One doesn’t usually go to Craiova to visit. Even for the average Romanian folk, this city doesn’t represent much, at least not in the contemporary culture of the youth (in which I include myself as well – not to think that I’m trying to get out of this generalization that I did). It is though, one of the biggest cities of the country and one of its most important in terms of size, economy, population and history.
In spite of all these, in the last decade Craiova is automatically associated with pimps, a big chunk of what is “Romanian mafia” (less bloody, way more stupid and with no sign of dignity or honour) and the worse kind of different things to traffic.
The struggle to get in
When coming from the capital, Bucharest, and going to Craiova, very close to the latter, you have to pass through the small town of Balș. It’s a town that doesn’t pack more than 20.000 souls during summer when kids and students come back home. Nevermind. This small town doesn’t have a ring road (the usual problem around Romania) and because of this, the usual driver will be “welcomed” with a 3-4 kilometres line of cars before entering this town. The reason is simple. Many cars, narrow road, lot of pedestrian crossing points. It takes about an hour to pass this if you happen to be here when the peaks of traffic are. That’s in the morning and in the evening.
Good thing I have Waze App on my phone and it manages to find alternative routes as the road you’re on get crowded in front. Of course, I didn’t save a lot of time taking this alternative route that it gave to me as I was approaching Balș, but I still managed to save something like 15-20 minutes and on top of it I didn’t have to fuck my clutch, stopping and then moving another 5 meters just to stop again, and so on. The problem around these parts is that the scenery doesn’t really exist, or at least is not something to write about or struggle to describe. Everywhere you look, only agricultural fields. It’s like an atomic bomb went on some years ago. Everything is flat.
But things are growing so the land is rich. Maybe it’s not the most beautiful area of the country, not even close to this idea, but it surely packs a good impact on the European Cereal Market as this huge are is right North of the Danube so the possibility to irrigate it, it’s high. Still, this possibility and opportunity are not regarded the same by our politicians and the Ministry of Agriculture.
The day was hot, blazing hot. My car A/C is working great but when I had to get out (maybe to take a piss or buy a bottle of water) that difference in temperature was really impacting on my well being.
Finally, after a little bit of road struggle, I got to Craiova.
The biggest park in Europe
You wouldn’t think it is in Craiova, would you? I didn’t and the only reason I decided to mention it is not that because during my latest visit I went on and checked it out. Nope! But you see, mentioning that “Nicolae Romanescu Park” is the biggest in Europe surely got your attention. For sure it got mine while I was just searching for things to see in Craiova on the go. Unfortunately, you can’t visit fast the biggest park in Europe so when I got that information extracted from Google, I decided to stay around the centre.
After all, in the centre I had my accommodation, so why not take advantage of the walking distance to the “civic centre” as we call here in Romania, all the city centres that beneficiated of the goodwill of some mayors and managed to get walking areas in their historic downtown.
And what an accommodation booking.com brought to me this time. A spectacular 19th-century villa, perfectly restored, keeping the balance of both the old legacy of the place while managing to bring a lot of the modern things a boutique hotel could have. All in the price of 40 euro/night, including breakfast. I really don’t want to brag but comparing to Western Europe, Romania has got some of the best deals in terms of quality over price level. Really, if you ever find yourself in this forgotten place on the map (I don’t really think this but I guess some of the readers might not even know where Romania is on the map) really go on and explore the wide choice of boutique hotels they have in Craiova. This was one of those but during my research, I have seen some other really interesting place which I suppose they have to be on the same level as the one I have booked.
I’ve shot the pictures with my trustworthy Canon AE-1, on film, and I have tried to make Craiova look as in the old photos I have seen of it, shown to me by my relatives in the area. Yeah! As it seems I have some “oltean” blood – this is how we call all of this geographical area, “Oltenia”. It’s that kind of a “wanna be, modern city” but with the looks and feels of some old, dusty city that is still waiting for the right team to come and start rebuilding, in the good and correct way.
Craiova still packs some old and historical buildings in spite of the fact that communists really loved to intervene in the overall architecture of the city. In spite of this, the city centre has some nice buildings, that kind of old buildings specific for a former, small trading town. This city was that kind of a city that until the late 19th century, used to increase its population by a third during the “trading” periods, while in the winter or disease epidemic, it would shrink by a third.
Next time I’m planning to check out that huge park. As far as I can see it on the map, I’ll be needing half of a day to explore it so I’ll pack some sandwiches as well, what the hell?! I might get lost though it and need to live as wild people in the jungle considering the size of that thing.