Our Dark Romania is our comprehensive road trip through the often mysterious lands of Romania tour. We’ll take you to the most important places in the story of Nicolae Ceaușescu, the former Communist dictator of Romania whose trial and execution were shown on TV around the world during the Christmas of 1989. From the place of his birth and the abandoned prison he was locked up as a young man, to the site of his execution and the places of some of the most brutal experiments conducted under Communism. We’ll also explore the significantly eerie sights of the country from haunted forests to Dracula’s castle!
Morning meetup in Bucharest where we’ll grab breakfast and go over the tour plan.
We’ll meet our local tour guide and head into the city, our first stop will be the unmissable Palace of the Parliament – built as part of Ceaușescu’s plan to rebuild his capital in the image of Pyongyang, North Korea. Still not fully completed today, the former “People’s House” is holder of various records, including world’s heaviest building and world’s most expensive administrative building.
We’ll see the churches moved on wheels under the regime, bullet riddled snipers nests and the square where Communism violently fell apart and where Ceacescu gave his infamous final speech before fleeing in a helicopter.
Next, a visit to the former Mausoleum of the Communist Heroes – burial spot for senior figures during the Communist era, and the place where Ceaușescu expected to be buried; subsequently re-purposed as a war memorial and now has an eternal guard keeping watch.
Then we’ll head to the Spring Palace, the Ceaușescu family’s former home, preserved in excellent condition, to see how the first family lived. We’ll take a guided tour and gain an insight into the opulent lifestyle that Romania’s last dictator and his family enjoyed at a time when most Romanians were surviving on food and fuel rations and living in fear of the Securitate, the Romanian secret police.
Everything in the Spring Palace is original, and in its original place, since the presence of soldiers in the days following the revolution kept any looting to a minimum. Closets are still filled with fur coats belonging to Elena Ceausescu, while the couples’ pyjamas are carefully folded on their bed.
We’ll enjoy lunch in an excellent restaurant nearby, in the district that was the former living area of the Communist party elite.
After lunch we’ll drive to Pitești (120 km / 1.5 hrs) – location of the Pitesti Experiment which was one of the most violent actions conducted by the communist regime inside a political prison. Between 1949–1951, around 600 students aged 18 to 27, were systematically and brutally tortured.
Overnight in Pitești.
Saturday 26th September – Scornicesti/Targoviste/Doftana
After breakfast we’ll drive to Scornicesti (50 km / 45 mins)
First off today, you’ll visit the house where Ceaușescu was born. With a hulking monument to the man himself outside, one of the only Ceaușescu statues left in Romania.
Inside you can see the bed he slept in and many artifacts from his childhood.
Then you’ll head over to the stadium which Ceaușescu built for his favourite football team, big enough to hold the entire population of the town several times over! The local side still play here, but sadly now that other teams aren’t afraid of beating them they’re no longer in the ‘A’ Division.
Drive to Târgoviște (121 km / 2 hrs)
You’ll see a “Vulture” fighter plane parked up at the roadside. This Romanian-built plane is from the period when Ceaușescu wanted to avoid dependence on any foreign country including the Soviet
Union, and aimed for Romania to be self-sufficient.
After lunch you’ll visit the location where the Ceaușescus were put on trial, preserved exactly as it was in those famous grainy TV shots from Christmas 1989.
Then you’ll head out back to the spot where they were executed. The original bullet holes are still clearly visible in the wall.
We’ll then explore of the castles of Vlad the Impaler in Targoviste, better known as Dracula, he ruled Wallachia from this castle in the 1400’s and was infamous for brutally impaling his enemies by the tens of thousands, sometimes even around his dinner table.
Drive to Doftana (60 km / 1.5 hrs)
We’ll check into a beautiful mountain lodge deep in the mountains of Wallachia. Where we’ll enjoy some beers overlooking the scenery or you can explore one of the many hiking trails around, but watch out for bears!
Overnight in Doftana.
Sunday 27th September – Doftana/Cluj Napoca
After breakfast, we’ll check out Doftana prison. Also referred to as the Romanian Bastille or the Romanian Papillon, this is where Ceaușescu and other future prominent Communist party members were locked up. Prisoners produced a newspaper by hand using paper slips and smuggled pencils. It went under different names such as Doftana Red and Bolsheviks Handcuffed. Not only Romanian communists were imprisoned here, also captured German and Soviet soldiers and Hungarian civilians.
The prison is not open to the public, but we’ll try and sneak in to have a look inside anyway!
We’ll then take the long drive to Cluj Napoca (5 hours) and meet our guide who will take us into Hoia-Baciu forest, known as ‘’the Bermuda triangle of Romania’’ and named after a shepherd and his 200 strong flock of sheep who vanished in the forest, this is classed as one of the darkest, most haunted places in the world.
Named after a shepherd who went missing in the forest with a flock of 200 sheep, Hoia Baciu came to international attention in 1968 when Emil Barnea, a military technician, photographed what he claimed was a UFO hovering over The Clearing. What differentiates this story from other UFO claims is that Barnea had nothing to gain from reporting the sighting, and everything to lose. The Communist government equated a belief in the paranormal with madness and state-sabotage, and Barnea lost his job in a country which had no support for the sacked.
Visitors to the area have reported bizarre symptoms such as nausea, anxiety, the feeling of being watched and electronic devices completely jamming or failing.
Overnight in Cluj Napoca
Monday 28th September
After breakfast we drive back to Bucharest, but not before indulging in some vampire sights on the way!
We’ll drive to Bran Castle (around 4:30 hour drive) and check out the eerie castle which was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
The castle bursts out of a rocky outcrop. Here, you can check out rooms dedicated to Transylvania’s most infamous man and see vampire kitch such as a hidden staircase, ancient torture devices, and a glass elevator known as “Dracula’s escape route”.
Afterwards we’ll grab lunch and drive back to Bucharest (185 km / 2.5 hrs)
We will finish up at the main train station or we can drop you off at the airport if you have an onward flight.