Some days are for culture and others are for wandering to see what there is to see. The Bucharest tour was sold out, so we just struck out on our own in Constanta (pronounced con-stahn-tzuh). The first thing you will notice in Constanta is the Art Nouveau casino, a striking building on the wharf park area that was once (you guessed it) a casino. In 2006 it was mostly an abandoned building, which was a bit like the rest of Constanta. One of the largest ports in the Black Sea because of its location near the mouth of the Danube, Constanta certainly suffered under the yoke of communism and has taken longer than other places to recover.
The other striking shoreside building is the St Peter and Paul Church, a Neo-Byzantine structure with two gold domed towers.
We wandered into the city and saw the statue of Ovid, the Roman poet who was exiled to the far outpost for unknown offenses against the emperor Augustus. There is a theory that Ovid never actually came to Tomis (what Constanta was called in his era), but created an elaborate fiction and remained in Rome. During the period he wrote letters to friends in Rome and complained about what a backwoods place Tomis was and how he longed to return to Rome. Nonetheless, Constanta honors the famous poet of erotic and autobiographical poetry. There is also a copy of the sculpture of Romulus and Remus with the she-wolf near the Hunkar Mosque.
We saw the Archaeology Park with Roman and Greek artifacts displayed outside. What we missed was the Roman Mosaic, the largest in Europe, which is behind the History and Archaeology Museum, housed in the old City Hall on Ovid Square. There was also a tour to the ancient Greek ruin of Histria which was established on the Danube delta as a trading post with the ancient Dacians.
Most of our day was spent in Mamaia, the nearby beach resort area popular with Germans and other Europeans. This is not Monte Carlo or even Miami Beach. Donna, who is from New Jersey originally, said it reminded her of the Jersey shore. There was a paved “boardwalk” with restaurants, t-shirt shops and an adult entertainment complex called the Crazy Horse Saloon. As there a lot of Germans, modesty is not a common attitude so be prepared for topless bathers. As everywhere else we went there was a McDonalds, but this one was unique…it was housed in a trailer!
We enjoyed our day wandering around, but many might be more interested in visiting what Romanians like to call the Paris of the East. For those who take the tour to Bucharest, you are in for a 3 hour drive, views of the Royal Palace, the Palace of the Parliament (the second largest building in the world) and the Village Museum, a 45 acre outdoor display of typical Romanian village homes and buildings. Lunch is generally included in these tours along with a folk dance show.
We’ll be posting more information about Constanta on our site at www.cruiseportatlas.com shortly.