According to the most reputable legends, Hercules stopped in the Cerna Valley in southwest Romania to bathe in the hot springs and take a much-needed vacation from his exploits. During the Roman period in Dacia, Baile Herculane was a leisure spa town renowned throughout the Empire. Today, vestiges of its 19th century glory days are still evident in the architecture and its reputation as a health spa hot spot in Eastern Europe. Immersed in steep cliffs and forests with dilapidated baroque and art nouveau architecture, it begs to be compared to Baden-Baden, Germany. Alas, it was more like the ghost of Baden-Baden, with incredible potential if it gets restored to its former splendor that lies just under the surface.
We were thrilled to notice that the road has recently been paved and some facades had been restored. There is an obvious effort and no small sum of money being invested in Baile Herculane. I can’t wait to visit again in ten years when it might truly be compared to Baden-Baden in every respect except, like everything else in Romania, in price.
South of the historic area (which is shown in the photo montage) is the main part of town, replete with private pensions, health spas and tourist amenities. Baile Herculane is in a national park, so there is easy access (right out the back door of most pensions) to hiking trails. We visited on a weekend this January – low season. Our hostess at the pension said the town is hopping with tourists from as far away as China from April-October.
Click on the first image to view the photos in a self-paced slideshow.
During the summer, the promenades and forest trails are teeming with visitors. In winter they offer the opportunity to stroll in solitude. It looks peacefully quiet, but if I took a video with sound you would hear the river below crushing over the rocks. Not quiet by any means, but certainly peaceful.
North of main Baile Herculane lies this abandoned main street, flanked by gorgeous boarded up buildings, with Hercules keeping watch in the center.
Created over one hundred years ago, this sculpture of the town’s namesake has weathered time well. The buildings over which he stands watch have not.
One facade is in great need of attention. Beside it, the facade has already been renovated.
These windows missing glass were intriguing, not the least because you could see through the opposite side of the building. Upon a closer look. . .
the plaque explained it was the Apollo bath. The door to the building was padlocked shut with a chain, but I wouldn’t recommend jumping through a window to explore the interior because. . .
it’s a long way down. It looks like these baths used to be amazing. They are simply begging to be restored.
The vaulted ceiling makes for some great acoustics. Perhaps if they decide not to restore the baths they could make it a small, private concert hall.
The Roman Catholic church at the top of the boulevard is faring well.
From a ridge across the valley, the multicolored homes surrounding the church are clearly visible,
as is this long, stunning piece of abandoned architecture.
Photos of this building are replete on the internet.
Save me, save me!
The windows are all broken, so I took a peek inside with my camera and was blown away..
How has this chandelier survived?
And that ceiling! I know it’s a bit of a fixer upper, but I’m ready to move in. I can’t wait to see this place after someone has restored it to its former glory. Maybe the best is yet to come. . . I hope.