STAFF / EUROPE / Historic/Museums

The Citadel in Cluj-Napoca, Romania

By staff writer Estrella Azul. Photos Copyright © Estrella Azul.

IF YOU’VE READ my previous travel articles here on Milliver’s Travels, you know for a fact that I love walking.

That is why one afternoon a few weeks ago, I decided to go for a walk. But not how I’ve decided and never left the house for the past three days before that afternoon. No. I finally pushed myself out the door and as soon as I found myself walking towards the citadel or Fortress Hill (called Fellegvár in Hungarian, or Cetăţuia in Romanian), I was completely in my element again.

Originally I was heading towards the main stairs that lead up to the hilltop when I passed the staircase that leads up to the houses on the hillside; a staircase which is also the start of the only existing step-street of my city, Cluj-Napoca (called Kolozsvár in Hungarian).

I came to a halt as it dawned on me: I have only once set foot on this street, one night on my way down from the citadel, and couldn’t see it properly. So I went back and continued my walk up these stairs to see what the street is actually like. Discovering its beauty in daylight was more than worth it.

The first steps on the only step-street in the city

Situated at an altitude of 405 m, on the hilltop called Fortress Hill, during the Habsburg reign there was a fortress built between 1715 and 1735, designed in a star shape with a redoubt (fort or fort system, usually consisting of an enclosed defensive emplacement outside a larger fort) and a tower.

Aside from observation and defense towers, the fortress was surrounded by a wall of earth. Above the gateways, which guarded the citadel from every side, there were different buildings housing administrative offices, a weapons depot and the Habsburg troops were also garrisoned in the enclosure.

Remaining buildings from the fortress and the redoubt

Today, only small parts of the walls, a few buildings and the redoubt, transformed into the Paratroopers Tower, are left of the old fortress. The whole assembly was deeply affected by the landslides in the area.

One of the old gates

The gates are very old and left derelict. There are ‘Imminent Danger’ placards warning those passing beneath them (although that never stopped me from passing). I think it’s sad that so little remained of the old stronghold.

Fortress Hill has long been a popular place for lovers out walking, and to those who want to admire the city panorama from its various banks.

Panorama of Cluj-Napoca

Today, aside from the view, one of the attractions is a huge iron cross, built in 1995, which is visible from many parts of the city. It was erected in memory of those imprisoned there, and to replace the original cross which was destroyed by the communists in 1950. (I personally think it would’ve looked nicer at a smaller scale.) The Belvedere Hotel was built on top of the hill in the 1970s and is an attraction in and of itself – many wedding receptions, parties and banquets are held there. (See feature photo for cross and hotel.)

The main stairs which one climbs to the fortress are surrounded by green space, flowers and trees. The hilltop overall is as much an outdoor museum as it is a lovely park with a large playground, camping areas and cafés.

Main stairs leading to the top and the park

It is great pity that a place once so loved, offering a perfect panorama of my city (much more interesting than what everyone sees from Feleac as they enter into the city), is left derelict.

While it’s looking much better now than a few years ago – if only for the joy of walking there and admiring the beauty, the panorama – I think a little more effort to restore the area would add even more to its current value.


Estrella in the Greek Amphitheatre ruins,
Taormina, Sicily

Estrella Azul is a young emerging writer, passionate about reading, floral art and photography, with an artistic personality and a soulful outlook on life. She is a Hungarian girl living and writing from Cluj-Napoca, Romania, the capital of historical region Transylvania. Estrella is our European correspondent, and she dreams of embarking on a round-the-world trip. To read more of her creative writing, her thoughts and daily happenings, visit Life’s a stage – WebBlog©.

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  1. Pingback: Accompany me to the Citadel? | Life's a stage – WebBlog

  2. What a lovely article and gorgeous photos! Estrella is a fantastic writer and her love for her city comes through so eloquently.

    • Becky, thank you for your lovely comment (and the tears it prompted) you’re such a great friend!
      Also, I’m so glad you enjoyed the article about my city, there will be more 🙂

  3. It’s sad to see historical places fall into disrepair. Hopefully more people will take an interest in the fort and help rebuild the area. It is very lovely.

  4. These photos are stunning. Great post. Informative, concise, and it makes me want to visit. This is exactly what I love reading. Thanks!!! Patsye

  5. Estrella,
    What lovely, lovely photos! You’re so fortunate to live in a place with such history (though sadly in decay), right outside your door, close enough for a walk. Romania and other countries in the eastern part of Europe are places I haven’t visited yet, but the charm comes through in your photos. Maybe I’ll meet up with Milli so you only have to guide two of us on one outing?! 😉

    • Thanks, Lisa, everyone tells me that and though it’s easy to miss when you’re living in the place, you’re right – I like how everything’s only a walk away and so pretty.

      The more the merrier, so feel free to meet up with Milli 😉 But it’s alright, I’ll be your tour guide even if you fly over alone!

  6. Hi there Estrella! GREAT to see you out and walking again…I really feel like you’re holding our hand and telling us all about it….and it’s lovely!

    Your pictures are stunning, but the picture with the parked bike is stunning – pure art! You have a terrific eye for photos!

    • I’m always walking, Ann (except for times when I need to get from one end of the city to the other, those are the only times I make myself take the bus (hate the bus!)) 🙂
      So glad you enjoyed taking this walk with me!

      It makes me giddy how much you liked my favorite photo and thank you *blush* I often surprise myself with how the shots come out, but I think it’s like everything else: if you love what you’re doing – it shows in your work.

  7. Oh, wow. I love the old gates, and the stone stairways. And I love, love, love the shot at the start, with the bike to the side. Some photos to me are all about story, all about where they take my imagination. That’s one of those for me. I may play with it in my journal.

    I’m so glad you took a detour!

    • That is my favorite photo, j!
      It’s the one that made me feel like I wasn’t even in my own city, but somewhere closer to the places I dream of visiting.
      The one that made me set aside my Paris articles and write this one in that exact moment I saw the picture and felt its pull.

      Hope you’ll feel like sharing if you play around with it in your journal 😉
      I’m also glad I took that detour!

  8. Your photos, as always, are stunning. I especially loved the one of the old gate with the tree in the foreground. The play of textures, bark and brick, is like a photographic poem.

    • At first I really liked the way the light shined through the gate, then I took a few steps and decided to include the tree in the foreground to add to the picture.
      Glad to see it worked; this was the best compliment ever – photographic poem 🙂 Thank you, honey!

  9. Estrella, thank you so much for allowing us inside your life, and the life of your city. Of course, I love the pics, the way you captured image, light and texture, but also the history of the Citadel and the area gives me not only an appreciation of what you see on a daily basis, but a recoginition of what I miss in my daily walks all the time.

    Looking forward to the next installment 🙂

    • Kenneth, you have a way of making me *blush* you know that, right?
      Thank you!
      And truthfully, it goes both ways – writing about my own city made me appreciate what I see, and sadly many times miss, in my daily walks.

  10. Gorgeous city, and what a beautiful shot of it, Estrella. I loved all the photographs and the history, personal and of the city, included in your article.

    Excellent writing and photography.

    • Thank you, Kevin, it’s wonderful to see that you liked my city and the photos. It’s a pleasure to share with everyone and I can’t wait to present the next article 🙂

  11. Estrella,
    I love this! So ready to take a walk with you. Thanks for sharing.

  12. You have a beautiful home town. Your pictures really show the beauty, and your words show how much you love it there!
    Thank you for sharing it! Be careful or you will have us all at your doorstep. LOL

    • It always feels so good to know my feelings shined through the pictures and words. Thanks, Betsy!

      PS: think I’d be the happiest to see all of you on my doorstep 😉

  13. Wonderful article Estrella.
    My dad and I always loved exploring fortresses together when I was a kid, maybe someday I’ll be able to drag him to this one 🙂

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