Archives August 2015

Weekend escapade: Ploiesti

At around one hour drive from Bucharest, on the way to Prahova Valley, sits Ploiesti, a city of around 200,000 people and the ninth most populous in Romania. A transport hub and an important industrial and oil industry center, Ploiesti emerged as a trade and manufacturing town in the 17th and 18th centuries. During the 19th century the city was an important oil extraction and refinery site, which also made it the target of the Allies during the World War II. Ploiesti is also known as the place of the self-proclaimed Republic of Ploiesti, a short-lived 1870 revolt against the Romanian monarchy.

Although not a traditional tourist destination, the city is home to several unique museums in the country. The Oil Museum opened in 1961 and hosts several historical oil extraction equipment, oil-based street lamps and various items documenting the history of the oil industry in the area and in the country. The Clock Museum, currently undergoing renovation, hosts almost 1,000 items from all over Europe, among which a 1634 wood pendulum activated by a water fall, the first pocket watch, tower horologes and many other pieces crafted by British, French or Swiss master watchmakers.

Also on the cultural side, the city is home to the Ploiesti Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the top-rated philharmonic orchestras in the country. Architecturally, there is a wealth of 19th century buildings to see but also the 1785 Hagi Prodan Museum. Built by local merchant Hagi Prodan, it exemplifies old Romanian architecture and for a short time it also hosted the first museum in Ploiesti – the county museum.

Halele CentraleYou can see some of the city’s most historical parts by taking a walk on the Chestnuts Boulevard (Bulevardul cu Castani), which links its South train station to the center. On the way, you can check the building of the Clock Museum, the county Art Museum – hosting pieces by landmark Romanian painters such as Nicolae Grigorescu, Theodor Aman, Gheorghe Tattarescu, Ion Andreescu or Stefan Luchian – or the History Museum. A visit through the city wouldn’t be complete without a stop to the main market – Halele Centrale (pictured), hosted in a 1930 building designed by architect Toma Socolescu, whose name is linked to many works in the city whose mayor he also was.

Macea Botanical Garden

Close to Arad, in western Romania, the locality of Macea hosts a beautiful historical monument and botanical garden surrounding it.

The botanical garden today belongs to the West University in Arad but started as a park developed by Tibor Karolyi around the castle his father had bought from its initial owner, Petru Csernovics. He hired gardener Josif Prohaska to manage the landscaping works and a pool, a fountain, a tennis court, rows of flowers and new alleys and many new species of plants and trees were added to the park between 1900 and 1902.

In 1935 the castle changes owners again, and approximately 10 hectares of woods are being cut from the site. After undergoing a period of unfortunate transformations between 1935 and 1968, the park receives the statute of ‘dendrologic site’ and under the supervision of professor Pavel Covaci the network of alleys is being rebuilt, new species are introduced and a greenhouse is set up.

If in 1968, around 60 ligneous species were growing in the park, over 2,000 species of plants and trees can be found today as part of the garden. Some of the species to be found here are the Maidenhair tree, the red cedar, the European ash or the Pagoda tree.

Macea CastleWhile visiting the garden, an important attraction point remains the Macea castle, built starting with 1724 by Serbian family Csernovics. Ranked as a historical monument, the castle combines baroque and byzantine elements with details of modern architecture.

How to get there:

You can take the E81 and DN7/E68 as shown here.