Ceausescu execution spot becomes tourist attraction

2013-08-22 09:22
Gallery  |  click on thumbnail to view larger image

An adventure behind the Iron Curtain

Take a look at this round-up of breathtaking sights and experiences eastern Europe has to offer.

Targoviste -The grim barracks where Romania's brutal communist despot Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were executed are to be opened to the public in the latest bid to boost "dictator tourism".

The former military unit at Targoviste, 100 kilometres northwest of Bucharest, is to be turned into a museum and is due to welcome its first visitors in early September.

"Many Romanians and foreigners said they wanted to see the wall against which Ceausescu and his wife Elena were shot on December 25, 1989," Ovidiu Carstina, director of the museum, told AFP.

The death of the Ceausescus became one of the defining images of the revolutions which convulsed eastern and central Europe in 1989.

On December 22, as angry crowds gathered in front of the Communist Party headquarters, they fled the capital Bucharest in a helicopter. It was to be their final journey. They were stopped by the army, detained in Targoviste, and shot after a makeshift trial.

It brought to a grisly end more than 20 years of repressive rule aided by a huge security apparatus, where any free speech was ruthlessly suppressed.

The population suffered from food and power shortages and on top of that, Ceascescu's rule was marked by nepotism, paranoia and a deeply ingrained personality cult. Wife Elena was seen as the regime's 'number two'.

"Our aim is to present events as they unfolded, without making comments on the trial, the Ceausescus' life or the cult of personality," said Carstina.

In the barracks, built in 1907, time seems to have stood still since the execution.

The walls are painted a greyish yellow and the iron beds complete with dirty mattresses where the Ceausescus slept have remained there ever since.

The makeshift dock where Nicolae and Elena, dressed in their winter coats, sat listening to the charges against them will be put back in the very place where the couple were tried and sentenced to death.

Outside, the wall against which they were shot just a few minutes later still carries bullet holes.

Footage of the trial and the execution, broadcast all over the world in December 1989 and drawing criticism over the summary judicial proceedings, will run on a black and white TV set.

"We do not wish to stir a controversy but only to speak of a landmark in Romania's history," Carstina stressed.

Sociologist Vasile Dancu said "every nation must acknowledge its history, without trying to hide certain events".

"No matter what we do, we cannot erase the image of that sham trial which only speaks of the collapse of a system," he told AFP.

A group of Swedish tourists has already booked tickets for the museum, Carstina said.

Confronting Romania's past

Also on their must-see list is the grandiose Palace of Parliament in the heart of Bucharest.

To erect the building, initially called "House of the People", Ceausescu ordered the razing of much of the city's historic district, forcing the relocation of some 40 000 people who lost their homes.

State coffers, meanwhile, foot the bill for the 350 000 square-metre structure that was fitted out with enough marble to fill 400 Olympic swimming pools - at a time when Romanians suffered from severe food shortages and regular power cuts.

The palace is now one of Romania's top attractions. More than 144 000 tourists visited it in 2012, 110 000 of them foreigners.

But Lucia Morariu, head of the local tour operators' association, felt turning Ceausescu into a tourist brand was not a good idea.

"Why encourage those who mourn him? Romania boasts other highlights," she said, citing the Danube delta, part of UNESCO's heritage, or the picturesque natural reserve of the Retezat mountains, home to Europe's biggest bear and wolves populations.

However, in the southern town of Scornicesti, the small, traditional house where Ceausescu was born in 1918 is a major draw for tourists.

The perfectly preserved abode, dating from around 1900, with no running water or electricity, is sporadically opened to visitors by Ceausescu's nephew Emil Barbulescu, who lives next door.

The 55-year-old former head of the local communist militia does not hide his nostalgia for the "good old days" and says steps have been taken recently to "restore the truth" about his uncle.

"History will put him back where he belongs," he told AFP.

Two smartly-dressed women in their fifties, who declined to give their names, stepped down from their SUV, pleased that they could enter Ceausescu's house.

"We are here out of respect, because we wanted to be closer" to the late "Conducator", they said.

A man and his wife also stopped their car in front of the house.

"There were a lot of restrictions at the time," Ioan Donga, 58, said, adding however that his family "lacked nothing" under the communist regime.

But he insisted that the execution remained an open wound in Romania.

"Of course he deserved to be shot but this is not the way they (the authorities) should have acted."

Read more on:    travel  |  travel international
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside Travel

 
/Motoring
 

Hottie of the day: Nicole Meyer!

Nicole is the cover girl for the 2014 edition of SA Swimsuit! Check out some smoking hot pics of here here.

 
 

Men24.com

11 things men don’t know about their clothes
Hilarious mortal kombat elevator prank!
This is how the Top Gear presenters spend their £55 million!
Thirty and still single? There’s hope!
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.