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              A World of Adventure



In Bookstores and

For details and addresses for Crisana and the Banat's architecture, cities, spas,
get the new
Language and Travel Guide to Romania
published by
Hippocrene Books.


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Western Romania consists of a great plain divided by the Mures River. The northern region is called Crisana; the southern is the Banat. This territory was ruled by Hungary from the 11th century until 1553 when the Ottomans conquered the region. In 1699 the Turks recognized the Habsburgs' rule of Transylvania (including Crisana), but kept the Banat until 1718 when the Treaty of Passarowitz made Banat and Oltenia part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. In the late 18th century, Swabians from southwest Germany and French from Alsace Lorraine were invited by Empress Maria Theresa to colonize the Banat. The entire territory was part of the Habsburg’s Austro-Hungarian empire until World War I ended its reign in 1918. In 1920 the Treaty of Trianon divided the territory among Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia, assigning their current borders.

Crisana’s Hungarian background is clearly evident, especially in its elaborate, decorative architecture. The Banat, however, still bears a strong German influence, though most of the decendents of the Swabian Germans fled Romania since WWII and after the collapse of communism. The three major cities in this combined region are Oradea, Arad and Timisoara.

Oradea Baile Felix Arad Timisoara

Oradea   Map
Vulturul Negru, Oradea Oradea is a feast for the eyes. Its architecture is the best example of 19th-century Austro-Hungarian design in Romania. Ornate buildings in eye-popping colors line its main piatas. Located ten miles (16km) from the Hungarian border, Oradea is quiet city of 107,000 and the center of the Crisana region. Baile Felix spa resort is in a suburb of Oradea.

Oradea's activity centers around its two main squares, Piata Republicii and Piata Unirii separated by the Crisul Repede river. North of the river is Piata Republicii, where the green neoclassical State Theatre, built in 1900, stands at the foot of pedestrianized Calea Republici, lined with shops, bookstores and cafes. Just east of this promenade, in Parcul Traian, there is a small museum dedicated to Hungarian left-wing poet Endre Ady.

North of Piata Republicii, in Petrofi Sandor Park , is the Episcopal Palace (1770) modeled after Belvedere Palace in Vienna with 100 fresco-adorned rooms and 365 windows, now the Museum of the Land of the Cris Rivers housing history and art exhibits; its south garden has a wonderful sculptural display of busts of all of Romania's leaders. On the north side of the park stands the golden Catholic Cathedral (1780), the largest in Romania, with frescoes of Francisco Starno. Across the street is Canon's Corridor, an arcade of 56 baroque archways from the 18th century.

South of the Crisul Repede river is Piata Unirii and the imposing yellow hotel Vulturul Negru (Black Vulture); its shopping atrium has a stained-glass ceiling dating from 1908. The City Library, built in 1905, stands across the road. Farther down is the Orthodox church (1784), known as the Moon church because of the 10 foot (3m) sphere on its tower which rotates to show the phases of the moon. The old City Hall (1902) stands at the river’s edge. Just East is the lovely Parcul Central, and Casa de Cultura, the old Citadel, built in the 13th century, now housing government offices.

Baile Felix
Baile Felix is a year-round health spa just 5 miles (8km) southeast of Oradea. The complex of hotels, pools and gardens is a great place to relax, party with the locals, or take a mudbath. It has a large, open-air, thermal swimming pool and several smaller thermal pools filled with thermal lotus. The most popular public pools, the Strand Apollo and Strand Felix.

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Arad is a major railroad junction for international trains. It lies on the Mures River, across from its six-pointed citadel, built by order of Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa in 1762-1783. The citadel is now used as a military barracks, so closed to tourists. Arad's main street, Bd. Revolutiei, has some impressive turn-of-the-century buildings and a grassy park down its center.

Catholic church, Arad Some interesting sights include:
the neoclassical City Hall (1876) next to Cenad Palace.
The Palace of Culture (1913); inside, the History Museum’s displays recount the entire history of the region.
The city’s Philharmonic also in the Palace of Culture.
The Art Gallery with furniture from the 17th century.
The enormous Roman Catholic Church.
The State Theatre (1874) and Piata Avram Iancu just behind it.
The Arad Synagogue, St. Simion Monastery, the Serbian Church
The Museum of Art and the Marionette Theatre
Parc Central with the river running along its western edge.


Timisoara   Map
Timisoara Timisoara is at the far west of Romania, near the borders of Hungary and Yugoslavia. An ancient Roman fortress, once called Castrum Temesiensis, its records date back to 1212. In 1214 it was destroyed by Tatars. A century later, under Hungarian domination it took the name Temesvar. In the 15th century the city was rebuilt and enlarged by governor Iancu de Hunedoara and years of prosperity followed. The Turks invaded in 1552 and ruled until they were finally driven out in 1716 by Eugeniu de Savoia. This time the region became part of the Habsburgs' Austro-Hungarian empire, beginning a progressive era which lasted 200 years.

Timisoara's greatest claim to fame may be its role as the catalyst of the December 1989 revolution which, within 10 days, overthrew Romania's communist dictatorship. It was here on Dec. 15th that a Hungarian minority began protesting the exile of popular Calvinist
pastor Laszlo Tokes for his criticism of the government.

Timisoara is called the "garden city" with good reason. Flower gardens appear everywhere. There is even a large clock made of flowers in the park next to the Hotel Continental.

Elegant baroque buildings line Piata Victoriei; the promenade is filled with cafes, bookstores, shops and cinemas, manicured gardens and park benches. At breaks in the garden are fountains and sculptures including the Romulus and Remus statue, a gift from Rome.

At the south end of the piata, across the street, stands the towering Orthodox Cathedral, founded during the reign of King Michael I, Banatul Philharmonic resides one block east of the cathedral.

At the north end are the Opera House and the National Theatre. East of the Opera stands Hunyadi Castle, erected by King Charles Robert of Anjou in 1318 and restored by Iancu de Hunedoara, Voivode of Transylvania. It is now home to the Museum of Banat

A block north of the Opera, along pedestrianized Strada Alba Iulia, is Piata Libertatii, a small green square with flower gardens and park benches. Across the street is the Old Town Hall, built in 1734 in the Renaissance style

Piata Unirii, Timisoara Piata Unirii is a huge grand square surrounded by gems of architectural design. Buildings painted blue, green, gold, and dark red are trimmed with white & beige stripes, window frames and ornamentation. They include, the Catholic Cathedral (1748), which holds services in German; the smaller Serbian Orthodox Cathedral (1734); and the Museum of Fine Arts.
In the piata’s center are fountains amid grassy plots and stone benches.

Due east of Piata Unirii, at Strada Popa Sapca 4, is the Ethnographic Museum displaying folk costumes and illustrations of regional ethnic diversity . Southeast of Piata Unirii , is the huge Dicasterial Palace. It was built for the Habsburg government and has 450 rooms in neo-Renaissance style.

Timisoara was settled on the northern bank of the Bega river, which was canalized. Gustave Eiffel built a bridge across the river. Take a stroll along its banks or through Parc Central next to the Orthodox Cathedral. South of the canal is Romania’s fourth largest university. The city now has 326,000 people, many of them students.

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© 2005 Rosemary Rennon
All photos were taken by Rosemary Rennon, unless otherwise noted.