On Christmas Day in 1989, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were executed by firing squad.
It’s difficult to understand and sum up the history of a foreign country, especially a complex one like Romania’s. Romania began a transition back towards democracy in 1989 after the revolution that overthrew the country’s government and its leader Nicolae Ceausescu. Romania was under Communist rule for 42 years and 24 of those were led by the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena. They were executed by a firing squad right after an hour long show trial. That was the beginning of Romania’s latest chapter.
What I can tell now from talking to some Romanian people and reading various sources, Nicolae
Ceausescu was definitely not a compassionate leader of the country. Under his regime, the people suffered from extreme shortages of food, fuel, electricity, medicines, and other basic necessities. His policies were brutal and repressive. His rule was also marked by an extensive cult of personality inspired by North Korea, nationalism, a continuing deterioration in foreign relations even with the Soviet Union, and nepotism.
His wife Elena, who was behind of many of those decisions (some say she was the actual decision maker of many of the cruel policies), was power hungry and vain. During a state visit to the People’s Republic of China in June 1971, she took note of how Chairman Mao Zedong’s wife maintained a position of real power. After the visit, she began to engineer her own political rise in Romania and convinced her husband to nominate her as a Deputy Prime Minister. She also forced scientists to write papers in her name to gain academic achievement. Together, they were responsible for a genocide that killed over 60,000, as well as undermining the national economy.
Of course, these are just facts. I wouldn’t know what it was really like to live under his regime. The time under Ceausescu’s was considered a dark period of Romania but it is also idealized by many Romanians to this day. According to a poll held in 2014, 46% of the population said they would vote for Ceausescu if an election was held. His grave is still visited by mourners.
For the first time after the execution, Ceausescu’s residence “Spring Palace” is open for visitors to look inside of the life of country’s most notorious leader. Built in the mid-60s, the residence was home during Ceausescu’s dictatorship and was a private residence of the couple and their children, Nicu, Zoe, and Valentin.
Interesting highlights of the Spring Palace:
- The residence has 90 rooms with different purposes including a private spa. The general tour takes you to 40 rooms.
- The phone in Nicolae Ceausescu’s office had a direct line between Washington D.C. and Moscow.
- The palace houses precious gifts from various world leaders and parts of the luxurious interior decor are covered with gold.
- Nicolae Ceausescu wanted to build this house with materials entirely made in Romania. 90% of the structure and decoration were made in Romania, 10% were gifts or imported.
- Many rooms were covered with precious Persian carpets, some of them worth more than a half million euros.
- A 15th-century tapestry, made in Paris was a gift from General Charles de Gaulle.
- Richard Nixon dined here once.
- Doors in the main dining room are decorated with buffalo’s skin, a gift from Richard Nixon.
- The whole place features peacocks of various designs, and a live pair in the garden. Nicolae Ceausescu fell in love with peacocks while visiting Japan.
- The daughter Zoe’s room is an exact replica of Marie-Antoinette’s bedroom (but smaller).
- Ceausescus were healthy eaters, so he made the food schedule for Romanians and restricted food supplies.
- Nicolae Ceausescu was diabetic.
- Many rooms were decorated with Venetian mirrors and Murano glass, handcrafted in Italy.
- The swimming pool was decorated with 1 million tiles, making the image of entire Universe.
- Nicolae Ceausescu loved watching American movies about the wild west and cowboys.
- There are two discrete Christian symbols in the house, one in the wine cellar and another in the private cinema room. People don’t know if Ceausescu was aware about these or not.
Should you go?
It was fascinating to look inside the private life of someone so, what’s the right word, controversial. It definitely gives an eerie feeling, like the ghosts of the past still living there. Imagine Ceausescus socializing in the living room, making commands at the office, talking to world leaders, and living like an ordinary family. The tour gives a different perspective of seeing these people. Personal feelings aside, it’s quite a fascinating place to visit. The Spring Palace is part of an important history of Romania, good or bad.
When you go
- Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday from 10am-6pm
- The last admission is 5pm
- It’s best to make a reservation: call +40213180989 or book through the website
- The visit is by a group or private tour only. Tours are in Romanian or English.
- English tour is 45 lei/ person, Romanian tour is 30 lei/ person. Each tour lasts about an hour.
- Now private tours are available (a group minimum of 5 people) for 200 lei/ person, visiting more rooms including the nuclear bunker, underground tunnel, and more. This tour is 1.5-2 hour long.
- The official website: http://palatulprimaverii.ro/