Oct 13-16, 2014: Timisoara surprised me, because I quite liked it. Of course, when I planned to visit, I expected to like it, but after Cluj and Oradea my expectations had been considerably lowered. Then, there was an unexpected hurdle in even getting there, a bad hotel, and to cap it off, two of the town’s three squares were undergoing a comprehensive renovation. So the fact that I still quite liked the place is actually high praise.
The transport problem was particularly annoying, as I could have avoided it, if the Deutsch Bahn website, which I have relied on for years for train timetables all over Europe, had not failed me. Truly, a stunning surprise, although it failed again, later in the trip, in Italy. This time, it told me that I could take a direct train from Oradea to Timisoara, but when I tried to buy a ticket for that train on arrival in Oradea, I learned that it only ran on the weekend! Therefore, I had to change trains in Arad, which I had no interest in seeing, and whose train station turned out to be in the midst of a major renovation of its own. I am sure it will be a great improvement when finished – pieces of the first escalator I had seen since Bucharest were being installed – but meanwhile only the outer reaches were functional.
The hotel I had booked, the Savoy, was convenient for the city center (although not for the train station), but seemed rather tired. Worse, the AC in my room wasn’t working. According to the front desk AC wasn’t working anywhere in the hotel, since they had switched to heat some weeks before. I should open the window…. Right. With the temperatures in the mid 20s and a south facing room, that was a lot of help. The one night I spent there, it took until 23:30 for the room to become habitable. The other central hotels were full, so I moved to a pleasant if dated Best Western out near the train station and learned the bus system.
Walking into town from the Savoy I crossed a bridge, and then could hardly believe my eyes. Timisoara’s Metropolitan Cathedral, rising out its surrounding trees, looks more like a fantasy castle. Or possibly a Saxon version of St. Basil’s in Moscow. Either way, it significantly improved my mood, which was further raised by the delightful promenade (really, not a square), Piata Victoriei.
Piata Libertatii and Piata Unirii were also on my agenda, but were almost out of bounds for pedestrians because they were being resurfaced. So I spent quite a lot of time on Piata Victoriei, drinking coffee during daylight hours and something stronger in the evening, when the central fountain was bathed in colored lights.
I did do a little sightseeing. The citadel disappointed, having been over-renovated and now housing shops and cafes (maybe a preview of what Oradea’s will look like when finished). The Permanent Exhibition of the 1989 Revolution held my attention longer, once I finally found it. It was unsettling to see streets I had just walked disfigured by tanks, bullet holes and even dead bodies. I considered taking a bus out to the Banat Village Museum, but since I had started limping, rather badly, and had already seen the village museum at Sibiu, I passed. I figured the limp was due to a dip in the pavement I had encountered a few days previously. Of course, I often have foot trouble when I travel, but this time, instead of a side-to-side injury, it was front-to-back. Still meant I was limping, and made going downstairs difficult.
Timisoara was my last stop in Romania, and I’m glad it was a good one, as on balance I had enjoyed my time in the country. Trains to my next destination, Szeged in Hungary, were not plentiful, and I needed to catch one at 7:30 unless I wanted to arrive in Szeged after dark. I planned to eat a quick breakfast and leave my hotel by taxi just after 7:00. So why, I wonder, did I set my alarm for 6:45 and not 5:45? An internal protest at getting up so early, perhaps?
Fortunately, another part of my subconscious woke me at 6:30, and since I had mostly packed the night before I was actually able to shower, dress, finish packing and eat something by the time my taxi arrived. Fifty minutes after leaving Timisoara I was back in Arad, but this time I got to stay on the train, although we did not go far before we stopped and spent another fifty minutes on passport and smuggling checks. Ten minutes later I was in Hungary.
I had seen no street art, aside from tagging, until I was almost out of Romania, but I finally saw a few examples in Timisoara.