This guest post describing the Romanian city of Oradea is written by New World Yankee who authors the Yankee in a New World blog which aims to help other American expats adapt to living in Europe.
“Did you see any vampires?”
When I told people I went to Romania, this was the first question I was asked, followed by self indulgent chuckle at their reference to Draculaâ€™s home. Though I was in Transylvania, I went not to his castle, but to a burgeoning city right across the border from Hungary, Oradea or NagyvÃ¡rad.
Crisul Repede River, Oradea copyright of NewWorldYankee
This city of 250.000 people is going through a period of renaissance and reconstruction. Everywhere you look is new construction, refurbishing, and modernization all tucked into ancient turrets and churches older than the country itself. Tourism is only starting to grow in Oradea, so it is undiscovered treasure and un-traveled by most. It was passed back and forth between Hungary and Romania many times during its history, so has an incredible blend of both cultures.
But I have to say, I wish I lived there. I was able to use my Spanish, since Romanian is a Latin tongue and a lot of the words are similar. Many locals also knew English, German, Italian, or French, so most people are bound to be able to communicate. Of course the main aim in speaking is to shop in Oradea. Shopping there is extremely affordable and many of the local specialties of ceramics and shoe making are evident. The Strata Republicii is the main street of Oradea, and touted to be one of the most beautiful streets in Transylvania. It is here that reconstruction is fully evident.
We decided to not hit the tourist locations, but to simply wander through out the city and see what struck us as click worthy. This way, it is a pleasant surprise when what you find beautiful and what others want us to see collides. We passed through the famous Pasajul Vulturul Negru, or the Black Eagle Passage, an area full of stained glass ceilings that inspire the eye. Stop in the many cafÃ©s located within and appreciate them for all their glory.
Black Eagle Passage copyright of NewWorldYankee
Also worth a mention is CriÅŸul Repede, the rushing river that runs through the center of the city, and paints a scenic background to the rushing passersby. The city is also famous for its health spas, having natural thermal springs. The most famous of which is the Baile Felix, located just outside the city and accessible by bus. Lastly, the famous pentagonal citadel, Cetatea Oradea is a sight to behold. It has 2500 steps on the outside, and was blessed by the Catholic Church in the 12th century. The fact that is it still standing with all the conflict and wars fought in the area is a testament in itself.
All in all, a trip definitely worth making. And if you go, tell me if you run into any vampires, because we missed out.