Last year, we had planned ahead a holiday in Malta for the vacation days around May 1st and spent 7 wonderful days at the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, as several people suggested that if you’re not spontaneous – you’re not interesting, we believed it was constructive criticism and decided that for this year we’ll not plan anything in advance and wait to see what inspiration we wake up with in the morning of the day. But as it’s not that easy to teach an old dog new tricks and the weekend was coming in, the inspiration came to us a couple of days before.
So, as we had nothing planned, we decided at the last minute to go somewhere, in order to avoid being too surprising and stay home. 🙂 It was a strange feeling for us, as we usually plan our trips long before.
Because cheap plane tickets must be bought early, we chose to go on a short road-trip (by train and bus) through two interesting towns in Transylvania, which are not too far from home. This was another new element for us, we also plan our road-trips in detail, long before going and on far greater distances, as were those of the past years, about which we wrote in previous articles. So we started with Târgu Mureş, a charming Transylvanian town with a strong Hungarian influence (Marosvásárhely is the Magyar name of the town) where Z. had never been.
How to get from Cluj to Târgu Mureş?
There are several transportation options from Cluj: by train (it’s only one per day, the international one coming from Budapest, it makes about 2 hours and 45 minutes), by bus (there are many on this route every per day, it takes about 2 hours and a quarter) or by car (the 110 km can be covered in about 2 hours). We chose the first option to get there and the second one to return home.
The train station in the city has been recently renovated and looks surprisingly good, given the small number of trains running around here. We stayed at a nearby pension at a reasonable price, within walking distance from the city center, about 20 minutes by foot.
What to visit in Târgu Mureş?
The first place we visited, as expected, was the city center. It was already evening and we didn’t get to see much, most of the points of interest and venues were already closed. Although there are many beautiful buildings, the city loses many tourists because it doesn’t have a pedestrian area in the center. If more of these streets were to be closed for traffic and redesigned as a touristic area, we believe the town could attract more visitors. The architecture resembles that of Hungary, with most of the historic buildings built at the end of the 19th century.
The pedestrian area in the city center is practically one street, with cars running in two directions separated by a green alley in the center, with benches and monuments. There are also sidewalks on both sides of the central street with numerous terraces, cafes and shops. The walking area ends with the Orthodox cathedral.
Basically, in about 10 minutes, you can cover the entire center. There are also some interesting side streets with places worth entering. It surprised us how little activity was around here, there were very few people and some places seemed to be closed. You can still see throughout the city ads and company or institution names that have disappeared two decades ago elsewhere.
The good part is that prices are much lower than in Cluj. For real estate, for example, the cost per square meter is less than half our cost. 🙂 Restaurants are also significantly cheaper than in other cities that are more touristic. Lemonade, for example, is half the price, which we appreciated very much! 🙂
After walking a little and entering the building of the theater (which looks much better than we expected, considering it was built during the communist era), we looked for a place to eat. So we found a very nice inn, with specific Transylvanian and Hungarian food, where we came back the next day.
After spending the night at the pension, we started the next day with some shopping (the feminine part of our traveling duo says that clothes are cheap here) and then we made a tour through the Medieval Citadel, located right in the center of the city – a really nice place, also being recently renovated.
The edifice is 400 years old, is in good condition and also houses a Calvinist church. Inside the fortification there is a nice green space, where locals come to take pictures on various occasions, being a favorite place for weddings. You can also find here a museum and several terraces, and various events are organized periodically. We had the occasion to assist at the training of some reenactment aficionados, dressed in armor.
Next on our list of landmarks in Târgu Mureş was the famous zoo. There is quite a climb to reach the place by foot, as it’s located at about 3 km from the center (200 m level difference), on Corneşti Plateau, a very nice wooded area, from where you can see the beautiful panorama of the city. We walked up on narrow streets with big and neat houses, well-kept by hardworking owners.
In less than an hour, we reached the playground preceding the zoo, quite big and well equipped, with many kids happily playing in the sun, which was unusually hot for the beginning of May. After bravely passing by the kürtős, lángos and ice-cream shops on the alley that leads to the Târgu Mureș Zoo, we finally reached the entrance and got in. The tickets were cheaper than we expected, as we were accustomed with the prices in other European countries.
Târgu Mureș Zoological Garden is by far the largest in the country, covering 40 hectares. To compare, the one in Bucharest (Băneasa) lays on just 5,85 ha. Over 180.000 visitors come here every year, this one being the most popular Zoo in the country.
The Zoo was renovated and extended about a decade ago, but there’s still some work left to do inside. The spaces for some animals were considerably enlarged and look excellent (for example, there is a 5 ha reservation for bears and wolves, a 10 ha one for herbivores), while others are still too small for the animal needs (the most obvious being the cages were monkeys live).
There are over 500 animals from 80 species here, you can spend several hours walking on the alleys and admiring their cuteness. Both children and grown-ups are very impressed by what they see and the time flies by while admiring the lazy felines sleeping in the sun, the elephant grabbing fruits with his trunk and eating them, the long neck of the girraffes that have a special, really high paddock door, and the ostrich that looks… down on you.
But we got hungry and eventually decided to live this wonderful place, situated in the middle of an oak and hornbeam forest, just on the outskirts of the city. We didn’t have enough time left to also visit the Weekend Complex, a cool place with pools, terraces and greenery, but we added it on our to-do list for the next time we are in town. Yes, we liked Târgu Mureș and will come back. 🙂
After a delicious lunch eaten in a hurry, we grabbed our backpacks and headed to the bus station on the other end of the city, where we hopped on a mini-bus towards our next destination: Sighișoara.