Northampton Saints will this weekend travel to Romania for the first time in the Club’s history to take on Timișoara Saracens at the Stadionul Dan Păltinișanu.
With three rounds of the European Challenge Cup complete, Saints have their destiny in their own hands and currently sit second in Pool One.
Thanks to the Club’s official team travel supplier, Thomas Cook Sport, Northampton supporters have the opportunity to travel alongside the men in Black, Green and Gold across Europe – but what else is there for visitors to take in while visiting Timișoara?
Dates: Friday 14th to Saturday 15th December, 2018
Travel time: Flight from Birmingham airport directly to Timișoara takes approx. three hours
Currency: Romanian Leu (1 Romanian Leu equals approx 0.2 pound sterling)
Time difference: Romania is two hours ahead of the UK (GMT)
Weather: With temperatures ranging from -2°C to 3°C, and the potential for some snowfall in Timișoara, be sure to wrap up warm and pack plenty of Black, Green and Gold scarves, gloves and hats!
Timișoara is Romania’s third most-populous city with a population of over 300,000 people. Based in the west of the country, the city is close to Romania’s border with Serbia and Hungary.
Bucharest, the country’s capital in the south-east has a legendary status across Europe for travelling football fans in particular. But Timișoara’s various football, basketball, handball and rugby union clubs make this lesser-known city a hotspot for sports fans looking to experience something a little different.
Timișoara was the first European City to introduce electrical street lighting in 1889, and with its rich history, stunning streets and extensive cuisine, it is no-wonder the city has been named European Capital of Culture for 2021.
What is there to see and do?
Nicknamed ‘little Vienna’ because of its mainly Austrian architecture, the city consists of serval historic areas which centre around the old Baroque-style Unirii Square.
Packed full of restaurants and bars, your time in the city will likely pivot around this bustling hub.
Walking tours usually start or end here, with a stop at the magnificent mustard yellow St. George’s Orthodox Cathedral – otherwise known as ‘The Dome’ a certainty along the way.
Head into the streets at twilight to find an abundance of beautifully-lit architecture and monuments to Romania’s varied past.
You’ll find bars and restaurants on every corner with the city’s history never far away where you can enjoy the region’s famed mulled wine and eclectic cuisine.
With Austrian, German, Greek and Hungarian influences all fighting for space on your plate you’ll have plenty to sample.
Steady on the Țuică though – every local will have a tale to tell about the traditional plum brandy spirit.
Other landmarks around Timișoara include Victory Square, which boasts the Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral as its focal point and a memorial to those that lost their lives in the 1989 Revolution in front.
Dan Păltinișanu Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium in Timișoara and has a capacity of 32,972 seats. Based in the south-east of the city, the ground is around 3km from the centre and takes 25 minutes to reach on foot from Unirii Square.
Used mostly for football matches by local team Poli Timișoara, the stadium is named after Politehnica Timișoara legend Dan Păltinișanu – considered one of the best players ever to represent the club, he who played 271 matches in ten years.
A partner club of Gallagher Premiership side Saracens, Timișoara have dominated the last three seasons in the Romanian SuperLiga from this base in the far-west of the country.
Founded in 1949, the team became the first club outside Bucharest to top the first division of Romanian rugby in 1972.
Saints have never met Timișoara Saracens before, but Northampton can expect a stern test from the side who have won five of their six league matches this term.
Players to watch include former Saracens fullback Cătălin Fercu, hooker Andrei Rădoi and lock Valentin Popârlan – who have amassed a whopping 252 caps for Romanian between them.
While the city does not necessarily boast many household names, Timișoara gave the world some great figures in fields such as aviation, cinema and literature.
Johnny Weissmuller was one of the world's fastest swimmers in the 1920s, winning five Olympic gold medals for swimming and one bronze medal for water polo, and he was the first to break the one-minute barrier for 100-metre freestyle.
But the versatile Weissmuller is perhaps better known as playing best known for playing ape-man Tarzan in 12 films during the 1930s and 1940s. Dozens of other actors have also played Tarzan, but Weissmuller is by far the best known – his distinctive Tarzan yell is still often used in films in his legacy.
Former New England Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko was also born in Timișoara, as was celebrated opera baritone Ioan Holender.
Last, but by no means least, Romanian inventor and aviation pioneer Traian Vuia also hailed from the city. Vuia designed, built and tested the first tractor monoplane. He was the first to demonstrate that a flying machine could rise into the air, and influenced the later design of monoplanes and helicopters.
Places are still available for Northampton Saints' January trip to Clermont Auvergne via the club's official team travel supplier, Thomas Cook Sport. Please CLICK HERE for more information.