Last week, while the entire country of Romania was at the beach for the holiday (I think it’s called Assumption Day in English), Claudiu and I went to Bucharest. I was a bit concerned that people would be staying home because, hey, holiday, but I shouldn’t have been worried. The entire city was empty.
I haven’t spent too much time in Bucharest because, to be honest, it’s not one of my favorite places. If you look on Instagram or Pinterest, you get lovely photos of the city – people walking down enchanting streets filled with cafes and gorgeous shots of the Old Town. Unfortunately, that is just one (relatively) small space in the city. The rest of it is filled with traffic and aging Communist blocks. Basically, it’s like any normal city with a historic district. They keep this part looking extra nice for the visitors.
We decided ahead of time that we had two main objectives: first, we had to go to the Parliament Palace/People’s Palace (Palatul Parlamentului/Casa Poporului) and the Ceaucescu’s former residence, The Spring Palace (Palatul Primaverii).
We searched for a hotel that was close to the subway (metrou) because it’s an excellent and cheap way to get around (20 lei = 10 rides). Other things on our hotel priority list: 1) free parking since we were driving in from Brasov and 2) free breakfast. Bucharest is more expensive than Brasov, and nobody wants to pay 25 lei for two eggs and a coffee.
We ended up at the Ambiance Hotel near the Grozavesti station. Also, our room was overlooking the Dambovita river, which was a perk. I booked using booking.com (as mentioned in previous posts) because I’ve used them so much I get an extra discount. Use this link to get $20 off your next booking. I’ll get $20, too 🙂 A penny saved is a penny earned, am I right?
In this post, I’ll show you around The Spring Palace. I want to apologize for the photos upfront because we were not allowed to use flash and some of the photos came out a bit dark.
If you have a student ID, make sure to bring it and get your discount. The tour lasts about an hour, and you will have a guide. Call ahead and ask for a reservation for the language you want – they have English, Romanian, and French.
The Palace was used as a home residence for the Ceausescu family until the revolution. Afterwards, it became a guest house for visiting dignitaries.
If you are not up on your Nicolae Ceausescu history, click here and read about who he was. A former shoemaker, Ceausescu rose to great political heights and eventually became the Communist dictator of Romania until his execution during the 1989 Revolution.
He imposed strict austerity measures on the good people of Romania and spent the wealth of the country on his “vision”, which after a visit to North Korea in the 1970s, included a modern civic center for the capital. There are a lot of crazy stories about this guy, and I’m not sure about their authenticity. However, his megalomania is well documented (alongside his obsession with cult of personality) and has earned him a spot in the ranks with the Kim Jongs of the world.
He didn’t act alone, however. His wife, Elena, eventually became the First Deputy Prime Minister of Romania and hold equal responsibility in the crimes committed against the Romanian people. There is so much more I could say here, but it would be a novel.
Neither of the Ceausescus were very educated, being both born from peasant families and leaving school at an early age, but Elena claimed to be a “research scientist” and had an honorary PhD.
Many people today hold with the theory that the neither of the Ceausescus could even read. Interesting fact: their son, Valentin, actually became a real Nuclear Physicist (as did his son, Daniel).
The palace is decorated mostly in the French style with some elements of Romanian design. Most of the walls (and furniture) are covered in a heavy silk brocade. The tour guide explained that Elena Ceausescu was the main decorator for the home.
The floors are covered in huge Persian rugs. The patterns of the Persian rugs, the silk wall coverings, and the heavy brocade on the furniture makes me slightly dizzy.
Here are some of the rooms and bathrooms of the children. Keep in mind they were teenagers when they moved in:
Nicolae and Elena’s bedroom, bathrooms, and dressing rooms:
I had heard there were gold toilet paper holders at The Spring Palace, and while I didn’t see any – I was not disappointed. The pink and gold bathroom – complete with gold mosaics and super useful tiny table in the middle of the room (and couch? I just realized there’s a couch in there) were considered the height of luxury. Considering that a lot of Romanian people still use “Eco toilets” (outhouses), I would have to agree that even in 2017, it’s still a huge luxury.
They also had a separate, larger closet (room/hall/small house) for their clothes.
Other luxuries in the Palace include a spa level with sauna, pool, baths, and an early version of a tanning bed.
The indoor pool has a huge mosaic – I think the guide said it was one of the largest ones in the country. Now the pool is dry and is used as an exhibition space.
They had a solarium with palm trees. Claudiu’s reaction: “My parents had to wait in line for hours to get bread and this guy gets a palm tree in his house?”
In the courtyard, the famous peacocks are the only animal that still has free reign at the Palace. These peacocks are the great-grandchildren of the original ones. Very beautiful.
Other shots from the house:
I hope you enjoyed the photos. If you are in Bucharest, I highly recommend taking the tour. Take the metrou to Aviatorilor station and then it’s a five minute walk in a lovely neighborhood.