Difference between revisions of "Iaşi"
Revision as of 09:58, 9 June 2014
Iaşi (pronounced yash) is the fourth city of Romania after Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca and Timisoara in terms of population and it is an important city in terms of culture, history and academic life. It is the second largest university center in Romania.
It has a population of just under 300.000 people; swelling greatly when the town's several universities are in session.
Iaşi is situated in northeastern Romania, and very close to the border with Republic of Moldova, from which Romania is divided by the Prut River. The city is positioned on the Bahlui River, affluent of Jijia that flows into the Prut River, Iaşi is the "legendary city of the seven hills", namely Cetățuia, Galata, Copou, Bucium, Șorogari, Repedea and Breazu, just like so many cities around world, one such example being Rome. Some of these hills have conspicuous churches perched on top, each of which warrants a different view of the city.
Iaşi looks green from above in spite of the ubiquitous brick and concrete, due to its boulevards and gardens. MEdieval churches, old European style houses and communist apartment buildings compete for space in this crowded city, which is constantly expanding into the surrounding villages; the urban rush of communism replaced houses, farms and vineyards with apartment buildings. The land was confiscated from the peasants and they received apartments as compensation in the newly created common living spots. Factories sprung around the intensive urban effort, organized together in the industrial zone, only to be abandoned two generations later with the fall of the regime which gave them and the nation purpose. Like all communities in the former communist countries, Iaşi had to reinvent itself in 1989. The children of those who left the countryside to move to the city now strive to build houses on the outskirting villages, although they drive hondas and not horses. They are not peasants. They wear jeans and French perfume, but they plant grapes and onions and have begun to enjoy the freedoms of having a house like their grandparents had but their parents moved away from. In Iaşi you will find both simplicity and sophistication, and interminable ironies as the reinvention process progresses on its own. There are still peasants selling fresh produce in the markets, but their kids may have cell phones which cost 100$. In Iaşi, the landscape changes fast, motivated by psychological and economical turmoil.
Tourism in the city takes place around its heritage of archaeological sites, memorial houses, museums and historical and architectural monuments. Moreover, the folkloric and ethnographic heritage, the nature protection areas, and natural mineral waters as well as the vineyards in the surrounding countryside remain to be discovered.
The city is basically located at the border to Europe's poorest country and you may think that this location is shown off in the city. That is wrong though. Despite that the borough may be very poor and that you'll see horse carriage on the outskirts of the city, the center is currently undergoing a renaissance. As of 2012, there is extensive restoration as well as new constructions. A brand new mall is opened and side walks and houses are renovated. On top of that, the thriving student community puts a young and trendy atmosphere like in any other European student city.
Also known as the "city of great love stories", "city of new beginnings", "cultural center of Moldavia", "an open air museum", Iaşi is recognized since the 19th century as being the centre of the national spirit. Every corner of Iaşi evokes a personality, an unique event, a legend, a part of a myth, every stone talks about the past (as quoted by Topirceanu).
The first document that mentions Iaşi's existence was issued on 6 October 1408 by the ruler Alexandru cel Bun. It was a commercial privilege elaborated by Alexandru cel Bun after some rounds of negotiation with merchants from Lviv.
Iasi was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia from 1564 until 1859, when Moldavia united with Walachia to form the basis of the future modern Romanian state. The designation of the capital to Bucharest was met with a lot of grief by the local city dwellers. The Moldavian aristocracy moved massively to Bucharest, leaving the former capital devoid of some of its former shine and richness. Nevertheless, Iasi continued to be an important cultural center, providing the launching ramp of Romanian literature's most important 19 century figures. Part of the Kingdom of Romania, Iasi got to be again a capital between 1916-1918, as Bucharest was occupied by the German army. Its palaces and noblemen residences got to house in crisis conditions the state institutions necessary to command the country in times of war.
During World War II, Iasi suffered considerable destruction as it saw German and Russian forces fighting on its streets. The communist regime is responsible for the present street pattern and the bulk of its building fund. Newly formed neighborhoods were providing housing for the working class brought from villages to work in factories. The 1977 earthquake brought another blow to the historical centre of Iasi, as the authorities at that time took advantage of the occasion to raze some of its former town housing (much of it made by the former multi-ethnic bourgeoisie - Jews, Germans, Greeks, Italians, Armenians, Russians, French, etc.). Nonetheless the key monuments were preserved as well as some patches of housing neighborhoods mixed between socialist buildings.
After 1990, and the collapse of the obsolete heavy industry, Iasi is reinventing itself taking advantage of its universities which constitute the second higher education center in the country, its smaller-sized industries, software companies, services, and commerce.
The local climate is continental with minimal rainfall and with large temperature differences between the seasons. Summer is hot and it lasts from the end of the month of May up to the half of September. Autumn is a short season, of transition. In the second half of November there is usually frost and snow. Winter is a freezing season with temperatures dropping to –20 ºC.
Iaşi Airport (IAS)  is one of the oldest accredited airports in Romania and even though it is small, it is served by several airlines such as Carpatair Carpatair  (flying from Timisoara), Tarom  (flying from Bucharest), and Austrian Airlines  (flying from Vienna). There are also charter flights  that depart/arrive from/in Iasi.
The airport is about 8km from the city center. The only transportation to the city is by taxi. A metered taxi to the center of Iaşi should cost no more than about RON 15–20. Most city taxis have meters. You should pay attention if they use it or not—it's not unheard of for them to try and get away with charging upwards of €10. The metered rate is 2 RON per kilometre outside city limits and 1.8 RON per kilometre inside them.
If arriving from another country, bear in mind that there are no currency exchange outlets at Iaşi airport. There is an ATM outside the building. Since taxi drivers accept RON, not euro or other currencies, you will need to be able to withdraw money from this ATM or arrive in Iaşi with RON.
The connections to Iaşi from Bucharest, the national capital, and with other counties in Romania are good and reliable and can be seen online at the Trains Timetable  (on this website you may also see the prices and the availability of the trains on the dates you wish to travel). You can also take direct trains from Budapest, which is well linked to Western Europe.
A train ticket from Iaşi to Bucharest costs around €20 when using the most expensive and luxurious option, the inter-city.
One of the landmarks of town, the railway station, also known as the "Palace of Railway Station" will welcome you to Iaşi when arriving by train. The railway station building is 133 meters long and has 113 rooms, with a real palace in the centre, a partial replica of the loggia from the Doge’s Palace in Venice. The palace was built by an Austrian company lead by Victor von Ofenheim and is the biggest one in Moldavia.
The railway station is very close to the center of the town and to the Tourism Information Centre (10 minutes of walking).
There are several possibilities to reach Iaşi from all over the country on national roads. Recently these roads have been improved and are not blocked by traffic jams. A drive from Bucharest usually takes five to six hours.
If you don’t have neither a map of Romania downloaded from the internet, nor a GPS, the best thing to do is to buy one from any gas station. Although the situation has been steadily improving, it is crucial to have a map in order to reach Iasi from Bucharest without having to stop and ask for directions. The locals know which turns to take — there aren't many, but they are not marked with large arrows as they are in the United States.
Romania is criss-crossed by many mini buses, sometimes called maxi taxi. They are faster than the trains, and can be taken directly from the international airport in Bucharest.
In Iaşi, there are two main bus stations: West Station (Autogara Vest) and Vama Veche Station (Codreanu). The latter one is situated in front of the railway station. From there, buses go all over Romania, as well as abroad.
There are regular bus connections with Chisinau in Moldovia. The bus departs from Gara De Sud in Chisinau ends in main bus station in Iaşi. The trip take approx 4-5 hours, including the stop at the tax free shop between the border controls.
Iaşi is a rather large, densely packed town. You can walk from one end to another in a few hours. For the curious visitor, walking is the best way to get around.
Taxis are quite popular in Iaşi, and have recently switched to yellow universally. In Iaşi, locals sometimes take the taxi which they find most appealing, not necessarily the first in line, so if you really like some brand of car, you can opt to take that one. This practice is becoming less common, however.
Maxi taxis go pretty much everywhere you could go on public transportation. They are privately operated, smaller, usually white or yellow micro-buses. They have their endpoint destination written on a paper at the front and they follow a usual route. They do not accept foreign currency, and don't expect the maxi-taxi drivers to speak English well enough to tell you where to get off; you could write your destination on a piece of paper, point and ask.
By bus and tram
These methods of transportation were traditionally very important for getting around Iaşi, especially during the communist period and afterwards, before cars became commonplace. Public transportation is quite frequent and works from around 5a.m. to about 11p.m. However, during weekends and public holidays, their frequency decreases.
A one way ticket costs 2 RON, or you can buy a two-trip ticket (4 RON) or daily passes (8 RON). You can buy these from ticket offices in stops, but bear in mind that in minor stops these offices close around 5-6 p.m. Ticket machines have been recently installed throughout the city, also having an English interface.
There is a special tram that goes up and down Copou hill. It is a reconditioned classical tram and it's a different style from the normal trams, resembling the San Francisco ones somewhat, being sent on track only on special occasions (Christmas, city days, weekends, other celebrations). In Iasi there aren't trolley busses anymore, like in Bucharest or in other cities in Romania.
The main reason to go in public transportation is to witness regular people going about their business. Everyone goes on the public transportation. This is a good place to see beggars performing. If you're on a bus, it's fairly likely that some group of little kids will get on and start singing. They are usually gypsies singing traditional Romanian songs, and some of them are rather gifted. They want you to give them money, of course. Also you should watch you pockets. You should look out for interesting displays of faith. Romania is one of the most religious countries in Europe, and when passing by a church or monastery you may see several passengers, from old women to teenagers in sneaks, doing the sign of the cross.
The Old town of Iaşi is quite small, however. You could use the public transport to go around, but most of the interesting parts of the city are in the center, so walking is preferable. You need the bus only if you want to see stuff out of traditional center or because your accommodation is there.
The Palace of Culture is one of those giant obvious monuments that the locals take for granted but which is striking to visitors. It houses several infrequently visited museums, including a musical instrument museum and a "village" museum with ethnic outfits. Currently closed for restauration.
Next to the Palace of culture is a little stone house named after the scholar and metropolite ("archbishop") of Moldavia Dosoftei (1624-1693). He was one of the first to use the romanian language for poetry and in the church and the house contains a small museum showing early manuscripts, prints and printing presses (no english signs). 
Along it you will find the Metropolitan Church, the Trei Ierarhi Church, the Palace of Culture and the National Theatre. If you go on this boulevard in the winter, you will find an impressive set of light decorations. During the weekends, the boulevard is closed to traffic and contains rollerbladers, bikers and strollarounders. On Sundays, the National Theatre park fills up with icons and naive paintings,which one can buy for rather small prices.
Copou is a large hill in Iasi, which contains a university, a botanical garden and many old, fancy houses. Rose bushes line its sides, and there are many parks and old trees scattered between the buildings. It's a popular place to go for a walk, and for locals it is considered the rich area. Head onto the side streets for the quietest, serenest part of Iasi
This tame, bench and rosebush laden park is a popular destination for youth in heat and the contemplative elderly. It's a pretty park, and you should not put your feet on the benches (you might get fined). There are several large bushes through which you can walk, and an extremely old linden tree held up by metal bars. Linden trees are well appreciated in Iasi, and this particular tree is the most famous because the beloved romanian poet Mihai Eminescu allegedly wrote poems in its inspirational shade. In front of this linden tree, there are two large patches of bright blue forget-me-not flowers.
The botanical garden is high up on Copou hill, and it's a popular summer getaway. In the fall, the walnut trees drop walnuts which you can eat, and some people go to the garden to find these.
The Al. I. Cuza university in Copou houses an exquisite hallway, in which you can get lost in poetic reverie. The hallway is empty, long and narrow, and its walls are covered with large paintings that allude to T.S.Eliot's Wasteland and have an intensely epic, allegorical and dreamy character. A lonely guardwatch protects the hallway, and the door is heavy, with small windows that let the light trickle in through dust. It is a lonely place, yet while school is in season it is tread by thousands of steps every day, which only make it lonelier. You might also want to explore the rest of the building. A piece of advice: freeing your mind from the confines of Euclidean geometry won't make it any easier to find your way through the place, but you will feel less frustrated when you find out you've changed floors just by crossing a seemingly level hallway. The classrooms use both the Arab and the Roman numbering system, which makes it hell when you're late for an exam, and learned men all agree that the third floor dissapears during full moon. You have been warned.
Churches and Monasteries
It is said that if you throw a rock in Iasi, you will break a church window. Despite the fact that Communism outlawed religion, Iasi is replete with churches and monasteries. Many of them are beautiful. The majority are of Eastern Orthodox denomination, however, they are richly decorated and sometimes surrounded by lush gardens. As you walk by, imagine the churches a hundred years ago as the centers of farming, peasant communities; the fruit bearing trees and domains around the church supported the clergy and nuns. In Iasi, the priests knock on every door at least once a year to sanctify your apartment for the new year in exchange for money. It is considered inappropriate not to open the door. When you enter a church, you can make the cross symbol on the doorstep; remove your hat, and don't wear any short skirts. On Sunday, sermon is sometimes held outside the church, broadcast by a loudspeaker, because inside there are few or no chairs. If you are extremely lucky, you will visit a church on the day of its 100 year anniversary. This is the only day in which women are allowed in the altar; Don't worry if you don't speak romanian, you won't have to say anything. There are no easy ways of finding out when these anniversaries occur, so if you really want to do this look up the dates when churches were first built.
Off the beaten path
There is a new "Ştrand" on the "Cicoarei" street (just ask the locals for it). It is well fitted and quite a popular place for summer bathing. There are also some hotels which have smaller swimming pools available to the public (Hotel Capitol, Motel Bucium, etc). The lakes mentioned above are not really safe. A few people get drowned every year and some get eye or skin conditions from the dirty water.
As Romanians don't have a history of being able to learn a lot of foreign language, it might be hard to find many people speaking English and as such, most companies will not hire anyone who does not speak Romanian. Also, there is no legislation as per part-time jobs so nobody will probably hire a foreign under these circumstances, but this is, of course, bullshit and outdated information. Nowadays local gents under age of 40 speaks English, French or even Russian, of course with an eastern accent.
Luckily, given that this is a big university center, a lot of multinational companies have arrived and especially in the IT sector, you will be able to get a job in the call-center sector: XL World.
ITO Sector: Capgemini, SCC.
Also IT professionals will have a lot to choose from as many companies have a strong presence in the Iasi economic sector and also factories: Endava, Amazon, Comodo, Redpoint, Pentalog, Mind, Continental, Delphi and many more. Most of these companies have more than 50+ employees (most have over 200) and they will recruit pretty much all year around as attrition in this sector is very high.
All of these companies have websites in more than 1 international language so you can check them out. Some will require an IT degree, some will not. It is a good place to start with if you plan on staying for long, until you get your stuff sorted out.
Most supermarkets will probably hire people to work for product handling in the warehouse, so that is a good place to look as well: Metro cash&carry, Carrefour, Selgros, Kaufland, Lidl, Billa and also Bricostore, Mr Bricolage, Praktiker, Dedeman. IT Retailers: Domo, Altex, Media Galaxy.
Besides this, if you have special skills (dancing step or tango) or are a yoga instructor (there is none in Iasi!) you can probably work your way as self-employed professional. There are also a lot of niches you can go into as a professional, different photograph opportunities, DJ gigs and so on.
Iaşi is famous for its nightlife. If you go towards the University you will find a lot of students wondering around or having a beer. There are a lot of bars, coffee shops and pubs where you can chill, have a drink or watch a game. Most popular discos and clubs are full until morning during University periods. Check out the discos "Skye", "Skin", "Master" , "Code" and "Viper" even though there are much more that are popular. You can find a lot of bars in front of the "Copou Park", as there are a lot of student housing there and is only natural there are a lot of leisure places. These bars usually are mainstream with popular music you can hear on the radio. Sometimes they have karaoke nights during the week.
There are bars almost every where, but most of them are places you won't have a nice experience as they are only for extremely loyal locals and such they have not invested much into the decoration or the experience. You will need to go to more central or student areas to get a more enjoyable experience. Also, if you just need to get a quick drink, you can always get into the many pizza restaurants you will definitely see, as the prices are the same.
Most of these bars will have a Facebook page so feel free to add them and check out what they have planned for the future days. You can also get contact details there and friendly staff that will answer to any of your questions. You can also make reservations.
Here is a more comprehandle list of bars that you can find useful (it does not detail what kind of bar they are or what they play, go to Facebook for that). Please remember that some of these website might turn out to be outdated, so double check on the web for more information:
If you want to look for yourself, you will need to search and search and do some more searching. Iasi is a big university center and because of this a lot of them will need to find accommodation somewhere else besides the university as there are not enough housing places to go around. But this also resulted in a big competitive and dynamic real estate market and you'll surely find your place somewhere with a fully furbished apartment at a decent price.
Look here or buy the local newspaper that everyone uses just for this: "Evenimentul Zilei", under "Inchirieri". This is the website , look for the same logo when you are buying it. Get someone to help, as the newspaper is in Romanian.
In general, the city of Iaşi is as safe as any other urban area in Europe and there is really no need for any special precautions.
Pickpockets are a problem in Iasi. Pickpockets don't advertise their strategies, but you should keep your money in a travel pouch tied around your neck and on the inside of a shirt if you want to be confident of its safety. Pickpockets are mainly around the main train station area, and target mostly people with lots of luggage, especially when trams/busses are full.
The best strategy is always check for suspicious groups of persons around you and just move if you see them surrounding you. Don't argue with them or start a fight if you find them with a hand in your pocket. Don't call someone out on their pickpocketing; chances are that you will not get the crowd rallied in your favor and you might cause an unnecessary aggravation for yourself. Simply leave.
Do not go to the train station area at night if you want to avoid visible hints of prostitution.
Beggars can be persistent; remember, just because someone is begging doesn't necessarily mean the person is truthfully poor or as disabled as it appears. Judge for yourself. If a gipsy approaches you trying to read your palm, guess your fate in a shell, etc., don't be surprised if you encounter hostility. Don't worry, you will probably not be attacked.
In Iasi, dogs run wild and in these abandoned regions they are out of control. It is not uncommon to see 10 or more dogs together in packs. Do not bother them. If they bother you, be aggressive. DO NOT RUN away from dogs (although you should by any means run away from security guards). You can carry a stick around if you're really afraid of dogs.
Don't antagonize packs of stray dogs. If you are being followed by dogs, don't be aggressive; they're probably doing their own thing; however, if you find yourself threatened, do not run away. Instead, yell, throw rocks, try to kick, etc., but don't take away their food.
In Iasi, the police are rather unpredictable. Someone may try to arrest you or fine you for putting your feet up on a bench in a park. If you get caught doing anything, be courteous, friendly, extremely apologetic etc. You may asked to pay a bribe (fine) know paying or receiving a bribe is illegal. The best way to distinguish a bribe from a fine is official written documentation that should be given to you. If you are asked to pay a bribe, politely refuse and do not pay. Paying bribes can make the situation worse for yourself and continues the problem for others. If this fails, it also is suggested to keep contact details for your embassy on you and insist on speaking to them.
If you're going to go exploring abandoned factories, you always run the risk of being caught by a leftover security guard. You never know. Be quiet, be subtle, bring a camera, don't carry weapons and don't threaten anybody. A girl might help. Do not ask for permission to visit any place, you won't be let in and you'll increase vigilence. Unless you're prepared to pay, it's unlikely that a security guard would break the rules to allow you to do something which you might find fun. If you want to go in a factory or building, walk around it first to see if there are any security guards; if there are, you're better off going to another factory.
If you are exploring abandonded urban area then be careful where you step. In some places there are water tunnels with murky waters which are more than 2 meters deep (couldn't find a bigger stick to check), which are populated by turtles and frogs. It is common for local kids to catch frogs in these basins. You probably could go scuba diving them if you were really really really insane. Because these are industrial waters, it would be best not to touch them. Also be careful of broken floors. It goes without saying that buildings which have been abandoned can't be as easily trusted as maintained ones. tread carefully. bring a flashlight, water and food. You'll most likely want to spend the entire day exploring, so you'll be far away from convenience stores.
A coach service leave for Bucharest 5 times a day for 70 RON and the trip takes appr 6 hours. The first service leave at 5:50 am and the last at 9:30 pm. The buses are air-conditioned and stops for food half way.