Seven days in Cluj-Napoca, Romania provided enough time for me to wander around the city center, walk up hills to north and south of city center, walk around parts of Romania’s largest university UBB-Universitatea Babes Bolyai, visit two large city cemeteries, a few parks and gardens, churches of several denominations and a number of pubs and restaurants.
I feel like I spent sufficient time in the city as a tourist to make deep connections with the city and lifestyle.
My preconceptions of Romanian poverty, low economic development, potential for language difficulties and strange encounters with a different culture were dashed into oblivion. Cluj, as it is more commonly referred to locally, is a vibrant metropolitan city with a highly educated population and growing economy and seemed far more familiar than I expected. The cool factor ranked high too in a city with tens of thousands of university students. Cluj was designated the European Youth Capital in 2015.
The title of this piece ‘Cluj closer than imagined‘ references my perception of the city as far more comfortable than I expected for an American tourist in Romania. Cluj did not seem nearly as foreign as I expected a city in Romania would be. There was no difficulty in meeting people fluent in English and Romanian was surprisingly easy to read compared to my travels in Czech Republic and Poland.
Cooler than I expected is a salute to the cool ‘Zain by Design’ festival happening in the city for most of the days during my week long stay.
I pieced together a video of photos and video to share my perceptions of Cluj, Romania in a way that I cannot convey in a dozen photographs strung together around my words in a regular post. This is amateur video production with no narration or soundtrack, except for the ambient sounds present in the video clips. I even included a video clip riding on the bus where my finger obscures part of the picture frame. Get past the first 30 seconds of video and the quality improves.
The video is long at 20 minutes. Since only a few dozen people will probably ever care to see my video about Cluj, my real objective in this video was stringing together enough images to show how familiar Cluj appeared to this tourist from the USA. The abundance of English seen around Cluj shows it is the primary second language, although I did meet a University librarian who was hoping I spoke French to allow her more facility in speaking with me. I don’t. Her English was fine.
Since there is no video narration, I’ll explain the imagery seen in my Cluj video in this article.
1. Cluj International Airport photo
2. Bus ride to Cluj city center (finger obscurus clip)
3. Rooks flying overhead at dusk across the city when I arrived. The stream of birds lasted over 30 minutes.
5. Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral (Romanian Orthodox)
6. St. Michael’s Church (Roman Catholic) 1316-1487
Matia Corvin’s Equestrian Statue (Unirii Square) It is the work of the sculptor Ioan Fadrusz and architect Pakei Lajos and won the Great Prize at the Paris World Exhibition in 1900. It was unveiled in 1902 in today’s Unirii Square. Matia Corvin is surrounded by a group of warriors: Blasiu Magyar, Pavel Chinezu, Stefan Zapolya and Stefan Bathory. The statue it is on the list of UNESCO’s memorial statues on the 5th place. VisitClujNapoca.ro
8. L’Alchimiste Cluj restaurant on Unirii Square, the main square of Old Town.
9. Enigma Cafe-Bistro, one of my favorite pubs in Cluj.
10. Don Sebastian Pizza place where $5 bought a full pizza and beer. Loved the food, but poor decision on my part to eat pizza and beer for 11am breakfast on my first day in Romania. I did not want pizza again my entire trip and pizza is one of the most widely available hot foods in Cluj-Napoca.
11. Reformed Church with Two Towers is the Calvin Reform Church of the Lower Town. This is a church I walked by twice every day as I walked into Old Town Cluj from Hampton Inn Cluj-Napoca and back. Also, location of nearest bus stop to Hampton Inn, where I arrived from Cluj-Napoca CLJ airport. The poster appears to reference an event covering the years of the church under communism.
Carolina Obelisk (1831) commemorates Emperor Francis I and wife Carolina Augusta to Cluj, Romania in August 1817. There is a story I heard on a Cluj Free Walking Tour about how the monument was funded by a local resident and why he may have defaced the obelisk relief after it was unveiled October 4, 1831.
13. Video outside Transylvania History Museum
14. Anti-Communist Resistance Monument
16. Several photos of the area in Cluj I dubbed ‘Hospital Hill’ with all kinds of medical clinics and university clinics.
18. Churches, streets and UBB – Universitatea Babes Bolyai – Chemistry and Chemical Engineering building near Central Park.
19. Euphoria Biergarten – I happened to like the look of Euphoria Biergarten when I walked by and wanted a filling dinner meal. Pasta and beer hit the spot. Turns out this restaurant is sister property to Ursus Beer Factory, another upscale brewpub seen in my video with same $2 prices for a pint of local beer, $3.50 for a liter or a little more for Italian or Czech imports.
21. Ursus Beer Factory – companion restaurant and brewpub to Euphoria
22. Mega Image grocery store – my primary grocery store chain in Cluj with hot food items and all food/beer necessities.
23. Tailor’s Tower Cluj (1629) – oldest remaining part of city walls and bastion, restored in 2007. Later part of video in Central Park building shows tower restoration in photos. There was a ladies’ night art gathering with free wine when I filmed the Central Park building interior room with the pounding music.
25. Cetatuia Hill – panoramic views, iron cross, Belvedere Hotel, couple of pubs
26. Someșul Mic River Bridge
27. Craft stalls around Orthodox Cathedral
28. Cluj by Design makes up last 5 minutes of video. A focus on an art collective exhibit I happened by on my way to Enigma for a beer one night and the Cluj ‘Zain by Design‘ festival 2018.
29. Unirii Square at night
30. Rooks flying over Cluj in large numbers once again on my last evening in the city. I had not seen them in abundance since the day I arrived in Cluj. I felt like it was a symbolic send-off from Cluj-Napoca.
31. December 1989 monument on Unirii Square