For today’s city guide, we’re headed across the globe to Romania’s second largest city, Cluj-Napoca. What brought you here, you may ask? Well, for years we’ve been following along and admiring the talented eye of Lavinia Cernău, a resident of Cluj-Napoca, and a photographer with an knack for capturing the everyday in a stunningly simple way. From snowy walks and quiet meals, to storied architecture and dabbled afternoon light, Lavinia’s images tell a story of a life lived thoughtfully and curiously. We couldn’t be more excited to have Lavinia on board as a contributor today, lending her photography and words to a few favorite destinations around Cluj-Napoca. One way ticket, please!
Bánffy Castle, Bonțida, Romania
“The day I walked in the footsteps of the aristocratic Bánffy family the skies were overcast and melancholic as if to reflect the bustling times it has witnessed. Dating back to the 14th century, Bánffy Castle is the largest castle in Transylvania and was the home of the most influential Transylvanian noble family.
Throughout the centuries the castle was given a Renaissance façade, further on a Baroque mark and then a Gothic appearance; it even held an English Romantic garden on its grounds. After being burned by retreating German troops in 1944, vandals and natural decay further deepened the heavy imprints of time on the castle. It is now under restoration works which I actually witnessed in full swing as we walked the premises.
History left its mark on every exposed brick, degraded wall and broken piece of column, statue and such, making you think of the opulence and beauty this castle once was. It actually is an open air museum whose alleys and faded grandeur transport you to times of prosperity, nobility and beauty.”
A la Tarte, 35-37, I.C. Brătianu St., Cluj-Napoca, Romania
“The minute you enter A la Tarte, your senses are pleasantly overwhelmed by the intense colours and flavours of the cuisine française: everything is made from scratch with fresh local produce, which makes matters even more appealing. As if you needed any more reasons to feel like you just climbed down the stairs into your grandma’s kitchen oozing with the smell of fresh out of the oven quiches and tartes!
The place is filled with magazine worthy props and the loveliest light timely floods the wooden countertop as if to better showcase the goodies on display. They just recently opened, but they’re quickly becoming one of my favourite places to unwind and tend to my culinary whims. I have yet to try the moelleux au chocolat, but the cannelés de Bordeaux were terrific. Definitely a place to return to — to be found in the city centre, on a charming street lined with old, equally charming buildings.”
Botanical Garden, 42, Republicii St., Cluj-Napoca, Romania
“If you’re planning to visit Cluj-Napoca, a wander to the Botanical Garden is a must regardless the season, as each one holds different joys, light falling of course differently on every corner of this green paradise.
Founded in 1872 by Brassai Samuel, the Cluj-Napoca Botanical Garden serves as a teaching and research centre as part of the Babeș-Bolyai University and is classified as a historical monument since 2010. It shelters 11.000 exhibits as well as the Botanical Museum and the Herbarium both of great interest and beauty.
The two greenhouses where equatorial, tropical and subtropical plants grow must be my favourites; well maybe except in summer, when it’s most lovely to gather around a picnic near the lily pond.”
With a background in translation studies, Lavinia Cernău has rather recently discovered a passion for capturing the fleeting, simple yet meaningful moments she surrounds herself with. Living in the second largest city of Romania, Cluj-Napoca, she dreams of travelling the world and tell stories through her images. You can find more of Lavinia by following along on her beautiful Instagram.