Sunday Spotlight – Cluj Napoca
Today the spotlight is back and it’s shining Romania-way to a university town in the westish northish part of a country that has most of its international reputation built on the back of a dude who inspired the legend of Dracula and vampires and fast forward a few centuries and we have the awesome TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You have to admit, it’s a bloody fantastic series (see what I did there?) but just a second I’m NOT talking about vampires because no doubt any Romanian reading this post has already rolled their eyes so far back that they are now looking at the back of their eye sockets. Which isn’t much to look at and probably hurts a heck of a lot.
Oooops. Not a strong opening.
You see, Cluj Napoca is not a city I can say has a million things to do. No sir. But gosh, it’s pleasant and well located for day trips and short overnight (or two) trips as well into the mountainous regions that surround it. But it has a charm of its own, is pleasant to walk about or take a tram, has a few old buildings and churches worth a looksee and has a decent dining scene too. It is also home to one of the best hostels I have ever stayed at – the Retro Hostel. You can read more on that in my post – Top Five Backpacker Sleeps Europe.
But what of the things to see around Cluj that make it such a great base? Well, there’s a long list and Retro Hostel runs tours to many of the places at pretty decent prices – this is not a plug. Well, not at anyone’s request!
The Turda Gorge is a great place for a day hike, and not far from it is the Turda Salt Mine. The salt mine is huge and when I was there you basically had the run of the place rather than being on an escorted tour being told not to photograph this or that as a couple of other mine tours I took in Europe turned out to be.
But the real highlight for me was going to Scarisoara, a small town in the Apuseni Mountains. From there I hiked to the Scarisoara Ice Cave, which is just stunning and me and my mate had the whole place to ourselves. Tours are a good idea, however we did it by taking local bus and staying the very small village which was a real experience and a half. The only bad thing was that the buses weren’t very frequent and we had to take a 4am bus to make our connections in Cluj. Outside it was, even in June very very cold, around zero I should think. And the bus was an hour late!
You’ve also got a bear cave, thermal springs and the beautiful Sibiu to visit from Cluj. It’s not in the heart of Transylvania, but the scenery is still stunning. If I had to pick a place to spend a year in Romania in, it would be Cluj. A pleasant city, a wonderful base. May the Journey Never End!