Often called “the Little Vienna” because of its colorful architecture, resembling the Austrian capital, Timisoara is the 3rd largest city in Romania and played, an important role during the Middle Ages in the development of the region, thanks of its strategic location, being for a short period of time the capital of the Hungarian Kingdom, too.
Built on the ruins of a Roman fort (Castrum Regium Themes) from there the name derived later into Temeswar (1315), the town rapidly expanded during the Hungarian rule, standing successfully against the Ottomans until 1522, when it was conquered. After a period of stagnation, under the Turks, it regained the stability and then fame under the Habsburgs, starting to 1716. From the big star shaped citadel built in the next years (1723-1756), only the Maria Theresia bastion have survived, a beautiful testimony of the medieval past. In the same period. according to a western systematization plan of the city, houses, schools, hospitals, official palaces, civil and military residences, churches and monuments were built, together with the construction and the rapid development of industry and factories – clothing, leather, silk, paper, etc. Between 1727 and 1760, extensive damming and canalization works were carried out on the Bega River, draining the marshy areas to facilitate the expansion of the city. In 1753, the first theater in Timisoara was established. By the diploma of Joseph II of December 21, 1781, Timisoara was declared a "free royal city".
However, later on the most part of the fortification has lost the meaning, being dismantled in the 19th century, to give space to the expanding city. In this matter, there were some innovations in Timisoara during this century – the second city in the world (after New York) to be lit by the electric street lamps (1884), it was linked to the European railway system in 1857, the electric tram was implemented in 1899, and a modern phone system was installed in 1881.
Due to the city’s ancient and complicated cultural evolution, the architecture reveals a mix of different styles, an expression of a long history. From Renaissance to the Communist era buildings, there’s space for representations of many approaches: Baroque, French Classic, New-Gothic, Art Nouveau, Secession, Art Deco, or the local New-Byzantine.
Among the attractive places we might pay a visit we mention the large squares form the old town:
- in the Victory square we find 19th – 20th century massive Eclectic & Art Nouveau palaces next to Baroque mansions and an impressive New-Byzantine Orthodox Cathedral (1936-1940);
- in the Liberty square (the name being derived from the 1848-1849 revolution) we see the old town hall – 1731/1734, with its restored façade in the Renaissance style, including a Turkish inscription about a Turkish bath that use to exist in the area during the Ottoman rule; in the middle of the square, we admire the monument of St. Mary and St. Nepomuk, one of the two plague pillars built in Timisoara after the Great Plague in 1731-1738;
- The Union square contains majestic buildings on each side. We mention here the Baroque Roman – Catholic St. Stephen Cathedral (or “the Dome”), 1731-1774, the main church of Timisoara in 1756 as declared by the Great Empress Maria Theresia; the 18th century Baroque Palace, housing nowadays the Art Museum of Timisoara; the beautiful colored Bruck Palace – built in Art Nouveau and Secession styles, with Hungarian folk motifs; the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral building (1744-1748), and the Holy Trinity Monument – the second monument that commemorates the end of the plague that devastated Timisoara.
The vibrant life of Timisoara will be complemented this year by getting the title of “The European capital of culture 2023”. Ranging from the biggest outdoor parties to crazy music festivals, or diverse other cultural manifestations (theater and movie plays, the Medieval Festival, or folk and ethnographic events), this year activities will fall under various categories to suit everybody’s tastes. Also, for his reason some of the iconic old buildings are upon renovation works, and ready to shine in the following months.
At the end, but not last do not forget the food: centuries of a diverse influence and ethnic inhabiting have strongly influenced the local cuisine. Here you will find dishes with German, Czech, Transylvanian, Hungarian, Serbian, or Turkish flavors. Everything combined with the local taste, of course.
Hanging out in nice cafes in a cozy atmosphere, enjoying the fine croissants in some French looking patisseries, choosing as the main dish courses ranging from easy vegetarian salads with home made ingredients to juicy T-bone steaks, hence a comprehensive offer for a large variety of people.
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