If you wish to explore the most important city of Eastern Romania, then you are in the right place for today we are going to talk about Iași. Dubbed the City of Great Ideas due to its constant evolution and its historical (and cultural) significance and situated proudly upon the Bahlui River (a tributary of the much-larger Prut), Iași has a population of over 290,000 people (note that this makes it the fourth-most populous city of Romania after Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca and Timișoara). Stretching upon an area of 94 square kilometres, the finest of the region of Moldavia is one of the most important cultural, artistic and economic centres of its parent country. What’s interesting about it is that it has been the capital of the Principality of Moldavia between the years 1564 and 1859. It became the capital of the United Principalities between 1859 and 1862 and, finally, that of the entirety of Romania between 1916 and 1918. Known also as the “Cultural capital of Romania”, it was even endorsed by masterminds like historian Nicolae Iorga – he was quoted saying: “There should be no Romanian who does not know of it [Iași].”
Iași is located within the bounds of the humid continental climate zone and this renders it vulnerable to heavy temperature-fluctuations. Experiencing four distinct seasons, Iași has seen everything between -36 and 40 degrees Celsius. As shown, summers are warm to hot whilst winters are cold to freezing. Moderate snowfall tends to befall the surrounding areas and occasional blizzards occur as well. Summers, however, are much drier, so if you intend to visit Iași between June and August, make sure you always have some water on you.
Iași is served by the eponymous Iași International Airport located 8 kilometres east of the city centre. Funnelling more than 380,000 passengers each year, it is the fourth-busiest airport in Romania (beaten only by the Traian Vuia International Airport of Timișoara, the Cluj Avram Iancu International Airport, and Henri Coandă International Airport of Bucharest). In spite of that, it is the most important airport of the region of Moldavia and it is a vital gateway into Eastern Romania in terms of air traffic.
Getting around in the city is extremely affordable and the vehicles that serve that very purpose are rarely overcrowded (things do change, however, if you tempt the rush hours). Extremely affordable means something along the lines of 0.80 to 1 Euro per two-way ticket. Taxis are as abundant as they can get for a city of the size of Iași and they are also cheap. Even a fare that would theoretically take 1 hour (only theoretically, because the city can be crossed in less than 35-50 minutes), you would need to pay somewhere between 4-6 euros (of course, you have to use the Romanian currency of Lei). However, we must draw your attention to the occasional pirate-cabs that lurk around the airport. Always urge taxi drivers to start their metres and do not let yourself be conned (if you have the possibility, even check the route in advance via Google Maps).
As we have said many times before, we discourage all foreigners to use the Romanian rail system (so, if you have another way of going to Iași, then consider that alternative by all means). Inefficient, sluggish, dirty and disorganised – these are the words that describe it the most accurately. Connections are problematic and you might find yourself waiting for hours before your next train appears. Delays of up to several hours can be experienced frequently and nothing about it is reliable. Oh, and let us not forget about the abundance of petty thieves and conmen that frequently serve as unwanted travel-companions. It is an all-round no-no for people who do not wish to succumb to negative travel-experiences.
SIGHTS AND ACTIVITIES:
First and foremost, we recommend that you pay a visit to the symbol of Iași, the Palace of Culture. Originally an administrative building built to adhere to the standards of the Neo-Gothic architectural style (between the years 1906 and 1925), the palace has shifted its purpose since 1955, when it became assigned to the four component-establishments of the Moldavia National Museum Complex. Harbouring the Cultural Heritage Conservation-Restoration Centre, it is home to numerous exquisite exhibitions. With a floor area of over 34,000 square metres, it reaches a height of 55 metres. Oh, and to further emphasize its importance, let us reveal the fact that it has been listed in the National Register of Historic Monuments.
If you are familiar with the most famous masterminds of Romanian literature, you are going to be delighted to hear that you are now able to visit the 500-year-old Tilia tomentosa tree, under which Mihai Eminescu reportedly wrote some of his poems. Located in the heart of Copou Park (the oldest public park of Iași – a place that we also recommend that you thoroughly explore), it is the most important natural-cultural landmark of Romania.
You cannot visit Romania without basking in the brilliance of some of its most important religious structures. The Metropolitan Cathedral of Iași is one such architectural masterpiece built between 1833 and 1839. Boasting with four massive towers, the church was constructed mainly of brick and concrete. Designed and built by Gustav Freywald, Bucher, Mihail Singurov and Alexandru Orăscu, it is one of the most exquisite examples of Renaissance Revival (Italian Renaissance with some Baroque elements) structures in Romania. Know that the Metropolitan Cathedral is also listed in the National Register of Historic Monuments.
Iași is a hospitable city with great restaurants and unparalleled cultural landmarks. Watch the forecast and prepare accordingly for weather-wise, you might experience anything from pristine sunshine to blinding blizzards. It is an excellent place for budget-savvy travellers for everything is cheap and fun. Book your flight now and ignore the railway (wink)!