In 2011 I visited Bucharest for a day at the start of the journey to Moldova, Crimea and Northern Ukraine. Whilst there we visited a big building……..
The Palace of the Parliament in central Bucharest is the world’s largest civilian building with an administrative function and the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon in Washington DC. It is also the most expensive administrative building and heaviest building.
The Palace was planned by the Ceausescu regime as the seat of political and administrative power, though wiping out a large section of the central city and at the same time flattening many important religious buildings.
This was all at the behest of the former Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who commissioned the building in the early ’80s that was to cost an estimated $4 billion to build.
We took a ninety-minute guided tour of the palace (independent visits are not allowed) and discovered that the palace measures 270m by 240m, is 86m high, has 1,100 rooms, two underground parking garages, is twelve stories tall and has a huge nuclear bomb proof shelter.
The floor space is 340,000 m2. On our tour we were only able to see about 5% of its total area and that seemed large to me. If the guide had merely stated, “it’s a huge building,” it would have done for me; number facts invariably go in one ear and straight out the other!
The Presidential Palace is used now for civil matters and houses Romania’s parliament, but is primarily seen as a reminder of the madness of Ceausescu. It remained incomplete at his death and it is assumed that it will remain this way forever.
The guide was very proud of her country and the palace, even if it had an unsavoury past. She was full of instantly forgettable statistics, although I do remember that she said it would take one person over a month to change all the light bulbs in the 4,500 chandeliers (more than double that were planned)!
The balconies gave a fantastic view right over Bucharest and as I stood there taking it in, I imagined hundreds of thousands of protesting Romanians baying for Ceausescu’s blood.
Apart from the vastness and incredible opulence of the place, my lasting memory was of the great hall where Ceausescu planned to meet all the visiting dignitaries before whisking them off to a sumptuous banquet and important meetings concerning affairs of state or international relations.
The hall featured twin spiral staircases of finest marble with Nicolae and wife Elena planning to making sweeping entrances from opposite sides to a fanfare of trumpets to impress their waiting guests. Alas for the Ceausescu couple, they were never to have the pleasure of this experience before their show trial and execution on Christmas Day 1989.