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Alba Iulia- Not What I Expected

Alba Carolina

When I started Roaring Romania my wish was to write about positive things that could be interesting for tourists and visitors. The truth is that Romania is not all unicorns and rainbows and I’ve been reminded about this on my recent trip to Alba Iulia.

On December 1st we celebrate our National Day. It is the day when, in 1918, after popular vote, Transylvania officially became part of the Kingdom of Romania. The town where the event took place is Alba Iulia so it has developed a sort of mystical, patriotic image in the minds of the Romanians.

Alba Iulia
Gate no.6

It is seen as the second capital of the country and every year on the 1st of December it becomes the place to be for the ones who want to attend the celebrations. This year I was one of them but things did not go as expected.

A Troublesome Accommodation Finding accommodation was not easy because it was a long week end and most places wanted to rent their rooms for three nights and I only wanted one.

I am a big fan of booking.com as I have used it for over 5 years but lately, a new online booking system has been heavily marketed in Romania: Hotelguru.ro. I gave it a shot and I didn’t like it. The only positive thing is that the site is customer friendly.

I booked a room but instead of a booking confirmation I received an e-mail saying that IF the room is available, I get my confirmation in max 24 hours. Wait, what?!? Why is the room still listed if it might not be available? What happens if you are on the road and in search of a quick fix for the night?

Later I was informed that the room was not available so I dropped the guru and went back to booking.com. I booked a room at Hotel Cetate right next to the citadel, Alba Carolina, and got my confirmation.

The next day I received a call from the hotel because something went wrong in the system of booking.com and the room is not actually available. Basically, they overbooked and were trying to get away with it by blaming the system. I was just tired of this story so I called booking.com’s customer service and they took care of it.

We arrived in Alba Iulia on the evening of the 30th of November. The hotel was easy to find and the location is indeed worth it. Otherwise it needs a complete makeover.

It was clean(-ish) but the furniture and everything else was old as Methuselah. It was like sleeping in a room that was teleported straight from the communist era or earlier. It was impossible to date it. On the plus side the breakfast was ok and they offer free parking right in front of the hotel.

Alba Carolina Alba Carolina is the main attraction in Alba Iulia. This old citadel has undergone massive restorations and now it’s definitely worth a visit.

The buildings are perfectly done to the smallest details; the ancient Roman fortress is encased in a glass globe and can be seen at night too. There are information panels all over the citadel with directions and stories about the buildings. The highlights for me were the beautiful gate no.6 which is a spectacle of ornaments and the bronze statues scattered all over the place.

Alba Iulia
bronze statues

The citadel is encircled by large dikes that look perfect for all types of outdoor activities: walks, bikes, and jogging, tournaments. Apparently during warm season the place is full of knights, ladies and other medieval characters.

To my astonishment, on the evening of the 30th of November the citadel was empty. I don’t know if it was due to the cold weather or the late hour but besides the occasional group of tourists there was no one. I had expected a lively atmosphere since it was a holiday but it was just frozen stillness.

Alba Iulia
frozen in time

Luckily the next day things were merrier and I could feel the celebration vibe. The town was all dressed up in flags and the people were all dressed up in extremely pretty traditional winter costumes. I genuinely liked it and was happy about my decision to spend the 1st of December in Alba Iulia.

traditional costumes
traditional costumes

A Sad Story

The event that left me with a sour taste in my mouth after the visit to Alba Iulia happened just before our departure, at check out. In the lobby of the hotel there was a 95-year-old veteran who was asking for help from the receptionists or anyone else but was completely ignored.

He told us that he had been called to Alba Iulia for the military parade. He came by train and the Town Hall provided accommodation for the night before and abandoned him in the lobby of the hotel after the parade. His words were: ‘They used us to fight their wars, to look good in parades and now they throw us away!’ It was infuriating and sad and sickening.

We asked the receptionists and a policeman for help but they simply dismissed us with a shrug of shoulders because he was not their problem. Plus, ‘He comes here every year!’

I called the local police and then a special home that would take care of the situation and at least give him a bed to sleep for the night but I don’t know what happened with him or if got home safely.

A couple of days later, I saw his picture in a Facebook album from the celebration where his efforts to attend the parade were praised and considered an act of patriotism.

Sadly, this is also a part of Roaring Romania, whether we like it or not. I will give Alba Iulia another chance but I’ll wait for sunnier days.

Alba Iulia

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military parade
part of the military parade

Alba Iulia


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