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Timişoara photo essay: Faded glory

Majestic buildings boast imposing, ornate facades, even on the side streets. Edged with statues, often figurative, each row of windows differs from those above and below, yet they all display detailed workmanship. Grand doorways framed with artwork, topped with glass, span several centuries of architectural styles.

But the paint is flaking away. Underneath, exposed to the elements, the stucco layers crumble away as well, revealing rough brickwork. The buildings have an air of despair, of giving up the fight.

a decaying building in Timisoara: Timisoara photo essay
a decaying building in Timisoara. Looking at some of the figures on the facade, we figured it might have been a hospital once.

This is Timişoara, Romania. “Faded glory” was the phrase that kept coming to mind as my husband and I wandered the streets of this fascinating city. Slated to become the European Capital of Culture in 2021, Timişoara shows evidence of an effort to restore some of the buildings, but the city has a lot of work to do before 2021. I’ve put together this Timişoara photo essay to give you an impression.

It is certainly an impressive city. Just the sheer quantity of elegant buildings, if they were properly restored, would easily rival Prague.

Look at the contrast between the unrestored building on the left and the restored one on the right. Faded Glory in TImisoara, Romania
Look at the contrast between the unrestored building on the left and the restored one on the right.

We stayed in a hotel somewhat outside the center of the city, so we walked through some residential neighborhoods, not geared to tourism. A random example of the kind of building you’ll find on side streets in Timişoara, the small apartment building shown below is less ornate than some of the larger ones in the center of the city, but suffers from the same problem. Notice that, as we saw on many of these buildings, the window frames are new. The few that we were able to peek into showed that the maintenance is often much better on the inside than on the outside.

A random apartment building we passed when we were visiting Timisoara. Timisoara photo essay
A random apartment building we passed when we were visiting Timişoara.

The centerpiece of Timişoara is the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. Everywhere we traveled in Romania, the churches were very well maintained, and this one was no exception. Built in 1936-1941, the style is called in Neo-Moldavian, according to Wikipedia.

Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral in Timisoara, Romania. Timisoara photo essay
Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral in Timisoara, Romania

The rich detail is still intact on the building shown below – it stands on one of the central pedestrian boulevards of Timişoara. Look down the wall below the statues, though, and below the balcony, and you can see the decay.

facade detail. Timisoara photo essay
facade detail

On the other hand, look at the wonderful detail on this partially restored building:

a restored facade. Timisoara photo essay
restored facade

On Unirii Square, most of the buildings have been lovingly restored, and the effect is breathtaking. This is the Serbian Orthodox Vicarage, dating to the 1700s.

The Serbian Orthodox Vicarage on Unirii Square in Timisoara, Romania. Timisoara photo essay.
The Serbian Orthodox Vicarage on Unirii Square in Timisoara

Below is another photo on Unirii Square, with the Serbian Orthodox Vicarage on the left.

Unirii Square. Timisoara photo essay.
Unirii Square

If you want to see more of Unirii Square, I did a short Facebook Live video the day I visited. At times it’s a bit pixelated, but it’ll give you an idea of this impressive baroque square:

The Moorish Synagogue is in good shape and used today for events. Dating from 1863-65, it is “a historicist eclectic style typical for the second half of the nineteenth century, using ornaments of Moorish architecture…” according to the informational sign outside.

a synagogue in Timisoara, Romania. Timisoara photo essay.
the synagogue

The magnificent synagogue shown below, on the other hand, is abandoned and crumbling. Called the Fabric New Synagogue (Fabric is the name of the neighborhood.), it is in Neo-Moorish style, and was built at the turn of the 20th century.

The Fabric New Synagogue: Timisoara photo essay.
The Fabric New Synagogue

A detail from the Fabric Synagogue:

Fabric New Synagogue in Timisoara, Romania. Timisoara photo essay.
Fabric New Synagogue
fountain in Timisoara, Romania. Timisoara photo essay.

My husband and I voted this the ugliest fountain ever. It’s in the middle of a traffic circle just outside the old center of Timişoara.

There is also a lot of graffiti in Timişoara:

graffiti of the face of a woman in Timisoara, Romania. Timisoara photo essay.
exposed brick under a window in Timisoara, Romania. Timisoara photo essay.

Here is a close-up view of what’s underneath: rough bricks, not intended as exterior bricks. We were astounded at the sheer number of buildings with damage like this.

an ornate doorway in Timisoara, Romania. Timisoara photo essay.

To end this photo essay on a positive note, look at this beautiful doorway. It’s the entrance to the administrative offices of the Roman Catholic community in Timoşoara.

Assuming that Timoşoara’s efforts to restore its gorgeous collection of 17th to 20th century architecture continues, it should be a wonderful city to visit in 2021, when it is the Cultural Capital of Europe. While decay is the norm today, except for prominent buildings in the center of the city, it would be great if it became the exception.

Have you been to Timoşoara? What did you think of it?

Pin this image! Timisoara photo essay.
Pin this image!

18 Comments

  • budgettraveltalk

    August 26, 2017 at 6:55 am

    You are broadening my horizons – I’ve never heard of Timişoara and haven’t been to Romania. I love faded glory but I do hope they manage to restore as many buildings as possible before 2021. You should return then to see the difference!

    Reply
  • Cristina P

    August 26, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Wished you visited Arad (50km to the North) as well.
    While the decay is there , there have been some awesome renovations going on so the city looks good! 🙂

    Glad you enjoyed Timisoara, though.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      August 26, 2017 at 12:05 pm

      We were really just on our way through, but stayed an extra night in Timisoara because it was so interesting. I did see that in other cities, though, like Sighisoara: lots of renovations happening, and road improvements too.

      Reply
    • Rachel

      August 29, 2017 at 9:52 am

      It’s not drawing tourists yet, but I’m sure it will in a few years! Just beautiful, and when it’s been restored more it’ll be a clear competitor for Prague.

      Reply
  • Anita and Richard @ No Particular Place To Go

    August 30, 2017 at 7:45 am

    Had to laugh at your photo of “the ugliest fountain ever.” Yep – that one would fit the category! Your title says it all but the photos of the restored buildings give hints at what a truly spectacular city Timasoura could be. Maybe what adds to the feeling of neglect and the impression I got while watching your video is that there are very few people around. Added to the decay, the place almost looks abandoned too. And yet … wouldn’t it be lovely to come back in a few years and see what progress has been made? Anita

    Reply
    • Rachel

      August 30, 2017 at 11:23 pm

      On some streets there were plenty of people around, but not many tourists, and the backdrop, especially on the main pedestrian boulevard, was so decrepit! I’d love to check it out in or after 2021 to see how far they’ve gotten.

      Reply
  • Adriana

    October 7, 2020 at 3:18 am

    I am glad you could delight your readers with the pictures of the ugliest fountain ever. I take you haven’t seen too many in your life. I’m not sure where you grew up and what you have seen growing up. The ugliest fountain ever is called Fântâna punctelor cardinale, and while I can see that it has gone through some renovations that were probably not so well thought I beg to disagree with your point of view. I have many photos from there. As a kid, growing up in the city I loved the ugliest fountain ever and thought of it as quite beautiful. It was yellow to represent the sun, the letters were not that awful blue and together with the rest of the surroundings it was really nice. No, not an 1800’s design but more of a mid century. Lots of mid century design in Timisoara too. As well as Art Deco. But I see the only thing that mattered was the old old stuff. That if fixed would rival Prague as you said. Why should you asume that anyone would care to rival Prague? It’s not Prague. You want to see Prague maybe you shouldn’t look for it in Timisoara.

    Reply
    • Rachel Heller

      October 7, 2020 at 12:41 pm

      I’m sorry if I offended you. This was several years ago, and I was impressed (positively) by the beauty of so many Timisoara buildings (whether deco or older) but sad about the poor condition of many of them. You’ve probably been back there more recently since you’re from there: have more of the buildings been fixed up?
      It’s funny how one person’s beautiful is another person’s ugly, isn’t it? When I took a walking tour in Prague last year, the tour guide pointed out the Žižkov Television Tower. He said it had been voted the 2nd ugliest building in the world (by who, I don’t know) but said that Prague residents had grown to love it. I actually don’t think it’s ugly. So I guess it’s all a matter of taste. As for Prague, I’m not saying that people from Timisoara want to rival Prague, I’m saying that it COULD rival Prague, considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world because of its architecture. Prague gets a lot of tourism (outside of the pandemic) and I know Timisoara would like more tourism too.

      Reply

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