This weekend we visited southern Romania. Above is the view of from our window of the Carpathian mountains in the town of Baile Herculane. Romania borders Serbia and we were invited to see the sights by our Romanian friends living here in Belgrade.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast in the resort town of Baile Herculane. It means Hercule’s Bath in English. The area has geothermal water springs and since Roman times, people have thought that the water has medicinal properties. The setting of the town is beautiful. The Carpathian mountains are a long mountain chain that goes through Romania and into northern Serbia. They are not the peaks of the Alps, but as you can see, they are scenic in their own way. We drove through much of them and stopped in several places to hike and take photographs.
The town is very strange. When this part of Romania was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the town was discovered by Emperor Franz Joseph. He built several large hotels, a casino, and several formal bathing palaces near the turn of the century. Back in the days before antibiotics and modern medicine, geothermal waters and mountain air were more popular medical treatments. I read of Franz’s wife or sister, I can’t remember which, visited the town and had an affair with a Romanian officer in the Austro-Hungarian army. She visited the place frequently and she had a villa. It sounds like the town was once the Monaco of the Empire. I can’t get over the amount of money it must of cost to build these palaces. It is crazy that one many, Franz Joseph could have so much power. It is also unbelievable that the two countries, Austria and Hungary, dominated European affairs. Today they are two smaller nations, that are well off, but by no means lead Europe.
The buildings are still in Baile Herculane today, but they are in very poor condition, many of them abandoned. It was eerie to walk around the town and see all of these magnificent palatial buildings in such a state of disrepair. The fog and gloomy weather combined to make it all the stranger experience. Late Saturday afternoon, we walked with the kids down to the city center and saw up close all of these buildings. The kids loved the park and buying honey in the comb pieces from a street vendor. We were loving the architecture and mountain scenery. The place could really be a five-star destination with about 100 million dollar investment in the buildings, roads, etc.
The environmental consciousness of the Romanians is not quite up to EU or American standards. We saw lots of garbage in the village and throughout this part of Romania. The river going through the town was also quite polluted and I saw several open pipes running into the water. The geothermal springs are hot, but the water does have a definite sulfur smell and one could identify walking through the town.
Everyone was very friendly at the hotel and we ate well. Claudiu and Vesna were great as our Romanian tour guides. We really enjoyed ourselves! I’ll be blogging more this week on some of our experiences.