As it often does, this travel story begins with a plan. On a random weekday in July, my wife and I got up early to take a day trip to Constanta and Costinesti from Bucharest for a total of three destinations:
- The Casino Constanta, described as “one of Romania’s most beautiful abandoned buildings”
- A Roman bath house with mosaic floor, right next door to Constanta’s National History Museum
- The Evanghelia Shipwreck off the coast of Costinesti
As usual for us, my wife and I planned out the day carefully, looking at when trains would leave and figuring out the best route to hit all three places.
One thing to note about Bucharest: the metro system is good. It’s not perfect — you can’t buy a one-ride ticket (buy a two or ten-ride ticket instead) and multiple lines of trains stop at the same platform with little visual indication of which line this train runs (so watch the screens above the platforms). Still, it whisked us to the train station in a fraction of the time a bus would have taken.
Buying train tickets are straightforward enough, provided you’re using one of the ticketing machines and a credit/debit card (they don’t accept cash). The English option works fine as well. Once your tickets are purchased, pick up something from the many mini-stores or some of the Western franchises before jumping on the train.
Traveling from one Romanian city to another means you’re likely taking an IC (intercity) train, typically a clean and fairly comfortable ride. The Bucharest-to-Constanta train takes about two hours and five minutes, officially, and costs about 60 Romanian lei (about $15 USD as of writing at 4 lei to the dollar). It’s a clean, comfortable ride that breezes by thanks to few stops and a fairly rate of speed.
To the casino we go!
Well, sort of. Welcome to the Cazinoul din Constanța:
Once considered the “Monte Carlo” of Romania, this art deco building was built in the early 20th century by Petre Antonescu, a Romanian architect. It was used as a hospital and restaurant as well as a casino, and was once frequented by many of the well-to-do across Europe in the early 20th century. Sadly, the building became prohibitively expensive and was sold several times before eventually being closed in 1990.
It’s still (supposedly) an impressive view inside, but it’s one that’s not open to the casual tourist (perhaps thanks to a Daily Mail article from 2015 that suggested “authorities haven’t made much effort to keep the public out”. Plastic tape and a security person inside a booth are the current security measures, but they’re enough to keep passers-by at bay.
Continue to walk along the boardwalk for awhile before walking on to the next stop, the Edificiul Roman cu Mozaic, right next to the Muzeul de Istorie Nationala si Arheologie Constanta:
But first, enjoy some wonderful finds from quite awhile ago. These are your old-school versions of tombstones, and the museum is kind enough to include an English translation for many of them:
Kind of a sad story, but then most of them are.
In any case, pay the 10 lei admission (about $2.50 US) and head in. The two-story building’s main attraction is arguably the intricate Roman-era mosaic making up the floor of this former bathhouse:
Extraordinary. Head down the spiral stairs to the lower level to get a closer look.
It’s not completely restored, but you’ll note the parts of the walls that are original versus those that are restored. Do take in the museum next door if you have the time and interest.
Our final stop required only about 30 kilometers of travel to reach, but ended up taking about an hour. The Constanta-to-Costinesti train is an older and a slower Regio train. While the ticket is a mere 4 lei (about $1 USD), the seats are hard and armrests visibly dirty. I thought of breaking out some wet wipes, but that wouldn’t have helped much… It’s a short trip, however, and seats aren’t reserved, so find the least dirty seat and settle in.
Once at Costinesti, it’s a 10 minute walk to the coast of the Black Sea, a popular beach area… and of course the Evanghelia Shipwreck:
Originally the Empire Strength when it was constructed in 1942, the last owner named it the E Evangelia. It ran aground here in 1968 in what may have been insurance fraud, and the owners never bothered to move it after it was declared a total loss. There were at least two tourist ships going around the derelict, so someone’s giving tours if you’re so inclined to get closer.
Another part of the ship, perhaps? The birds certainly seem to like it.
Heading back to Bucharest is a fairly anti-climatic affair, thanks to a fairly comfy IC train covering 251 kilometers in just under four hours:
The tickets didn’t have reserved seat numbers (a fact the ticket seller emphasized for some reason), so sit in any of the reserved compartments and (hopefully) enjoy some peace and quiet. At 62 lei (about $15.50 US), it’s still a cheap ticket.
Some of the comfier train seats around, though you’ll want something to serve as a pillow…
As day trips go, this one ended up being on the longer but attainable. Due to the distances involved you’ll spend close to seven hours of the day on a train. If you want to take in the beach scenes at either destination or the aforementioned museum in Constanta, make Constanta a daytrip by itself.
Directions and details
Bucharest’s train station is easily accessed from the Gare de Nord metro station on M1.
For the Casino Constanta / Cazinoul din Constanța, take bus 5-40 from the Constanta train station 7 stops or about 10 minutes. Walk the rest of the way, about 15 minutes. It’s the biggest structure along the coast.
For the Roman mosaic building / Edificiul Roman cu Mozaic: walk about 550 meters towards the Muzeul de Istorie Naţională şi Arheologie on Piata Ovidiu. It’s just 30-40 meters southeast of the museum.
For the shipwreck / Epava Evangelia, make your way to the Costinesti train station. Head left (northeast) along Strada Tineretului, which will turn north and run parallel to the water. Turn right to approach the water, then look for various sets of steps or roads to get closer.