Carei (Hungarian:Nagykároly) is a small town in the Crişana region of Romania, near the Hungarian border at the northwest. Traditionally the more famous and more urbanized nearby sister town of Mátészalka and capital of the former Szatmár county, which contained cities like Mátészalka, Nyírbátor and Satu Mare (Szatmárnémeti), its history became significantly different in the 20th century, after it became part of Romania and received influences from Romanian culture and during communist times, experienced the heavy-industry oriented hard-line Ceauşescu-government, rather than the more liberal service-oriented Kádár-government of Hungary.
Many important events in Hungarian history took place in this town or in nearby places. Like Mátészalka, this town also existed since the Middle Ages. It became an important city of Medieval Hungary, getting various rights and privileges which usually only bigger settlements received. Various population exchanges, emigration and immigration happened during the Medieval and Early Modern periods, Hungarians, Swabians, Romanians and Jews came and went and the town became very multicultural and multireligious. It soon became the capital of the former Szatmár county.
During the 19th century various events concerning Jewish history, especially Jewish religious history happened in the town.
In the 20th century the town became part of Romania as Carei, first a less important town of Sălaj county, then as a more important town of Satu Mare county. During communist times the town received many blocks of apartments, had bases in several branches of light and heavy industry and was an important place of agricultural research.
Now, Carei is a multicultural, prosperous and exciting travel destination that is best described as a more urbanized and Romanian version of Mátészalka. Both Central European and Eastern European culture is present here, with some Balkan influence. Here you will find traditional Central European architecture, a Communist-influenced cityscape in the more modern areas of the town, and a laid-back and life-enjoying mentality that is also visible in countries like Bulgaria and Turkey, binding it all together to a concentrated mixture of everything Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Balkans have to offer.
About half of the town is Romanian, the other half Hungarian. You have a chance in getting understood in both languages, most citizens are bilingual. Young people understand some English or German, older people may speak some French or other Romance languages.
Carei is directly connected to Mátészalka, Hungary by train. Using this route you can easily move between Northeast Hungary and Northwest Romania without a car. This train is very slow (the trip is about 30 km and takes more than an hour), the international trains only come-and-go twice a day, and the ticket is a bit expensive.
But once you're in Carei, the town has very good and fast train connections to every part of Romania, including the Satu Mare-Bucharest sleeper train, which also stops here.
The train station is on the edge of town, and a somewhat long walk down a desolate suburban street is needed to reach the city center. Keep this in mind when you have a train to catch soon and you are in the city center!
The car is the main method of transport in this area, and in Romania in general. The town has good roads towards Satu Mare and other parts of Romania and there is a border crossing at the nearby village of Urziceni to Hungary.
You can try catching a bus or hitching a ride to Vállaj in Hungary, walking through the border crossing and once on the Romanian side at Urziceni, hitching a ride to the city center.
The town is not too big, you can easily get around on foot, if you aren't in a hurry.
There are taxis waiting at various locations in the city center. They are not too expensive and are useful for getting around quickly. If you want to get to Hungary quickly, get one to take you to the Urziceni border crossing. It's 8 km away, so it isn't too expensive.
- 1 Carei City Museum (Muzeul Municipiului Carei).
- 2 Karolyi Castle (Castelul Karolyi). Housing the city museum.
Some tasty Romanian beers can be obtained here, which aren't sold in Hungary.