I wanted to see for myself the place where around 18,000 Jews were put in the Kolozsvar Ghetto in Cluj. What happened on account due to the ghetto was of tremendous consequence. Before 1940, Cluj was a part of Romania and was therefore returned to it in 1947 by Hungary, which is why it is now called Cluj-Napoca. During World War II, Jews were rounded up at the Iris brickyard to the North of the city. What followed is history. Nearly 90% of them were transported to Auschwitz and killed. Though nothing much remains of the original ghetto, I needed to begin my journey through Cluj with this historic site.

 

Combining My Visit to the Bears Cave with Baile Felix Thermal Baths

I’m not the one to miss out on what nature has preserved for us, so I chose to visit the Bears Cave, one of the most visited tourist destinations in western Transylania. Located in the Apuseni Mountains, the caves are made up of spectacular stalactite and stalagmite formations. The shapes and forms fascinated me, and I could see why these caves were used by cave bears nearly 15,000 years ago.

 

There used to be mining activity around the site, when it was discovered on September 17, 1983. It took me around an hour to go through and reach the upper level of the caves from where I could see the Candles Gallery. I then decided to visit the ethnographical museum in Chiscau before heading out for the thermal spa at Baile Felix. The springs at this location have existed since the time of the Romans, and I had a relaxing time in the 40 odd degrees centigrade water.

 

The Fascinating Salina Turda Mine and Turda Gorge

The next day I boarded the bus heading for Turda to visit the famous salt mine. The bus took nearly half an hour to reach Turda from where I had to walk for about 20 minutes to reach the Salina mines. They exist since ancient times but were recorded officially in 1271 when first offered to the Catholic Church. Underground work has been done since the Roman period. No mechanical tools or dynamite have been used during mining. It used to be lit with candles, and clods of salt were removed to be later cut by specialist workers. I took the half-hour drive on the way back to visit the Kurda Gorge, which has walls that are almost 300 m in height. The rivers passing through the gorge have been trying to get through the limestone mountain, which has generated a spectacular variety of caves, towers, fossils, and arcades.

 

Local Visit to the Cluj Botanical Garden

I did not want to miss out on the Botanical Garden of Cluj, so I traveled to the southern part of the city. Formed in 1920 by an academician, it covers 14 hectares of natural beauty with over 10,000 plants from all across the world. The museum has around 6,900 items to display, and there are six glasshouses for research and study. I had a great time and leave with fond memories of my visit to Cluj.

Tagged: Stuart