Tag Archives: Cluj-Napoca

Images of Cluj by Alin Niculescu

There is one respect in which I have a definite advantage over Paddy in terms of the places he visited. I have been lucky enough to get to know well the city of Cluj-Napoca due to my regular visits. Paddy had but one night there with Angéla, but it was one of one of love and passion!

Last week I visited Bucharest for the first time. If this had been my first introduction to Romania I doubt that I would have been keen to return. To be fair it was literally a flying visit, and I did not make it right into the centre, however, it cannot compare with the genuine attractions of Cluj: its compact size; the Baroque architecture; the lively bars and restaurants in the old centre; the intimate cultural life; and its position in a valley surrounded by gently rolling hills. I have also made some good friends in this capital of Transylvania.

I have often written about Cluj, but to many of you the city probably remains a mystery. To help you get more of a feel for a place that I have come to feel strongly about, I wanted to showcase the work of  Alin Niculescu, a professional cameraman from Cluj. He has made a number of short films about the city, highlighting it over the seasons. They are just a few minutes long and if you are curious to know more about the city, they will give you a feel for its size, architecture, and position. In some scenes he also captures the relaxed and friendly mood of its citizens.

This first film is entitled Snowy Night at Cluj. This is broadly how the city looks at the moment.

Snowy Night at Cluj Full HD from Alin Niculescu on Vimeo.

This second movie shows a panorama over the city in the summer.

Cluj-Napoca from Alin Niculescu on Vimeo.

You can see more of Alin’s work on his website here

Related category:

Articles about Cluj and Transylvania


The Dark Memories of Cluj from 1989

The Hotel Continental in Cluj (or as we know it The New York) was not only the location for a great cocktail, but outside its doors in December 1989 a massacre occurred during the Romanian Revolution.

For those of you who have followed my stories about Cluj it was a pleasant city in Paddy’s time and remains so to this day. However, like so many towns and cities in Romania, it experienced its fair share of discontent during the last days of Ceauşescu. I can’t be sure of the figures but around a dozen people were killed, mostly by the Army, and these events took place virtually on the steps of the Continental. The video below shows some of the traumatic scenes that took place twenty-one years ago this week.

On the main road out of Cluj to the south is a very interesting cemetery. Its inhabitants include not only the citizens of Cluj, but generations of soldiers from Europe’s great wars and revolutions of the twentieth century. There are Austro-Hungarian soldiers with names that seem to indicate that they came from all over that once great Empire. Romanian soldiers from the Second World War and around three hundred Russians from the struggles of the dying days of that conflict. But in a quiet corner stand some graves of those that died in the revolution of 1989, amongst them one or two young women.

As we prepare to celebrate the great gift of Christmas, let us take a moment to reflect on these momentous events, and those that continue to this day. Maybe we can give thanks for those that were prepared to lay down their lives for their friends, and for those that do so today.

This video appears to have a full Roll of Honour for those who came from Cluj and its environs who died not only in Cluj but elsewhere. It is very moving.

The Crows of Cluj

It may seem strange but Crows are some of my favourite birds and never before have I seen so many as when in Cluj.

I first wrote about them during a visit to the city back in September 2010. There were thousands of them, flying in their squadrons in two streams. They took many minutes to fly past and I wondered from whence they had come and where they were flying to. During my last visit I was told that they spend their days at the city rubbish dump and fly back into the city in the evening. So the mystery was solved, and indeed confirmed by others in the pictures below.

This morning we had some crows in our garden and I thought of those Cluj crows once more. To my delight I found some photographs  after a Google search and thought I would share them with you.

The poetry of Ted Hughes is also amongst my favourites. His 1970 collection Crow includes a number of dark poems where the crow is often portrayed as a dark protagonist. In 1985 Hughes explained his inspiration for Crow:

“Crow grew out of an invitation by Leonard Baskin to make a book with him simply about crows. He wanted an occasion to add more crows to all the crows that flock through his sculpture, drawings, and engravings in their various transformations. As the protagonist of a book, a crow would become symbolic in any author’s hands. And a symbolic crow lives a legendary life. That is how Crow took off.”

You can listen to Ted Hughes’ wonderfully soft Yorkshire voice as he reads from Crow in this You Tube video.

The copyright of the photographer’s below is acknowledged.

Crows over Cluj-Napoca by Dragos Ludusan

Crows across Cluj by theophilus_austin

A Winter Afternoon in Cluj

Between the Woods and the Water

I am very fortunate to be able to visit Cluj quite often. We all know a little about the city from Paddy’s visit here during his brief love affair with Angéla in the summer of 1934. Today I find myself here again after a busy week in my company office. It is a cold overcast day, and the low cloud seems to make the sounds of the city travel a long way; the squeals of children playing, dogs barking and the famous Cluj crows cawing as they weave their way between the apartment blocks and the spires and domes of Cluj’s many churches.

Romania is not a country that many people visit on holiday, and Cluj is almost certainly not on many lists. I fail to understand why this is. You only have to visit the (open to public) Facebook page of Visit Romania and look at some of the incredible photographs to see that this country has varied and stunning scenery, and enough history on offer, from the Roman site at Parolissum, the artistic beauty of the painted monasteries of Bukovina or the wooden churches of Maramureş, and the castle of Hunyadi that Paddy visited during his walk south in the area of the Retezat on towards the Danube and the end of his journey as described in Between the Woods and the Water.

At its heart Cluj has wonderful Baroque architecture which dates from its heyday under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Many of these buildings have fading, crumbling facades. The absence of western chain stores means that the streets are not despoiled by those so familiar signs. I may be wrong, but this general absence of branded outlets means that many Romanians (but to be fair probably only those that can afford it) still have a very individual sense of style.

The statue of Matthias Corvinus

When one wanders just a few yards from the main roads in Cluj one enters a maze of smaller streets, many cobbled, with a myriad of bars, cafes and restaurants which all offer excellent value. Today I walked from the newly restored and very splendid statue of King Matthias Corvinus, past St Michael’s Church, towards Corvinus’ house. It is only a one minute walk. Paddy and Angéla stayed somewhere in those back streets within the sound of the bells of the church; quite where we shall probably never know. I too heard them ringing this evening as I walked to dinner.

Cluj is a very sociable place, possibly because there are something like 100,000 plus students here (an incredible number but that is what I have been told). It is also somewhere that makes you feel quite safe. I am sure it has its moments, but I have never encountered any problems and one feels safer here than in many places in England, particularly late at night.

What started out as just a short article about Cluj today, seems to have ended up as copy for the Romanian Tourist Board, and that is fine. In these difficult financial times, Romania offers a tremendous holiday alternative, and it remains low cost. So when making your plans for 2011 you could do worse than visiting this country, and possibly walking in some of Paddy’s footsteps. Romania could also do with the income. I call that a win win outcome.

Related articles:

Angéla, Paddy, István and Tom in Cluj-Napoca

Angéla and Paddy’s visit to Cluj-Napoca with pdf describing his visit


Facebook – Visit Romania

Angéla and Paddy’s visit to Cluj-Napoca

Balasha Cantacuzene

In response to requests from many of the citizens of Cluj who inhabit the pages of I Love Cluj on Facebook, I have scanned the pages which recount the story of Paddy and Angéla’s 1934 visit to Cluj in full.

This is taken from “Between the Woods and the Water”, the second volume of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s journey from London to Constantinople which commenced in December 1933 and ended with his arrival in Constantinople on New Year’s Day 1935. His time in Romania captures the beauty of the landscape, and the friendliness of the people be they aristocrat or peasant. It describes a time that would be lost forever due to the Second World War, which Paddy later described in an article for the Daily Telegraph as “Travels in a Land before Darkness Fell”.

His own extended sojourn in Romania was at Belani in Moldavia with the first love of his life, a young painter and Byzantine princess, Balasha Cantacuzene, whose family Paddy describes as part of an “old-fashioned, French-speaking, Tolstoyan, land-owning world. They were intensely civilised people.”

You can find pdfs of the story of the Cluj visit as follows (Cluj part starts page 143 but 142 gives you an introduction):

p142, p143, p144, p145, p146, p147 ………………. enjoy!

Related article:

Angéla, Paddy, István and Tom in Cluj-Napoca

Related category:

‘Between the Woods and the Water’

Angéla, Paddy, István and Tom in Cluj-Napoca



Matthias Corvin’s house Cluj-Napoca

If the lifespan of a crow can be up to thirty years, it is conceivable that the grandparents of the present day crows of Cluj observed Patrick Leigh Fermor and Angéla on their clandestine assignation to the city in 1934 when they were chauffeured by the understanding István. Their journey was a secret, but maybe the crows saw all and have passed on to their offspring the story of the young Englishman and the unhappily married Hungarian woman who was as ‘nimble as an ibex’.



As the sun set this evening I emerged from a restaurant near the Orthodox Cathedral to the sight and sound of thousands of crows flying westward at rooftop level, weaving in and out of the spires of the Cluj National Theatre. It was as if they were on some raid; they were in the stream, in squadrons of one hundred or more. I could neither see where they had come from, nor where they were going to, but this lasted for more than ten minutes and somehow it made me think of Paddy and Angéla.

The statue of Matthias Corvin dominates the square. St Michael’s church behind.

Cluj is today a fast growing city. The centre is dominated by crumbling Austro-Hungarian Baroque buildings. One can see that in 1934, before the darkness came that engulfed Europe and Romania, the pink and yellow painted walls would have been bright and welcoming to the small party that crept into town that warm August day.

Never missing an opportunity I have followed some of Paddy’s descriptions of his short stay in the city found in ‘Between the Woods and the Water’. He said that he and Angéla took a room near the house of Matthias Corvin who is a hero to both the Hungarians and the Romanians of Transylvania. This part of the old town has substantial houses and I wonder where in those cobbled streets, near the museum, they awoke, entwined, in their ‘handsome vaulted room’ to the sound of ‘recriprocally schismatic bells’. The bells would have sounded from the Gothic Saint Michael’s church in the Matthias Corvin square. His statue, which Paddy describes as magnificent, dominates the open space.

The New York/Continental Hotel

It was in a corner of this square that last night I set out on a search for the New York hotel, where the three of them had such fun and enjoyed an amazing cocktail, only surpassed, so István said, by the one called ‘Flying’ in the Vier Jahrszeiten bar in Munich. I was hoping that the secret of the cocktail had been passed down from generation to generation of barmen, but it was not to be. The hotel which is now named the Continental is closed, and the windows covered in posters proclaiming the Iron Maiden concert that took place last month to celebrate the success of the local football team, CFR-Cluj, in winning the Romanian league. It is a sad sight, but the building is nonetheless very grand with a turret on the corner facing the square and the Bánffy palace, which is now an art museum and next to the Melody nightclub with it’s huge neon sign, in the opposite corner.

So I did not get to sit in the seat of Patrick Leigh Fermor, nor drink his cocktail,  but instead walked in good company to my favourite bar in Cluj – Insomnia – and drank Ursus beer, whilst explaining to my Romanian friends Daniela and Vlad, why Patrick Leigh Fermor is the Greatest Living Englishman.