Palace of the Parliament

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I was studying in Budapest, Hungary, and traveled to Romania with four of my American friends. We visited Bucharest and Timisoara, Romania in February, 1990 only about two months after brutal long time communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu was overthrown and quickly executed in December, 1989. Unlike communism in other Iron Curtain countries, communism in Romania did not die a (for the most part) peaceful death. Ceaușescu had his secret police, the Securitate, fire on demonstrators. Hundreds (maybe more) were killed.
When we arrived in Bucharest two months later, signs of the recent revolution were plain to see. In Bucharest, a tank sat in the square near a hotel. Soldiers (about my age) armed with AK-47s sat on top. Statues of Ceaușescu hung from trees, noose around neck, having recently been lynched. In Timisoara, I recall seeing a woman begging outside a church, her horribly burned legs on display for all to see.
In was in the midst of this chaos that we arrived at the House of the Republic (now known as the Palace of the Parliament). It was still being built (although the building had been largely erected) and I remember it was surrounded by construction equipment and what looked like Romania’s answer to mobile homes. Few people were around.

We wandered around the grounds for a while and then somehow, found a way into the basement. It was massive, dark, and dank and not a person to be found (thank God). Strangely, the basement was full of hundreds of pallets of canned tomatoes. Then we left. We never did find out what so many tomatoes were doing there in the middle of a revolution.

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