baile herculane

back to the crumbly stuff …

băile herculane (the baths of hercules), in the southwest of romania, is a spa town whose roots as such stretch back to roman times. the town is known for thermal springs containing sulphur and other restorative minerals. we didn’t smell sulphur in the air during our visit, but i’m told the town can really reek of it on some days.

many of the prettiest buildings, which are now in various states of disrepair, date to the era of the austrian-hungarian empire – one bathhouse, for example, was built for empress elisabeth of austria.

20160402_Romania_198 20160402_Romania_165-Edit 20160402_Romania_174
the bath itself is very deep, accessed only by a tunnel from the hotel across the street where the empress used to stay.

one of the largest former spa buildings was unsecured, so naturally i had to go in despite the posted sign warning people to keep out. what follows is too many photos of a building that has fallen apart.

20160402_Romania_151 20160402_Romania_225 20160402_Romania_231
the bath house exterior and one of the pools
20160402_Romania_236 20160402_Romania_237 20160402_Romania_275 20160402_Romania_248
private baths (what’s left of them)
20160402_Romania_252 20160402_Romania_245 20160402_Romania_312 20160402_Romania_305
very long central hallways, with probably 80 private baths leading off the four sections

the biggest surprise was the fountain in the central hall, whose wallpaper and ceiling decorations were still largely intact:

20160402_Romania_283 20160402_Romania_281 20160402_Romania_244

naturally, during the communist era, the authorities constructed a number of multi-storey concrete apartment buildings and hotels for workers’ holidays that perfectly maintained the historical architectural motifs of the town.

20160402_Romania_319 20160402_Romania_190

they closed the mine

petrila, a town about halfway between bucharest and the serbian border, was a mining town until 2015. according to one article, petrila’s mine had been in operation for 156 years, and without the mine, there is no significant economic activity in the town at all.

naturally, photos like this look better in black-and-white.

20160401_Romania_070 20160401_Romania_055 20160401_Romania_025 20160401_Romania_017
20160401_Romania_008 20160401_Romania_011 20160401_Romania_018 20160401_Romania_032

from the looks of it, parts of the mining operating had been left to fall apart for longer than a year, but who knows.

for the former miners, life goes on. these guys aren’t sitting alone at home at 10 on a friday morning.

20160401_Romania_101 20160401_Romania_092 20160401_Romania_086 20160401_Romania_098

a mosaic of impressions

(i was in romania for a photography workshop, and my instructor encouraged me to think in a less literal way about how i organize my photos. he suggested that i avoid being strictly categorical and that i instead organize my photos more loosely – in a more impressionistic or visually thematic manner. with that in mind:)

mosaic-01 mosaic-02 mosaic-03 mosaic-04
mosaic-05 mosaic-06 mosaic-07 mosaic-08
mosaic-08 mosaic-09 mosaic-10 mosaic-11
mosaic-12 mosaic-13 mosaic-14 mosaic-15

i’ll keep experimenting. feel free to comment on this.

the third post about romania: remembering the colectiv nightclub fire

on october 30 of last year, a metalcore band named “goodbye to gravity” held a free concert at the colectiv nightclub in bucharest. somewhere between 200 and 400 concert-goers crammed into a space that was designed to hold 80 people and, in what was essentially a repeat of the 2003 station nightclub fire, the band set off pyrotechnics which ignited the (flammable) soundproofing material attached to the pillars and ceiling. the fire set off a stampede for the doors but there was only one working exit, and by the end of the evening, 26 people had died in the club from burns and smoke inhalation, and another 184 were injured in some way. victims had to be transferred to hospitals as far away as switzerland and israel because local hospitals could not handle the sudden flood of patients. over the following week, another 38 people died in the hospital, bringing the total fatality count to 64.

outrage over the official response to the disaster – the realization that romania did not have the hospital capacity to respond to the injuries and that local officials had ignored occupancy and fire safety violations – fueled already-existing anger over government corruption. huge protests began on november 3 to demand that the government resign, which it did the next day. mourners have gathered outside the complex in which the club was located on the 30th of each month since then to commemorate the disaster. (naturally, the police block access to the club site itself.)

20160330_Romania_089 20160330_Romania_093
20160330_Romania_098 20160330_Romania_121
20160330_Romania_105 20160330_Romania_136

the second post about romania

(for anyone who didn’t see the first post about romania, read the previous post.)


this is a very long sidewalk – easily half a kilometer of unbroken pavement. what is it?

it is the façade of the palace of the parliament, romanian dictator nicolae ceaușescu’s “gift” to the people. (ironically, or perhaps not ironically at all, he was overthrown and executed before the building was completed.) some facts:

  • the palace of the parliament is the heaviest building in the world, the second-largest government administrative building in the world, and the third largest building in the world overall, with a height of 84 meters, a footprint of 365,000 square meters and a volume of 2,550,000 cubic meters.
  • it contains 1,100 rooms (only 400 of which are in use), including the senate, the chamber of deputies, the palace museum, and the museums of contemporary art and of communist totalitarianism.
  • according to engineers, it is sinking under its own weight, by 6mm per year.

at this rate, it will disappear completely in 14,000 years, so visit soon – but if you are a foreigner, don’t forget to bring your passport with you, or you won’t be able to get in; a simple id card isn’t enough – a fact that someone might have clarified in all the guide books and websites, thank you very much.

20160330_Romania_063 20160330_Romania_067

press building, bucharest

The exterior is too big to photograph all at once.
the exterior is too big to photograph all at once.

the press building in bucharest, romania – today known as the house of the free press, or casa presei libere – was the home of romania’s communist era newspaper. presently it contains the offices of a variety of print media and social media organizations, small internet companies, at least one fashion atelier, and a lot of empty space.

20160329_Romania_048 20160329_Romania_040 20160329_Romania_026
20160329_Romania_030 20160329_Romania_031 20160329_Romania_045
20160329_Romania_050 20160329_Romania_051 20160329_Romania_056