Pitesti is yet another big map dot in Romania’s industrial heritage. The infamously delicate and altogether Romanian Dacia cars have been produced here since 1966. I owned and suffered greatly at the wheel of one of these clunkers (picture below) for reasons too complex to go into here. The older Dacias are the butt of endless jokes, and for good reason, but in mid-1999, French car manufacturer Renault acquired a majority stake in Dacia and started cranking out the affordable, frill-free, attractive and fast-selling Dacia Logan, which brought new esteem to Dacia.
I briefly owned one of these tanks.
As a possible nod to all the cars rolling off the assembly line here, Pitesti boasts one of the country’s few stretches of pristine motorway, linking it to Bucharest (114km east). The city center is pedestrianized and lined with trendy new bars.
Though it’s not a tourist attraction per se, the former site of Pitesti Prison, on Str Negru Voda just north of the city center, may warrant a morbid look-see. It was a site of the Communist government’s ‘Student Re-education Center’ where a horrific system of prisoner-on-prisoner torture took place. It opened in 1900, but it wasn’t until 1949, following the arrest of some anti-Communist students, that psychiatric abuse became a favored correctional technique. Today a tall, mosaic-tiled column in memory of those who died marks the spot where the prison stood. The memorial stands between the first two of three apartment blocks that are now on the site. A military hospital (Spitalul Militar), built in 1881, still stands opposite.
Additionally there is the County History Museum (Muzeul Judetean de Istorie) with exhibits on biology and archaeology, and St George’s Church (Biserica Sfântul Gheorghe), A.K.A. the Princely Church (Biserica Domneasca), built by Prince Constantin Serban and his wife Princess Balasa between 1654 and 1658.