Groups of girls in stiletto heels clip-clopped around the seaside promenade, contorting their bodies inside frilly dresses while photographers snapped away. They daintily skipped past downed electrical poles and wires that lay lazily on the sidewalk, ready to be raised, while workers climbed up to secure roofing to gazebos where bigger flocks of Eastern European tourists would likely come to pose for pictures next year.
There was construction everywhere, as there is all over the Black Sea coast. But amidst all the fresh stone sidewalks and groomed landscaping sits the hulking and neglected Cazino Constanta, a gorgeous Art Nouveau structure that was once the hot spot for wealthy holidaymakers in Romania’s oldest city. Opened as a casino in 1910, it suffered through two world wars and was then used as a restaurant during the Communist era, before finally being permanently shuttered in the 1990s due to lack of finances needed for maintenance and restoration. Its peeling, rusty and dilapidated figure looks out of place in such a picturesque setting, but at the same time harkens back to what was probably a very glamorous, sexy time for Constanta.
We wanted to go in but the doors were locked. Thankfully, some helpful business guy who was probably in charge of guarding the building said we could go in if we paid him some money. We slipped him 10 lei and he led us inside, explaining that the structure is “waiting for investors” but that the mayor had said he would foot the bill for the roof to be restored. Despite its condition, a lot of the architectural features are still looking pretty good, and it’s easy to envision what the place must have been like when it was open. Unfortunately for now it serves as the world’s most glitzy pigeon hotel.
On our way down the coast towards Bulgaria, we had to stop by the similar-sounding resort town of Costinesti to check out an awesome shipwreck. The Evangelia was launched in 1942 and sailed happily for over 20 years until it was accidentally driven aground one foggy night in 1968. The crew abandoned it and it become property of the Romanian government, and it’s now so famous that it’s even included on the “Welcome to Costinesti” sign just off the motorway. You can apparently have a local boat take you out for a tour around the thing, which we will definitely do next time we visit Costinesti, Romania.
For me, the most hilarious thing is that the best views of this awesome shipwreck are enjoyed primarily by all the naked people working on their booty tans at the nudist beach nearby. Sexy ruins, but unfortunately not so sexy people.