Constanța: a harbor of many cultures

While this city on the Black Sea coast makes for a perfect summer destination, it has plenty of sites tourists can visit in any other season. One of Romania’s largest cities and an important port, Constanța is also one of the oldest settlements on the country’s territory. It was established around 600 BC and used to be known by the name of Tomis. Museums, historical monuments, a micro-reservation and sunny beaches are just some of the attractions the city has to offer.

One of the city’s best known symbols is the Casino, a historical building (pictured) which is in heavy need of restoration. Although currently closed, visitors can still admire it while talking a walk on the city’s pier. The Casino was erected during the reign of King Carol I. It was built in the Art Nouveau style, according to the plans of Daniel Renard, and inaugurated in August 1910. In May of this year a new a tender was announced for consolidation and renovation works estimated to require EUR 7 million.

An ethnically diverse city, Constanța hosts several mosques, testimony of its Turkish and Tatar population. The Grand Mosque of Constanța or the Carol Mosque is one of the most important architectural monuments in the city. It was rebuilt also during the reign of King Carol I and inaugurated in 1913. It took the place of the old Mahmudie mosque, named after Sultan Mahmud (1808-1839) and built in 1823 by Pasha Hafız Mehmed. The new edifice displays a unique style, combining the Egyptian- Byzantine style with Romanian architectural insertions. It stands in Ovidiu Square, which visitors can admire from the top of the mosque after climbing the 140 spiraling steps of the 47 meters minaret of the construction.

Orasul_antic_Tomis_-Postoiu RoxanaThe Ovidiu Square bears the name of the Roman poet Ovid, who was exiled here by emperor Augustus. A contemporary of Virgil and Horace, he is often considered, alongside them, as one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature. The Island of Ovid can be found ten kilometers away from Constanța, on lake Siutghiol. The island is said to be the place where the poet used to do his writing. Although specialists found no evidence of the poet’s stay here, it is still a nice site to visit, within the reach of a boat ride. For more insight into the ancient settlements here, the Constanța Archaeological Park keeps the ruins of the Tomis city.

Also on the city’s pier is the Genoese Lighthouse, honoring the Genovese merchants who established a prosperous sea trade community here in the 13th century. The 7.9 meters tall lighthouse was rebuilt in 1860, on the basis of a 1300 Genovese lighthouse on site, by Armenian-born French engineer Artin Aslan.

The city’s History and Archaeology Museum is also worth a stop. It hosts various pieces belonging to the Neolithic cultures of Hamangia and Gumelnița, including the statues of ‘the sitting woman’ and the ‘thinker’ of Hamangia, dating back to the 5th millennium BC. The museum also counts in its patrimony various agricultural tools, Greek-Roman amphorae, statues of Greek gods, and more notably, the white-marble Glykon snake and the Scythian kings- engraved coin collection.

The Romanian Naval Museum offers visitors an insight into the history of the local naval forces with the help of more than 37,000 pieces, from coins and drawings to tens of ship reproductions. Another good site to visit is the micro-reservation, part of the city’s Natural Sciences Museum. Inaugurated in 1985, it gives visitors a sample of the rich vegetation and wildlife in the Dobrogea region.

Photos: Wikipedia/ Roxana Postoiu, Adian Cadar