Happy New Year 1983

Hotel Ambasador

Ambassador Hotel Bucharest New Years Menu Dorobanti Restaurant 1983

Here is the translation:

Tarts with Fish Eggs

Biskaia Tarts – I don’t know what it means…

Crab Cocktail – I don’t know what it means either

Terina (paste) made from Hunting Meat

Liver paste in aspic

Poultry gelatin

Consommé with meringue

Beluga a la russe, in aspic

Turkey roll

Lamb roll and garnish



Cheese and schweitzer


Cake with Ness cream

Fruit parfait


Dorobanti cocktail

White wine

Red wine

Mineral water


In 1983 the situation was not that bad, people were not starving. The bigger problems related to food started in 1985-1986.

All the restaurant had menus but they were usually serving grilled meat, “mici” (grilled meat rolls) and french fries

Thanks to Codrut in Bucharest for the translation!

The following article is about restoration of land and building rights, confiscated (Nationalized) when the Communists took power. The article concerns ownership of the Ambasador Hotel in Bucharest and the bizarre way the court resolved the dispute.

After ten years of law suits, half of Hotel Ambasador in Bucharest returns to original owners

The heirs of Romanian architect Arghir Culina recently won in court a wing of the hotel Ambasador and its land plot on Magheru boulevard downtown in Romanian capital Bucharest. The building, erected between 1937 and 1939, had been nationalized during the communist period, and is one of the assets which were given back to owners in kind

It took ten years of law suits for the heirs to get back their wing towards the Ciclop garage, consisting in a 520 sqm land plot and the 13- floored hotel. Lawyers from Zamfirescu Racoți & Partners represented the winning side. On the other side were the representatives of the SC Ambasador SA, the Authority for State Assets AVAS and the Public Finance Ministry.

The other half of the hotel which remained in the possession of the firm Ambasador Turism will again become functional at half of its capacity, after renovation and reclassification at four stars, instead of the previous three stars

The case had received a positive court decision back in 2003, but it went through further appeals. “The restitution saga and the various baffles we had to face unfortunately caused many of those who appeared as heirs in this case not to survive to see the happy ending,” said Călin-Andrei Zamfirescu, who coordinated the project team.

Arghir Culin was a famous architect in the first half of the 20th century, having designed several buildings in Bucharest in the art deco style, such as the Palace Hotel, presently Cismigiu Hotel, the Union Center, the building at 48 Splaiul Independentei – dormitories for Medicine students, Hotel Capitol (Louvre) on Calea Victoriei, and the Mincu Villa. For himself he designed the 200-roomed Ambasador hotel, which he owned jointly with Constantin S. Mihăescu, the owner of the adjoining Ciclop garage.

Romania-Insider.com 5/27/2013

Not What I Thought

House of the Free Press. How did I think this was Ceausescu’s Palace?

I had two major goals in Romania; one, to see Dracula’s Castle in Bran, Romania and the other, to see Ceausescu’s Palace in Bucharest. The latter did not go to plan.

I arrived by train on March 11, 1990 in Bucharest from Brasov, Romania having seen Dracula’s Castle.. My friends in Budapest urged me not to go to Romania. At the time it was believed that 80,000 people had died in the Romanian Revolution. There was no reliable information coming over the border, just rumors, and the final tally of the dead, realized in the 1990s was actually 1,290. So I was pretty scared at that time traveling mostly alone and unprepared. Fortunately Romanians are very friendly and bought me lots of drinks and that put me at ease. But I at least had a map of Bucharest and a list of hotels, that I brought from the U.S.

When I got to Bucharest I found a hotel near the main train station, but left there when I saw my room had a broken window, no lock on the door, and sheets with a lot of hair on it, and I saw a huge rat that ran down the hall. I thought I was being set up.

I checked into the best (it was substandard, and dated though) hotel in Bucharest, The Intercontinental. Many multinational businesses had their names taped on the hotel room doors, as offices. It was the tallest building in Bucharest.

On one day, between 3/11 and 3/13, I set out to see the “Palace”. I believe there was a picture of it on my map. I walked along embassy row and the TV station where many battles had taken place and many grand manors were now burned out shells. In a park near Ceausescu’s Spring Palace (really a large modern home) I saw the huge Stalinist building from far away, which I took a photo of above. The statue of Lenin in front of it had been toppled March 2. So when I got there I saw just the pedestal defaced with paint. It was getting dark ,but I managed some poor photos of the huge edifice and walked around it. I thought at last I saw Ceausescu’s Palace.

On the fourteenth I boarded a Tarom flight to East Berlin. Some seats were completely broken. Sitting next to me was a member of Romania’s orchestra. I mentioned I had seen Ceausescu’s Palace and showed her my map. She made a large circle with a pen in the city’s old center and said, “All of this is gone.” Thousands of historic buildings were destroyed and 50,000 residents displaced to make way for Ceausescu’s new city. She pointed to a soccer stadium on the map and said that is where the Palace is. I was pretty disappointed. I wanted so much to go back and see it.

After the two hour Tarom flight on March 14th, I landed at Schonefeld Air Field in East Berlin, I took a one hour bus ride to West Berlin, went to a travel agent and booked (on Interflug Airlines)my return ticket to Bucharest arriving the following morning. (3/15/90). I also bought film because there was none in Romania. I stayed at the Hotel Funkturm, near the tower of the Funkturm tower in West Berlin. The hotel wouldn’t let me leave my duffel bag there overnight so I walked over to a modern building to ask about lockers in what I thought was a big train station nearby the hotel. But the receptionist there, an American woman, Vera Lyn, said it was a convention center, but she said I could leave my bag at her place. Her husband, Nigel was not pleased, but I ended up staying with them on my later return and saw him and his band 3Mustapha3 in Philadelphia.

West Berlin
The Funkturm Tower
and the Convention Center I thought was a train station.

So when I landed back at Otopeni airport in Bucharest I got a ride from IKEA Romania’s new CEO to the Intercontinental Hotel. From the balcony of my room I saw the actual Ceausescu Palace and took the above photo, (on the right.) I went through the $3.4 billion dollar marble monstrosity with two Romanians I met there. I will detail its unparalleled statistics in a future post.

The next day (3/16/90) I flew back to Berlin in time for unified Germany’s first Democratic elections, which understandably I slept through.

Hotel Intercontinental. Guests and Press Witnessed the Revolution from its Balconies
The Hotel was Attacked, because the Top Floor was Occupied by the Securitate Secret Police “Terrorists”
Built in 1967.
Palace of the Parliament
Ceausescus Palace
House of the People
It is the second largest government building in the world after the Pentagon and extends some 300 feet below ground.
Both this building and Ceausescu’s Spring Palace are open to the public in Bucharest.

31,214 Light Bulbs

This Chandelier in Ceausescu’s Palace (now Palace of the Parliament) alone has 7000 bulbs and weighs 11,000 pounds in the “Small Hall”

31,214 bulbs are how many bulbs that have been replaced in a recent conservation effort in the Palace of the Parliament. The Palace has 2,800 chandeliers consisting of 7.7 million cubic feet of glass and crystal.

When I visited the then named, “Palace of the People” in March 1990, the Palace had been open about a week and then closed shortly after because of theft.

I met Silviu there, who was about ten years old and his mother while standing in line to go into the Palace. We wandered about, aghast at the beautiful chandeliers and rugs, all made in Romania. There was little furniture in these humongous spaces and the work on the Palace had not been completed. The heating and electric bill was six million dollars per year.

Afterward I was invited to Silviu’s Mother’s apartment, a short walk away. I noticed the small chandelier in their apartment. It had one bulb in it with several empty sockets. I knew that during the austerity period, Romanians were permitted one forty watt lightbulb per room. The idea was to save electricity that was limited and to pay off the foreign debt with the savings gained through rationing of utilities and food, plus through the exportation of the decent quality products, denied to Romanians.

When I returned to Romania in 1994, I visited Selum, a light bulb factory in Pucioasa. During Ceausescu times they exported 80% of its production to 60 countries on five continents.

I bought a number of bulbs and saw that they now produced Christmas, religious, painted dancing folk and Disney themed bulbs that would have been banned during Communism.

Christmas Bulbs

December Remembrances

A Christmas Tree stands on the left of the balcony of the Opera in Timisoara. Tudor Hulubei Photography

As told by Balazs from Oradea. He was 13 years old in 1989.

“I remember very nice birthdays and christmasts – but of course as child is always good when you get gifts. We usually got toys when wa was small but later other  I remember one of my favorit gift whas a huge lot of foreign country stamps…it was great for me becouse just started to collect them and not so much chance to get other countries stamps. But also was very happy when I got a walkman for my birthday, I felt me the coolest ever to have a walkman  80s Romania 🙂 My pharents bring it from Budapest and I remember that they changed it for a spare part from inside our car, Dacia 1100 :))) Adult people offers gifts each other like shoes, socks, tigarettes, soaps and other cosmetics, electronics”stuffs like audio casettes, books.”

The following is from “In Romania, a Christmas Without Fear” by David Lauter, Los Angeles Times, 12/26/1989;

From Christmas 1989

Two American reporters had been invited to eat at the home of a Romanian couple, an event that only a few days ago would have brought swift retaliation against the Romanians and a lengthy jail term.

Even now, the fear that has so long enveloped this land prevents publication of their names or the name of their English-speaking Romanian friend who shared in the meal.

But with the sudden, bloody downfall of Nicolae Ceausescu’s leadership, that fear has begun to crumble. Romanians for the first time in decades are beginning to speak openly again. Western correspondents are hearing firsthand the full dimensions of the horror and pettiness of totalitarian rule here.

The coincidence of the Christmas season with Ceausescu’s downfall has provided powerful symbols that have brought tears to the eyes of many in this city of 2 million.

On the balcony of the former Communist Party Central Committee building, a Christmas tree bedecked in tinsel now stands. The tree marks the exact spot from which Ceausescu issued his final speech last Thursday, the speech that was interrupted by the shouts of demonstrators–“Death, death!”–that sounded the end to the dictator’s long rule.

Until now, public displays of Christmas trees were banned as part of Ceausescu’s drive to eliminate any potential source of opposition to his reign–particularly religious symbols and ceremonies.

Even the Romanian name of Santa Claus, Mos Craciun (Old Man Christmas), was banned by law. On Monday, however, the name was on lips across the city

Two American reporters had been invited to eat at the home of a Romanian couple, an event that only a few days ago would have brought swift retaliation against the Romanians and a lengthy jail term.

Even now, the fear that has so long enveloped this land prevents publication of their names or the name of their English-speaking Romanian friend who shared in the meal.

But with the sudden, bloody downfall of Nicolae Ceausescu’s leadership, that fear has begun to crumble. Romanians for the first time in decades are beginning to speak openly again. Western correspondents are hearing firsthand the full dimensions of the horror and pettiness of totalitarian rule here.

“Santa Claus Will Not Be Shot,” declared a headline in the new newspaper Free Youth. The paper also carried a message from Teoctist, the Orthodox patriarch of Romania.

“Beloved children,” the patriarch wrote, “in this holiday when Christ was born the baby in Bethlehem, our thoughts and attention are drawn to the shining and fresh faces of the children and youth of Romania.”

“After many decades of official atheism,” he continued, “many years of sad and frozen Christmases, this year is the first one in which the Christian people of Romania are celebrating in freedom.”

At the home of the Romanian couple–an engineer and his wife, a doctor–the celebration was simple but the spirit warm. Eight sausages, French fries, some tinned sardines, a stew of onions and peppers, bread, wine and a few slices of cake washed down by sweet coffee provided dinner for five.

The apartment was simply furnished and sparse: three small rooms plus a kitchen to house the family. But the couple counts themselves among the lucky ones in this battered society.

“We are the exceptions, one in a thousand,” the engineer said. He noted that both he and his wife are relatively well paid and that his parents, both professionals, are in a position to guarantee them access to ever-scarce food supplies.

An average worker in this country earns roughly 2,000 lei a month–$200 at the official exchange rate, but closer to $20 on the black market. Neither food nor shelter is cheap. To obtain better-paying jobs, Romanians generally have been required to join the nation’s huge Communist Party, paying as much as 10% of their salary in party dues.

The result has been a daily life here that is a grim struggle, made worse by an ever-present fear of surveillance that only now is beginning to fade.

“You’re being watched all the time, at home, at school, at work,” said one of the men at dinner. “There is an old woman on my block–she is known to be the security agent for the street. We always close the window facing her house before turning on the radio.”

For Romanians who avoid trouble with the authorities, the ultimate reward has been a passport allowing travel and work abroad. “We could earn $10 a day working in Libya,” where many Romanians have been employed as oil field workers, said one Romanian. “You could buy some extra food, maybe a pair of shoes.”

For now, however, those difficult days have been laid aside in memory as the engineer, the doctor and their friends concentrate on the revolution unfolding in the streets and recorded on their television screens.

For the last two days, those screens have been filled with images of a holiday that the dictatorship tried to suppress but failed to eliminate.

Romanian television and radio have broadcast traditional Christmas carols long absent from public hearing but still cherished in private. The television screens have been full of pictures of decorated trees, monasteries and religious icons, and the words in Romanian that declare the message of Merry Christmas: “Craciun Fericit.”

Calling it Christmas Again

December 24, 1989 Christmas Eve

Warfare continued at the main train station, Palace Square and around University Square. But people could be seen carrying Christmas trees and giving gifts. In the late eighties the Christmas holiday had been supplanted by a celebration of Ceausescu’s birthday.

The army was making gains against the heavily armed Securitate secret police. The shooting should have stopped on December 22nd at 12:09 pm when Ceausescu fled Bucharest. It was unclear on whose behalf the Securitate were still killing for. That is still an unanswered question and most of those murderers have never been brought to justice. The secret police, with some of those same people, is today called the SRI. 162 people died in protests that led to the overthrow of Ceausescu, but 942 died in the days after that.

Water and electricity was restored and shops began to reopen by the 26th, and foreign aid was reaching the citizens.

President Iliescu formed the Extraordinary Military Tribunal on the 24th that would try the Ceausescu’s on Christmas Day.

No one was more surprised by the events of the Revolution more than those who had started resistance movements or had protested in Romania soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall and were tortured and facing execution. Without ever knowing about the Revolution while in jail, those people were released starting from December 22, 1989. It must have been the best Christmas surprise ever.


December 23, 1989

Messages of support were coming in from world leaders to the apparent new government. General Stefan Gusa, speaking to a mass crowd declared that Securitate secret police had been disbanded and appealed to troops to remain loyal to the people. He said, “Securitate bodies in Romania no longer exist.” The people were chanting, “Freedom, Freedom” and singing a pre-Communist anthem, “Romanians Awake”. But the fighting got even more deadly than before. And it continued until December 27th.

Military units received confusing orders and fired at each other looking for “terrorists”, and at civilians. On this day, an airport battle resulted in the death of civilians on a bus and also soldiers riding a bus . The battle left 48 dead, including 40 soldiers and 15 wounded. Some 2000 Securitate assaulted the Communist Headquarters, and other buildings that revolutionaries now occupied. The old Royal Palace was on fire and the National Library burned to the ground.

The fighting would go on until December 27th. Romanians are still grappling with why it continued. Many blame Iliescu and his power grab. Nevertheless Iliescu was elected to the Presidency three times, but may face a trial next year for “crimes against humanity.” He is 89 years old and in poor health.

The new provisional government of Iliescu moved to consolidate its authority and issued the Securitate an ultimatum to surrender on the 23rd of December. It also promised to scrap food rationing, end village demolition programs, overturn the ban on abortion and to erase the compulsory registration of typewriters. People would no longer be required to address each other as “comrade” and weren’t restricted where they could live in the country. They called for free elections in April.

Liberals ousted Iliescu’s old party from power last month.

Romanians are still waiting for the truth about whether the Revolution was an inside coup or an uprising of the people. It seems to be both.

A lawyer named Ioan Stanomir, interviewed by Eurotopics.net, said this; “After 30 years, civic commitment is the alternative to lethargy and moral decay. With a sense of citizenship and daily courage, the people can rediscover their instinct for solidarity and dignity.”

The Tyrants’ Escape and Capture

The Ceausescu’s Flee Bucharest. Tudor Hulubei Photography

December 22, 2019

Today, Sunday, Revolutionaries, authorities and citizens remember the dead with an honor guard at the memorial in Revolution Square, a march, religious services and a short speech by President Iohannis opening an exhibition on the Revolution. 1,142 balloons representing the dead were released.

December 22, 1989

By now the cities of Brasov, Arad, Braila, Cluj-Napoca, Constanta, Hunedoara, and Sibiu have joined Timisoara and Bucharest in the violence that would continue even after the deaths of the Ceausescu’s on Christmas Day. Today is the last day of existence for the Communist regime in Romania. The Ceausescu’s flee the Communist Party Headquarters in Bucharest, but are captured and imprisoned in a tank for several more days until their trial and execution. Control of the country prolongs the Revolution into January.

A soldier and students remove the sign from The Communist Party Headquarters. Tudor Hulubei Photography

On Friday the 22nd People continue to flood the capital. The squares are filled with people risking their lives. That morning Ceausescu called for a Committee meeting to say he had taken over the army, believing that things would soon be under control. But he got news that a mass of angry industrial workers were headed for Bucharest. He addressed a spontaneous, but angry crowd from the balcony of the Communist Party headquarters, but part way into the speech someone came to him and said, “They are coming in!” meaning the huge entrance doors had been breached. The Ceausescu’s headed for the roof where a helicopter had landed. As people from the crowd streamed across the roof the overweight helicopter took off. It was shortly after 11am when the dictator told the pilot to head for his palace in Snagov, roughly 24 miles north of Bucharest. Meanwhile the crowd threw books and document from the balcony. Across Bucharest people displayed the Romanian flag with the Communist emblem torn out, some on tanks.

The Ceausescu’s were unable to get reinforcements at Snagov, so they took off again. But the pilot so terrified Ceausescu by dipping up and down claiming he was avoiding possible anti-aircraft fire that Ceausescu ordered him to land. The driver of the first car they comandeered faked an engine problem. The driver of a second car they flagged down took them to an agriculture technical institute, The director ushered them into a room and locked them in,

When the army came and apprehended the Ceausescu’s they noticed he kept looking at his watch and realized he was signaling for help, so they put him in a tank and drove around, eventually holding them both in a military compound until the trial three days later.

On this Friday the 22nd, the commander in chief of the army gave his allegiance to the newly formed National Salvation Front, headed by the future President of Romania and former Communist official, Ion Iliescu.

The people and army gained possession of the TV and radio stations and announced the new alliances and the ouster of Ceausescu. Yet that night the Securitate secret police attacked the people now occupying government and institutional buildings. They were following a resistance plan that the Communists had devised for foreign invasion and similar situations to this, according to the book, “Snipers and Mistifyers” by Andrei Ursu and others, released last Thursday (Tragatori Si Mistificatori, http://www.polirom.ro) It claims the Securitate did not surrender its weapons until January 4, 1990.

Revolution Comes to Bucharest

December 21, 1989

Many Romanians say this day is the most important one in their lives. After 5 days of fighting in Timisoara, The Revolution has reached Bucharest. In Timisoara the death count would reach close to 100, with 400 injured and a thousand arrests.

Many people were surprised by the uprising, even though there was peaceful transitions to democracy throughout Communist Eastern Europe. But Romania was tightly controlled by a huge network of secret police and informants, so in any case, the violence was inevitable. Frederick Becker, a desk officer at the U.S. consulate in Bucharest remembers thinking back in 1988, “Inspecting the shops at the time, I saw Chinese canned sardines and cabbage and very little sign of meat, fresh fruit or vegetables”……”It was a matter of time before something significant would happen here.” Food for the consulate was flown in from Frankfurt every other month.

In the morning of December 21, from eighty to a hundred thousand people gathered in front of the Central Committee building to hear what would be the final speech of Nicolae Ceausescu. The people sitting in the front were party loyalists, and behind them stood workers bussed in for the event ( if they refused to go they would be fired), as well as people gathered by organizers from city squares. They carried photos of a younger Ceausescu and red propaganda banners.

Besides condemning the uprising in Timisoara and assigning blame to Hungarian fascists, Ceausescu lauded his own accomplishments over the past decades. He intended that the speech be reminiscent of one he gave in 1968, angrily denouncing the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the USSR, that set him apart from other Communist leaders. He also promised to raise wages 18 dollars more a month and increased university scholarship money slightly. The speech from the balcony of the Central Committee building was broadcast nationwide.

As he spoke people started to boo him and chant, “Timisoara.” just several minutes into the speech. then 8 minutes into the speech there was an explosion, or gunfire in the background and people started screaming. The one TV camera swung skyward, with just the audio recording.

Here is a translation of that audio from the speech:

A security guard hustled the Ceausescu’s off the balcony as the chanting grew louder and more personal..

There was even more panic as the Securitate secret police started firing into the crowd. Street fighting ensued, and the unarmed protesters were being shot at by four different government forces. Eventually the rank and file members of the military switched loyalty to the side of the people almost unanimously, but in the interim, some people were run over by their tanks, shot, stabbed or clubbed to death. The clashes later became more between the army and the Securitate, but by the end many hundreds of civilians had died.

I have noticed that in a number of the photos above (from Tudor Hulubei’s website) you can see the army soldiers aiming their guns upwards. The Securitate had offices in the upper levels of buildings including hotels and one could see the tracer fire coming from the upper windows.

When I was there in early March 1990 I went into the Securitate offices in the Hotel Athenee Palat. There were interconnected rooms with stacks of paper on desks everywhere and a stench. I noticed doors in other parts of this luxury hotel had been splintered.( I stayed at the Intercontinental Bucharest which had its share of bullet holes, broken windows and tank damage)

The U.S Embassy stood near the Intercontinental and was also near the university. Virginia Carson Young was chief of the consular section and relays what happened there; “[The U.S. Embassy] organized a vehicle convoy from Bucharest to the Bulgarian Border (there was fighting at the airport) and [organized] their reception by the Bulgarian and U.S officials at the border.” the trip was about 100 miles and took up to four hours. She says there was never any mention of the U.S. relocating the Ceausescu’s out of the country to try to end the conflict as was done with the dictator Marcos in the Philippines.

The next morning would be the last time the Ceausescu’s saw downtown Bucharest. The Ceausescu regime was about to end.