In Your Pocket‘s reach does not quite stretch as far as Cluj, at least not just yet, but as a special treat for Manchester United fans who will be heading to the Northern Transylvanian city for the game with local side CFR Cluj, here is a brief look at the city.
From the UK, the easiest way to get to Cluj is to fly, direct, from London Luton with Wizz Air. Wizz Air also fly to Targu Mures, two and a half hours away by train; less by bus or mini-bus.
Failing that you can fly with any number of airlines from Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton or Stansted to Bucharest, and on to Cluj from there. Cheap flights to Bucharest come courtesy of Wizz Air and Blue Air Web, while BA and Tarom also fly to the Romanian capital direct. Tarom flies from Bucharest to Cluj seven times a day, though note that planes are small and seats sell out fast.
If you do fail to get yourself a seat on a plane, you will need to take the train from either Budapest or Bucharest to Cluj. This is not, believe us, a pleasant experience. From Bucharest it takes a whopping eight hours (from Budapest it takes only slightly less, usually seven hours and a bit), and there is only one Inter City train from either capital per day, both of which leave too late to get you to the game on time: you would have to go the day before (or take the night train. The sleeping wagons of the Bucharest – Cluj sleeper now have private bathrooms with shower and are rather special). For those who may be interested, search the online Romanian train timetable here.
Basically, if you can’t get on a plane to Cluj or Targu Mures, and don’t have much time to spare, you might want to think twice about coming.
Cluj airport is not too far from the city centre, and the best way into town is a taxi. Note that many taxi drivers meeting the London flights (or Bucharest flights, for that matter) will be a rip-off merchants. Check the tarif on the side of the cab before getting in (it should not be more than 1.79 lei/km). If in doubt call Nova Taxi (+40 745 151 000) for an honest one (you may need to employ your best Romanian, however). Else you can slum it on the bus, No. 8, which is dirt cheap. Note you have you buy tickets from the booth by the bus stop, not the driver.
If you do arrive in Cluj by train, you are basically already in the city centre. You can walk it in 10 minutes, or hop on the bus that stops right outside the station: numbers 3, 4, 9, 22, 27, 32B, 35 and 47B go to the centre. Again, ticket from the booth first.
Getting to the ground will involve walking. Traffic in and around the stadium will be brought to a total halt, and as this is the arse-about-face country that is Romania, that will include public transport. Fortunately, you will not have far to go, as the ground, the Constantin Radulescu Stadium (a bizarre, three-sided affair: the best stadium in Cluj is in fact the Cluj Arena, home to local rivals Universitatea Cluj), is close to the station (as you might expect for a team named after Romania’s railways). Here’s the best map we could rustle up, the blue marker being the stadium. The station is to the north, the city centre to the south:
View CFR Cluj in a larger map
(Although you can’t tell by looking at the map, the area around the stadium is rather hilly).
From the city centre, the stadium is a 15-minute walk.
Although CFR‘s ground is small you should expect a full house, and a cracking atmosphere. There will be little, if any, trouble. For a little team like CFR Cluj it is simply an honour to be hosting the likes of Manchester United, who will be shown the respect they deserve. If CFR do manage to get a draw, or – who knows – a win, the city will come out onto the streets and stay there much of the night.
Good bets for a decent, well priced room in Cluj are the City Plaza, very close to the city centre, and the Agape, bang in the centre of the Old Town. Try Booking.com for a good selection of places to stay. When Chelsea played here in 2009, the team stayed at the Opera.
For food, Baracca is not just the best restaurant in Cluj but one of the best in Romania (and priced accordingly, of course). Cheaper, local fare can be had at Casa Ardeleana, which, though a bit touristy and located in a shopping centre, is in fact rather good – and, perhaps most importantly – has an English-language menu and will not have a nervous breakdown at the sight of a group of lads in football shirts. Both Baracca and Casa Ardeleana are fairly central.
For more on Romanian football, read this post of ours from earlier this year. For more on the story of the 2011-2012 Romanian championships (which Cluj of course won), read this excellent article by Romanian Scout, Radu Baicu. The same author also has a look at CFR’s current squad here.