Bucharest is one of the great forgotten tourist circuits that run through European capitals. So is Romania as a country – which, together with Bulgaria and Iceland, are arguably the last major travel destinations left in Europe – but in the case of its capital it is especially strange.

It is true that Bucharest does not have the monumentality or sophistication of its sisters to the East such as Prague, Budapest or even Bratislava, but it was not for nothing that the city was known at the beginning of the last century as “the Paris of the East”. In the interwar period, the historic center underwent a real transformation, and where there were dark alleys and medieval buildings, Haussmann-style avenues and boulevards and imposing neoclassical buildings appeared.

But the pickaxe transformed the face of the city again very shortly afterwards. The bombing that it suffered in World War II left the city devastated, and the authorities of the communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu demolished a multitude of historic buildings and filled the city with an infinity of socialist-style buildings, more or less functional and of greater or lower quality, but which changed, once again, the urban profile of Bucharest.

The largest administrative building in the world

Among Bucharest’s myriad of spartan office and apartment blocks and bombastic official buildings, there is one construction that literally stands out among them all: the Palace of Parliament. To say that it is imposing -although it imposes, and a lot- is not doing it justice: we are talking about the largest administrative building in the world and the third largest in volume, surpassed only by the Cape Canaveral Space Center in Florida and the Great Pyramid of Cheops, in Egypt.Interior of the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest.

In 1977, an earthquake devastated Bucharest (yes: the city has not had much luck when it comes to preserving its architectural heritage), and that was the moment that Ceausescu took advantage of to develop his project of creating a new political center- administrative for the country, in which to build the seat of the government and of the Communist Party of Romania, and which would receive the name of the House of the People (Casa Poporului). The area chosen for its assurances that the buildings could withstand another earthquake was Uranus Hill, the same location where, in 1935, King Charles II of Romania planned to build the Romanian House of Representatives. The hill was and is the highest point in the Dâmboviţa district, at the foot of which lay one of the most historic and populous neighborhoods in the city, the Urano neighborhood.

Construction began in 1980, and to carry it out 5% of Bucharest’s urban area was demolished (an area equivalent, according to experts, to that of the city of Venice). The Urano neighborhood ceased to exist in the blink of an eye: more than 10,000 homes were unceremoniously demolished -from which more than 57,000 residents were expelled-, twelve churches, three monasteries and two synagogues.

Figures worthy of the pharaohs

Thousands of tons of glass and 2,800 chandeliers were used in the decoration of the Parliament.

The construction of the building lasted almost ten years, and only in a megalomaniacal mind like Ceausescu’s could so much waste of human and material resources fit. The figures would have made the pharaohs themselves pale with envy: more than 100,000 workers -including 12,000 soldiers- and 700 architects worked uninterruptedly on the construction, with more than 20,000 workers simultaneously in the three shifts into which the 24-hour workdays were divided. hours.

The materials used were, exclusively, of national production, which, in addition to being a source of national pride at the time -thousands of the best craftsmen in the country participated in the process-, allowed some stratospheric costs to be lowered somewhat: there is another record, this unofficial, which adorns the Palace of Parliament, and is claimed to be the most expensive building in the world.

In 1989, with 60% of the building built, its total demolition was considered, but it was finally decided to complete the works

It is not surprising, looking at some of its figures: one million cubic meters of marble and another of precious wood, more than 550,000 tons of concrete, 700,000 tons of steel, two million tons of sand, 1,000 tons of basalt… And the decoration is not left behind: more than 3,500 tons of glass, 2,800 chandeliers -some of them with up to 7,000 light bulbs-, 220,000 square meters of carpets and another 3,500 of leather are some of the most impressive, and of which the greatest example, for ornate, is the spectacular crystal chandelier in the Human Rights room (Drepturilor Omului room), which weighs no less than 2.5 tons.

In 1989, when the popular revolution that would depose the dictator took place, barely 60% of the construction had been completed. At that time the total demolition of the building was even considered, but finally it was decided to complete its construction: it was much cheaper to finish it than to tear it down. And so, between 1992 and 1996 the works were completed, from which the current Palace of Parliament would emerge, with its 1,100 halls, 12 floors above ground level, a hall over 120 meters long and a 350-foot hall. long and eight underground levels, among which a huge nuclear bunker is hidden.Interior stairs of the Bucharest Parliament.

Today, the palace houses, in addition to the Romanian Parliament, the Bucharest International Conference Center and the Museum of Modern Art. It can be accessed without problem – just by showing a valid identification such as a DNI – and walk through part of the building on a guided tour that takes us through a small section of dazzling rooms, huge halls and rooms used by the Senate (when it is not in session) , lavishly decorated with crystal chandeliers, mosaics, oak paneling, marble, gold leaf, stained glass windows and rugs. A visit that will surely leave you impressed.

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