I took an Uber to the train station, and a minibus via Arad and Salonta, north to Oradea (3 hours, 180 km, around 8 Euros). Hotel by the river, first impressions are of a charmless, industrial town. However a big surprise during the first walk: After endless concrete slab buildings and broken sidewalks I come across the historically important citadel Oradea, a huge former bastion of the Habsburg empire and the Transylvanian principality. In 1598, a handful of soldiers fought against 10,000 attacking Turks. In 1660 though, and after a relentless siege, the citadel finally fell to the Ottomans. Today the mighty walls are crumbling. Around the two large courtyards are castle-like buildings and a church. Artisans and craftspeople. I am walking through a pleasant park, passing the big Neologa synagogue. The massive Vultural Negru (Black Eagle), an art nouveau colossus, is a real highlight. Freshly redecorated, playful with wonderful ornaments, winding inner passageways and high ceilings. On Unity Square, I visit St. Maria Ascension Cathedral, a Greco-Catholic episcopal palace and the biggest baroque building in the country, as well as the town hall; very appealing architecture around. Crossing the Crisul river and into the pedestrian zone: more art nouveau buildings, a theatre worthy of a big city, plenty to see.
Train ride to Cluj-Napoca (130 km, 3 hours, 6.50 Euro), the country’s second biggest city: new hotel with spacious suite. The old city is not very big and frankly, rather disappointing. Lots of students, though. The next day I am taking a rental car at the small airport. New motorway, at least part of the way to Sibiu. In Julia Alba, I saw a huge sawmill; little surprise given the deforested hills around the area.