I interrupt my regular stories from memory lane and bring you a fresh from the oven trip that just happened last weekend. With travelling abroad still being a bit of a hassle, travelling inside the country is currently more convenient. And so, as the company I work for decided to give us two Wellness (free) Fridays every month, I took Monday off too, for a long weekend and went to Constanța.
Constanța (pronounced Constantza, meaning “constant”) is a city in the west of Romania, on the shore of the Black Sea. What makes it a great place for a trip is that you can combine a regular city-break, usually cultural tourism, with a seaside vacation. My sister accompanied me on this trip and we decided to travel by train.
We took a private-operated train from Bucharest North Station that took us to Constanța in about 2 hours. We booked the tickets online and paid for them on the train. The price was also very good, at only about 10 euro for one full ticket and one student ticket.
We booked a room in a modern villa, in a quiet neighbourhood near the beach. As you stepped out of the villa and headed to the end of the street, you came upon some wooden steps, on a poppy-speckled hillside that took you down to the vast beach. On the other end of the street, you only had to cross the boulevard to get to a big, popular restaurant in Constanța, called La Scoica (“At the Seashell”). Also on the boulevard, a bus station for a bus that takes you to the city centre, the train station, or in the opposite direction, to Mamaia (a popular resort-town in Romania).
TIP TIME: Speaking of the bus, you can pay for the ticket via text message, which is a big plus, especially for tourists who couldn’t find a ticket-vending-shop. You can pay for a one-hour ticket on all lines, a one-day ticket, a one-week ticket, or for just a one-line ticket.
How we spent the time:
As we got there around lunch on Friday, we dropped off our luggage and headed straight for the beach. We spent a few hours there, then had an early dinner at the restaurant mentioned before. Afterwards, we went to the city centre to meet a friend of my sister’s and stroll around the ‘old town’. This part of Constanța is full of restaurants and also has many old buildings and museums. We went up the minaret of the Great Mosque of Constanța. As a port city, Constanța (known as Tomis in Antiquity) has a great history of trading and many peoples of different cultures and religions have gathered here. The 360 view from the top was beautiful and worth the climb. After we had enough of gazing over the panorama, we continued our stroll through the city centre until we reached the seafront walkway, another beautiful part of the city.
Here, the walkway has been paved and boarded by spaces of grass and trees, which also feature small pavilions here and there, as well as benches. The biggest attraction on the seafront is the Casino. Unfortunately, at the moment it’s covered, as it’s being renovated, hopefully, to be brought back to its original glory very soon. As we reach the end of this walkway, the tourist port opens up in front, with small boats and yachts docked on one side and fancy, modern restaurants and bars on the other. We had a drink at one of these terraces, called Bacaro Port – as we found out later on, considered to be one of the best in Constanța.
On the following day, a Saturday, the beach was slightly more crowded (there had barely been any people on Friday), but still nice and quiet. After basking in the sun for a while, by 12, some clouds were beginning to gather and thunder could be heard in the distance. We decided it was better to pack up and go for lunch. By the time we got ready for lunch, it started raining fairly heavily. Lucky for us, a bus came right as we were opening our apps to call a cab. We got on and it took us to the city centre. From there, we walked for about 5 minutes and stopped at a Turkish restaurant we heard might be good, called Bosfor Turkish Restaurant. And it was great. The food was delicious and the service was very nice and fast. I got to drink Turkish tea again and tried some eggplant salad, hummus, tabbouleh, and a sort of beef stew, all very good. After lunch, we went back to our room as the temperature had dropped considerably, and we needed more cover.
After 5 pm, some museums were open with free entrance until 11 pm, as it was the Night of the Museums. We decided to visit the Romanian Navy Museum, which was very interesting, with different exhibits, from old ship models to various navigation instruments. After this, we also visited the temporary exhibits of the Art Museum.
On Sunday we spent the morning at the beach again, then went to the Natural History Museum that features a small zoo, a planetarium, and a dolphin show. We strolled the alleys and watched the animals, enjoying, in particular, the llamas and alpacas, but also the raccoons and otters. Another storm was approaching, so we went to the Planetarium.
TIP TIME: the ticket to the Planetarium, includes access to the small zoo. You can also buy a full ticket, which also includes access to a dolphin show. Remember to check the timetable of the shows both for the Planetarium and the dolphins, so you don’t end up wandering about with anything to do.
It was the third time I attended a Planetarium demonstration with my sister, which I guess makes it “our thing”. It was enjoyable and interesting, although at times I felt like the lady who presented got a bit lost in her discourse and strayed from the topic at hand. However, watching the sky unfold is an engulfing experience that makes you forget the Earth for a bit and have your head over the clouds… I also appreciated the technological advances of the Planetarium, since I last attended a demonstration. This time, we were able to see real-time up-close images of the planets and the moon.
After spending some more time with the lady who presented to find out if dark nebulae produce stars, just as regular nebulae (the ones that appear lit and colourful) do (it turns out they do) and a heavy rain started pouring, we eventually took courage and ventured through the ‘rivers’ flooding the alleys of the Museum to get to the bus. Once off the bus, we stopped for dinner at La Scoica.
As the storm kept going, we spent the evening inside, relaxing and watching TV. We were hoping to get a few more hours at the beach on Monday morning, but given the storm, the temperatures were too low to enjoy, even if it was sunny.
And so, we packed our bags, but left them at the villa for a few more hours, to be able to move more freely. We did go to one of the beach bars for coffee, then walked to the city centre for lunch at the Turkish restaurant. This time, I tried a “Turkish pizza” and a delicious dessert I didn’t know about before, called güllaç.
All in all, it felt great being a tourist in my own country and got to better appreciate the perks of visiting Constanța and having the best of both worlds: cityscape and seascape.