Ceausescu's grave, Bucharest

  - darkometer rating:  4 -
The simple "pauper's grave" of Romania's former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, and that of his wife Elena, who were executed by firing squad immediately after a hasty show trial on Christmas Day 1989, during what is known as Romania's 1989 revolution.  

>What there is to see


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>Time required

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What there is to see: Nothing much really. Just simple, totally unspectacular, regular graves. When I was there in June 2009, Nicolae Ceausescu's grave had two simple stone crosses, one facing the grave itself with a red star in the centre at the top and the simple inscription "Ceausescu Nicolae, 1918-1989". Facing away from the actual grave was a taller pink marble cross, sitting on a plinth (behind an older and much smaller simple black iron cross) and this one even had a small black and white photograph of the grave's inhabitant attached, as is typical for graves in Orthodox Church countries. Apparently, this second cross must have been a more recent addition (it wasn't mentioned in my 2007 copy of the Lonely Planet Romania Guide) There's evidence of candles burning – there were traces of melted wax – and even a few fresh red flowers on the grave. Apparently a few die-hard supporters were still tending the grave.
The grave of his wife, Elena Ceausescu, was separate, hidden away even more behind a modern marble mausoleum beyond the other side of the path. It looked much more neglected and was marked with only a black iron cross inscribed with her name and dates of birth and death.   
If you consider the admiration that Nicolae Ceausescu apparently had for North Korea's "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung (or at least for his city's architectural style – see Bucharest), then it is quite an irony that Nicolae's pauper's grave is almost the absolute antithesis of Kim's gigantic mausoleum (which is by far the grandest of any communist leaders' mausoleums).
In July 2010, the Ceausescus' bodies were exhumed for forensic (DNA) tests to either confirm or dismiss the various conspiracy theories that alleged that the graves were actually empty and that the real bodies had been buried elsewhere – or even that they had got away alive after all. The results, however, apparently prove with sufficient clarity that it was indeed the genuine Ceausescus that were found in these graves (and presumably left there, after the samples had been taken). I've heard rumours that the appearance of Nicolae's grave may since have changed again and even that Elena may have been moved. But I can neither confirm nor deny that at the present time.
A bit behind, next to the chapel, there's also the tomb of Nicu, the dictator couple's playboy son who at some point was supposed to be the heir to his dad's "throne". He died in 1996 and is buried in a notably bigger and shinier grave that his more (in)famous forbears – what irony of history!
Location: in Bucharest's Ghencea cemetery, ca. 2.5 miles (4 km) out of the city centre to the south-west, along the northern side of B-dul Ghencea.
Google maps locator: [44.4184,26.0539]
Access and costs: a bit out of the centre, but easily doable by bus; cemetery access is free, the graves are not too difficult to locate.
Details: to get to the cemetery, either brace yourself for a long and unexciting walk (ca. 45 mins. from the Parliament end of B-dul Unirii) or, much better, take a No. 385 bus from either Piata Unirii's northern end, or from outside the tourist access to the Palace of Parliament by the road that leads past its north-facing wing. Get out at the unmissably named stop "Cimitirul Ghencea" and walk back along the road a bit (i.e. do not make the mistake I made and walk straight into the military part of Ghencea cemetery, where rows/plots aren't even numbered, adding to the confusion).
The gate to the civil cemetery is a beige coloured building with a tower on top. There's usually a guard on duty by the gate who will offer help in finding Ceausescu's grave if you look puzzled or study the plot plan on the wall too long (I must have done so). If you want to spare yourself the embarrassment walk straight through the gate and assertively on towards the little white chapel ahead of you at the end of the path about 150 yards into the cemetery. Look in the last plot to the left before reaching the chapel. The number of the plot is I-35, just before a series of larger mausoleum-type graves (some of truly flamboyant design worth a look afterwards too). The little red cross in the centre of the smaller, older white stone cross stands out. And the newer and taller pink marble cross facing away from the grave (towards the chapel) makes it easier to locate the spot too.
Elena's grave is more hidden, but not too difficult to locate either if you know where to look – namely to the right of the path leading to the chapel, almost directly opposite Nicolae's plot, but not visible from the path. You have to walk round a modern-looking small mausoleum-type grave. Elena's austere resting place is next to the spot directly adjacent to the back of the little marble mausoleum, shaded by a tree. It has a knee-high black wrought iron fence around it (which together with the simple black metal cross with her name on, makes this grave look literally much darker than Nicolae's).
The cemetery is open daily between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. – access is, naturally, free.
Time required: no more than a couple of minutes for looking at the graves themselves, but getting there takes significantly longer!
Combinations with other dark destinations: see Bucharest.
Combinations with non-dark destinations: see Bucharest.
  • Bucharest - Ceausescu grave 1 - backBucharest - Ceausescu grave 1 - back
  • Bucharest - Ceausescu grave 2 - photo on the backBucharest - Ceausescu grave 2 - photo on the back
  • Bucharest - Ceausescu grave 3 - ElenaBucharest - Ceausescu grave 3 - Elena
  • Bucharest - Ceausescu grave 4 - simpleBucharest - Ceausescu grave 4 - simple
  • Bucharest - Ceausescu grave 5 - spot the Nicolae-grave in the centreBucharest - Ceausescu grave 5 - spot the Nicolae-grave in the centre
  • Bucharest - Ceausescu graveBucharest - Ceausescu grave
  • Bucharest - Ghencea cemetery 1 - central approachBucharest - Ghencea cemetery 1 - central approach
  • Bucharest - Ghencea cemetery 2 - left is Nicolae, the cross just above the roseBucharest - Ghencea cemetery 2 - left is Nicolae, the cross just above the rose
  • Bucharest - Ghencea cemetery 3 - Elena is behind hereBucharest - Ghencea cemetery 3 - Elena is behind here
  • Bucharest - Ghencea cemeteryBucharest - Ghencea cemetery

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