I spent a day in Cluj almost by accident. I’d been in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, for nearly six weeks, and I intended to explore the rest of the country. What brought me to Cluj was a travel hack mentioned in my guide to finding cheap flights.
I wanted to fly to Cyprus from Romania, but flying from Bucharest was nearly $200. Instead, I found round-trip tickets from Cluj for $50, and paid $15 for a Blablacar to get to the other side of Romania in order to catch my flight. I was only in Cluj for a few hours, but I was able to spend a full day there when I returned from Cyprus. While most of the attractions are out of the town and not easy to do without a car and a bus leaving at 6 PM, there are a few places worth visiting.
Cluj City Center
Cluj is fairly similar to other Romania cities, as far as architecture goes. It’s the second-largest city in Romania, but doesn’t have nearly as much traffic or…chaos…as Bucharest, the capital and largest city. I started my exploration in the old town and St. Michael’s Church. It wasn’t nearly as busy as I was expecting it to be, especially for the summer. Maybe that’s just because it was still morning, and the city was way too hot for walking around.
Reminiscent of Timisoara and Brasov, the city center was lined with cafes and terraces. There were no market stalls set up, but instead they were constructing a large concert stage for the Jazz festival that was launching the day after I left. Speaking of which, there were three large concerts coming up, including the Electronic Castle, which I’ve been wanting to attend for years. I even have a friend working there, and they offered me a free ticket, but it coincides with my press trip in Portugal! (sad face) I’d say next year, but I’ll be in Zimbabwe then…
Cluj Botanical Gardens
A little after noon, I met up with a local I’d found on Couchsurfing who was able to take a break from studying for her medical finals in order to spend a couple hours exploring with me. I’d seen the botanical gardens on the map, and she agreed they were worth a visit.
The entrance to the gardens is $2.50, or half that if you’re a Romanian student. The gardens are nearly 35 acres, and include a watch tower with a great view, Japanese gardens, green houses, a stream running through the middle and most of the rest of the things you usually find in a botanical garden.
Perhaps the best part of the gardens was the ability to escape from the heat of the day. In truth, I might have enjoyed learning about my host Madaline and her stories of Romania than I did the gardens. Not only is she finishing medical school, she’s also a mountaineer, a black belt and an avid traveler. While I recently posted my views on traveling solo, Couchsurfing is a great way to meet up with locals.
Off to Moldova
The day certainly didn’t last long, and after a couple hours, she had to get back to her exams while I went for my bus to Moldova. That 14-hour bus ride wasn’t most comfortable I’ve been on, but Moldova has been fantastic. I’ll get those posts written soon. And then there’s Ukraine to write about…
I do hope you’re enjoying my stories! Let me know if they resonate with you, if there’s anything more about my travels you’d like to know about, etc. I always look forward to hearing your feedback.