Alba Iulia is a city located in Alba County, Transylvania, with the Mures River flowing through it. There was always something special about this city, no matter the period of time. From the capital of Roman Dacia, to the place where the Great Unification of Romania unfolded, Alba Iulia has always been historically loaded and of strong significance for Romanians and other nations. Along these lines, the city has undergone plenty series of name changes.
During ancient times, when Romans settled in Dacia, Alba Iulia became the capital of Dacia Apulensis under the name of Apulum. It was the largest city in Roman Dacia and it holds to this day the largest castrum in Romania, of over 37 hectares.
Further on in the Medieval Ages, a Hungarian lord named Gyula chose the same settlement as capital of his dukedom, thus given the name of Gyula Feyervar. Here he built the first church of Transylvania, establishing a Catholic Transylvanian bishopry.
Along with the division of the Hungarian Kingdom, Alba Iulia became once more a capital, for the Eastern Hungarian Kingdom and afterwards for the Principality of Transylvania until 1690. This is when the name of Weissenburg (White City) was first mentioned; meanwhile the Ottomans adopted the analogous “Erdel Belgradi”.
After the year of 1690, Alba Iulia joined the Habsburg Monarchy. The Alba Carolina fortress is erected under the authority of Emperor Charles VI of Habsburg. The city, yet again, changes its name, this time in honor of Charles VI, into Karlsburg.
The modern name Alba Iulia is a return to the town’s Medieval Latin name and it started to circulate in the 18th century, becoming the official name in after the union.
With the end of the First World War, officials of Transylvania came together in Alba Iulia on the 1st of December 1918 to declare the union between Transylvania and the Kingdom of Romania. This date represents now the National/Great Union Day of Romania and Alba Iulia is the host of its most glorious yearly celebration.
Alba Iulia is filled with landmarks and historical attractions but it is probably most known for its unique ensemble of fortresses. The ensemble might as well be called a “time travelling rollercoaster”, because the three fortresses were built in three different ages, successively erected on the same location, each new citadel including the former one. The Roman Castrum is the oldest one, after which came the Medieval Citadel built between the XVI and XVII centuries. The newest one is the Alba Carolina Fortress, built in the XVIII century.
A deep fosse and a high wall embrace the confines of the Fortress Ensemble. The second construction adds four bastions in each indoor corner. The construction of Alba Carolina brought immense volume of works, including a terrace, a sewerage system, a mill, several wells, workrooms and warehouses. The sum of these three courses of formation equipped the Ensemble with six imposing gateways.
The citadel has numerous other patrimonial edifices, such as the Batthyaneum Library, the Princely Palace, the Union Hall, the National Honor Gallery, the National History Museum of Unification and the University of Alba Iulia.
The patrimony also extends in the city with monument buildings like the Palace of Justice or the “Giselle” Palace and Lossenau and Custozza Monuments. There are dozens other old houses on George Cosbuc Street, Ferdinand Boulevard, Teilor and Trandafirilor Streets.
When it comes to religious monuments, Alba Iulia doesn’t lack diversity. It has 6 churches, a synagogue and two famed cathedrals, the Orthodox Unification Cathedral and the “Sf. Mihail” Roman Catholic Cathedral.
To keep the culture alive, Alba Iulia organizes the Folklore Festival, the Woodworking Festival and of course, Dacian & Roman Festivals. Most important of all is of course the National Day, which is celebrated all throughout the country. But Alba Iulia being the place where the Union carried out, it goes without saying that this should be the host of the most spectacular military parade, re-enactments of the unification and other Romanian traditions.
Alba Iulia is already preparing for 2018, the centenary year of the Great Union, through a pilot project called “Alba Iulia Smart City 2018”. Imagine the magnitude of that event!
Visiting this city comes with several other opportunities of doing day trips in its proximity, because Transylvania’s beauty is never crowded in just one place, but rather scattered all around.