The areas of Crişana (north of the Mureş River) and Banat (to the south) have a lively, spiritual autonomy found nowhere else in Romania, driven by their sense of regional identity, ethnic diversity and tangible Habsburg influence. Oradea, Arad and Timişoara were once large military fortresses marking the southeastern extent of Austria-Hungary, while being culturally and politically married to Yugoslavia’s Vojvodina and Hungary’s Great Plain. Following WWI, Crişana and Banat were dealt out to Romania, despite their predominantly Hungarian populations, and even now they have more in common with Subotica (Serbia) and Szeged (Hungary) than with the rest of Romania.
It was in the stylish city of Timişoara that the seeds of the 1989 revolution were sown, a fact that has left these charming and proud people with a scarcely concealed grin. Hungarian and Yugoslav TV have given the region stronger links to the West, evidenced by cutting-edge restaurants, clubs and a forward-looking society.
While flaunting three of Romania’s most ‘European’ cities, in both essence and crumbling Habsburg architecture, the regions are also sprinkled with tempting offerings such as the soaring Apuşeni Mountains, ski runs, deep caves, gorges, waterfalls and curative thermal waters. Zigzag from giddying excitement to recuperative leisure all within a few hours’ drive.