Târgoviste, 49km northwest of Bucharest, has a notorious past for Romanians; it was here that dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were arrested when they fled Bucharest on 22 December 1989. After the Ceausescus hijacked a car in Titu, 44km northwest of Târgoviste, they were spotted by two soldiers who ran them down in Târgoviste. The Romanian hot blood took over and four days later the stunned couple were executed by firing squad after a swift and bizarre trial where they faced joint charges of being accomplices to the murder of some 60,000 people, genocide, and attempting to flee Romania with state money, totaling US$1 billion that they’d supposedly squirreled away in foreign accounts. None of the charges were proven, but in this case circumstantial evidence was more than enough for the people in charge.
Due, apparently, to popular demand, starting in September 2013, the military barracks where the Ceausescus were shot will be open to the public. The barracks have been restored to their 1989 state and visitors will be able to see the infamous wall where they were gunned down, the room where the trial was held and the room where they spent their final night. The barracks are immediately on the right as you leave the train station.
Aside from this historical asterisk, Târgoviste is a surprisingly charming market town dating from 1396. It was the capital of Wallachia from 1418 until the capital was moved to Bucharest in 1659. During the 15th century, Vlad Tepes Dracula held princely court here.
Indeed, the Princely Court is the highlight of the city. It was built in the 14th century and gradually fortified by each prince while in residence. Still standing are the walls, defensive towers, a replica of the 27m-high Sunset Tower (Turnul Chindiei), the ruins of two prince’s houses, aqueducts, and a church, as well as, two surviving churches from the 16th-century – one a museum with 18th-century frescos, the other a functioning house of worship.
Additionally Târgoviste has a decent history museum, a Museum of Romanian Police (Muzeul Politiei Române), with a number of exhibitions from the 19th- and 20th-centuries, and a newly completed Art Museum. Nearby is the Museum of Printing & Old Romanian Books (Muzeul Tiparului si al Cartii Românesti Vechi), housed in a 17th-century palace built by Constantin Brâncoveanu and a Writers’ Museum (Muzeul Scriitorilor Dâmboviteni).