Our August road trip ended one day earlier than we planned, because we couldn’t stay in Herculane anymore – the place was just too sad. So we decided to take advantage of the remaining time and go somewhere. We chose Dej, the hometown of A., where we’ve heard that the city strand was renovated and were curious to see how it looks like now.
How to get to Dej?
Dej is located 60 km away from Cluj, the road is good and not too busy, so it takes about an hour to get there by car or by bus. The trains are slow on this route, they make at least an hour and a half. However, there are many buses towards Dej, the ticket is 10 lei, but you can also hitch-hike, you can easily find a friendly driver that goes in that direction. We went by car and returned hitch-hiking.
What is interesting in Dej?
In the interwar period, Dej was a coquettish Transylvanian town, a county capital, with beautiful buildings in the center, prosperous households and good people. The local cultural life has degraded during the communist era, the city becoming more and more industrial. Although the population registered a significant growth and many factories appeared, the atmosphere was no longer the same.
Basically, everything that can be visited in the center of the city was established a century or more ago. You shouldn’t miss the Reformed Church – the emblem of the city – it has a very special design. The Little Park (Parcul Mic), the central streets, the Franciscan Church, the Green Wood Sweetshop (Cofetăria Lemnul Verde) and the Great Park are other places worth visiting.
We wanted to visit the Municipal Museum and the Military Museum, but both were closed for the weekend, something quite… anti-touristic. We have also walked along the Someș river, where you can sit on a bench and admire the nature. After about 2-3 hours walking through the city, it got hot outside and we decided to take a bath at the newly renovated strand.
Toroc Salty Lake and Strand
Like many salt mines in Transylvania, the one in Dej has been exploited since the Roman period. And the salty lakes at Ocna Dejului were formed after the collapse of some galleries, just like Cojocna or Turda. The area with the salty lake and the pools is nice, being located up on a hill, from where you can see far away, a big part of the city and its surroundings. The green hills with numerous beautiful houses compensate for the lack of any other tourist attractions in the area.
From the city center, the strand can be reached quickly by bus or taxi (it’s cheap). We climbed the hill on foot (about 30 minutes). Toroc started as a natural lake, without any amenities, and underwent a first stage of fitting 7 years ago with PHARE funds, and a second stage this year with the help of European funds as well.
Now, besides the two salty natural lakes, surrounded by quite old pontoons, there are several outdoor pools, one indoor, one jacuzzi that only works during the cold season, a sandy beach and grass, several kiosks with food and several accommodation rooms for tourists. The entrance costs 15 lei, affordable price.
In addition to retired locals and tourists that seek balneary treatments, there are many young people who come to the pool for fun. The water in the outdoor pools was pretty deep and very cold, although it was the middle of August and it was really hot outside. We didn’t quite understand why so much money was spent on renovation, since there are no water heating systems, the beach is covered with construction site sand instead of beach sand, and is crusty and rough. There are sunbeds on the beach, but it was really crowded when we were there, so there weren’t many places to sit down. A good thing is that they have safety lockers, unlike Turda and Cojocna. And the shower water is warm, which you can also find at Durgău strand, but not at Cojocna salty lakes.
The food at the terraces is good but limited to just a few classic Romanian dishes: barbequed meat, sausages, fries, beer, juice, ice cream. Prices are not very high. You have to pay cash, even though you get a magnetic bracelet at the entrance. Pay great attention to money and personal belongings, there were cases of stealing in there!
After a few hours of bathing, we got bored and headed back home to Cluj. It was a good day, but we will not go back to Dej as tourists very soon. The city center can be visited very quickly, and there is not much to do here anyway.
The Toroc Strand is worth trying, but it’s not sure you’ll come back. Maybe just due to lack of alternatives. Yes, it was nicely renovated, but it is incomplete. The water is very cold, even in the middle of the summer. And for the rest of the year, you really have nothing to do there. Perhaps it can be better if you come for balneary treatments, we do not know how good the place is for this purpose. However, although it is a newly renovated location, Torok is far behind similar venues in Hungary, that are centuries old.