Bucharest is nicknamed Little Paris, and even after the communists demolished scores of historic buildings, the
architectural wonders could keep a visitor rubbernecking for years. In Bulgaria the Turks once decreed that no church could be taller than the mosque, so the Orthodox Church started at sub-basement level to allow lofty ceilings. In Bucharest, the communists dealt with soaring church spires by dwarfing them into obscurity with crowds of skyscrapers.
Nicolae Ceaușescu tried to dwarf them all. His People’s Palace is the world’s heaviest and second largest building, a beautiful monstrosity of marble, wood carving, crystal, and gilt. Ceaușescu began his career as a reasonable communist dictator. He was popular, criticized the USSR when they got out of line, and had good relations with the west. Then he visited North Korea, lost his mind, and broke the country with egotistical brainstorms. His visions of making pronouncements from the balcony of the palace ended with his execution before the building was finished. The only person who has ever spoken from the balcony was Michael Jackson–until yesterday when I said a few words. I also danced in the grandiose ballroom. There was no applause for either performance, but I wasn’t executed.
Bucharest’s Marriott Grand was built to resemble the people’s palace, and that’s where we stayed for our last night in Europe. Our bathroom was a marble marvel and almost as big as our ship cabin. We would have enjoyed our stay much more if we hadn’t been so disturbed by visions of executions for our noisy nocturnal neighbors. The flight to Frankfurt would be painfully early.