FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Sightseeing in Cluj-Napoca

Posted in Cluj-Napoca, Romania by folkestonejack on October 4, 2015

A bright morning beckoned, so I took myself off on a two hour walk around Cluj-Napoca to round off my week in Romania. I had already been given a wonderful view of the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral at sunrise from my hotel. The cathedral was built between 1923 and 1933 so it’s not really that old, but it has certainly stamped its mark on the skyline of the city.

The Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral at sunrise

The Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral at sunrise

Wonderful architecture abounds and the incredible church building program we have seen across Romania is visible here too with a Greek Catholic cathedral under construction to rival the stunning Romanian Orthodox basilica (or Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral to give it the correct title).

The official title of the new cathedral is Catedrala „Martirilor şi Mărturisitorilor sec. al XX-lea” (which I believe translates as the cathedral of the martyrs and confessors of the twentieth century). Construction of the cathedral has been a rather long winded affair. Work started on 27th January 1991 but stopped in 1999 when the money ran out.

Over a decade would pass before building works resumed. This year the fifth and final stage has begun, which will see the completion of the dome topping the building and take the cathedral to its full height of 48 metres (you can see a picture of how the finished cathedral will look in the article Catedrala din Piaţa Cipariu ar putea fi gata în 2015).

Catedrala „Martirilor şi Mărturisitorilor sec. al XX-lea”

The Greek=Catholic Cathedral under construction

Around midday I checked out of the hotel and headed to the airport for my homeward journey. The first flight, on a TAROM ATR 42 to Bucharest was twenty five minutes late departing but miraculously ended up only five minutes late by the time it landed. I had plenty of time to make my connection and before long was back on a British Airways flight to London.

The week long tour of steam in Romania has been a pleasure from start to finish, despite the challenging conditions for photography. I can’t see myself coming back anytime soon, but I would recommend it to anyone else. It’s a wonderful adventure and if you get the sun on your side too…


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!