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…

Cluj City Hall Quits Teasing, Goes Full Nude

As you may recall, the object of my intense desire, Cluj-Napoca City Hall, had been veiled in tantalizing construction lingerie for as long as I’d known her.  So eager was I to peek up her satin nightgown last December that it landed me in the backseat of a police car. Such is the plight of those who find…

Abandonment Issues: Kornis Castle

Kornis Castle, located near the city of Dej, is my favorite abandoned Transylvanian castle to date, though that’s bound to change in the near future as the weather gets better.  It’s a bit removed from Dej itself, so if you arrive in the city by train or bus you should find some way to get to…

Do-It-Yourself Romania: Exploring Mines at Roșia Montană

Roșia Montană is a highly controversial, inactive gold mine in Transylvania’s Apuseni Mountains that’s been written about extensively over the years.  Sam has expounded quite a bit on the topic already, so rather than beat a dead horse, I’ll refer you to a few of his articles.  What little I can add to the palimpsest of Roșia…

U.S. Ambassador Klemm Takes on ‘Revanchist Russia’

Yesterday the Citadel Group at Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj hosted U.S. Ambassador Klemm at the Faculty of European Studies, an event which I was fortunate enough to attend and even participate in marginally. Ambassador Klemm’s speech (transcript here) focused on a ‘revanchist Russia’ and what NATO and particularly Romania ought to be doing to counter its…

Gypsy Palaces in Huedin

Few places in Romania have a higher concentration of garish gypsy palaces than the little town of Huedin, located just west of Cluj.  The palaces have always struck me as the architectural equivalent of gold grillz and raised trucks—flashy emblems for American proles who want to project a moneyed lifestyle despite earning $30,000 a year. Most people…

BlaBlaCar in Romania

I was taking a leak on a train from Iași to Cluj when it dawned on me that there had to be a better way to travel long-distance across Romania.  The thought struck me then and there because, while one hand was busy aiming my Johnson roughly at the rim, the other was holding the sliding door…

Do-It-Yourself Romania: Geamăna’s Sunken Church

When it comes to Romania, trips to the countryside are do-it-yourself ventures.  How much fun you have depends on how willing you are to forego convenience in exchange for some shockingly wild experiences.  For example, there’s Geamăna: once a sleepy little mountain town, it now resides deep beneath a slurry of toxic mine drainage thanks to communist-era vicissitudes.  Today, only the church…