Cluj-Napoca is a city located in the North-West of Romania and is the unofficial capital of the Transylvania. It has a great history and culture, and Vampires roam the streets… I joke. I didn’t do any tours relating to Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, however the city has a lot of them on offer.
I arrived late in the evening, and decided to wander through the old town and see the 1902 Matthias Corvinus Statue. He was the King of Hungary and the statue was created in his honour when Cluj-Napoca ruled by the Hungarian empire.
It is situated in front of a gothic-style church called St. Michael’s.
An early start to my second day in Cluj-Napoca saw me on the number 17 bus, heading towards Salina Turda. It will cost you 4.5 RON (£0.86) one-way to reach the town of Turda. To give you some background, Salina Turda was a salt mine and historical documents mention this place as far back as 1075AD!
My walk to the mine itself accidentally took a couple of wrong turns… I took the longest way around, finding myself walking through some farms…
Even though it wasn’t intentional it was a pleasant walk through the countryside.
The salt mine has been accessible to tourists since 1992 and will cost you 20 RON (£3.80). The first section you come to is the access tunnel.
It seems to go on and on for hundreds of meters and the salt on the floor, walls and roof of the tunnel make it look like you are in an ice cave, and it is very cold!
It was such a unique and amazing experience.
There are several rooms throughout the mine you can explore, such as:
· Crivac Room – where the winch was located to bring up the salt from the mine below
· Losif Mine
· Terezia Mine – This mine contains an underground lake with stalactites, which I will go into detail in a bit.
· Rudolf Mine – This was the final mine used here at Turda
· Gizela Mine
Throughout your visit there are quite a few areas where you can learn about the history of the mine and salt mining in the medieval period.
Some of these mines are so deep you have to take a set of stairs (Which are extremely slippery so please do hold on) or a lift (The line is so long you could be waiting anywhere between 20-30 mins during peak season to go up or down). What they have done for tourism purposes is turn the mines into a fun place to take the kids.
There was a Ferris wheel in the middle of this mine!
My favourite part of my visit was the Terezia Mine. At the bottom of this mine is the lake where they originally found salt deposits, and they have now built platforms that are UFO shaped and look quite cool from above. What was also exciting was they had some small row boats in the lake that you can go on.
I couldn’t resist so I decided to line up and have a go.
I was terrible. At the time I had zero upper body strength or the coordination to direct myself in the direction I intended (I like to think I hit the gym enough now though to say I would be better!)
Even though I wasn’t great, I had a blast.
There are a couple of places to eat and lots of activities to keep your kids (big or little) preoccupied for the day here. The mines give a great mix of education and fun for a day out.
Be warned though, even if it’s warm (summer) outside, inside the mine it will be cold so pack a pair of trousers and a jacket when visiting.
The next day I decided to venture to the West of the city to Hoia Forest. This forest has some great hiking and biking trails, however this is not what it is known for. According to legends this forest is known for paranormal phenomena with apparent sightings of ghosts.
This has created interest and means the park offers night tours for paranormal fans from across the globe.
Outside of the potential ghost sighting, the area is quite lovely, and I had fun walking through the eerie forest.
Just south of the old town are the Botanical Gardens. The gardens contain over 10,000 plants from across the world, with a large dedication to Romanian flora.
A popular element are the Japanese Gardens, so of course I decided to do a little photo op. 😛
The gardens are beautiful; however, I would suggest to go in spring or summer to see everything in full bloom.
Entry will set you back RON 7 (£1.35) for the outside area (2019) and a couple of RON more for the museum as well. This price is subject to change based on the time of the year.
My final day in Cluj-Napoca was a foggy one, but I didn’t let that stop me from going out and exploring. Rain, hail and shine I will always be out and about exploring a new destination.
I decided to join a walking tour to better understand the history of the city. We met at Union Square by the Matthias Corvinus Statue. I went on a free guided tour (green logo), run by local university students who gave some great information on the city.
One of the main spots to visit was the Assumption Cathedral, built in the 15th century in the Romanian Brancovenesc style. I was unable to go inside as it was a Sunday and an Orthodox mass was on.
At the front of the Cathedral is the statue of Avram Iancu, who was a lawyer and one of the leaders of the revolution of Transylvania between 1848-1849.
Across from the Cathedral is the Lucian Blaga National Theatre, which was built in the early 1900’s by an Austrian architect.
The city’s old town is quite small and is very pretty to walk through, with historical churches like the Francisan Church.
Matthias Corvinus House is one of the oldest buildings in the city, built in the 15th century and has served as a jail, hospital and a museum over time.
Cluj-Napoca is a relatively cheap city to visit and there are many local restaurants that are value for money.
Although it may be small, Cluj-Napoca has enough to offer for a lovely weekend trip away.