Castles and Communism on the Road to Dej

A few friends and I visited Banffy Castle (home of Electric Castle), Kornis Castle and the local salt baths (Parc Balnear Toroc) on a recent road trip to Dej. First, Banffy Castle: The inside of Banffy Castle used to be accessible to visitors, however now they’ve barred off the entrances and windows of the building. But…

Do-It-Yourself Romania: A Miscellany of Decay in Vaslui County

I spent Christmas with a good friend who lives in the far east of Romania. There’s quite a lot of interesting rot to see out there if you know where to look. Here are some highlights: My friend knew of a few abandoned wine tunnels back east, where there are many. The one of brick…

Locked in St. Michael’s Tower

It’s not every day that people are allowed to climb to the balcony of St. Michael’s Church, the architectural centerpiece of Cluj-Napoca. So when a visiting friend and I spotted people halfway up the tower, we struck while the iron was hot and took the rickety wooden stairs up. It was surprising how permissive the workers at…

Abandonment Issues: Chişinău Edition

Chişinău has a lot of opportunities for people with my perversion. Of the abandoned buildings I visited, only one—the circus—was inaccessible, largely because there were aggressive stray dogs roaming and snarling around the perimeter. The others were fairly easy to enter and well worth it. The synagogue within the Jewish necropolis was unlike anything I’d seen before. I’d never been…

Bury Me Amid Chaos

My grandfather’s funeral was my only encounter with death that wasn’t terrifying. After passing, he was interred in a massive cemetery in Southern California that was exquisitely maintained. It was a neatfreak’s eternal paradise. Germans would love it. The chaos of Romanian cemeteries, on the other hand, is not for the obsessive compulsive of heart. They’re unkempt, asymmetrical…