The beautiful seaside Constanta, Romania, was a cruise port on the Black Sea cruise I took with Princess Cruise Lines.
When it came to excursions, my friend, Jo, and I selected a tour offered on Cruise Critic called “Constanta City Tour and Wine Tasting at Murfatlar”. The price was 82€, and the title alone made it sound worth trying.
Cristina Ruien, a spunky young gal who had good control of her audience and spoke excellent English, was our guide. She told both fun and factual stories and led our group of 15 to see her unique country’s local sights.
Constanta City Tour
The first activity was an hour-long walking tour through downtown Constanta, Romania, the Black Sea’s largest port. Our group strolled along Tomis Harbor, which runs parallel to the waterfront. We admired the beautiful, old buildings and impressive architecture.
My favorite photo-op was the statue of Queen Elisabeth. Elisabeth, a famous poet whose literary pseudonym was “Carmen Sylvia,” was married to Charles I (Carol I) of Romania. The statue depicts her standing with a muse at her feet.
The Constanta Casino is the perfect example of a grand, historic building loaded now sitting in ruins along the waterfront. It was built by King Carlo in 1910 and was “the” place to come. British sailors would fill the casino as they gambled their troubles away, then hit the brothels a few streets away. It was Constanta’s red-light district.
Romania is still an unfortunate country; I could sense the pain of its people and places, leftover from so many years of war. Again, I was thrilled to be here exploring and seeing it for myself.
More info: Many of the older homes in Constanta are still in desperate need of repair. After the war era, when the communist occupation claimed Constanta, families could finally buy back their family homes, but only if they could afford to fix them up to today’s standard. In this expensive neighborhood of today, this was virtually impossible for those who it applied to.
Prestigious Mosques and Cathedrals
Our tour group strolled into the dimly lit Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul, Orthodox Church, where a service was going on.
To our surprise, the Orthodox churches did not have pews or anywhere to sit for that matter. Church services often last two to three hours; people are expected to stand the entire time. The cathedral had lovely hand-painted murals on the outside of the doors in the narthex. To the right side was a depiction of joyous scenes such as the kingdom of heaven and the left, murals painted of sin and hell.
Intricate frescoes inside the church were impressive, and the whole place was adorned with brass. We noticed a delicious herbal smell about the cathedral. Orthodox is the religion for 90% of Romanians and 1 million of Romania’s 21 million people, live in Constanta.
Next, we visited the Grand Mosque of Constanta, formerly Carlos I Mosque, that only allows women when services are not going on. The mosque was decorated with patterned tiles and bright carpets. This was my first time visiting a mosque, so I did not know what to expect.
We were allowed time to walk up the 140 steps inside the minaret for panoramic views of Constanta. Afterward, we explored a bit more of Constanta’s town square, including the aquarium and museum, then boarded the bus for Histria.
Ancient City of Histria
The first ten minutes of our bus ride literally jarred us around so severely that my back ached for days. Be prepared for extreme road conditions and a lot of hiking.
Histria dates back to 630 BC and is Romania’s oldest town and found on the Black Sea West coast. After coming under Roman domination, temples were built here for the Roman gods, complete with the wealthy’s bathhouses. By the 7th century AD, the town of Histria was completed deserted. It was only rediscovered and excavated in the past 19th and 20th centuries. Histria’s ruins include Turkish baths, squares, community buildings, and market stalls.
A visually appealing contemporary history museum at Histria displays some of the uncovered artifacts and offers an on-site restaurant. Abundant fruit trees were on the property, and we were allowed to pluck the fruits right from the trees. A piece of sweet, juicy fruit that Christina could not correctly translate was a cross between a big cherry and plum. It was beautiful and delicious.
Wine Tasting at Murfatlar
Murfatlar is the largest producer of wines in the country of Romania. Our group had a quick tour of the winery, and our guide explained the Murfatlar winemaking process. We were shown the entire organization.
Murfatlar is a showplace decorated with massive amounts of beautiful marble and offers an interesting wine museum. A winery representative came with us for lunch afterward to give us a wine demonstration and sampling.
Our tour group arrived at a restaurant whose name I could not pronounce. It had a beautifully set outdoor picnic table for our wine tasting. During the demo, we sampled five wines: Rose, one similar to Moscato, Sauvignon Blanc, a sweet red, and a Cabernet Sauvignon. The group’s consensus was that we did not care much for the wines offered, as we were all mostly used to California wines. Our host did an excellent job explaining the wines’ popularity, history, and how they are produced.
For lunch, we were served a meal of potatoes, a beef, lamb and pork sausage, grilled chicken, and a roll. Also included was a traditional cabbage salad that was super flavorful and tasty.
Pitchers of red and white house wines were available to enjoy with our meal. We liked these better than the wines showcased earlier. After all this drinking and eating, our group loosened up, and we had a blast! The restaurant did a fantastic job serving us and taking care of our needs.
Chalk It Up To A Successful Cruise Excursion
The ride back to the cruise ship was more pleasant since there was more energy on the bus, or we were intoxicated. This made the day much more memorable than just a headful of historical facts.
I am glad I chose to tour such an old part of Romania, but I do not think I would ever need to come back. Princess Cruise Lines had another excursion that went to Romania’s Bucharest capital. I passed on it due to a 3 1/2 hour bus ride in each direction.
FYI: Constanta’s cruise terminal has free WiFi and with nice souvenirs for purchase.
Tip: Beware, there are many pickpocketers in the area.Thieves use babies and children to tempt you into giving, often using fake hands underneath the babies not to see where their “real” hand is going as it finds your wallet or purse.
Fact: The Black Sea has no waves.
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