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Transylvanian history, past into present
We're heading today, towards Transylvania. We want to hit our destination, dubbed Romania's other capital city, the town of Alba Iulia, which stands out thanks to its Vauban-type fortress, built in the 18th century, in the shape of a star. The fortress in Alba Iulia is described as Europe's second most relevant such settlement, being outranked by a similar fortress in Luxembourg. Here you can also find the "Batthyaneum", a library extremely well-stocked in rare manuscripts. However, we shall also discover a modern town, with an eventful cultural agenda. Our destination today boasts Romania's strongest national symbolism. Or at least that is what the mayor of Alba Iulia municipal town, Gabriel Pleșa, told us.
"It is here that the first Union of 1600 was accomplished, under the scepter of Michael the Brave. Then, in 1918, the December 1st Great Union Act was accomplished; it was Romanians' centuries-old dream come true. Also on October 15, 1922, the confirmation of the Romanian unitary state was achieved through the coronation, in Alba Iulia, of King Ferdinand I and Queen Mary, a centennial which in 2018 we celebrated with great pomp and loads of people attending. These are three key moments of the town and of the Romanian people! However, our listeners need to know Alba Iulia has been documented more than 2,000 years ago. Every step you take in the city, you're literally treading on history. Part of the Roman castrum was preserved and also art of the medieval fortress, while the gem of the town is, obviously, the most recent fortification, the one the Austrians erected over 1715 and 1728, the Alba Carolina fortress, built after Vauban's plans. It is a very well-kept fortress, with forts, counterforts, with bastions."
The Princes' Palace, just like many other monuments in Alba Iulia, has an old history, linked to figureheads and events that where highly consequential for the history of Transylvania and even for the history of Europe. The edifice is representative for the Transylvanian Principality's days of glory when for more than 150 years, the fate of the region was decided in Alba Iulia. At the moment, restoration works are in full swing for the Princes' Palace.
Gabriel Plesa once again:
"All historians who were here doing their research told us it would be Transylvania's most important building. It was here that the Transylvanian Assembly was held for 160 ago. Also, it was here that we had the Throne Hall for Michael the Brave, the Enlightenment Princes Gabriel Bethlen and Rákóczi I, Rákóczi al II-lea, Sigismund Báthory. Practically, it was the town of Alba Iulia's opening towards education through its first university, established 400 years ago by Enlightenment prince Gabriel Bethlen prior to the battle of Mohács and the principality's falling under the sway of the Ottomans. It is a very important one, the period after the conquest of the Transylvanian principality by the Habsburgs, it was a time when roads were built, the fortress was built, a network of railways was built, and so many other things. "
Here is mayor Gabriel Plesa once again, this time telling us we're always in for pleasant surprises in Alba Iulia. Also, Gabriel Plesa announced the inauguration of a new tourist asset in town.
" We have been carrying a project through which we have already started works for the restoration of the house that belonged to the town's first Romanian mayor after 1918, lawyer Camil Velican. It is a house that will be smack bang in the center of the town and which will also be a new tourist asset. Actually, it was here that, in the days ahead of the Great Union, all the official documents were signed. The Steering Council, The National Romanian Council, carried all its works in the Velicans' house. That house was nationalized during the communist regime, being ceded to various institutions and throughout the years, its level of degradation was very high. We bought it from an inheritor, and from the bottom of our hearts we hope we can refurbish it. We got hold of part of the original furniture, part of the furniture is with Romania's Museum of National History in Bucharest and they promised we shall receive it, since they did not have it exhibited, so there we are, it will be a new attraction for those travelling to Alba Iulia."
The town of Alba Iulia is well-known thanks to the events staged to celebrated the National Day of Romania, on December 1st. However, the town's cultural agenda goes way beyond that.
"If you want to keep your tourists, you cannot just offer them only vestiges, since they come, they see, return to their cars and drive away. Reason enough for us to have a list of beautiful events, for which we gave the start when we had the Museum' Night on May 13. On June the 1st we have the Land of happiness, a playing festival. We have a Super Rally first leg in Alba Iulia. It will be a circuit, just lie in Monaco, on the municipal town streets and the interest for that seems to be very high. Then we stage Alba Fest, the Days of the Town over June 23 and 25th. There are three days of fine concerts and many other events, we have thew Feast of Music, held over July 14 and 16. Again, there are three days of good music. We stage Rowmania, the rowing contest on river Mures, initially staged by the late Ivan Patzaichin, a friend of the town of Alba Iulia. Over August 11 and 15, you are invited to the Apulum Roman Festival. There will be 300-400 actors for the historical reenactment and over 20, 25 troupes from all over the world will come to Alba Iulia for combat demos, they will exhibit their apparel and the trades, the old crafts. As an absolute first, we stage the European Historical Target Archery Championship. Over August 4 and 13, you can see several hundreds of athletes, arriving from all over the world. The contest will be held in the area of the fortress. "
These are only a few of the events staged throughout the year! And rounding them off is the weekly performance provided by the changing of guards in Alba Iulia Fortress. With details on that, here is the mayor of Alba Iulia Municipality, Gabriel Plesa.
"The Austrian guard of the fortress built by the Habsburgs is active on Saturdays and Sundays at 12 pm. We're most likely going to extend the program, on Tuesdays and Wednesday ,during holidays and vacations. Then on Fridays, at 7 pm, in front of the fourth gate, in front of the Roman-Catholic Cathedral, the re-enactment show will be held, featuring gladiators and those of the 13th Gemina Legion. The show is extremely popular, we stage it jointly with the Living History NGO, with some of the employees of the National Museum of the Union but also with very, very many volunteers. We mull over staging a similar event in the future: the triumphant entrance of Michael the Brave in Alba Iulia. We're still considering how we're going to do that and how often. It was a key moment, that of November 1st, 1599, when after the battle of Selimbar Michael the Brave entered Alba Iulia. "
Accessing the site turism.apulum.ro, you can get details on the historical objectives, you can see the timetable of the events ad you will get info on the public transportation conditions or accommodation recommendations.
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