A HEROINE’S TRAVEL GUIDE
TO ORADEA, ROMANIA FIT FOR A HEROINE
/ BY ANCA URDEA
Chic, buzzing and colourful, Oradea is a flourishing Transylvanian city nearly one millennia old. Not yet popular with the mainstream tourist, but becoming more accessible via its new international airway connections, the city invites to a perfect city escape for the stroll lover, bike rider, and curious picture taker.
Having housed Europe’s first astronomical observatory and the zero degrees meridian between the 15th and 17th centuries, precisely when the New World was being discovered, and housing the tomb of king Sigismund of Luxembourg are Oradea’s claim to fame.
Discover layers upon layers of history.
Like many cities in Transylvania and, well, Europe, Oradea keeps its oldest stories close to its heart, literally. That’s why it’s good to start your visit with the fortress around which the city was gradually built, beginning with the 12th century. With five bastions and shaped like a five pointed-star, the Renaissance and Gothic buildings within the fortress walls house curiosities, traditional arts and crafts workshops, and craftsmen eager to share stories and legends.
Take a stroll through the cobbled streets within the walls, peak through the doors at leisure, take beautiful photos with a backdrop of white and red bricks and enchant your tastebuds with goodies from the stands around. When done, head to the park just outside of the walls; in what once used to be the trenches of the fortress. There’s plenty of benches and grass to stop for a picnic, or to sit in the sun with a good book.
Grab a cake and coffee in Union Square.
A 15-minute walk from the fortress, via the 1st December park and a pedestrianised street full of coffee shops, is the Union Square. A melting pot of Baroque, Secession, Romantic, Eclectic, Neo-Byzantine buildings with pastel-coloured facades adorn the square and enchant the eyes. The Black Eagle Palace, with its glass-roofed, art nouveau arcade, together with the Church of the Moon, are probably the most famous of them.
This is the place to be, whether for morning or afternoon coffee, evening cocktails, or any-time-of-day ice cream; It’s the place where locals meet, party, and chill. So take a seat at any of the terraces – as long as it allows you to take in the view of the whole place – order an Amandina (chocolate cake) and a strong coffee, and enjoy the moment. Romanians in this part of the country much adhere to the Italian saying “dolce far niente” (“sweet idleness”).
Do your shopping on the Republic Street.
A stone’s throw away from the Union Square is the City Hall, the Clock Tower, and the Saint Ladislau bridge. Cross the bridge, past the State Theatre, to reach the beautiful Republic Street lined with period buildings accommodating bars, restaurants and shops on the ground floor. Do your shopping here and then snack on sweet and savoury bite-sized pastries – you’ll love them!
Picture Umbridge pink-painting this kitchen!
The La Roche – Darvas house is a charming Secession Viennese building with an airy, light and sophisticated interior, tainted glass windows, high ceilings, exquisitely adorned furniture, and a splendid garden. It features an Art Nouveau kitchen including small plates with traditional Romanian motives decorating the walls. The sight reminds me of Umbridge’s office, minus the harsh pink and her annoying giggles.
Walk through the gardens of the Bishop’s Palace.
In spring, when magnolias are in blossom, the gardens around the Bishop’s Palace have a romantic and magical feel about them that attract plenty of local flower-lovels and couples. Walk the many paths around the Bishop’s Palace and have a peak inside the Roman Catholic Cathedral, the biggest Baroque edifice in the country. It’s the resting place of Kind Sigismund of Luxembourg and features an 18th century organ gifted by the Habsburg empress Maria Theresa.
The communist heritage is a reminder of a more recent past.
As with most cities in the ex-communist bloc, Oradea was heavily industrialised during the communist regime. Grey, square, and bleak blocks of flats were built on the outskirts of the city, to house the new population that arrived from rural areas to work in factories.
From the Union Square, rent a bike and cycle up the river. The promenade traverses the city, taking you through parks towards the West, where the first communist neighbourhood was built. Small corner shops, crammed buildings and lots of concrete will paint a picture of communist legacy, devoid of privacy, individuality, or personality.
Get a feel of the entire city by admiring the panoramic views from the Mushroom Hill.
An old city, Oradea brings before you a melting-pot of architectural styles and influences and an international community with a varied heritage, bordered by a grey layer of communist buildings.
To contemplate on your experience and to give yourself some time to digest the tastes and colours of the city, take a break at the top of the Mushroom Hill. Enjoy a Romanian dinner of ‘mititei’ and fries in the old restaurant and admire the panoramic views at sunset.
Now that you’re fully acquainted, what story about Oradea will you tell your heroine friends?
Anca is a career and RedesignYourBody™ coach, working with Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Time Line Therapy™ and Hypnotherapy to enable and empower her clients to achieve their professional and personal goals. She blogs at www.ancaurdea.com. When she’s not working, Anca loves to run, travel, and read.
Xandra recommends: Get some book recommendations from Anca’s Awesome reads posts.
Photos by Visit Oradea