The train from Budapest to Timișoara was 5 and a half hours and I didn’t really feel like reading, so I made a Train to Romania playlist and rocked out on my own the whole way. My best get happy/pump up song is “Gotta Knock A Little Harder” by Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts. (It’s from Cowboy Bebop). My first impression of Romania, border control, was excellent. I got the nicest border security guy, and I felt less uneasy about exploring a new country.
I arrived in the beautiful city of Timișoara without any expectations, and was still surprised how nice it was everywhere. I stayed at the Timișoara Central Hostel, which was awesome. The people running it were fantastic, and I got to try what I’m pretty sure was pălinkă (a fruit brandy) which I actually liked. The hostel was right around the corner from the opera.
Timișoara is known as the city of flowers, and it was clear why.
I was immediately drawn to the most striking of the city’s landmarks, the Orthodox Cathedral.
Before going in though I went to the nearby park.
It smelled of flowers everywhere and I loved the colours.
I found a composer I knew here, but didn’t know Béla Bartók was Romanian! After further research, it turns out he was considered Hungarian, but was born in what is now Timiș county, Romania.
I went back and inside, and was a little stunned. I’ve never been in a cathedral like this before.
There was a door in the back corner that indicated a church museum. Curious, I went through the door, down some stairs, past some old stones and whatnot, and turned into a room full of art and historical texts.
That was unexpected, and awesome.
Back through the city, looking as usual for coffee, I kept coming across nice things.
I arrived in Unity Square, which has the Baroque Palace, the Roman Catholic Dome, and Serbian Orthodox Vicarage with the centre dominated by the Church St. Trinity Monument.
That night I was really missing home and decided to just sit for a while in the square by my hostel.
As the sun began to set I decided to walk towards the Opera so I could get a better view and was overwhelmed by what I found.
I turned the corner to the plaza in front of the opera where a large stage had been set up and heard The Sound of Music being sung by a choir.
Huh. What more could I have wanted really? The choir sang a Sound of Music medley, followed by selections of songs by Stephen Sondheim. The choir was amazing, but “Not While I’m Around” from Sweeney Todd sounded a little funny with a Romanian accent. They followed this up with most songs from Les Miserables, and then a Disney medley. (My friend Krushnaa can sing Part of Your World better, but it was still awesome.)
It was the perfect end to that day.
The next day I had signed up with some others at the hostel for a trip to the Danube and Orșova. Timișoara had the nicest place to fill up your water bottle.
The drive to Orșova took about 5 hours, but the countryside was beautiful. We made a stop in front of this church.
There was also a mini church built into the side of the cliff.
It was smaller than it looks.
We arrived in Orșova and our guides from the hostel asked around about finding a boat to take us for a while.
We had some time before a boat would be ready, so we drove up to the St. Ana Monastery overlooking Orșova.
I know you’re probably wondering why they’re flying the flag of Chad, but don’t worry, it’s actually Romania.
We returned to the waterfront to wait for our boat, and got something to eat at the local market.
At last it was time to go! We were specifically going to see a large carving and I was excited.
We first came across an old plaque placed there by Roman emperor Trajan to commemorate his victory over Dacia.
This plaque dates back to 106 AD!
The history surrounding this is actually fascinating and a subject I’d never encountered.
Dacia was a kingdom on the border of Rome before it was conquered and became a Roman province. Its last king was named Decebalus.
Decebalus defeated a Roman invasion force under Emperor Domitian, and was known for his ability to unite his people and make alliances. Standing up to Rome for his country would later result in his being regarded as a great leader in Romanian history.
A few years later Trajan invaded and Decebalus was defeated, but became a client king under Rome. Decebalus wasn’t too keen on the whole arrangement, and continued to fight for an independent nation. In the Second Dacian War, Trajan levelled the capital and Decebalus killed himself so he could not be paraded through Rome.
This victory for Rome is commemorated by Trajan’s column! I was surprised to find the connection between the column I’ve seen before and this history I’d never come across. In the 1990’s, thanks to Decebalus’ status as a national symbol, work began on a rock carving of him.
Reading about the Roman conquest of Dacia also began to answer my question of how the Romanian language came to be. Romanian, like French and Spanish among others, is a Romance language, and I always wondered why this Romance language was geographically separate from the others.
After the carving, we travelled back through the gorge known as the Iron Gates to Orșova.
We were going to go on a hike, but first stopped at a grocery store for supplies. While I didn’t make it to the Transylvania region of Romania, I did encounter the infamous Vlad the Impaler in the alcohol section.
Our guides drove us to a spot they knew with a path up towards the gorge.
This is where we spent the rest of the afternoon before the drive back.
A few days ago I was in Budapest wondering if I should go straight to Belgrade or stop in Romania first.
Sitting here looking down on the Danube, I knew I made the right decision.
I’m learning more and more that the way we receive news and information about other countries is horribly incomplete.
My experience with Romania, limited as it was to Timișoara, was a fun visit with awesome people and a beautiful country.
On our way back down to the car, somebody decided that the forest was too peaceful and needed more cowbell.
Next stop will be my first experience with a former Yugoslav country – Serbia!