Tourism

Timisoara, pronounced “Ti-mi-shwar-ra”, or Temesvár, as known by Hungarians, has an alluring Mediterranean atmosphere alongside the many fine, regal Hapsburg, Art Nouveau, Baroque buildings throughout the old part of town, and often known as the “City of Flowers”. It's easy to see why with the fine, well attended gardens and parks within the central area.

One hour later at the height of sunrise, I arrived at the 'Gare Do Nord' train station and made my way along the River Bega footpath towards the centre. From this point it was easy to orientate myself towards the town's spectacular landmark, simply known as the “Metropolitan Cathedral” with the ever-so-pretty coned roof tops almost resembling fairy-tale structures.

This enchanting Romanian Orthodox place of worship was built in 1936 and completed 10 years later. With its majestic ornate spires, decorated with exquisite green, yellow and red tiles in geometrical patterns, 'The Metropolitan' stands 83 meters tall and with grandeur, overlooks the city.

After briefly looking inside and capturing the essence and splendour of an early morning service, and not wanting to distract those in prayer, I went in search for a yet-to-be opened café near by.

From this point, it's easy access to everything else as the central, pedestrianised “Piata Victoriea”, Victoria Square is very much in line of sight. As one can take to the shops, the businesses, as well as the open air bars and restaurants throughout the day and well into the night.

As you proceed and reach the end of this busy promenade, it's clear where the main theatre and opera house is, as it faces directly opposite 'the Metropolitan'. A little further on is the beautifully restored, far quieter and more spacious “Unirii Square”, lined with blue, amber and blazing red buildings within the heart of the old town. The main attraction is the distinct Baroque 1754 Roman Catholic Cathedral, that follows with various hotels, bookshops, museums, tea-rooms and so-forth within this vicinity.


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Revolution

Beyond the sites, and focusing on the local scene, the Timisoarians have very strong recollections of '1989' which are legendary. As local people with much pride, often refer to their town as the “Primul Oras Liber” meaning “First Free Town”. As the first spark of the Romanian revolution took place that December, in Timisoara, as resentments towards the aggressive, dysfunctional old style system really took off. Huge crowds stormed Victoriea Square in their thousands with demands for regime change before igniting nationwide. A few days later, this eventually toppled Dictator Ceausescu and years of brutal and repressive communist rule.

There is plenty of revolution and “December 1989” emphasises throughout the town which really catches the attention of tourists and locals alike. Alongside the archives, new chronicles and film documentaries are now available. Further information can be found at the must-see Revolution Monuments Museum. www.memorialulrevolutiei.ro

But Timisoara is not just about 'The Revolution', beyond this are the arts, musical theatre scenes and an university. The town also dubbed “Little Vienna,” a tourist cliché perhaps? But compelling enough to make a point, as there are some Viennese influences which go beyond this article, and await your attention whilst there.


Orientation

Timisoara itself is a little more than 100 kilometres South/ East of Szeged and easy enough to get to. Interestingly enough, this town alongside Szeged and near by Subotica in Serbia, known as Szabadka by Hungarians, make up a cultural circuit as they are fairly similar in style and atmosphere. But with many different stories to tell, as all were once part of Hungary until Temesvár and Szabadka went separate ways Post Trianon 1920, and took to new, verifying identities, and remains very much a historical case study. But with today's lighter mood with borders controls and tourism; access to all have never been easier. For those who really appreciate vintage period architecture, set in defining, illustrious styles, I highly recommend visiting all three.

Until it really takes off, for those who prefer lesser-known tourism, Timisoara makes a great choice as there is plenty on offer for a long weekend. The central part is undergoing much construction work and development. The city provides all essential needs to satisfy any budget. Online tourist information about Timisoara is now plentiful, as seen on many tourism websites.

Although situated at a central point of triangular crossroads between Budapest, Bucharest and Belgrade, Timisoara may be considered too 'out of the way' and perhaps bypassed by some. But it is clearly accessible as seen on a road map with these obvious main through routes, leading to and from these particular capitals, with Timisoara inbetween.

There are 2 direct Budapest to Timisoara trains everyday which are comfortable enough, albeit 5 hours long, due to time spent at the border with changing of the engines from a Romanian to a Hungarian one and vice versa depending on which way you are coming from. A passport is all that is required with ticket, there are no custom controls.

But for those who really like a challenge, I highly recommend what I did 10 years ago, when I first came this way by bike from Szeged via the Kiszombor border. This exhilarating route not only takes one away from busy main roads, but took me to the highest of bike gears for lengthy periods as I cycled at high speeds within the heat and dust of the 'Number 6' road all the way into town.

Most unexpected I also discovered Hollywood's original 'Tarzan' Johnny Weissmuller (1904- 84) and perhaps the town's most famous son, with 12 Tarzan films to his name, was born to a German family in Timisoara. But his family, left Temesvár for the US in 1907, and with no particular evidence showing, he never 'swung back' to his roots.

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Finally, for those with a great sense of adventure, and something I am yet to do, is to proceed 200 Kms further southwards from Timisoara, to the “Kazan Straits” via the grandiose Baile Herculaine/ Herkules-Fürdó, a famous health resort, with my bike to the River Duna at Orsova. As this region presents much natural, rugged scenery and wondrous panoramic views, as does the Dunakanya/ Danube Bend situated between Szentendre and Esztergom. Then cycle over the renowned 'Iron-Gate' border bridge into Serbia, and proceed along that spectacular stretch of road too, before returning home.

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