Sometimes when you travel a lot you get kind of complacent and/or lazy about certain things. If you're going away for a weekend you check and recheck every detail of your journey. When you've been travelling for over a year you intersperse looking for accommodation for tomorrow night with checking out what costs are like in Riga in September, then carry on booking a room for tomorrow.
Then, after walking half an hour from the train station to your home for the night and messaging your host to tell them you're off the train and should be there in about ten minutes you're met with a surprised "you mean today?!"
So that was how we went from being unsure whether to stay in Arad or Timisoara to deciding to spend the night in Arad to going to Timisoara after all in the space of a few hours.
Turns out this was just fine. Arad was pleasant enough, but it's (to me) major attraction, a huge 18th century star-shaped fortress was almost invisible from the outside (due to a combination of low profile, trees surrounding it and the very size that makes it so cool). And Timisoara was, in a word, lovely.
In fact old Tim' turned out to be our favourite city in Romania. The walk from the train station to our hostel took us right through the old centre, which is pretty and clean, but all of the restoration work on it gives the feeling of being something that just needed to be done to keep the city a pleasant place to live, rather than something that's been done to dandify it for the tourism industry (unlike the Sibiu upper town and even our fondly remembered Sighisoara).
In a traditional tourist sense we did virtually nothing in Timisoara. But we had an awesome time anyway.
We hung out at a music festival in a big riverside park. While there we visited the craft beer stall, had several cracking IPAs, and learned of the existence of the brand new Bereta Brewing taproom in Timosoara. We spent and evening there too. Just about everything they made was very good. Maybe a bit too much focus on hops and (dare I, of all people, say it) adjuncts and not enough malt and yeast focussed beers. But we had a great coconut milkshake IPA, a pretty good saison and a kveik fermented imperial stout (which was, to be honest, less interesting than I expected. Perhaps it just needed more time for the funky bugs to get working). The night before we left Timisoara I went back to patronize the bottle shop part of the taproom to spend the last of our Romanian Lei. I'd picked a few bottles before asking the young woman working there for her advice. She suggested a pistachio imperial stout which meant I wouldn't have quite enough Lei for the Berliner Weisse too. As I was putting it back she very sweetly offered it to me as a gift as it was her favourite of their range. I'm partly writing this just to relate a nice story and partly to remind myself that I should post her a nice sour from Belgium when we're there in a couple of weeks.
Our other major outing was a Sunday afternoon walk along the sedate and stately River Bega. We walked along the north side, which turned out to be a mix of disused industrial land, trails through grassland and behind people's back yards. On the way back we took the cycle trail which was just full of Timisoaranas biking out to La Pod Popas, a kind of country restaurant/beer garden where I had my best Romanian Mici (basically cylinders of spiced ground beef with mustard [I'd been kind of missing mustard for a while]). Visiting Pod Popas on a Sunday was one of those instances where visiting somewhere while it was busy is better than when you have it to yourself.
A few other miscellaneous Timisoara gems:
The rose garden (Romania had great roses all over the country)
The parks and squares. With the number of them all over the city it was hard to figure out how there was actually room for buildings!
The beautiful Orthodox cathedral, which reminded me of a larger, colourful version of the cone-domed Orthodox churches in Georgia and Armenia.
Our final corvigi. While a lot of similatities exist between Romanian and Serbian (where we were headed next) and other Balkan cuisines, Romania definitely wins the seeded, ring shaped bread contest.
It's hard to believe that there is NO scheduled public transportation between Timisoara and Beograd/Belgrade, two large cities barely 100km apart, but so it is.
We arranged seats on a private shuttle across the Serbian border to the town of Vrsac and said our final fond farewell to Romania, its beautiful rural train trips, its fabulous castles and its perpetually thunderstormy mountains.