The term “banat” or “banate” designated a frontier province led by a military governor (or ban, in old South Slavic languages).The Banat is a geographical and historical region in Central Europe that is currently divided among three countries: the eastern part lies in western Romania (the counties of Timiș, Caraș-Severin, Arad south of the Mureș, and the western part of Mehedinți); the western part in northeastern Serbia (mostly included in Vojvodina, except for a small part included in Belgrade Region); and a small northern part lies within southeastern Hungary (Csongrád county).
Crișana (Hungarian: Körösvidék; German: Kreischgebiet) is a geographical and historical region divided today between Romania and Hungary, named after the Criș (Körös) River and its three tributaries: the Crișul Alb, Crișul Negru, and Crișul Repede.It is bounded to the east by the Apuseni Mountains, to the south by the Mureș River, to the north by the Someș River, and to the west by the Tisza River. The Romanian-Hungarian border cuts it in two.
Area: 49.210 km2
Population: Approximately 3 milion people
Main cities: Arad, Oradea, Timisoara
The unique mix of architectural and cultural heritages in the history-rich provinces of Crisana and Banat stems from the fact that for centuries Romanians have lived here alongside Germans (Swabs), Serbians and Hungarians (Magyars). A trio of western Romania cities – Timisoara, Oradea and Arad – provides travelers with an insight into this region’s long past and colorful traditions.
Habsburg rule until 1918 introduced Art Nouveau architecture in Banat and established Timisoara as “the garden city.” Frequently referred to as “Little Vienna”, Timisoara has always been a progressive, cosmopolitan city. An important trade and university town, Timisoara features open squares, parks and gardens, elegant boutiques, cafes, restaurants and a great display of Secessionist architecture. Cultural attractions include the Banat Museum (art, natural history and ethnography) the Village Museum, the Botanical Garden, the Timisoara Philharmonic and the Opera House. Places of historical note include the Ruins of Timisoara Fortress, Huniade Castle, Dicasterial Palace, Old City Hall and the Palace of Justice.
Just north of Timisoara on the Mures River banks lies the city of Arad, tracing its history back to the 12th century. Churches and cathedrals span four centuries, several denominations and architectural styles ranging from baroque to neoclassic. The exciting architecture of the buildings in the city’s square reflects the influence of the one-time Austrian-Hungarian occupation; most notable are the City Hall and Cenad Palace. An original Turkish fortress (built in 1550 and rebuilt twice in the 17th and 18th centuries), the Palace of Culture and the State Philharmonic House are some of the other sights to enjoy here.
Oradea, eight miles east of the Romanian-Hungarian border, is one of the most picturesque towns of western Romania, as well as an important cultural center. At the turn of the last century, most of the town’s old houses were rebuilt and customized to the then trendy architectural style from Vienna called “Sezession,” with its richly decorated facades of pale pink, green, blue and white. To get a feel for the city’s past, stroll around the Old Downtown and visit the Museum of the Cris Rivers, housed in a splendid 1770 baroque palace with 365 windows modeled after the Belvedere Palace in Vienna.
Western Romania is a heaven for active travelers and adventure seekers, with abundant opportunities for trekking, mountain climbing, hunting, fishing, horseback riding and more. Crisana and Banat have exquisite natural scenery with a climate similar to that of the Mediterranean region.
Baile Herculane, within driving distance of Timisoara, is an ancient Roman spa, developed in the 19th century as a fashionable resort. Legend has it that Hercules himself bathed in the strength-giving natural springs. Mount Domogled, to the west of the resort, is an extensive forest reservation sheltering rare trees, turtles and butterflies.
The Bihor Mountains hold some of the best-hidden treasures of Romania; explore the cave tunnels, underground waterfalls, hidden lakes, canyons and glaciers. West of the Bihor Mountains is Bears’ Cave. Named after fossil traces of the cave bear species (extinct 15,000 years ago) discovered here, it features two levels of galleries, extending more than a half-mile with stalactites and stalagmites estimated to be 22,000 years old, some resembling animal and castles shapes.
•The ancient spas of Hercules at Baile Herculane
•The Bears’ Cave (Pestera Ursilor) near the village of Chiscau, a cave of rare beauty, hosting a vast range of stalagmites and stalactites as well as fossil traces of the cave bear species extinct 15,000 years ago.
•The Secession architectural style – an important link between the Byzantine style and the later modernist architecture – in Arad, Oradea and Timisoara
•Zarandului Land (Tara Zarandului) with its main folk centers: Barsa, Barzava, Burchis-Capalnas and Buteni
•The Wind Cave, the longest cave in Romania (more than 24 miles)
•The Iron Gates of the Danube (Portile de Fier), the narrow Danube gorge between the Carpathian & Balkan Mountains
The local cuisine of Banat, displaying Austrian, German and Hungarian influences, is based mainly on pork and on richly spiced vegetables. Sour cream, thyme, tarragon, cumin and hot paprika are favored to spice up the dishes. A local specialty is homemade noodles, called Iofca – prepared with cabbage or cheese, nuts, milk and poppy seeds. Another traditional dish in the Banat region is paprikash with dumplings made out of flour and egg dough boiled in salt water. Other local dishes include stew with dumplings, peas and fried eggs, chicken and pork goulash, giblet soup, and tarragon chicken stew.
Varga Beles – a tasty specialty homemade noodle pudding with cheese and raisins wrapped in a pie puff and baked in the oven. Pogacele – traditional cakes usually with plum brandy.
The first records of viticulture in the Banat region date back from the period of the Roman invasion of Dacia, in the first century AD. Within the walls of the medieval citadel of Alba Iulia a network of tunnels were discovered; they were once used as cellars for the production of sparkling wine, the storage of wine for aging, and win-tasting rooms.
Minis Maderat Vineyard
The vineyards of Arad stretch on the hills bordering the western part of the Zarand Mountains, between Lipova and Pancota. Star of the region is the vineyard of Minis. In 1862, at a wine contest in London, Rosu de Minis was awarded the biggest prize. More than a century before, the wines of Minis were exported to England, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and even America.Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Cadarca are produced employing classical winemaking technologies, while the white wines like Italian Riesling, Traminer, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, are obtained by using cooling zymurgy, resulting in fruity white wines of great finesse.
Nearby Timisoara, lies the vineyard of Recas, with a history dating back to the 15th century. Some of the award-winning wines produced here include Italian Riesling, Feteasca Regala, Muscat Ottonel/Feteasca Regala, Sauvignon Blanc (white wines); Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir/Merlot (red wines).