It’s time to talk about the heritage of Banat Region in Romania! It has ancient ruins from the Roman Empire and also the oldest railway from this part of Europe, the Oravita to Anina train ride.
I’m somehow glad I can’t really plan to thoroughly my trips, and I get to visit (and revisit) some fantastic places in Romania.
Since all I have left are Romanian road trips, I plan to discover as much as possible and show you some of the best places to visit in Romania. This train ride was on the itinerary of the second day of the 5-day road trip in Romania.
Let’s discover Banat region in Romania
Although Banat is more of a political name that came from the many rulers of the area, and the region is actually spread between today’s Romania, Serbia and Hungary, we still use Banat to define this geographical region in Romania.
This wasn’t my first time in the area, but it was my first time visiting the Dacian capital and to go on the Oravita- Anina train ride, which is the oldest and most spectacular in this part of Europe.
So what happened during the second day of the 5-day road trip in Romania? Check out day 1 in case you missed it.
Arriving at Oravita -Anina train ride
As you already know from the blog of day 1 of this road trip (From Bucharest to the Danube Valley), the night was spent in the most spectacular village, where I saw almost no tourists, Eftimie Murgu.
The village of Eftimie Murgu is magical, and I felt like I could spend there at least one week, enjoying the fresh air, which was colder than in the city, while I could work on my blog.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have this luxury to spend more time there, but I will get back to you with a blog from this magical place. Maybe I got to the age when I all I want is wifi, a comfy bed and fresh air.
So let’s get back to this day’s itinerary, and hopefully, you’ll get a hint of what I’m saying after you see the photos.
So, I woke up in Eftimie Murgu, at Casa Valea Morilor, which I totally recommend. The owners are nice and very helpful, the location is excellent, close to the supermarket and the local pizza place. And of course, you can visit the water mills, which are at a walking distance.
Because I was off to a late start, I had to drive fast to get to Oravita in one hour (before 11 15 am) to catch the train ride on the oldest and most spectacular train ride in SE Europe.
If you have time, and even if you spend the night in Drobeta Turnu Severin, on your way to Oravita, you will pass one of the most famous waterfalls from Romania, Bigar waterfall.
Because I was there before, I didn’t stop this time. But the main reason was that I was in a hurry to catch the train.
However, if you wake up early, you can spend 30 min at the waterfall before reaching Oravita. Make sure you have plenty of time to do both because the road is winding a lot and you can’t drive too fast.
But, I urge you to plan your day accordingly and save at least 30 minutes to see the waterfall.
If you have more time, you can even enter the Cheile Nerei-Beusnita National Park, which is right next to the waterfall. There is a small entrance fee, and you can walk around a bit to see the place where the Bigar (the small stream of water that forms the waterfall) springs from.
The waterfall is right next to the road, and you will have to drive a bit further to reach the parking lot (there’s a fee for it). There you will find toilets, souvenirs shops and some food stalls.
The train ride from Oravita to Anina and back
After you visit Bigar waterfall, you need to drive to Oravita’s train station and hop on the green train.
The train station’s building is closed, so you need to take the stairs from the right of the train station, and you will reach the tracks.
If there’s enough time, get the tickets from the station (there should be an open office somewhere) or just hop on and you will be able to buy your tickets from the conductor.
If you plan this trip a bit ahead of time, check out the Romanian Railways CFR website for the schedule and to even buy the tickets if you want.
Remember to have cash, because that’s the only payment they accept. And this is valid for a lot of places in the rural parts of Romania. It’s always better to have cash.
The ticket for the train ride from Oravita to Anina, the oldest railway in SE Europe, is only 13.9 lei (~2.7 Eur), each way.
Why is the Oravita – Anina train ride so famous?
The construction of the Oravita – Anina railway was necessary for the exploitation of the coal mines located in these mountains. From there, using that railway, the coal would be transported to the Danube, and from there, shipped all the way to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The Austrian Railways exploited this railway from 1863 to 1891, and then they belonged to MAV, the Hungarian Railways. From 1918, after the Trianon Treaty, the Oravita – Anina is owned by the Romanian government (CFR – Caile Ferate Romane).
Today, you will find a 3-car train, with a diesel-electric engine model LDE125, series 69-73, having 1250 HP, which was built specifically for the Oravita – Anina segment. The train’s cars have wooden benches and were built in 1914.
What struck me in the cars was the heating system. The train runs every day, all year long, and that means that it needs heating for the cold winter days. So in each car is a small compartment, in which you’ll find the stove. The doors are open, so check it out.
The average speed of the train is about 17km/h and it takes about 2 hours to get to the destination. Why does it take so long? Because it’s all through and along the mountain. You’ll understand why once you get there.
What are the most important things you need to know about the Oravita – Anina train ride?
- The train leaves at 11.15 am every day,
- There are 3 options to buy your train ticket: Online, in the train station, from the train conductor.
- You spend 2 hours on the train admiring the beautiful scenery, tunnels and bridges
- You have 1.5h to spend in Anina, which is the destination,
- And then take the same train back to Oravita, where you probably parked the car.
- If you decided to take the train back, you will reach Oravita at 4.40 pm.
If you’re in a hurry, you can talk to a taxi driver (they always wait in front of the train station in Oravita) and arrange with them to pick you up from Anina. Some tourists do that if they lack the time.
But the taxi will ask for around 100 lei (~20 Eur), according to locals. If they see you’re a foreigner, they might try to ask for more.
My recommendation is to enjoy the day and go on a round trip.
The Oravita – Anina railway is famous for its 14 tunnels and 10 viaducts which stretch for 21km along and in between the mountains.
What to do in Anina for 1.5h? Go for a pizza
Once you get to Anina, all locals will urge you to visit the local pizza place (Pizzeria The Gallery), a very nice restaurant that looks like a museum inside and has very nice staff and owner.
The pizza was good.
The owner even offered us a ride back to the train station, but we didn’t want to bother him. Also, the train station is 10 minutes away from the restaurant.
On the way back to the station, you can follow the steps from across the street from the restaurant until you reach the train track and then follow the train tracks up to the train.
Do not worry, about a possible train going on these tracks. This is the only train that still uses those tracks and it will leave Anina at 2:40 pm.
After you take some last pics with the train station, the engine will start to function and that’s the signal that you need to get on board.
Enjoy the same views once more, get another handwritten train ticket from the cheerful conductor and make sure you don’t lean too much out the window or the rear door of the train.
What’s the best place to sit on the Oravita – Anina train ride?
I would say it’s the last compartment of the last car.
From the last car you can look out the window and see the whole length of the train when it turns and swirls, and you can also see the rails slipping away as you glance down the train’s back door.
Beware of the tree branches, which are not always trimmed and can severely harm you or your camera, when you get your head or hands out the window.
Why it’s a great idea to go on a round trip?
Because at first everyone will be all over the window and you won’t know where the next bridge or tunnel is.
On the way back, you will have an idea of what comes next and you can take more pictures as the remaining passengers (because some don’t take the train back) might be already tired.
What else to see in Oravita?
After that long Oravita Anina train ride, you can visit one of the oldest theatres in Banat, built in 1817.
The theatre is called Mihai Eminescu, after the greatest Romanian poet. It got his name as a commemoration of the Pascaly band concert in 1868, for which Eminescu was a souffleur (the person who whispers the lines to the actors on stage).
The theatre in Oravita was the first theatre in Europe to be illuminated using acetylene lamps.
The interior has rococo style ornaments. The theatre in Oravita is an excellent copy after the Burgtheater in Viena.
If you happen to be around Drobeta, visiting the Danube valley, consider the Oravita Anina train ride for the next day as well. It will be a nice experience that you can tell your friends about.
Probably, it will be one of the oldest trains you’ll ever travel with.