject matter.

I liked the lines and pops of color in this one .

Rob is not a fan. “I don’t get it.”

“I can do that kind of art”…so here is a video of Rob’s art.

This little girl was trying real hard to appreciate art as she attended this event with her parents. She entered a room and ran over to a specific piece and voiced a favorable opinion. Ironically, it was a first aid kit mounted on the wall. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

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