FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Clouds over Cluj

Posted in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, Vișeu de Sus by folkestonejack on September 26, 2015

The morning turned out to be as grey as predicted, though nowhere near as wet. A wander through town took me into the striking Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral (1923-1933) and the austere Roman-Catholic Cathedral of St Michael (1390) before heading up to Cetăţuia Hill for a view across town. It looks like an interesting city with plenty of beautiful buildings, though perhaps better seen on a less gloomy day!

A view of Cluj-Napoca from Cetăţuia Hill

A view of Cluj-Napoca from Cetăţuia Hill

After negotiating the many pavement works in the centre of town (often helpfully arranged on both sides of the road at the same time to thwart the pedestrian) I made it back to my hotel, checked out and headed back to the airport to meet up with the tour group I am spending the next week with. I held out some hope for the week ahead after the skies unexpectedly cleared and the sun began to shine in defiance of the forecasters.

Our ‘posh’ bus left the airport at 2.30pm for the expected four and a half hour drive to Vișeu de Sus, the town in Northern Romania which is the base for the last remaining forestry railway system in Europe. On the way we stopped off at a supermarket to stock up on supplies and whilst we were inside the heavens opened, pounding the pavement with rain and forming rivers of water on the tarmac. I began to wish I hadn’t talked up the chances of good weather…

The drive northwards gave us our first sight of the deathly pallor of local industry, from derelict factories to abandoned power stations, before we made our way into the hills. A fair stretch of the road followed a rather beautiful standard gauge line with some quite spectacular viaducts which must have been a sight in steam days. The route also took us through many hillside villages, with horse drawn carts becoming an increasingly common sight on the road as we got closer to our destination.

We arrived at Vișeu de Sus at 5.45pm, well ahead of schedule, partly because our driver was speeding through the villages with little regard for what he could see ahead of him – living dangerously on our behalf!

Although the town had something of a timeless look, we were assured that change had well and truly arrived here. The asphalt road through town was still a dirt track only a few years ago and a tourist village is under construction near the railway station. The town probably looks quite delightful on a summer’s day, but perhaps not quite so appealing on a damp day such as this. The clouds hung low over the hillsides, threatening rain, as we headed off to our pensions.

CFR 150.216, built at the Romanian factory in Resita, is on static display in the grounds of the railway at Vișeu de Sus

CFR 150.216, built at the Romanian factory in Resita (1958), is on static display in the grounds of the railway at Vișeu de Sus

After settling into our pensions (in my case the rather charming Pensiunea Barsan, complete with a terrace overlooking the railway line) we headed back to a stationary dining car of the Carpatia Express for a four course meal that was served up over three hours. The lure of a night shoot with the locos proved too tempting for most, so only a handful of us were left to sample dessert as the clock struck ten.

Getting back to the pension proved interesting – the road was paved and lit partway, before giving way to an unpaved and unlit track. A torch was essential if we were to avoid succumbing to the gigantic puddles that had formed whilst we were eating. It was a relief to make it back to the comfort of my room without having an unexpected swim!

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