dscf2126In an effort to break my post-election depression, I decided to get out of Bucharest and visit Constanţa, which is Romania’s oldest city and its primary port on the Black Sea. I took the 2:00 IR (inter-regional) train from Gara du Nord, which lasted almost 2 ½ hours and cost $21 for a first-class seat. (My return tomorrow is express: same price but only two hours with no stops.)

While the city claims a population of almost a quarter million inhabitants and is the country’s major port, Constanţa feels like a ghost town now that the weather is too cold to bring tourists to its white beaches. The “old city” is quite small and crumbling in a manner that suggests there once was something grand and even elegant here but no longer. Even on the weekend, there has been little traffic, be it either vehicular or pedestrian. There were at most a dozen promenading the seawall and perhaps half that at the Museum of National History. (Both are worth a visit, though.)

Little surprises: 1) food and taxis are more expensive here; 2) the highly rated Irish Pub doesn’t serve fish-and-chips or burgers; 3) you can let a massive suite with ocean-view balcony for just $45/night; and, 4) for 5 RON you can climb the minaret’s 144 steps for sweeping views of both city and sea. (I’ve never climbed a minaret before!)

I now know why my program officer scoffed when I told him I was headed here…but I’m still glad I came: history is history, be it restored or in ruins. And this is, after all, where Ovid was exiled by Caesar Augustus. (And I’m teaching Metamorphosis later this term.) There also is something therapeutic about being buffeted by winds off the Black Sea while strolling through quarters where Christians and Muslims have lived in relative harmony for centuries.

I’ll let my pics tell the rest of the story.

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