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562km (348 miles) W of Bucharest

Timisoara (pronounced tim-uh-schwara, and called "Temesvar" by Hungarians) is considered Romania's most cosmopolitan city, defined by its strong associations with western European culture and progressive aspirations: This was the first European city to install street lighting, and the first to run off hydroelectric power. You'd never guess that this peaceful place, with its languid parks and gardens and gorgeous, lively squares, was once a hotbed of military and political violence: Timisoara, regarded as the first free city of Romania, was for a long time one of the major military bases against the Ottoman Empire in its ongoing advance on central Europe. When the citadel did finally fall to the Turkish armies, it took 164 years of planned invasions, and more than one army, before the Habsburgs finally managed to toss out the Turkish occupiers. The Austrian stamp remains clearly evident in the city's urban design, appealing for its voluminous parks and squares, and mix of baroque, neoclassical, and Art Nouveau buildings.