Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Neptun- Romania | Past and Present of a Black Sea Icon.

Neptun is today a pleasant and lovely seaside resort of Romania which represents past and and present of a Black Sea icon so famous for its beautiful  Plaja La Steaguri,an emblematic golden sandy beach pride of  the Romanian Tourism Industry since the early 70s and furthermore in the 80s during the former Socialist regime in that Eastern European country which elevated that coastal neighbourhood of Mangalia as one of its emblems.

Many things are changed in that renowned site which was in its kind not a long time ago as a sort of dream for a multitude of Romanian ordinary people,a mecca to spend enjoyable holidays,despite in those years it was mainly a place for selected and targeted tourism,a Top Class Destination during the times of the Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu who led the country from 1967 until 1989.

We are not talking about a prehistoric era,that pretty recent past is linked to a regime ended a bit more of two decades ago when Neptun was a sunny and favourite meeting point for the high nomenclature linked to that figure and the party which ruled the Nation.

Considered as an exclusive haven,it called all the highest Political sphere which started its cycle immediately after the 2nd World War elevating it as a privileged corner for a specific social class and for someone it also represented also a sort of paradox due to a Communist society presents in that chronological stage of Romania.

Today that resort continues to be a destination pretty demanded but surpassed by Mamaia and Costinesti
which were relegated in the past as secondary choice for a programmed plan and explicit desire of those leaders who changed the history of a country but also that of the tourism at national scale.(If you are interested I wrote posts about those two mentioned resorts,different places but linked to the same history with a different destiny and stages)

The reality did not change in terms of taste for who wants to spend  summer holidays and short breaks enjoying the waters and the marine cool breeze,an always great and attractive coastline which has a lot to offer in terms of Spa,salubrious stays thanks to a mild climate,total absence of pollution,its benign sun rays and historic places to visit in its immediate proximity.

Situated at just 37,0 kilometres from the city of Constanta the capital of the district and second centre of Romania,.Neptun is part of a historic Region called Dobrogea or Dobruja consisting in a vast territory covering a large territory between the Danube river and the Black Sea.

Inserted geographically and politically in the county of Mangalia which has as major centre the town with the same name which includes in its territorial boundaries the resort which is only 7,5 kilometres away. Neptun lies on a very long and straight coast characterised by scattered small bays and coves at north and south in lands occupied by other famed resorts linked to the same historic event,respectively Olimp and Jupiter,the latter attached to Venus another sister born with them located on a pleasant promontory called Cap Aurora.

That coast is also highlighted by the presence of small lakes in the immediate inland,all them at a very short distance from the sea and used since a long time ago for therapies linking fresh to salt waters and also organised as basins hosting water sports activities such as diving tests,water skiing and rowing among others.

In Neptun there are two of them immediately behind the quays of its harbour and another one not far located at the door of Saturn another resort part of that family of tourist network born in the 70s.The area is beautiful, the proximity of the mentioned Mangalia is an incentive to visit that place which is a centre with a notable historic past as ancient Greek settlement when it was called  Callatis and it also had a notable relevance under Turkish rule in a period in which was erected in its boundaries the first Mosque in the country.

Furthermore not far you can also visit a splendid Nature Reserve named Rezervatia Naturala Obanul Mare and also pretty close you can find  Eforie well famous for its scenic isthmus which divides a famous waters basin called Lacul Techirghiol and the Black Sea.

Exactly in the year 1972 with the previously mentioned nearest resorts such as Olimp,Jupiter,Saturn and Venus,Neptun started its successful and triumphant walk towards its popularity and golden ages.As you can notice all those places have names linked to Greek Gods and not because those former Socialist rulers were fervent lovers or enthusiastic admirers of the most sublime classical Hellenic history and mythology.

All that was closely related to a sort of propaganda and strategies born in that period to elevate the prestige of the country which was leaving a new historic course giving such denominations reminding the power and grandeur of a more than important iconic civilisation using that strategy to have a notable impact on the population with something of extremely suggestive able to astonish minds and souls.

Those plans started step by step years immediately after the forced abdication of the King Mihai I,last Sovereign of the country,successor of the other famous Monarch Ferdinand I both descendants of the famed dynasty Hohenzollern Sigmaringen who ruled Romania for a long time.

Disappearing the Royal marks and symbols in the country with an action concentrated in a massive depuration of the monarchist imprints,that new regime embraced the Soviet sphere and started a process of reform,obviously political but also trying in a determined way to hypnotise people with captivating messages also related to that peculiar form to transmit the population the glorious past of the country linked to the first emblematic Greek colonists with many positive results.

In addition to all that the rulers ensured a system which permitted holidays for all those citizens who were strong supporters of the party offering a destination which was not in those concrete places but in others and  all that had a notable resonance in particular in the most humble social class which in many cases never had the opportunity to spend some days in a resort of the Black Sea.

Despite an already established dictatorship as you know that Nation participated to the 2nd war and it needed time for a recovery which was pretty slow due to the damages of that event which left the Nation in a process of reconstruction very laborious.

The first step of such plans in the meanwhile of those stages of re establishment of infrastructures and communications in precarious and deteriorated conditions was that to dissemble and dismantle all what the Royals had created during their cycles.

Nothing easy firstly because there were as obstacles many centuries of history related to that dynasty very rooted in the country and second because a starting of a new era there were movements extremely close to that noble House admiring it made in the past including diplomatic relationships with important countries.

At the beginning such operations were mainly focused to relegate the resorts which were creations and products of those Kings and the second to invent something of new representing a true and real fruit of the new State.Already in the 60s started the development of those new resorts which had to be elevated as top destinations and in the case of Neptun the mission to consecrate it as a Black Sea icon.

Past and present continue to be protagonists,the first because that place continued in its kind to be something to keep alive in a network of destinations well structured in succession along the coast.for someone also a sort of shining star of the past loved by many people today but with a present which relaunched in a new era originated in a start up in the 90s with a tourism industry which had further objectives and goals to reach.

After the fall of Ceausescu the Institutions and new investors  planned a sort of new ranking and that was the main cause regarding the loss of the the throne and leadership of Neptun as main tourist hub despite it continues in the present to be a destination pretty famous but crowning Mamaia as Queen and indisputable
focal point in a new order of preferences and development. 

When I visited Neptun in the year 1988 in occasion of an Educational just one year before the the disappearance of that mentioned Socialist leader and I returned there years later in the 21st century all was totally changed as well as the chances to go and move there and finding also that in the services linked to communications totally mutated.

In the 80s the difficulties to go to Romania as in other countries of the old Warsaw Pact, when you needed to have a tourist Visa waiting for a moderate long time,paying a tax and after all that you could travel to that country.Nowadays with the integration of that country in the European Community all those bureaucratic arrangements are a far memory and all it is easy,no problem to plan holidays there without waiting for weeks as in the past for a simple paper.

Once landed in Bucharest the capital of the country you had to book a seat on the train to Neptun via Constanta at Buchuresti Gara de Nord,Bucharest North Railway Station a huge old building with a high tower painted in a ochre tonality with watches on its facades and a big entrance beneath a large portico supported by big columns.It was bit gray structure and not in a very good conditions left to a destiny towards a further deterioration with a lack of interest linked to a better preservation.

Today that station despite the architectonic structure did not change has had notable improvements not only because it was significantly restored but its interior is now a big functional lounge with several services,a new roof and modern platforms were established changing its former aspect including in infrastructures as waiting rooms and offices.

In that time the journey to reach the resort was over six hours including the change at Constanta Gara the station of that important city covering a distance of approximately 260,0 kilometres.Today all changed and the railway services are faster and that resort of Black Sea is reachable in the half time you needed just a couple of decades and some years ago.

.Once arrived at destination at Gara Neptun the Neptun Railway Station,that place was pretty small with 4/5 wooden benches on the platforms and rectangular doors with aluminium outlines,a lounge with a half dozen of chairs and next to the Station there was a patrol of soldiers asking every passenger coming where they were going and which was their accommodation.

You had to show the voucher and they took you  in front of your destination as a sort of escort,simply they told you it was a sort of honour of hospitality and once reached the your accommodation only a phrase a la revedere a  bye bye,no one word more or a short chat.

Nowadays the station completely changed image with a new facade highlighted by painted doors and shutters,new modern benches no military patrols outside that building,the highest side of the structure has another aspect with a light restored stoned facade and the entrance is by a pleasant light blue doorway.

Once there the first big attraction was obviously that icon called Platja La Steaguri since then as now very attractive for its light sands,today packed by many people also at night while in the past was pretty desert with just some people walking next to Strada Faleza a long maritime avenue which runs along it and continuing until the banks of the current harbour which was enlarged and modernised with new quays.

That splendid sandy stretch has not change in a aspect and it continues as in the past to conserve with pride its Blue Flag very clean,well maintained,a big difference than some years ago consisting in the presence of several facilities to enjoy water sports,something which was very lacking in those 80s.

La Steaguri denomination translated means at the flags  and that beach is  pretty long long reaching a length of approximately 1,0 kilometre enclosed between Olimp from one side and Jupiter on the other.That distinctive sandy stretch is ideal for everyone especially for families with children,it is a very safe place with no high dangerous waves for a child and close the shore the sea is not very deep,the temperature of the water is perfect any time and the quality of the sand is great  like to lie on a carpet.

Next to it to there was  Lacul Steaguri a lake which also had a reformation with the reorganisation of two fresh waters basins with different names called  Lacul Neptun I and Lacul Neptun II.The second one is a bit longer then the previous and it is approximately 400,0 metres long and 200,0 metres wide.

On their shores is situated Parcul Steaguri which is a park with a longitude of about 300,0 metres and immediately south starts a small nature reserve called Rezervatia Stejarii Brunarii which is another green oasis flanking the second lake.Also those places have had notable re-arrangement and now they are more well preserved and it is visible a great interest for the local Institutions to conserve a relevant natural patrimony in proximity of that beach.

Around those places there were not many establishments while nowadays you can find a good number and including  Promenada La Steaguri the maritime hallway shows another kind of image.While in the past was a relaxing promenade frequented until a determined time,today is an animated hub of the resort during all day.

In that couple of decades and a bit more ago along it there were only two bars and a kiosk selling ice creams while the current reality is another with a considerable presence of souvenirs,cosmetic and beauty products  shops,stalls offering different items and gift articles,new bars and establishments and it is filled by locals and tourists any time and also that very interesting metamorphosis seeing all those changes is pretty interesting.

The current Marina offers the opportunity to practise several water sports and there is also a Cinema outdoor,undoubtedly another place than the previous much smaller and with a lack of those chances and
 it includes in its vicinity new structures to practise tennis,mini golf and a park and also that mutated the local environment.

That trendy branch of tourism empire called Spa also had a great further development.While in the past was left in a corner with some signals of interest in a valuation mainly highlighted in the late 80s before the fall of the former regime.

That kind of niche of tourism in the resort has significantly increased in recent times and today it provides modern and trendy complexes offering different kind of therapies,thermal baths,facial,anti stress and anti age treatments,special sessions for over 50s,applications and wraps with natural products medically tested and  electro therapies among others and all that was practically nonexistent or almost in the past.

The present transformed Neptun in an important centre on the Black Sea protagonist regarding that and more.That Romanian site is nowadays particularly specialised to treat people with notable rheumatic, dermatological and respiratory diseases and especially the  last one subject is a local highlight providing 
 well equipped centres led by an experienced staff and with an activity well promoted abroad.

 Regarding that it is enough to visit some structures as the Hotel Cocor Spa to compare the differences to the past and appreciating the good quality of all those new establishments which offer every service ready to satisfy the most exigent requests.

An aspect which worth a considerable mention  linked to all that is the spectrum of the  UV rays in that area the sun rays have a very low coefficient of ultraviolet consistence and all that preserves risks of skin  cancer and other problems linked to the the sun exposure.

Regarding that aspect was developed on large scale a notable business focused to sunbaths and tanning offering a vast range of lotions,screen creams,gels,sprays and much more all dermatologically tested with a big choice of solutions and products mainly prepared with natural essences and suggested case by case by expert specialists in cosmetic and dermatology something pretty absent in those 80s.

 A further feature which is extremely loved by many tourists is a theme related to the temperatures which are very constant in summer around the 29/30ºdegree with very ventilated evenings and pleasant nights thanks to the breezes of the Balkan mountains and the sea which form meeting themselves a special micro climate.

 Strada Plopilor is a long avenue which crosses from north to south the resort and it is the eastern limit of the centre parallel to the boulevard Strada Trandafitilor which directly leads at north to the resort of Olimp and towards at at south to the boundaries of Jupiter.Also those two arteries have had a notable improvement with a current splendid surface and they are the the main accesses to enter in those other seaside resorts.

Behind them you can enter in Padurea Comorova  a huge verdant forest,situated at approximately 2,0 kilometres from the local coast and it is  a great incentive after spending time on the beach to have beautiful walks in the middle of a verdant vegetation particularly suggested for the oxygenation that green lung offers..
That site apart its scenic natural aspect was declared  Natural Patrimony of Romania and it is very famous for its enormous number of oak trees.

In the forest you can see the Complex Neptun Comorova a huge structure which offer accommodations and Spa treatments providing a pool with sulphurous waters,four restaurants,disco and other facilities.That big establishment has a capacity of approximately 300 beds and it belongs Bioterra University of Bucharest.

Related to the aspect accommodations in  those times related to the former regime there were some luxury apartments and apart hotels,some comfortable bungalows consisting in elegant wooden houses with all the comforts not from the Gara Neptun station,very close to the beach today they are changed image and they are furthermore attractive with new added details and also with a new arranged natural set around them.

Other former buildings consisting in the most luxury constructions have had a notable a modern restoration as some villas which are now used as residences and rented to tourists.In addition there was a large and stylish complex and venue with a huge bar,pool,garden called Anfiteatrum which is today it a Hotel offering several facilities.That place was frequented by the Romanian high class,the rest of people was mainly from countries of East Europe in particular from  Poland and DDR the former German Socialist Republic.

There was also a different reality about the theme Educational  which in those times were organised to show the beauty of the the Black Sea exalting Neptun as an icon and as main starting point of excursions in a planned strategy to elevate that site as the focal point to admire the beauty of that coastline.

In that period all was prepared to visit destinations which had a sort of convenience for the former leaders
while now the opportunity and proposals by the local incoming Tour Operators and Specialised in terms of inbound activities offer a huge fan of proposals more complete and obviously much more attractive regarding also historic and natural sites to visit and much more from different resorts.

Those  Educational which took place in the late 80s were mainly directed to determined countries in a period in which the Leu,the national currency started since then to loose value so the Romanian Institutions in International fairs started an intense promotion in particular towards Germany and France and inviting operators to incentive new outgoing operations towards that marvellous Eastern European coastline.

The Western European visitors linked to tourist activities were mainly Representatives of Tour Operators which were invited by the Romanian National Tourism Board which started to be present with frequency at International Fairs such as Paris,Frankfurt,Vienna and Milan among others.The major part were from West Germany a good number from France others from Italy,Austria and also representatives from Holland and Sweden.

The visit to the Hotels or excursions were in French and German languages no English,Spanish,Italian or others while today those operations obviously use the English as main language and also other for specific operations in base of nationality,many languages are represented by multilingual staff.

Once there the Educational visits were separated,the Western Tour Operators agents,managers did not have the same programs of the Eastern Block countries.The plan fixed in the invitation consistied in a package icluding a  H/D visiting Neptun Jupiter and Olimp a F/D visiting Saturn and Venus and stops along Cap Aurora with programmed visits to some hotels,apart hotels or villas.

The other days were programmed to the visits of Constanta with entrance to the main monuments and another one was focused to a panoramic coach tour with stages along the coast until the Bulgarian frontier to show the formation of the coastline and its most attractive points.

Other additional proposals ,Eforie and Mangalia were offered the day of the arrival  if you decided for some of them you had to book immediately visit filling a paper and giving that in the Reception at the entrance of those mentioned bungalow complex and once made all that you had to wait for an answer which came one day or two days after.That office apart all that offered a couple of F/D excursions to Varna or Burgas in Bulgaria paying a visa valid only one day in a service which included transport and tourist guide.

The tourist guide only spoke German and French and you returned to Neptun at evening  filling a paper with your impressions directed as feedback to the Tourism Board Office.Nowadays all that changed there are multilingual services and and a larger offer,including a more than interesting set of combinations offering during a full day coach tour chances to visit more than one site.

Also the form of booking operations regarding the optional excursions were different in the case you chose one or more you had to fill a sort of questionnaire explaining why you wanted to visit and for which special aim was your intention to know such place and also all that was to have feedback for the local Tourist Organisations.Now in an operation of two minutes you can book an excursion in a Hotel offering all what you want and nothing prepared for desire of someone.

Past and present,different realities separates by just two decades and it is very interesting also to see how all is totally mutated.
Today Neptun is not so busy as other resorts,in particular young people prefers to go to the mentioned Mamaia which was during the dictatorship of Ceausescu a resort  for workers with some campings and summer camp for students.Now also that place changed and it is a destination with a vibrant nightlife,a vast range of accommodations facilities,bars,disco clubs, and several  leisure establishments.

Despite all that that Neptun is still famous,that change of leader destination moved to Mamaia considered now the present engine and core of the Incoming Tourism Industry on the shores of the Romanian  Black Sea which has a bit obscured that creation of the Socialist party in terms of quantity of tourist flows but for many is always an icon in its kind.

In the resort you can find everything regarding the most traditional national cuisine and obviously fish is protagonist highlighted by delicious carp and sea bass but also by delectable catfish,pike and perch present in the Danube.

One of the typical plate is the Ciorba de Peste a fish soup but there are also many kinds of Ciorba in Romania,it is a plate of Turkish heritage with different variants using as ingredient also meat such as duck,chicken and lamb among others.The Rulada de Salau is another famous recipe consisting in a sort of fish pie served in slices and often combined with mixed salads.

The Saramura de crap is another iconic plate very common in the Region,it is carp in brine accompanied by Mamaliga a kind of local porridge,potatoes and also polenta.Very popular is also the Salata de icre which is a fish roe salad with main ingredient pike and carp.

 The local Sarmale is very similar to the Serbian and Croatian Sarma with same differences in some ingredients and it is a plate very appreciated The Piu is another speciality with a long tradition consisting in chicken cooked with apple while another plate suggested plate is the  Ghiveci cu Carne,a sort a stew made by minced meat and vegetables you can not miss if you want to taste and enjoy something very rooted in the traditional Romanian cuisine.Very good are some delicious desserts such as  Ecler, Chec and Cozonac very famous all around the country.

Thanks to the restoration of the major highways,motorways and more modern transports today you can reach Neptun from the capital Bucharest in about 3 hours by train or driving in the case you land on the airport of that city.The nearest airport is Mihail Kogalniceanu International Airport situated at 45,0 kilometres north of the resort and driving along the DN 39 highway and E87 motorway via Eforie and Costinesti you will be at destination in about 50 minutes.

Neptun is currently a relaxing resort during all year except in summer season when it is very busy and with a high occupation.There are many places very interesting in its immediate proximity and you  can enjoy a coastline which offers sun,pleasant breezes,ideal for who loves Spa and natural attractions.The past and present of that Black Sea icon are part of the history which continues in a new century with an active tourism offering a  a lot of things there,making it a a pleasurable site to spend very attractive holidays.

Francesco Mari

Recommended Hotels in Neptun

Hotel Recif
Hotel Decebal
Hotel Cocor Spa 

Recommend Restaurants in Neptun - Romania

Restaurant Complex Insula