Doftana Prison – Campina, Romania

This was my last stop on my Eastern European trip. After departing Odessa I had great plans of exploring locations in the break away state of Transnistria, Chisinau (Moldova) and Bucharest (Romania.) However the recent luck I had in Odessa was about to run out. I came down with some pretty bad food poisoning in Transnistria and ended up getting no exploring done in either Transnistria or Moldova. This was a major pity as both locations looked like they had huge potential.

Arriving in Bucharest (still as sick as a small hospital) I decided I had to visit at least one place here seeing as I was flying out the next day. I had been planning to meet up with Romanian explorer, Petre, who runs the Romanian Urban Exploration website “Locuri Uitate” but unfortunately the timing didn’t work out and so I was going solo again. From my research of locations around Bucharest, one place stuck in my mind. That was Doftana prison which lies an hour outside of Bucharest. Petre had visited this a few months previously and the photos intrigued me. I had never been to an abandoned prison before so I thought it’d be a good place to add to the list.

The prison is probably most well know for once housing the former Romanian president, Nicolae Ceaușescu among other famous political prisoners. Although the prison was built in 1895 it began to focus on the detention of political prisoners in 1921. For the next few decades most political prisoners of note were sent here. With the prison being such a hub of political dissent, the prisoners began networking throughout the prison. It was said that the prisoners knew of the events of the outside world even before the guards. There was even a prison newspaper written by the inmates that was passed around from prisoner to prisoner. Training and teaching were organised and conferences took place, all under the guards noses. The prison nearly doubled as a communist training centre according to some. I was unable to find any information on when exactly the prison closed doors but within the last decade it had been functioning as a museum. The footfall in such a remote location must not have been enough to keep the museum open and it has long closed. Since then the prison has remained abandoned, the only use being the occasional airsoft battle. There is a plan to transform the prison into a hotel and restaurant but it is hard to see this taking place any time in the near future. For now the prison lies abandoned and mostly forgotten in the Romanian countryside.

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The external wall surrounding the prison

After an hour long train ride I arrived in the sleepy village of Campina. The prison itself lies a couple of kilometres outside the village so the only way there without walking was by taxi. Not knowing any nearby locations I had no option but to tell the driver to take me to the prison itself and hope he wouldn’t care why I was going there. Unfortunately for me he did seem to care. On the way out of the village the taxi driver picked up his phone and rang someone. I heard him mention the prison in Romanian a couple of times but was hoping he was just looking for directions to it. Of course this wasn’t the case! When we rolled up near the prison a woman was standing behind the front gate waiting for me. I didn’t make the connection straight away and just paid the taxi driver.

The woman (who turned out to be the site caretaker/administrator) was looking at me getting out of the taxi so I couldn’t wander away and try another way in as she would just follow. I decided that my best option here was to try and switch on my charm to see if she would let me in…inevitably this failed! The fact she only spoke Romanian made things impossible. All I was met with were repeated shouts of “Non-Voyage!” I couldn’t do anything except turn back and walk back to the main road. Rather naively I only realised then that the taxi driver had ratted me out. Why else would she be waiting for me at the front gate. What a sneaky fecker!

Needless to say I didn’t want these two to get the better of me so I worked out another route to where I needed to go which would avoid the caretaker’s house. The route worked out pretty well and soon I was making my way to the entrance. Between the entrance and me however were two shepherds who obviously owned the land surrounding the prison. I’m not sure how Romanian shepherds would react to someone sneaking around on their land but I presumed they wouldn’t appreciate it. That meant I had to somehow get to the entrance without the two of them seeing me. What followed was a 15 minute game of hide and seek, hiding in one location before dashing to the next. Both shepherds passed within several metres of me at times but it all worked out in the end and I was able to make the final dash to the entrance point unseen.

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A scale model of the prison situated in the main entrance block, this was from the time period when the prison had functioned as a museum

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The main gates within the entrance block

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Standing in the middle of the main prison building

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The next hour was spent wandering around the different rooms of the main building. The prison had long been stripped of most things of interest. Although there wasn’t much detail to see, the architecture of the prison itself was quite impressive and along with the historical significance of the prison, meant it was well worth the visit out here.

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Some of the old statues which once occupied the prison now lie forgotten and out of view

With everything covered I made my way back to my entry point. Luckily I only had one shepherd to get past this time and getting by him was much easier. Back on the main road again I called my taxi driver friend. He was my only way back to the train station so I had to share a nice long uncomfortable journey with him back to the village before finally escaping Campina for good!

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