We had some ground to cover on our Interrail adventure this time reaching Brasov from Vienna. This night train journey would have been too long for the puppy so we opted to have a day-long break on this journey and chose Alba Iulia. The train was due to arrive at 9 am in Alba Iulia and was an ideal time for morning potty club for the dog.
Alba Iulia is located in the West-Central part of Romania in the heart of the region of Transylvania and is located on the Mures River. Historically the city has been the base of Transylvania’s Roman Catholic diocese. Between 1541 and 1690 Alba Iulia was the capital of the Eastern Hungarian Kingdom and the latter Principality of Transylvania. Alba Iulia is historically important for Romanians, Hungarians, and Transylvanian Saxons.
In December 2018, the city was officially declared Capital of the Great Union of Romania. Great Union Day AKA Ziua Marii Uniri is celebrated on 1st December annually. Ziua Marii Uniri is a celebration of the unification of Transylvania, Bessarabia, and Bukovina with the Romanian Kingdom in 1918.
The main historical area of Alba Iulia is the Upper Town or Citadel which was created by Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor in honour of whom the Habsburgs renamed the city Karlsburg. The fortress has seven bastions in a stellar shape, which was constructed between 1716 and 1735. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alba_Iulia
We had arranged to arrive early at our accommodation so we could grab a few hours sleep after the tiring night train journey something the host was very happy to do.
The accommodation this time was a room in an old Romanian ladies home not far from the citadel and a 15-minute walk from the station. The room was clean and spacious and we were welcome to use the kitchen and main room on the house. The host was very friendly and spoke good English and was very welcoming to the dog who got loads of attention.
Later in the evening the nice host sat outside and socialised with us and shared wine, Tuica and stories as well as a few sweet snacks. The dog got a treat of some cat food which he wolfed down and appreciated the Romanian hospitality.
Bags dropped and tired as hell after the 14 hours in 2nd class seats on an overcrowded Pre-Christmas night train needed some food and a drink. We scoured Google as usual after our first choice was closed, this pointed in the direction of Pub13 on the fortress walls. We left the dog to relax after the interesting train ride at the room and headed out to eat.
Pub13 Was a very nice surprise a well-decorated pub decked out in medieval style with suits of armour on the walls and heavy wood furniture. I was suitably impressed with the décor and had high hopes for the food.
I am fond of the Romanian dish Mici so our first time back in the country I had to oblige. The restaurant didn’t disappoint and was absolutely delicious served with fries and some mild mustard. Ursus was the tipple of the day a favourite of mine when drinking in the bars and restaurants of Transylvania.
After lunch we headed back to the room and I decided to explore while the fiance had a nap with the puppy.
La Poarta Bar
First Stop on my mooch around was to admire the 1st gate of the fortress while having a peaceful bottle of Tuborg at La Poarta. La Poarta was a trendy chilled out bar that on enquiring said they were dog friendly for small dogs like mine. This was a well-decorated venue and staff spoke great English, they had outdoor seating in the front and rear of the bar as well as a comfortable bar area.
Alba Carolina Citadel
I decided to have a good explore of Alba Carolina Citadel which was one of the main reasons we chose Alba Iulia as the stop to get off the train.
The Alba Carolina Citadel is a star-shaped fortress that is included in the “Seven Wonders of Romania”. Construction of the Citadel started in 1715 during the Habsburg rule in Transylvania, it was completed in 1738.
The citadel was built on the site of two other fortifications: the legionary fortress of Legio XIII Gemina, as well as the medieval Balgrad citadel. The citadel was named after Charles VI, known as Carol VI in Romanian, who was the Holy Roman Emperor at the time of the citadel’s construction.
1st Gate of the fortress
Poarta I-a a Cetății or The 1st Gate of The Fortress was the first gateway i passed through which was very ornate. As I was visiting at Christmas this was enhanced with a lighted star to walk through, this looked better at night than day time IMO.
The Gate was constructed from stone, in the form of a triumphal arch, it is located at the base of the eastern terrace on which the fortification was erected.
The gate has many decorative features and includes representations of a few historical and mythical figures. This includes a statue of Mars, the god of war and Venus, the goddess of beauty at the top. Also featured are mythical characters, Enea, the legendary founder of Rome and Hercules the Roman name for the Greek hero Herakles, the most popular figure from ancient Greek mythology. Hercules was the son of Zeus and Alcmene. More…
The 2nd Gate
Poarta a II-a a Cetății or The 2nd Gate of The fortress was the next stop on my wander around, this was strait up the hill towards the fortifications. The 2nd gate was restored in 2009. Another rather ornate gateway at the top of a 130 metre slope, designed that way to make it difficult for attachers to reach, i see why as it raised my heart rate climbing. More…
Obeliscul lui Horea, Cloșca şi Crișan
The Horea, Closca and Crisan Obelisk was a prominent landmark located outside of the main fortifications on the walkway and visible for quite some way. The obelisk is 20 metres in height and was built in an art deco style. Obeliscul lui Horea, Cloșca şi Crișan was built to commemorate the fall of the 50th Regiment in the Battle of Custozza in 1866. The Battle of Custoza took place on the 24 June 1866 during the Third Italian War of Independence in the Italian unification process. The Austrian Imperial army, allied with the Venetian Army and were commanded by Archduke Albrecht of Habsburg, defeated the Italian army despite being outnumbered.
The 3rd Gate
Poarta a III-a a Cetății is the 3rd Gate of the fortress on the main citadel wall accessible by crossing a small bridge across a moat. At Christmas time this was decorated with a tunnel of lights which looked fantastic and was very popular with self takers. Outside of the citadel is a nice terrace ideal for walking the bastions as well as a lower walkway around the whole structure.
The gate had wheels inside which were historically used to close the gate by the guards. Now it hosts guide maps and information for visitors and was quite informative.
This is the main entrance to the citadel at the east end of the fortress. The gate is located in the middle of the fortress wall that joins two bastions of the Fortress, the bastions are called Saint Eugene and Saint Capistrano. At the top is the equestrian statue of Emperor Carol VI. The gate has three entrances, one road larger central one and two smaller at each side. More..
Restaurant Hotel Medieval
Near to the 3rd Gate is the Hotel Medieval housed in a 300 year old historical building in the middle of the fortress. The hotel building preserves the original architectural elements of the eighteenth century in its restaurant and rooms. It has 28 rooms,all with a different view of the fortifications. More info…
The Main Square – Piata Cetatii
Inside the citadel was a main square called Piata Cetatii, at Christmas time is lined with stalls for the Alba Iulia Christmas Market. There were stalls selling gifts, local food including a favourite of mine Kurtos and a few selling beer. Piata Cetatii was decorated with some very nice lights and had an ice rink to have some fun.
The Square was surrounded with a museum of Romanian artefacts these were mainly stone, behind that was the striking Universitatea 1 Decembrie 1918 building.
One another side was the The National Museum of the Union, another building nicely lit up with Christmas lights. The National Museum of the Union hosts many items regarding the history of modern Romania since unification.
Just across was the Michael the Brave Equestrian Statue, a bronze situated to the rear of Saint Michaels cathedral. Michael the Brave statues are found in many cities in Romania, as he is seen one of Romania’s greatest national heroes. I have seen them personally here, in Cluj-Napoca and Tulcea, I’m sure I will see many more.
Roman-Catholic Cathedral Saint Michael
Next was the very nice looking Roman-Catholic Cathedral of Saint Michael, sadly was shut so I could not enter. As it was quiet outside also I got some photos from a few angles and got the hip flask out for an admire of the area from the citadel wall.
St. Michael’s happens to be the oldest and the longest cathedral in the country dating back to the 11th century. In the 13th century St. Michael’s cathedral was rebuilt in the transitory style which is a combination of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.
The Coronation Cathedral or in Romanian Catedrala Încoronării, is dedicated to the Holy Trinity and the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel. This is a Romanian Orthodox cathedral that was constructed shortly after to commemorate the Union of Transylvania with Romania. The Cathedral was built in 1921–1922 and was finished ready in time for the coronation of King Ferdinand and Queen Marie as monarchs of Greater Romania on October 15, 1922.
The cathedral forms part of a group of buildings erected beginning in the late 19th century in the national style promoted by Ion Mincu and Petre Antonescu incorporating traditional forms of Romanian architecture, in particular the Brâncovenesc style, and adapting them to modern tastes. The buildings and gardens surrounding the cathedral were very special to look around, to me it felt like being in a monastery and was quite uplifting. I was lucky to be in town on a quiet day and thoroughly enjoyed admiring the buildings from all angles including from raised walkways that also contained historical. The courtyard was accessed by a tunnel underneath a tower which was in the design I had seen a few ties in other Romanian cities.
The cathedral was very special on the outside but inside was spectacularly decorated with intricate art everywhere especially on the ceilings. The altar of the cathedral was something special made from very dark wood with an orthodox cross at the top and lots of religious art incorporated into it. I had a nice sit and reflect on one of the chairs at the edges while others took their time to pray.
Next to see was the Poarta a IV-a a Cetății or 4th gate of the fortress located at the western end, this was joined by a road from the 3rd Gate. The 4th gate has been also known as Bishop’s Gate and The New Gate in the past. The gate is located at a joining point two of the bastions, the Trinitarians and Saint Michael. The gate is an important monument and classed as baroque art and has some very nice decoration and symbolism. More…
After passing through the 4th gate I grossed a bridge and descended into the boat of the fortress. This was green and pleasant and had a tourist information centre and a selection of restaurants on the outer edges. The walkway went completely around the citadel and was very nice, I decided this would be the evening dog walk and walked the walls twice on my trip
Evening Meal at La Conac
After our evening walkies we had been recommended to visit La Conac Restaurant which come highly recommended by our host. She had offered to look after the dog for the evening while we went out, very nice. La Conac was a very nicely decorated restaurant that had very friendly waiting staff who spoke great English.
For drinks we enjoyed a combination of Tuica and Tiltott Igazi Csiki Sör a Transylvanian craft beer that was very refreshing.
The mains were an old favourite schnitzel, this time the Romanian take on pork schnitzel, which was thicker than the ones I had enjoyed earlier in the week at Prater in Vienna. This was served with fries, salad and a size of pickled beetroot.
Next stop was to Brasov to spend a few weeks over Christmas and new year. We left on a 5 hour train journey mid morning after a quick Interrail Breakfast of bread, cheese and local meats.
Alba Iulia was a fantastic Interail stop over and highly recommend to people that love, history, architecture or food. The citadel was fantastic but wish I had a few days to fully explore and soak up the historical significance of the city. In my opinion it is a great place to get of the train if travelling overnight from Budapest or Vienna on the night train.