Oct 10-12, 2014: I went to Oradea to see Art Nouveau buildings, and I did indeed see some, although not quite where I had expected. However, I’m not sure the town was worth the hassle of getting there and away, and it certainly wasn’t worth the three nights I gave it. But they were comfortable nights….
I almost never stay in US chain hotels outside the US – I much prefer local places. But I just couldn’t resist the $50 a night deal that booking.com offered for the Doubletree by Hilton, even though it was a little further out of the center than I would have preferred. On the other hand, I had a great view of the river, when it wasn’t too hot to leave the curtains open. Was it a typical Doubletree? No idea, first time I stayed in one, but it seemed to be a standard intercontinental hotel – very clean, very comfortable, and totally generic. Although I did dock it a TA star because the AC wasn’t working when I checked in, and half the too small closet was taken up by a stand for the iron. My excellent rate didn’t include breakfast, and after one so-so buffet at an excessive (for Romania) 40 lei, I picked up supplies at a massive Carrefour sprawled behind a fancy mall three tram stops south of the center.
My previously good opinion of the Romanian train system took a severe hit on the Cluj to Oradea leg. The train arrived at Cluj station early, and I was happy to board and find a seat. But then it didn’t leave. It just sat there. Inside, the passengers were getting hot. And still it didn’t leave. And we got hotter. We finally pulled out a whole fifty minutes late.
Apart from a few Art Nouveau buildings and one gently decaying arcade, the main excitement in town was a big festival occupying much of a nice central park (Oradea gets points for its parks). The helpful young woman in the T.I. office told me that it was a ten day affair, and it concluded my last day in town, with a solemn wreath laying ceremony at midday, and a massive fireworks display at midnight. I had taken a look at the food and souvenir stalls, and chosen to eat at my hotel instead, and if I hadn’t had the river view room I would have missed the fireworks entirely. As it was, I enjoyed a marvelous, grandstand view of a stellar display, in perfect comfort. I didn’t even get a crick in my neck.
I did try to take a look at Oradea’s citadel, only to find that it was undergoing a major restoration. At least, I will be charitable and call it a restoration, but it looked more like they were building some kind of conference center inside the walls. Outside, a pretty park had already been completed.
Aside from the fireworks, the best part of my stay in Oradea was the massage I treated myself to at the hotel. Unlike the breakfast buffet, the price was reasonable for Romania, and the masseuse was reasonably skilled (not up to the wonderful woman I see at home, but she is exceptional). Afterwards I relaxed on a lounger overlooking the swimming pool with a cup of green tea.
The trek to Timisoara would undo much of the good the massage had done.