When in Cluj, don't forget the Napoca
After we changed our travel plans to stay longer in Romania, the new itinerary included the city of Cluj Napoca. Doing some quick research on the net, we figured 2 nights would work out well, and also give us a bit of a break, as the following 6 nights would all be 1-night stops.
Naturally the hotel we were staying at was about a 15-minute walk, and similar to all the other hotels, it was all uphill climb when returning from the city. We did however, have a nice view of the city, similar to Brasov.
After dropping our stuff at the hotel, we decided to walk down to the main area, Union Square, to get a sense of the city. The town itself dates back to the Roman times, and after the fall of communism, they have re-branded themselves as a youthful city, due to the number of universities.
The first stop before heading to Union Square was to the Opera which is situated across the park from a lovely church.
As we continued walking towards Union Square we saw St. Michael’s Cathedral which dates back to 1350’s and a statue of the great king Matthias Corvinus, a Hungarian.
Stopped for a quick bite, and then meandered to another part of town, a swimming pool and spa area dating back to 1840. It was still in use until 1989 with the fall of the communists. This recreation area, mainly for swimming, is now abandoned but one can still imagine what this would have been like back in the day. Now, nature is slowly taking this area back. The water in the pool was provided by a natural spring from the mountains. This spring water was changed only 1x per week as the sun would warm the pool making it the perfect temperature of the weekend.
As we headed back to the hotel, there was a festival that was going on in the main square, and just a few hours previously they were setting the stage, by the time we were heading back, bands were already playing. Cluj Napoca was originally inhabited by Hungarians back in the 10th century, so every year there is a four-day festival, celebrating their contribution to this city. Like all festivals, lots of food and drink, and thus decided to stay for a while to enjoy the local bands.
The following day we had a free walking tour, which I know we have stated before, and can't state this enough. If you ever have the opportunity when traveling, I strongly suggest looking up to see if the city you are visiting has a free walking tour. The guides go through a rigorous training, all are very excited about their city, very knowledgeable and will help you with any recommendations you may have.
One tidbit we learned, the original name was Cluj, which locals still call it, however, it was changed to add Napoca, as the communist leader, Ceausescu, thought the single name Cluj sounded to foreign so he added the Napoca which apparently goes back to when the city was Roman.
After our 2-hour tour, we had lunch at an outdoor cafe, and decided to go back to the hotel to rest for a bit and get out of the heat. The summer has been rather hot, and today was no exception, reaching 36C.
When we thought it may be a bit cooler, and due to hunger pains, we ventured back out to find some local food. The guide we had provided us with a few ideas for restaurants, and it happened to be right in our budget. Always helpful.
Following dinner, we decided to go back to the festival, and unlike the night before, the place was mobbed. It was also Friday night, which explains the crowds. Every once in a while, we happen to stumble on festivals when traveling, and allows us an opportunity to listen to music we otherwise wouldn’t have heard before.
Then after a long hot day, walked back up the hill to get a good night’s rest.