The road to Constanta is unlike most other Romanian roads: smooth with no potholes. It’s the first indication that Constanta is different. Owing to its Black Sea position, it’s more multicultural – a mélange of Turks, Greeks, Ukrainians, Russians – and the dialect too is a little different – they say merci for thank you here. Because it is a port city, there has been money pumped into highways, a revamped waterfront area and public works restoration. Even the Socialist Brutalist architecture on the outskirts of town seems better than the Socialist Brutalist architecture seen in other parts of Romania.
Downtown Constanta is a joy. We wander down a street lined with gelaterias and pretty eateries to the main square, flanked by museum and grandiose buildings all in a good state of repair.
The city’s 2,000 year old history is on display in the National History and Archaeology Museum, which inside is airy and modern and well worth a visit. Also worthwhile are the adjacent roman mosaics dating from the 4th century. Romania is proud of its Roman heritage and many of the words seem almost (but not quite) understandable as the language is very close to Italian.
We meander to the waterfront, past an impressive minaret and an Orthodox church. The waterfront has been nicely renewed, in the distance are cranes from the port and ahead of us is the wildly elaborate ruined casino, slated for restoration. This casino looks like something out of The Adams Family, it is spookily over the top and the day we were there, lashed by a storm brewing on the Black Sea.
Around the coast are swanky Black Sea resorts, parks, restaurants and trappings of the good life. La Bella Vita comes in flashes in Romania, still struggling from the effects of communism, but here in Constanta the good life feels very good indeed.