We reserved the third day in Romanian Timisoara for the visiting of museums.
(1) A museum that I guess no visitor to Timisoara will miss is the Museum of the Communist Consumer – Muzeul Consumatorului Comunist. I was lucky to meet its owner here, who is the actor and musician Ovidiu Mihaita.
Ovidiu told us that he first founded a small theater company (the small theater is still part of the museum today). He and his friends started going around flea markets all over the country, they were interested in what people were throwing away. Things that symbolized taste, but also status and possibilities during the communist regime – (not everything was available, a good communist consumer kept everything because he did not know if the goods would still be on the store shelves tomorrow). They collected for five years until suddenly they had so much that they decided to open this museum in May 2015.
For two whole weeks, they carried the collected items to the house where the museum is located today. The opening was a complete sensation, over 700 visitors visited the new museum. Ovidiu did not want a classic museum where objects are displayed behind glass. At his museum, you can see things up close, take them in your hands, try if they still work…
The corridor, kitchen, living room and other rooms are full of furniture, electrical appliances, musical instruments, gramophone records, toys, books, statuettes and other kitsch from that time – a little bit of everything. The interest is enormous – those who grew up during the communist era (like me) come here to go back in time. Filmmakers borrow old props for their films, but families also come here to show their children things they have not had the chance to know or try. I know what I am talking about: our young son once said he wanted to see a dial phone. It was not easy to find such a phone. However, they have several of them in the Museum of the Communist Consumer.
As Ovidiu told us, people keep bringing new objects here. He may have to expand the museum over time. He still has not managed to get a kind of children’s tractor that you can stand on and drive. Do you not happen to have one in your attic somewhere?
You can also sit in the small garden (title photo) or order a coffee or other drink at the bar – do not forget to look up and behold the funny way of storing glasses on a bicycle!
The museum is open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and on Sundays from 2:00 p.m. Entry is free.
Address: Strada Architect Laszlo Szekely 1
(2) The second museum, also related to the communist period, is the Memorial of the Revolution 1989 – Memorialul Revoluției 1989. It will introduce you to the details of the events that culminated in the fall of the communist regime in Romania. The revolution in Romania began precisely in Timisoara – on December 16, 1989. While the army joined the side of the demonstrators, over 100 people lost their lives and more than 500 were injured. In the museum, you will find memorials’ statements, notes of direct participants, various documents, letters, books, audio recordings… On December 20, Timisoara became the first city in Romania to be declared free from the communist regime.
Address: Strada Oituz nr. 2B
More: Memorialul Revoluției
(3) Timisoara was one of the most fortified cities in the 18th century. The city was surrounded by three star-shaped rings with nine bastions and moats which could be filled with water during a siege. It looked like this:
In the second half of the 19th century, the walls lost their importance, Emperor Franz Joseph I decided to demolish them and build magnificent squares with beautiful houses. The largest part of the former walls, which has survived to this day, is the Teresian Bastion – Bastionul Theresia (one of the points of the star), built in the years 1732 – 1734 and named after Maria Theresa.
After extensive reconstruction, the premises of the former bastion were transformed into a multifunctional center where various exhibitions are held, especially those that help to better know and understand the history of this city. During my visit, it was the exhibition Prince and Sultan – about the period of Ottoman rule and the conquest of the city by imperial troops under the leadership of Prince Eugene of Savoy. The Spotlight Heritage exhibition explained the development of some parts of the city with interesting period postcards: neighborhoods, streets, buildings – places that I have passed by several times, but now, I saw how they were still being built (Cathedral) or how they originally looked (Opera).
I also visited the small Museum of the Military History of Banat in the Terezian Bastion, where weapons and military uniforms were exhibited.
Address: Strada Hector
(4) House no. 1 on the Victory Square is a Baroque palace from the 18th century – a former residence used by the Austrian emperors during their visit to Timisoara. In 1767, Emperor Joseph II spent the night here, and in 1872 Franz Joseph I. Over the years, the palace served as the seat of various administrative institutions. Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms and other important musical artists also performed here.
After the completion of the restoration works in 2006, part of the palace was left to the National Museum of Art. However, the first painting appeared here already in 1879, and later the collection of the prominent collector and art critic Ormos Sigmont was added, which is considered the basis of the museum. Today, there are exhibitions of contemporary, European and decorative art (porcelain, glass, furniture…).
During my visit, I had the opportunity to see the exhibition of the famous Romanian surrealist sculptor and painter Victor Brauner (1903-1966), who worked in Paris. While van Gogh lost an ear, Brauner lost his left eye during a heated argument with Spanish painters Oscar Dominquez and Esteban Francése. Paradoxically, despite this handicap, he continued his artistic work even more intensively.
Address: Piața Unirii 1
More information: Museum of Art
(5) Castelul Huniade – The Huniade Castle was built in 1443-1447 by John Hunyadi, the governor of Transylvania and regent of the Hungarian kingdom (his son Matthias Corvinus later became the Hungarian king). It was the oldest building in the city until Hungarian troops destroyed it during the siege in 1849. The castle was rebuilt seven years later.
Today, the National Museum of Banat is located here, mainly focused on history, natural history and archaeology. Its history dates back to 1872, when the new head of the Timis region, the aforementioned Ormos Sigmont, founded the Society for History and Archeology, which was dedicated to researching the history of Banat. They finally found a place for the discovered artefacts in the rooms of this castle. During my visit, however, the castle was under reconstruction, only the ground floor was open, where remarkable installations of contemporary modern art were exhibited.
Address: Parcul Castelului, Piața Iancu Huniade 1
(6) One of the buildings that you cannot miss while wandering around the center of Timisoara is the Sinagoga din Cetate (Synagogue in the Fortress).
The building was built between 1863 and 1865 in an eclectic style with Moorish elements according to the plans of Viennese architect Karl Schumann. After its inauguration in September 1865, the dimensions of the synagogue (height 43 meters, 424 seats for men plus 320 seats in the gallery for women) as well as its central location proved the new position of Timisoara Jews, who became a prosperous community, playing an important role in the further development of the city.
Unlike the small synagogues built up to that time, the Cetate Synagogue no longer had to hide, so it was proudly displayed to the admiration of passers-by. In May 1872, it was re-inaugurated, with the participation of Emperor Franz Joseph I, which was also an important gesture to recognize all the rights of Jewish citizens.
The synagogue served as a religious place until 1985. A major renovation began in 2017, today there is also a small museum and various cultural events and exhibitions are held here. At the time of my visit, the works of the Romanian photographer Camil Mihaescu were exhibited here.
Address: Strada Mărășești 6
(7) What really surprised me in Timisoara was the rich representation of contemporary modern art. On the one hand, there are several modern sculptures scattered around the city…
…and on the other hand, various exhibitions were held throughout the city, often in places where you would not expect it. For example, the former Garrison Command building (Liberty Square), is unplastered from the outside, but the interior rooms are used for avant-garde performances and installations by various international artists.
The city was certainly full of art, also because of the Biennial of Contemporary Art taking place here. In 2023, it was already the 5th year. As part of this event, which lasted two months, I saw several exhibitions in different locations. One of the most interesting was the exhibition of paintings by one of the most important contemporary Romanian artists – Adrian Ghenie, who currently lives in Berlin.
I believe that even after the end of the Biennale, these spaces will not remain empty and that they will continue to serve the presentation of art.
If you visit Timisoara, be sure to also check these addresses for any interesting event or exhibition:
ISHO House, Take Ionescu Blvd. 46C
Timisoara Garrison Command, Piata Libertatii 5
FABER, Splaiul Penes Curcanul 4-5
Where to eat:
After the exhausting program, one gets hungry. The place I recommend because of the interesting interior is Restaurant Lloyd. It is located in the house of the same name at Victory Square. It was opened in 1912 and already in the past, the diverse multicultural society of Timisoara – Romanians, Hungarians, Serbs, Jews and Swabians – met here to discuss the situation at that time and further plans for the development of the city. Today, the restaurant is visited by guests from all over the world. The original Art Deco interior has been partially preserved.
The food is excellent, the prices are a little higher, but acceptable. I tasted the grilled trout and for dessert, I ordered a speciality from Banat – Clatite Banatene, which reminded me of a bread pudding but made of pancakes.
Where to stay:
During my visit to Timisoara, I stayed at the Ibis Hotel. It is a modern hotel with parking. Its advantage is the close distance to the historic center, approx. 15 minutes on foot. However, I do not recommend rooms above the main entrance, where smokers gather and buses stand with their engines running, waiting for departing guests. The Bega Art Hall and a supermarket are located in the building behind the parking lot.
How to get here:
There is an international airport in Timisoara, and thanks to low-cost airlines, you can get here from various places. I took a direct flight from Vienna.
My big thanks to Timisoara 2023 for the invitation to this interesting city.
Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri