In our last Road Trip installment we left you with our passage through Timisoara. To summarize (just to make sure everyone is on the same page) Timisoara was simply not our cup of tea. We had difficulty finding a hotel, we had difficulty finding dining options, and we had difficulty finding an affordable decent hotel. Apparent variety in entertainment options was also severely limited for a city of this size. That being said, we were eager to wake up the following morning to move on to our next destination; Cluj-Napoca. First we needed to pass through the town of Arad, Romania.
After leaving Timisoara it wasn’t long before we felt like getting a quick stretch and a drink – coincidentally we were just approaching another dot on the map with the name of Arad next to it. Perfect. There ought to be a convenient store here for us. Indeed we found what we were looking for. We approached Arad via the typical entrance road with markings indicating a reduction in speed due to the proximity of an upcoming town. We slowed down and, inevitably the scenery began to change. Small buildings situated closer together. Nothing new. Arad looked to be yet another boring pass-through village. As we entered what we thought was the center of town, we were stopped by a barrier indicating bridge construction ahead and that we must double-back and follow a different route. We made a u-turn and turned down the only available side road we could about mid-way back. Quickly we noticed a sign with a forward arrow that said Centru. So apparently we weren’t yet in the center. We stand corrected. It was less than a minute later and we were greeted by a stunningly beautiful four lane tree-lined parkway. On each side of us ran rows of multi-coloured neoclassical and gothic style buildings, all awash with various shades of faded pastel paints. Nothing seemed too run-down, although nothing seemed “over the top” in design and styling. Everything blended seamlessly together however each building was unique enough for its own individual photo-shoot. The city is highly walkable, with shops, restaurants, clubs, and more all relatively clustered around this city center.
Naturally, we parked the car along the curb (hopefully legally) and grabbed the camera gear and began wandering around. Two of us headed across the street to the McDonalds and McCafe for a quick cup of coffee then met up the rest of the team after that for a walk around town.
A brief summary of Arad:
Arad is located along the Mures River on the Western tip of northern Romania. There are just over 150,000 people in Arad, making it small for the Country but the third largest city within this Northwestern Region (falling shy of Timisoara and Ordea). Due to its location, the town of Arad (originally Hungarian occupied) required “fortification” for lack of a better term, against the Mongol invasion. Along the Mures river sits the most recent (mid-1700’s) rendition of the fortress – so that being said – Arad is awash with monuments and museums of relics from the past. Fast forward to today and you have a city that is a transportation hub for this part of the region centered around large investments in industry and commerce. One wouldn’t guess that Arad will become a mecca for entrepreneurs like us, however it seems to be a city that will hold its own. For those that wish to spend much more time than we did in Arad, rest assured you will be able to find things to do. If you’ve got a great thought about this town; where to go and what to do, please leave it in the comments below.
In our walk around town we paid close attention to the buildings, real estate prices, the friendliness of the people, and whether or not we felt we could see ourselves carrying out daily life here. Real estate here is something of a great buy when compared against the per square meter prices of Bucharest properties. From suburban villas to modern apartments in the city center, one wouldn’t have to look far to find bargains at the 500 Euro per square meter level. We saw everything from top level warehouse space nearing 150 square meters to a little house along the river for a song and a dance. As we know the selling prices of homes are typically derived straight from the amount someone is willing to pay for them, usually based on economic opportunities and desirable within the city – but from an expats’ point of view it certainly is interesting to see “how much you can get for X number of euros” in different location.
Everyone here greeted us with a smile and a friendly “Buna” of some sort assuming we maintained a friendly approach as well. Hoping for a cheerful response in Bucharest is akin to beating your head up against a brick wall hoping it will eventually turn into a pillow. This was nice for a change – probably due to the fact that we were coming across more Hungarians here. After taking a look at some of the real estate, the local pubs, and the dining options, we walked towards the river. There is a line of levees that run alongside the river which are lined with biking and walking trails, however, in the name of time, we did not cross over this point on foot. We stopped short in what seemed to be a city park thrust backwards in time.
The faint sound of violin and accordion filled the air; an air which was slightly crisp and fresh – unlike any petrol scented parkway in Bucharest. We walked towards a cluster of people, which seemed to be the epicenter of this sound of days-gone-by. Sure enough the musicians were there – quietly humming along with a 6/8 tempo, serenading what seemed to be the local mens club. No fewer than twelve tables were occupied by men of all ages deep in thought over their game of chess. You’d swear that you are taking a glimpse into a world not to far from how Bucharest used to be in its’ prime (of course that one is up for debate as well). As we snapped some photos and wandered around the park we got to thinking how this town really did embody everything that seems great about small-town living. From the local bread makers and butcher shops, to the Irish pubs and scattered dance clubs, to the cafes and corner markets, this place seemed to have all that you’d need for day to day living. It is not so much this, but it is that these elements are all wrapped up in what seemed to be such a pleasant package, that it makes you feel as though this place could be a place to call home.
Looks like we should have kept driving through Timisoara and spent the night here. Oh well, maybe next time. Now we’re on our way to Cluj-Napoca!