The Cotrocenti Palace is on the edge of the old city and opposite the Botanic gardens. This was the site of a C17th walled monastery and the summer residence of the Princes of Wallachia. In 1888, King Carol built a palace in the grounds, which became to home of his adopted son, Prince Ferdinand and his wife Princess Marie as well as their many family. Much of the palace reflects her interest in painting and furniture. She did away with a lot of the heavy Germanic panelling replacing it with lighter and brighter colours.
In 1947, after the downfall of the monarchy, the Palace became the Pioneer’s Palace and was used by young people. This was an arm of the Union of Communist Youth and involved with the political and propagandistic training to prepare the children to become party members or “dignified citizens devoted to their homeland and The Romanian Worker’s Party.” This included a cinema, auditorium and library as well as workshops for chess, miniature aircraft, automobiles, photography, painting, choreography & dance, history, and ceramics. The contents of the palace were distributed among different ministries.
In 1974, the building was taken over by Ceausescu, who began to restore it as a very upmarket guest house for important visitors to Romania. A new wing was added following an earthquake in 1977. From 1991 it has been the office of the president. The rest of the palace is now a museum and much of the royal furniture has been returned. The monastery church was demolished in 1984 but has recently been rebuilt.
The palace is surrounded by a tall white wall. In the centre is the newly rebuilt church with the palace buildings along the sides of the wall. Entrance is by prebooked guided tour only and passports have to be left at the reception desk. No bags are allowed inside the place. Cameras are only allowed if you have paid for a photo permit (20Lei or 5Lei for a phone), otherwise they have to be handed in to be reclaimed at the end of the visit.
The entrance hall and grand staircase was built in the style of Napoleon III and boasts a splendid Italian marble staircase and lots of gilt paint. This leads to a long corridor which gives access to all the rooms of the Palace.
The German dining room is characteristic of the style favoured by King Carol with its panelled walls and wood ceiling. The table is walnut wood and was made in Romania. The wallpaper had been stripped of the walls in Communist times and the design has been recreated based on wallpaper at Peles Castle.
The hunting room displays trophies from King Carol and Prince Ferdinand, who were both keen on hunting. The bears were allegedly hunted so they could be shot by Ceausescu.
The flower or golden room is very much the work of Marie with its pale coloured walls with rich stucco decoration of flowers. These were originally gilded. This is where she wrote her newspaper and magazine articles and it was also used as a reception room.
Ferdinand used the library as his office. It had a secret spiral staircase leading to his private apartments. He was very shy and tried to keep clear of politicians and other visitors. During the Pioneer days many of his books were burnt. The wood panelling survived as this was the room used by the teachers.
The Gallery or Great Hall was added in 1925 and was designed by Marie. It is a long room with a barrel ceiling and large mirrors on the walls. Again it was used for receptions and is still used for concerts and exhibitions today. This is an L shaped room. At the far end is a small display of Pre First World War uniforms. This area is also the royal dining room with a large Byzantine/celtic design table and 12 chairs designed by Marie. The gentlemen sat in the chairs with an eagle on the back. The ladies sat in the chairs with the tree of life. Carved under the table is what is described as a grinning cat and a mermaid. These are thought to be the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland and the Little Mermaid as Marie would have read both books as a child.
An elegant spiral staircase leads up to the rooms on the second floor and the private apartments. A series of rooms opening off each other run along the front of the palace. These are all German style rooms with heavy wood panelling. As the original function of the different rooms is unclear, they have been set up as museum pieces.
Beyond are the family quarters with the bedrooms. These all have pale walls with a lot of gilt decoration. A suite of rooms was specially decorated by Ceausescu in anticipation of a visit by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, which never happened.
Near here is Marie’s bedroom which she designed as a twist on Tudor architecture with wood beamed ceilings, large open fireplace and celtic design furniture. Off the bedroom is Marie’s take on a Norwegian wooden ‘chapel’ with icons on the walls.
The rest of the rooms on this floor were used by their children. The decoration dates from the 1980s.
The tour finishes in the brick built cellars which now house a small “museum”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/romania/day_ten/ten_seven/index.html of church artefacts. These include small iconostases as well as icons, examples of church plate and furniture.
The Palace is huge and I found it a lot more impressive than “Peles Castle.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/romania/day_nine/index.html We were the only group going round which gave more time to see and enjoy the rooms.
There are more pictures “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/romania/day_ten/index.html Many of the rooms are quite dark with curtains drawn, hence the purple cast on many of the pictures.
We visited here during an eight day trip to Romania. My full report and all my pictures are “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/romania/index.html