Târgu Mureş - History and Geography


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Last update:
2003, March 26


The fastest access to Targu Mures is by air, the most used is by car. The city is placed on European road E60, between Brasov and Cluj. In the old days, it bore the nickname of "Grills City" as delicious smells from the surrounding hills invaded the citizens' noses. However, Targu Mures is far from being a backwater town. Its 175 000 inhabitants, Romanians and Hungarians, are keeping up with Central Europe's rhythms. And this is a fact since long ago, when palace builders were too busy to take breaks.

Reaching the city center from the airport is just a 15 minutes affair (12 km). Crossing the Poklos River, or "Hell's Brook", brings you right into the soul of the city. The central square was once that river's bed, later becoming the time-honored meeting place for traders of all sorts, and finally taking the shape of early 1900 architecture. The first important edifice to be seen is the "Small Cathedral", which was built between 1926-1936 as a smaller version of Rome's San Pietro Cathedral. The Greek Catholic Church managed this holy place until 1948. The County Hall is another landmark, a "secession" building erected in 1907, with a hall similar to the famous Knights' Hall of Hunedoara Castle. Its 60 meter-high tower can be seen from every side of the city, a reassuring sight for the wandering tourists

Part of the same compound, the Palace of Culture was built between 1911 and 1913 with rich ornamentation, as blue-white-rosy porcelain roof cover, monumental mosaic, carved porticoes and frescoes. Its giant hall is made of Carrara marble and has Venice mirrors, while the concert hall boasts a large organ with 4463 pipes. The Mirrors Hall, the "jewel" of the Palace, has six tinted-glass windows, which were to symbolize Europe at the 1914 International Exhibition in San Francisco, but the Great War stopped all that. Nowadays, the Palace of Culture is also housing the Art Gallery, with paintings by Masters Theodor Aman, Nicolae Grigorescu, Stefan Luchian, Munkacs Mihaly, Nicolae Tonitza, the Baia Mare School, and so on.

Next in line - the Rural Art and Civilization Museum, occupying the Baroque Toldalagy Palace. It was built between 1759 and 1772 and, next to its main artifacts; one can also admire the unique porcelain terracotta stoves, dating back to the 18-19th centuries. But Apollo Palace finished in 1822 by Count Teleki Samuel has the honor of being the highest in the central square. This is the place where musical balls were organized, where theatre companies came to play, and where high-society debutantes met the world.

The oldest multi-floored house in the city is just across the street. It was also the most beautiful at the time of its erection (1554) and, for centuries, it enjoyed special "privileges" (it was tax-exempt) as the guest-house for the visiting princes and high-officials of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Not far from here is some friendly competition from the early 19th century, the neo-classic Gorog House (the current Army Center). As for the greatness of the Baroque style, the Roman Catholic Church proudly displays it. It was built in the 17th century, the pulpit being the finest in the country, due to the wonderful color-painted and gold-plated woodcarvings. In a similar vein, the Orthodox Church is Romania's largest, its interior walls all covered in sacred frescoes. At the beginning of the 18th century, this was the place for the much admired "singing fountain", an architectural novelty. It used to play tunes for six hours a day, but in 1836, a devastating tempest destroyed the complicated mechanism and its windpipes.

The city center is symbolically protected by the austere mediaeval fortress on the hill, whose seven bastions took 50 years to be finished (1602-1652). The pentagonal fortress harbors the Protestant Church, its 70 meter-high main tower and the smaller 4, symmetrically displayed. Several meetings of the once all-powerful Transylvanian Council were held here, one of them in 1571, when freedom of creed was pledged, at the same time when Europe was engulfed by religious wars. In addition, this was also the coronation place for Francisc Rakoczi II, Ruler of Transylvania since 1704. Six centuries bring a lot of cosmetic changes for a building, even if it is a Protestant edifice, but the late Gothic style is still there to be seen.

On the Old City's hill visitors come face to face with Teleki Library, a Baroque monument that took shape between 1799 and 1808, as a favorite offspring of Count Teleki Samuel (Transylvania's Chancellor of the time). The public library has had central heating since its very inception and it has a basic treasure of over 40 000 tomes (many rare and precious editions) of the Count's personal collection. Across the road is another Baroque stronghold, the former Royal Court, the appeal court for the whole of Transylvania. And if you still can bear mediaeval architecture, make a few steps and see the Unitarian Church and the Minorite Order Monastery, dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua.

Some have the prejudice that history is bad for creative minds. Nevertheless, Targu Mures is a living proof that old palaces and relics can help new blood. Cornesti, the highest plateau of the city (488 meters above sea), is the traditional agreement place of the locals. The one hundred year-old restaurant, the narrow rail train and the summer theater are attractions in their own rights. The local zoo is Romania's second and the only one that has a European recognition, as it is located in the middle of the forest, the best position for the furry pensioners. Symmetrically, the lowest point of the city is another entertainment area, Week End Park, which covers 250 acres next to Mures River. The sport fanatics will not be disappointed: swimming pools, tennis courts, bowling alleys, rowing on the river. The others may walk over the floating bridge to the merry island, where they can visit another palace. This time, a Gastronomic Style one - a restaurant, that is! Just in case, several bungalows are prepared for the night!

Teleki Library is not the only place where culture is a mainstay. In 1911, a European-level Philharmonic was established here. The concert hall has since seen huge musical figures, as George Enescu, Bela Bartok or Pablo Casals, with others following in their tracks. The two departments of the Targu Mures National Theatre (Hungarian and Romanian) are putting on 10-12 premieres every year; the same energy is to be found at the Ariel Youth Theater. Both institutions have the advantage of a local Theatrical Arts University. In mid-June Sir Anthony Hopkins was seen acting here, too. OK, not on stage, but in the two modern cinemas. During certain periods, the city reaches boiling point: in each November Targu Mures puts on the International Short Movies Festival, in June you have the Targu Mures Festival, in November the Book Fair. And so on. Sometimes it is hard to live in Targu Mures!

A few trendy places for a cuppa. Tutun-cafe on Bolyai St., the "recycled" bohemian watering hole for the artists of the city, with sand-heated coffee jazz music, classic postcards and exquisite drinks and tobaccos. On the same street, Kebab, a vegetarian cafe. Pizza Mix (Arany Janos St.) sells the best pizza in town, live music, bikes and art-nouveau decoration. Western Pub (Art St.) - rustic place, with straw-ballots, private areas and a lot of rock music.

The traveler may choose between the several smart and comfy hotels downtown, or among the many family Bed & Breakfast places. The best hotels are Continental, Transilvania and Tineretului. The best value for money B&Bs are: Tempo (27 Morii St.), Anamaria (17 Papiu St.), and Ana (52 Ghe. Marinescu St.).

Targu Mures is also a starting point for one-day expeditions in the countryside around, and the effort pays. Here is just a glimpse:

The Sangeorgiu de Mures Mineral Baths are 5 km away, on the Road to Reghin, they have the highest iodine contents in Europe. The super thermal waters, mineral waters and medical mud that, subsequently, make exceptionally valuable cures, are extremely appreciated by those coming here for relief or treatment. Most of them keep coming back;

Complexul Vatmanu is placed 7 kilometers away, on the road to Brasov - it has a hotel and a restaurant and is the perfect place for evading in the wild.

Zau de Campie (40 km) hosts the plains peony reservation - unique in Romania;

Sovata (54 km) with Ursu Lake, the largest heliothermal lake in Europe;

The mountain lakes Alunis, Verde, Negru, Rosu, Mierlei and Serpilor, with chlorinated and sodium waters;

Sighisoara (50 km), the only inhabited mediaeval fortress in East Europe, a genuine architectural jewel, with huge walls and imposing towers;

Mures Strait, 40 km long, with a bunch of small spas, each one with its own network of rural accommodation B&Bs (agroturism).

The town center

The County Hall

The Palace of Culture

The Palace of Culture - The Mirrors Hall

The Philharmonic Hall

The Mediaeval Fortress

The Orthodox Church

The Orthodox Church - interior

The Roman-Catholic Church - interior


At the Zoo

Entertainment Park

Downtown Park

Refurbished buildings

INSIGHT, Summer 2001