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Constanța and the Black Sea

Mamaia Beach, Black Sea, Constanța, Romania
A beach in Mamaia 
It was Friday in mid-September. School had just started in Romania and the kids were deep into their books. The summer crowds had gone home. The umbrellas at beaches along the coast of the Black Sea were mostly folded up and the scene in front of me was one of abandonment. A welcome site, I might add. As I walked (with my Sketchers on) and sunk deeply into the warm sand, the sound of waves kissing the shore gave me the calm I needed after a week long road-trip in Northern Romania, Ukraine and Moldova. I was connected once again to my roots. I grew up by the sea on the other side of the world and I always return to the sea to rejuvenate my spirit and get a fresh start.

This poem (I wrote it a while ago) mirrors how I felt when strolling on the beach.
I grew up by the sea
It’s always with me
No matter where I go
I hear its warm hello.
It’s been too long
Since I heard her song 
Seeing her today
Never far will I stray.

There are many beaches in Mamaia, a suburb of Constanța. I was amazed by how wide the beachfront was and it made me happy to soak in the warmth of the sun, sea and sand.

Constanța Casino, Romania
Constanța Casino (Cazinoul)
This beautiful Art Nouveau testament to a once glorious past is getting the spruce up it deserves after years of neglect. Inaugurated in 1910, it was a casino, a wartime hospital, a restaurant, a community center before it was abandoned for years until the current renovations began.

Constanța Casino
Notice the finials decorating the corners of the roof. There’s no doubt that once the renovation is complete, the casino will once again take its place as the symbol of Constanța.

Esplanade by the Casino
How refreshing it is to walk by the sea or just sit at one of the benches to enjoy the scenery!

Ion Jalea Sculpture Museum
Ion Jalea is one of the eminent artists of Romania. Jalea lost his left arm while fighting for the Romanian Army in WWI yet he created such monumental pieces throughout his lifetime. This building constructed in Blancoveanu style houses many of his works and part of his private art collection. Below is a piece he created called Resting Archer.

Resting Archer, Ion Jalea, Constanta
Resting Archer, Ion Jalea, 1926

Sts. Peter and Paul Orthodox Cathedral

Mary and Child Jesus on one of the cupolas
I’m fascinated by the respect and veneration accorded to Mary in the Eastern Orthodox churches I visited in Romania. I feel at home here praying in front of her icons. 

Last Judgement, St. Peter and Paul Orthodox Cathedral

Not so easy to find parking but down the hill from the old town we found one so I had to climb these stairs, one slow step at a time. I made it!

Constanța Port
This is the largest port on the Black Sea with a length of 30 km. Some of the grain from Ukraine is shipped from here to the rest of the world. 

Medallion with carved relief of Anghel Saligny
A commemorative of the port's first export of petroleum from Romania. Anghel Saligny designed the reinforced concrete storage facilities at the port, one of the first of its kind in Europe. He also designed the Anghel Saligny Bridge over the Danube, an important link to Constanța and its port.

Anghel Saligny Bridge (King Carol I Bridge)

Remains of an ancient church
Constanța is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Romania. Founded around 600 BC, it was called Tomis after Queen Tomyris, she who vanquished Cyrus the Great and left with her loot to establish a settlement in Moesia on the Black Sea. During the Roman occupation, Tomis got a new name, Constantiana, after the half sister of Constantine the Great, Constantia. Imagine the matriarchal provenance of this city and the feminine origin of its former and current names. 

Piața Olvidiu
The Roman poet, Ovid, was exiled to Constanța by Emperor Augustus in 8 AD. He remained there until his demise in 17 AD. He described Constanța in unflattering terms, “a war stricken cultural wasteland on the remotest margins of the empire”. He wrote several poems collected in volumes titled, Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto to Augustus to plead for his return to Rome. Alas it got him nowhere. His statue stands prominently on the square.

National History and Archaeological Museum
The Archeological Museum is the keeper of ancient artifacts including a bronze Scythian bowl from the 5th-6th BC and a marble glycon (ancient snake god) from the 2nd century AD. The building itself is an example of Romanian Revival architecture and was the former city hall. Its architect was Victor Ștefănescu who also designed the Ion Jalea Sculpture Museum and the Grand Mosque.

This building across from the Archaelogical Museum is beautiful with its arched colonnade but it’s sadly crumbling and closed to the public. There are pieces of ancient stone sculpture here like the white milestone column that you can see in the image above.

Casa cu Lei, House with Lions
My favorite discovery in Constanța is the House with Lions. This was the family home of Dicran Emirzian. It was designed by Ion Berindei and built between 1895-1898. Emirzian’s son lived here until 1941. It changed hands after that and was nationalized in 1950. 

Detail of the lions

Grand Mosque or Carol I Mosque
The Romanian king, Carol I, commisioned the construction of the Mosque in 1910. Victor Ștefănescu was the Chief Architect of the building which features Neo-Byzantine, Neo-Eygptian and Neo Romanesque styles of architecture. The minaret is 47 meters (154 ft.) in height. It was inaugurated in May 1913.

St. Anthony Roman Catholic Church
St. Anthony Church was built in the 1930s in the Romanesque style. It has a concave dome and a beautiful rosette on its facade. The Russian army occupied the Church during WWII and used it as a munitions depot and the tower served as a lookout point to monitor activities in the harbor. Later during the communist era, no services were allowed at the Church. It stands today as a reminder that unwavering faith can never be crushed.

Tomis Turistic Port

The view of the harbor from Reyna’s restaurant

Manhole in Constanța
A manhole cover with Tomis (the ancient name of Constanța) inscribed at the top with the coat of arms of Constanța below it. The crest consists of a lighthouse, a ship and the sea framed by grape vines.
How to get there:
I took a day tour to Constanța from Bucharest through Nicolas Experience Tours. It takes about two hours and forty minutes to get there and it’s best to start early. My guide, Alex, drove safely and at a comfortable pace. We stopped along the way for trips to the restroom and for a snack break. We started our tour at the beach before proceeding to the old part of the city. Alex is an enthusiastic guide and gave me the full tour as well as insights into the local culture. It’s such a relief not to have to join a bus tour. You can contact Nicolas Experience Tours here:

If you wish to go on your own, there’s a train service between Bucharest and Constanța. You can check for more transportation options. 

Where to eat:
We had lunch at the harbor. There are too many restos to choose from so we gravitated towards Reyna which was the busiest of the lot. Seafood is of course the main offering here as this city is by the sea. So I ordered trout and Alex had anchovies. The servings were generous and I finished my fish but not all the potatoes. The bill for two with cola and lemonade came to $39.00.

Video of Constanța: 


Images by TravelswithCharie

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