Having spent a few of our precious last few days in Europe heading back to the UK for a Coldplay concert, we we’re behind schedule in Eastern Europe and looking to make up a couple of days. The easiest way we decided to do so was to skip travelling to the other side of Romania to see Bucharest and instead visit the closer (and more mysterious) city of Timisoara located on the western side of Romania.
Having previously only travelled the well trodden European cities of Warsaw, Krakow, Bratislava and Budapest we were very uncertain of what we’d be finding in the lesser known town deep within the Eastern Block…
I’m not gonna lie, our first taste of Timisoara was a herd of cows hanging out on a road without supervision… Which only served to confirm my preconceptions.
I was as it turned out, off the mark. I discovered a city that Timisoara was far more advanced than I’d given credit for. In fact Timisoara is practically the EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow) of the East. As Timisoara stands, in terms of location and population that it has often been selected as the location to test out new technologies. Such examples include that it was the first European city to get street lighting & in 2013 was named the European city with the fastest internet (its actually incredible); perfect for all you techies out there!
You can cover most of the Cities top sights in a day, so having two days in Timisoara gave us the luxury of taking our time. Below I’ve listed a few of the highlights from our visit:
Hostel Costel was one of our favourite Hostels so far. Dada and the rest of the Hostel Mostel staff made our stay feel so welcoming. Full of info and interest, Hostel Costel crew go above and beyond. We stayed up late playing board games, eating communal burnt chilli popcorn and making the most of the internet to mass upload photos to our dropbox. The hostel interestingly got its name while the owners were trying to register their business at the local government administration office; as hostels are a fairly new thing in Timisoara (there are only 2) the lady serving them was confused by the term ‘hostel’ and kept asking ‘but who is this Costel guy?” – the owners laughed so much that they decided to take the name on.
Tell you what, I’m a Langos fanatic! I’d heard while in Budapest that Langos was a co-creation of Hungary and Romania but it was interesting to see that while very similar, both are unique. The hungarian Langos is thick and round with toppings spread onto, Romanian Langos are thin, oval and fillings within (we had cheese flavour). Both are very cost effective and extremely delicious.
Kopi Luwak (Mokum Cafe)
Anyone who has seen The Bucketlist with Jack Nicholas an Morgan Freeman will recognise Kopi Luwak as the most expensive coffee in the world and later revealed to be derived from coffee beans digested and excreted by Civits. Bucket lists have been a central theme of our year so upon hearing that Mokum Cafe in town stocked the beans we decided that we had to try it. It is expensive; €15 per batch (I can list a lot of things you can do with €15 Euro in Eastern Europe) but yolo. We came at it with open minds but soon discovered that its actually not too dissimilar from normal coffee. Either normal coffee tastes like poop coffee or I’ve secretly been drinking Kopi Luwak for years. Still, don’t let me put you off, bottoms up 😉
Scart/Communist Consumer Museum
On the southern side of the river, there is a cafe run by a group of theatre performers who’ve recycled an old town house into a cafe/Museum/Theatre. While very smoky (people smoke everywhere you go in Europe), does make great coffee and holds a great deal of quirky communist furniture. You are also able to head downstairs for peek at their free mini museum which replicates an apartment during the communist era, filled with communist era goods.
Is the meeting point of anyone in Timisoara. Its gorgeous and offeres a view not too different from Main Street USA in Disneyland…with the castle replaced by Cathedral Mitropolitană, the centrepiece of the square.
Timisoara is gorgeous and filled with character; here are a few of our favourite squares and statues and meals!
Heading into Eastern Europe, we’re getting our first taste of Orthodox christianity. So far all of the Orthodox churches have been free to visit (refreshing change), extremely ornate and gold clad. Practically none have had permanent chairs out for services and all have had a constant stream of devoted followers visiting & going through their rituals. As respectful observers we haven’t had any issues with people making us feel unwelcome and photos don’t seem to be frowned upon. We accidentally stumbled into a service which was fascinating; at the front of each church is a gold clad divide, which separates the congregation from a sacred space. The door to this space gets opened, granting your a glimpse during services. I’ve heard it said that divide is mean to represent heaven on one side and earth on the other, highlighting a sense that 1) heaven is not far from us and will in fact be on earth eventually and 2) to show that while it is not yet here that it is breaking through into our world. I’m told that it is one of the priest’s jobs to walk back and forth between both sections to highlight the blurring lines between the two. All of which i find quite fascinating and inspiring really (but I’m still not used to all the icon kissing etc).
Things to note:
No baggage storage in town so see if you can leave your bag at your hostel/hotel on your last day while you explore (Timisoara is pretty new to tourism!)