JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH FLAVIA AMALIA MARINA FROM CLUJ NAPOCA, TRANSYLVANIA !
Flavia Amalia Marina is a Romanian girl from Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania. Traveling has always been her way of creating happiness. She likes to call it her therapy. Her favorite destination is Greece. Having said that she is amazed by different traditions and cultures from out of Europe and hence her list of top places to travel to are Mexico, Cuba, Morocco and Jordan. Her dream destinations are Peru – to discover the Inca culture and India – the land of colors!!
Transylvania is the largest and most famous region of Romania. It means ‘the land beyond the forest’. Some may think it’s fictional, but this central Romanian region is a real place and it’s pretty special, too. Carpathian Mountains, hardwood forests, castles, fortresses, fortified churches and the creepy count of Dracula, all give Transylvania an element of mystery.
Transylvania has become synonymous with werewolf and according to the ancient historian Herodotus the latter had its origin on the actual territory of Transylvania around the 6th century BC. Although modern interpretations depict the werewolf as a negative character, but in the original version, it is a positive guardian/protector. The werewolf/lycan was a hero which could shape-shift into a wolf-like creature in the Dacian mythology, predecessor of the Romanian mythology.
Cluj-Napoca is the second largest city in Romania and the capital of Transylvania. Located in the North-West of Romania at the junction of four European roads(E60, E576, E58, E81) and crossed by Transylvania Highway, Cluj is roughly equidistant from Bucharest (441 km / 276 mi), Budapest (409 km / 256 mi) and Belgrade (465 km / 291 mi). Although Cluj Napoca is called the heart of Transylvania, other cities worth visiting in the region are Brasov, Sibiu, and Sighisoara.
Transylvania is famous for its medieval landscape and vampire stories. Can you tell us a little about Transylvania and its myths of vampires and if there is any truth in it?
Indeed, Transylvania is one of Eastern Europe’s most captivating regions, which is best known as a mysterious land of bloodthirsty vampires and howling wolves. And I identify myself with all those stories that I grew up with. Most of all, with the wolves ones, because there was always this idea, in the small transylvanian villages, that in the dark of the night, and when there is full moon, a strigoi (dead person from the other world) can cross your road, and it can have many forms and shapes, but most of all it has a werewolf form (because of the many wolves of the forests near the villages). That’s why you should wear silver, for protecting yourself.
Transylvania has been a part of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and many international movies like Twilight Saga, Underworld, Harry Potter or True Blood. Stoker named his infamous character Vlad the Impaler after a real person who happened to have a taste for blood, prince Vlad III. Though other than the name, they don’t really have much in common. This incorrect adaptation of the werewolf concept worldwide has led people to see him as a negative character. However, according to the Dacian mythology this creature was not a blood-drinking sadist but a national hero who had a divine role of man’s protector who even defended his empire from the Ottoman Turks.
When would you say is the best time to visit Cluj Napoca?
An amazing fact about Romania’s weather is that we have the four seasons very well defined. So, it depends what do you prefer. We have hot summers, when you can enjoy the open air terraces and live music on the streets, or the snowy winters, when you can ski and drink hot spiced wines and enjoy the Christmas markets with traditional goodies.
Which is the most convenient and favored transport of your city? What are the different modes of transport available from the airport? Would you recommend renting a car in Cluj Napoca for easy travel?
Traveling within Cluj-Napoca is straight-forward and convenient. There is a transport network connecting city districts, and commuters can choose between trolleybus, bus and tram to reach their destination. Cluj-Napoca operates a full trolleybus/bus network, which will take you almost anywhere you have to go. The buses cover the entire city and the tickets cost 5RON per trip. They can be purchased from ticket machines at the stops or from the kiosks dotted around town. The trolleybus departs approximately every 10 minutes between 05:00 a.m. and 22:00 p.m., on weekends and evenings every 15 to 20 minutes. So, the system is great. You can check the website of the local public transport company of Cluj Napoca, CTP, for better understanding.
Bus line 5 of the local public transit system CTP Cluj-Napoca runs between the Avram Iancu Cluj International airport and the city of Cluj-Napoca. Trolleybuses 4 and 9 run from the train station into town while numbers 5 and 8 reach the airport. You can also catch taxis between central Cluj and the train station or airport which should cost roughly 12 lei and 25 lei respectively. The station also has decent rail links to nearby cities like Bucharest, Budapest and Vienna.
Or rent a car from the airport, but it’s really no need with the good public transport we have, and also taxis are well priced.
What are the top three must visit places in your city? What is so special about them?
My top 3 must visit places in Cluj-Napoca are:
The Central Park with the old casino building – The Central Park in Cluj-Napoca has existed for over 180 years, and its history starts in 1827 when the Women’s Benevolent Association rented the current field in order to arrange a place for recreation.
Currently the Central park is a place where everyone can go walking, jogging, or simply relax on a bench. The park houses the Central Park Casino, a Viennese-inspired building, which organizes various cultural events, fairs, concerts, etc.
Near the Casino building lies the Chios restaurant (a symbol of Cluj), where you can enjoy various dishes and drinks. The restaurant’s terrace is open at Lake Chios and offers a great view.
The St. Michael’s Church – Built in the 15th century, the St. Michael’s Church is a Gothic-style Catholic church in Cluj-Napoca. The church looks beautiful with its stained glass windows, star shaped vault and various sculptures. It is the second largest church in the geographical region of Transylvania, Romania after the Black Church of Brașov. It stands tall in the main square of Cluj Napoca along with other 18th and 19th century buildings. The altar of the church is the oldest part of it while newest is the tower which is also the highest tower in whole of Transylvania with its height of 76 meter.
The National Theater and Opera building – The National Theater and Opera of Cluj-Napoca was built between 1904 and 1906 by the famous Austrian architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer who designed several theatres and palaces across Europe. The opera company’s repertoire has added impressive stage productions such as La Boheme, Tosca, Giselle, Carmen, Faust and the Bald Soprano since the opening night in 1919.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from your city?
Apart from visiting the beautiful medieval city of Brasov for its Black Church, the white Tower, Weavers Bastion or Tampa Mountain, cultural city Sibiu and the city of Sighisoara’s UNESCO Historic Centre, the best day trips, to reconnect with nature and history are:
Tarniţa Lake – Really close to Cluj-Napoca (less than 30 min.), Tarni. ţa lake is an awesome attraction if you’re visiting in the summer. It’s a place where you can take a swim, rent a boat or just sit back and enjoy the scenery!
Baişoara Mountain Resort – The Muntele Baisorii Resort is 50 km distance from Cluj-Napoca and has 5 ski slopes for those who love winter sports. The winter sports area is situated between the elevations of 1,280 and 1,498 m. One lift transports the guests to the elevated slopes. But you can also go in summer time and enjoy the fresh mountain’s air. Baisoara resort is considered as the second tourist area rich in ozone of Europe.
Turda Salt Mine (Romanian: Salina Turda) – The Salina Turda is the largest salt mine museum in the world and is located just 23 miles southeast of Cluj Napoca. You can conveniently catch a car, bus or train to reach there. The excellent preserving condition of the mining work, more than 20 centuries of history and a spectacular futuristic underground tourist attraction, Turda Salt Mine is definitely worth a visit.
Located in Turda, Transylvania, the sites a brightly lit modern art theme park nestled 120 meters below the surface of the Earth inside one of the oldest salt mines ever known. Salt extraction on the site’s surface started in antiquity, but the work expanded underground during the Roman occupation of Dacia. The salt was extracted manually using pickaxes, hammers, chisels, and steel wedges, by free people who were paid in florins, ale, and loaves of bread.
Located just 100 metres from Turda Salt Mine, on the Durgău Hills, is the La Salina Winery. The tradition of viticulture in these hills have roots in the Roman Empire period.
Are there any events or festivals in Cluj Napocaaround which tourists should plan their holiday to feel the local culture?
Cluj-Napoca is Romania’s favorite festival destination. Plan your stay during the spring season or when summer is at its peak to experience these extremely popular festivals –
The Transylvania International Film Festival, or TIFF, was founded in 2002 by the Romanian Film Promotion. It has grown rapidly to become the most important film-related event in Romaniare film competition. It is the first international feature film festival in Romania, which is held annually in Cluj-Napoca, the historic capital of Transylvania.
The Untold Festival is the largest electronic music festival held in Romania. It is heald in August, and it is now the largest annual electronic music festival in the country. Takes place every year once in August. It has also been designated as Best Major Festival within European Festival Awards 2015.
Held in the premises of Bánffy Castle in July every year, The Electric Castle Festival is an annual music festival that combines music, technology and alternative arts.
What are the must try dishes in Cluj Napoca (both sweet and savoury)? Which are the popular places to try them?
In a very general way, Transylvania is seen to have fatty and heavy dishes traditionally. Its main influences are Austrian and Hungarian cuisine.The winters are harsh and people have to work hard every day, therefore people here make heavy food. One typical preparation in the region is the pork and sausage stew, and one of the most popular dish is beans with smoked pork ham.
The most famous deserts we have here are: the apple/cheese strudel (because of the ostrich influence) and the papanasi (fried or boiled pastry, doughnut shaped with a small sphere on top. They are usually filled with a soft cheese, marmalade and sour cream).
In Cluj-Napoca you can try the traditional dishes at Casa Dacilor, Bistro Viena or Zama Bistro.
Where to head for shopping in your city? Are there any popular weekend/night/flea markets which tourists must visit?
When in Cluj, look out for all things local – whether it be sweet (jams, nuts, dried fruit, honey) or savory (cheese, preserved foods, wine, and more) treats, traditional handicrafts (jewellery, embroidery, woven rugs, ceramics, and woodwork), or the excellent quality, affordable leather goods. There are two huge shopping centers in the city: Vico Cluj-Napoca and Iulius Mall.
Also, very often we can find local souvenirs, artisanal and traditional products at the markets organized in the Unirii Square.
What local crafts and souvenirs one can learn to make or collect from the city? Anything that one must bring home from Romania?
The most traditional and artisanal product we have, it’s the pottery hand crafted items that are made locally (colourful pots, plates etc.) and the glass painted icons.
Also, you can buy an IE, the traditional, handmade blouse decorated with ancient folk motifs combined in one-of-a-kind decorations, occupies a central place in Transylvania’s folk heritage.
Please suggest places from where one can get the best view of the city?
Cluj-Napoca has a great panorama view from the place called Cetãţuia Hill. This is the first place to go if you want an overview of the city. While going up may take some effort, the view is worthwhile. Take your camera and capture wonderful panoramic pictures of the best sunsets in Cluj-Napoca.
Would you suggest any shows in your city to drama, music or art lovers? Where to hunt for the coolest of murals in the city?
Like I said earlier, a performance at the National Theater is a must. People in Cluj are very used to see contemporary performance works in which performers and their audiences occupy a shared realm of feelings.
Find live music, concerts, tour dates and festivals in Cluj-Napoca at Cluj Arena, a multi-purpose stadium which is the fifth largest stadium in Romania by seating capacity. The building is located west of Central Park, and next to the Someșul Mic river.
In the past graffiti was compared to vandalism, however, these days graffiti is popular among tourists and locals. For the biggest mural in Romania visit the courtyard of the Innovation Social Hub H33, also, Booha Baron Piezisei Street (university campus), known for its murals. You can also visit the indoor museums or galleries like Paintbrush Factory and Transit House which is a Jewish synagogue turned into a major cultural centre.
Please recommend some cafes, tea houses, restaurants, bars or night clubs to tourists which are very popular with the locals.
Coffee comes in every form that you can imagine in Cluj’s cafés. The most popular ones are: Meron, Narcoffee Roasters and Roots. Also, Doamna T is a very special place, where you will feel like you are in your grandmother’s home, drinking her flavored coffee and eating her homemade cinnamon cakes.
One of the most common places when you can hang out with your friends is Klausen Burger (a beerhouse with an incredible Roof top). Also the Museum Square with the old pubs is very popular. You will not fail if you go there and the perfect night is guaranteed.
Any list of do’s and don’t’s in Romania that one should respect and follow? As a local would you want to give any suggestion/tip to tourists coming to your city?
You can feel safe to travel to Romania and you will discover an incredible land that you will fall in love with immediately. All strangers that come here are very impressed and forget about the old prejudices they could have had before.
You can have a wonderful stay with a moderate-low budget, and access to quality places that in the most European countries are very expensive.
As an Eastern Europe country, after so many years of ostrich imperium occupation, people are enough polite here, disciplined and respect the good manners. Also, we try to protect nature as much as we can, and on the other hand, we like to maintain the streets as clean as possible. So if you’ll throw garbage around, maybe people will give you a strange look.
Things To Know
Visa : For Romania entry requirements and visa information, click here. Romania is not yet part of the Schengen visa agreement but Schengen Visa holders do not need to get a (special) Romanian visa to visit Romania as long as their Schengen visa allows at least two entries in Schengen space and the number of entries and/ or length of stay has not been not exhausted.
UNESCO Listed Sites : There are four UNESCO heritage sites in Romania. Monastery of Horezu, Medieval fortified churches of Transylvania, Historic centre of Sighisoara, Painted Monasteries of Bucovina, Wooden Churches of Maramures and Dacian Fortresses of the Orastie Mountains (Sarmisegetusa Regia).
Rental Cars : Romania is a European country that does not rely on toll roads but vignettes. You need an e-vignette to travel on national roads and motorways. Vignettes can be bought (also on-line) for 7, 30 or 90 days or for a year. The charge depends on the category of vehicle. The Vidin, Cernavoda and Giurgeni bridges are not covered by the e-vignette and you have to pay a different toll charge depending on the bridge concerned and the category of vehicle.
Drones : Flying drones is legal in Romania. Here are the requirements you need to fulfill.
Tip : WizzAir has a base in Cluj Napoca, hence there are plenty of cheap routes to a wide variety of cities from or via Cluj Napoca.