What do Romanians think of Chinese tourists?

Ceaușescu villa in BucharestCommunist dictatorial pomp

If you want to visit Ceaușescu's villa, you have to put plastic covers over your shoes so that the noble parquet and the valuable carpets are not soiled. The women at the reception pay close attention to this. Yes, the communist spirit, it still reigns here in the house, jokes Radu Pădure routinely. He himself was born seven years after the collapse of the communist regime - and Nicolae Ceaușescu, his villa and its golden pomp above all mean for him: a well-paid job.

"Let's go on - and take a look at the Louis XIV living room."

80 rooms, decorated with gold

Several times a day, the 23-year-old smuggled tourists through the Spring Palace, the former residence of the Ceaușescu family in a bigwig district of Bucharest. 80 rooms, swimming pool, sauna, cinema, palm garden.

This article is part of a five-part series of reports 30 years after the Ceaușescu dictatorship - Laborious processing in Romania.

Right now Radu Pădure is leading a small group of foreign tourists into the living room, decorated with gold - it looks like the Palace of Versailles. The tourists look around politely as if they were viewing an apartment; probably think their part about the dictator's taste - and keep silent. With Romanian groups it is completely different, says Pădure:

"The visitors to the Romanian tours start arguing. Because there are people who are pro Ceaușescu and others who are anti Ceaușescu. And I have to think carefully about what to say so that nobody gets upset."

Disagreements about Ceaușescu

The villa has been accessible for three years - and since then the battle of interpretation has raged in these rooms as well: good dictator or bad dictator?

In the inner courtyard of the museum we meet some Romanian visitors who have just finished their tour: "It was such a big discrepancy," says one, "what he had and what we had. He had everything and the others had to starve and freeze. We had to hire us for everything, bread, milk. " Another emphasizes: "Ceaușescu wasn't that bad. In the end, he might have done a few things wrong. That we couldn't go abroad like the Yugoslavs."

Pădure stays out of it, prefers to rewind a few facts about the rise and fall of Ceaușescu while leading through the wood-paneled study.

"This is his home office, here he took lessons from time to time. He came from a farming family, was born in 1918. He only attended school for four years and then he came to Bucharest and started an apprenticeship as a shoemaker He joined the Communist Party, which was banned at the time, at the age of 14. He was imprisoned for four years and there he met Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, the head of the Communist Party who also had this house built took his place. "

Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena in 1976 (Imago / Itar-Tass)

Personality cult copied in China

When Ceaușescu succeeded the Stalinist dictator Gheorghiu-Dej in the mid-1960s, he was allowed to move into the representative villa with his wife Elena and their three children. At that time he was considered a reformer and was popular. The industrialization policy brought prosperity to the country. In terms of foreign policy, Ceaușescu distanced itself from the Soviet Union's claim to leadership, emphasized Romania's independence and opened the country to the west.

Pădure points to an old, typewriter-sized chess computer - a gift from Gorbachev. A collection of plates from Queen Elizabeth. Ceaușescu received a Buick Electra from US President Richard Nixon. In Iraq: a yacht.

"They brought something back with them from every country they went to. And they traveled a lot. Not like the ordinary Romanians who were not allowed to travel."

Pădure leads his group of tourists on through the stairwell.

"Here on the landing you can see two vases. They are from Mao Zedong, the former ruler in China. Ceaușescu's visit to China strongly influenced his outlook. He loved the personality cult he saw there."

Ceaușescu had poets write praises, calling themselves "genius of the Carpathians", "son of the sun", "titan of the titans" or simply "earthly god".

Own world within the dictator's villa

"Life became difficult for Romanians in the 1980s. Food was rationed. Electricity and heating became scarce." In order to reduce the national debt, Ceaușescu had food exported. Its rigorous industrialization policy also brought about the collapse of agriculture. Only in the Ceauscesu villa did the world look cozy and warm.

"Now we're going to visit the spa. On the right you can see the sauna from Finland. And they also had a swimming pool". A large swimming pool. The walls are artfully decorated with a colorful mosaic. "Now you understand why the people were so angry that they killed the Ceaușescus."

Ceaușescu's Spring Palace in Bucharest: A pool was also a must (Deutschlandradio / Leila Knüppel / Manfred Götzke)

"The communists got richer after the revolution"

On December 25, 1989, Ceaușescu and his wife were sentenced to death in a show trial and executed. The process was ordered by the country's new rulers, including the future head of state Ion Iliescu.

Finally, Radu Pădure leads his visitors out into the large garden and says goodbye. While some are still strolling around, he talks about Ion Ilescu. "He lives around here?" "Yes."

First communist political cadre, then great statesman of the post-reunification years. The most prominent example of how the old elites stayed in power after the revolution. "The old communist elite still lives here in the neighborhood. Such an apartment here costs around 500,000 euros. The communists got richer after the revolution."