Romania’s western border – Banat, is a unique mix of architectural and cultural heritages. For centuries, Romanians have lived here alongside Germans (Swabs), Serbians and Hungarians (Magyars), providing travelers with an insight into this region’s long past and colorful traditions.
Frequently referred to as “Little Vienna,” Timisoara has always been a progressive, cosmopolitan city. An important trade and university town, Timisoara features open squares, parks and gardens, elegant boutiques, cafes, restaurants and a great display of Secessionist architecture. Cultural attractions include the Banat Museum (art, natural history and ethnography) the Village Museum, the Botanical Garden, the Timisoara Philharmonic and the Opera House. Places of historical note include the Ruins of Timisoara Fortress, Huniade Castle, Dicasterial Palace, Old City Hall and the Palace of Justice.
Just north of Timisoara on the Mures River banks lies the city of Arad, tracing its history back to the 12th century. Churches and cathedrals span four centuries, several denominations and architectural styles ranging from baroque to neoclassic. The exciting architecture of the buildings in the city’s square reflects the influence of the one-time Austrian-Hungarian occupation; most notable are the City Hall and Cenad Palace. An original Turkish fortress (built in 1550 and rebuilt twice in the 17th and 18th centuries), the Palace of Culture and the State Philharmonic House are some of the other sights to enjoy here.
Western Romania is a heaven for active travelers and adventure seekers, with abundant opportunities for trekking, mountain climbing, hunting, fishing. Banat has exquisite natural scenery with a climate similar to that of the Mediterranean region.
For example, Semenic-Cheile Carasului National Park, is the wildest cave system in Romania. Nerei Gorges -Beusnita National Park , it is known for its wild gorges and unspoiled natural habitats. Domogled Valea Cernei National Park has over 100 caves, impressive gorges and rare wildlife.
The local cuisine of Banat, displaying Austrian, German and Hungarian influences, is based mainly on pork and on richly spiced vegetables. Sour cream, thyme, tarragon, cumin and hot paprika are favored to spice up the dishes. A local specialty is homemade noodles, called Iofca – prepared with cabbage or cheese, nuts, milk and poppy seeds. Another traditional dish in the Banat region is paprikash with dumplings made out of flour and egg dough boiled in salt water. Other local dishes include stew with dumplings, peas and fried eggs, chicken and pork goulash, giblet soup, and tarragon chicken stew.
The vineyards of Arad stretch on the hills bordering the western part of the Zarand Mountains, between Lipova and Pancota. Star of the region is the vineyard of Minis. In 1862, at a wine competition in London, “Rosu de Minis” has won the Best of all Wines Award. For more than one century the wines of Minis have been exported to several countries in Europe
Nearby Timisoara, lies the vineyard of Recas, with a history dating back to the 15th century. Some of the award-winning wines produced here include Italian Riesling, Feteasca Regala, Muscat Ottonel/Feteasca Regala, Sauvignon Blanc (white wines); Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir/Merlot (red wines).
In Crisana region, the most picturesque town is Oradea, eight miles east of the Romanian-Hungarian border. To get a feel for the city’s past, stroll around the Old Downtown and visit the Museum of the Cris Rivers, housed in a splendid 1770 baroque palace with 365 windows modeled after the Belvedere Palace in Vienna.
The Bihor Mountains, hold some of the best-hidden treasures of Romania such as caves, waterfalls, hidden lakes, gorges and solitary rocks. In the east part of the region, the Apuseni Mountains reach the highest altitude in Bihor Peak of 1.849 m height.
One of the biggest attractions of the area is Bears’ Cave, named after fossil traces of the cave bear species (extinct 15,000 years ago) discovered here. The beautiful galleries with stalactites and stalagmites, estimated to be 22,000 years old, are well worth a visit.
An important aspect of Crisana region is represented by the presence of the geothermal waters and many people come annually to treat their disabilities or simply to take a bath in the warm swimming pools of over 35° C.
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