This article originally appeared on VICE Romania.
Băile Herculane is the most famous spa town in Romania. From the Ancient Romans in the area to Austro-Hungarian Empress Sisi, the town was for centuries the place to bathe. I grew up in Băile Herculane during the communist regime and had my first taste of democracy there. But after I left home to study abroad in 1993, I would only return once a year for the holidays.
With each visit, I would become increasingly aware that the town was deteriorating—every historical building in a worse state than the last time I'd left. All the thermal swimming pools are deserted now; they're completely empty. For over 20 years, the government has been promising funds to bring the resort back to its former glory. Instead, it has sold property like the baths, an old casino, the library, and a number of beautiful old hotels to private investors, who flipped them for profit and did nothing.
There used to be a constant stream of tourists to the town, attracted by the hot baths, the natural beauty, and the fresh air. There are still some tourists these days—usually on state-funded holidays for their health. They ogle the dying town, while soaking in the sulfur water on the banks of our river.
Here are some recent photos of Băile Herculane.