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Oravita-AninaA train ride between Oraviţa and Anina is fascinating and surprising, unveiling the wonderful mountain sceneries of Banat, in an atmosphere both picturesque and effervescent. One of the oldest in Europe, the mountain railway is a unique tourist attraction in Romania, drawing numerous tourists willing to discover the story of the most beautiful route on rails. The bridges, the tunnels and the cliffs pierced as to make way for the coal cars are the symbols of an impressive technical achievement. Built before the invention of dynamite, the Oraviţa-Anina railway is the product of stonemason masters who, with their skill and strength, have created a unique route, highly appreciated even after 150 years. Between Oraviţa and Anina, those who love natural sceneries and rail trips will have an unforgettable experience, as they are carried by the old train into a wonderland.

The Semmering in Banat, the First Mountain Railway in Romania

Anina Railway StationThe story of the OraviÅ£a-Anina section begins in 1847, when the Austrian administration decided to set up a route for the transport of coal towards the Danube. Starting with the 18th century, the mining in Banat generated significant revenues for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the building of modern roads was necessary to connect this region to the Court of Vienna. In the first stage, the project concerned a normal, steam traction rail and underground tunnels, but it was modified in 1855, once the route was taken over by the Imperial Royal Privileged Austrian State Railway Company. The OraviÅ£a-BaziaÅŸ line had already been operating, but prolonging it to Anina became imperative as a consequence of the city’s rapid development. The efforts of the locals, architects, engineers and stone masons brought all the way from Northern Italy led to the inauguration of the first mountain railway in Romania in 1863. The rough terrain, the lack of dynamite and cranes made this task even more difficult, as all the tunnels and viaducts were built with simple tools (chisel and pickaxe) and human force.

Thus, nine years after the inauguration of the famous Austrian Semmeringbahn, there was a railway in Romania, called the Banat Semmering, meant to replace the wagon transport of merchandise. More than 150 years ago, an Engerth locomotive followed by 6 railcars left Oraviţa and after two stops reached Anina. Starting with 1869, the route was open for passenger transport as well.

14 Tunnels, 10 Viaducts and an Exhilarating Journey

Oravita-AninaThroughout any season, a journey between OraviÅ£a and Anina unveils splendid landscapes and enchanting colors. The valleys spreading right near the rail tracks and the cliffs almost touching the train are truly breathtaking. Foreign tourists go a long way to discover this jewel of the Romanian railways. Once the locomotive is set in motion, the traveler is taken back to a not very distant past, in a train with wooden benches and stoves to heat up the compartments.  On the right you have CaraÅŸului Valley, majestic in its immensity and on the left you have the Aninei Mountains, closer and closer. Along 34 kilometers, the train goes through 14 tunnels, carefully carved into stone. The longest of these, GârliÅŸte, measures 660 meters and reminds us of the architect who committed suicide after being accused of faultily carving through the gallery. The 10 bridges complete the spectacle of mountain landscapes. Out of them all, Jitin is truly imposing and considered a work of art. The massive poles with heights up to 32 meters and the giant abyss in which they are anchored turn this portion of the road into the highlight of the route. In fact, Jitin and Schlucht are two viaduct proffered by the brave ones who practice pendulum jump.

Oravita-AninaFrom GârliÅŸte, the train slowly goes down toward Anina, leaving behind smooth hills, old train stations and block stations used to supervise traffic a long time ago. After two hours, the locomotive announces its arrival in one of Romania’s monument train station, marking the end of an amazing journey, equaling a return to the 19th century. Building the railway cost 5 million guileders, but its value is nowadays inestimable, as it speaks of the human efforts and sacrifices it took to have it built.

The Oraviţa-Anina route is a page in the history of the Romanian railway and a tourist attraction which is sure to win you over from the first meeting. Sweeping through tunnels and valleys, it unveils delightful, wild sceneries and it tells stories about the mining communities in Banat. The picturesque quality of the journey, the quietness of the places and the adrenaline bestirred by the narrow curves and wide valleys will definitely convince you to repeat the experience in the wood benched railcars.

[An article written by Andreea Bertea]