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Steampunk in the Land of Dracula

Cluj-Napoca, the largest city in Transylvania, is home to eye-catching steampunk eateries

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Cluj-Napoca is the unofficial capital of Transylvania, the region known for its association with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But the Romanian city is also a haven for steampunk-themed eating and drinking establishments, including the Enigma Café, Submarine Pub, Joben Bistro, and Q Caffe, all in the city’s Old Town area.

Much of this steampunkery is due to the work of 6th-Sense Interiors, a locally based interior design firm. 6th-Sense was involved in all these projects, including the design of Joben and Enigma Café, and initial design concepts for Submarine. The firm also created steampunk-themed designs for the Abyss Pub in Milan, Italy; the Bunker in Murska Sobota, Slovenia; and Kaffeine Café-Bistro in Komotini, Greece.

Enigma Café opened with its new steampunk look in October 2015, after a two-year redesign project. Billed as the world’s first kinetic steampunk pub, it includes a giant clock with moving gears and a robot in a gas mask riding a bicycle. Both point to a theme involving time. The clock represents “an inside view of time itself,” the designer says. The robot, inspired by the art of H.R. Giger, is a “time slave” that is “pedaling his life away.”

Reviews on TripAdvisor are mostly positive, but some reviewers have given the café low marks for its food and service. It’s at Strada Iuliu Maniu 12, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

The Submarine Pub opened in May 2015 in a space previously occupied by a nightclub called The One. The nightclub had a wagon shape and barrel-vaulted ceilings, which made it well suited for a design replicating the interior of a submarine.

When creating the initial concepts, 6th-Sense referred to photos of real submarines as well as Harper Goff’s Nautilus design from the 1954 film adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

It has two rooms, the smaller “Engine Room” and a larger space with control panels, radar, exposed pipes, and a pair of torpedoes hanging from the ceiling. An anti-aircraft booth doubles as a DJ station.

The Submarine has only a handful of reviews on TripAdvisor. The pub is at Pia?a Unirii 2, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Joben (Romanian for “Top Hat”) was originally conceived with an industrial design, but 6th-Sense then decided to steer it toward steampunk. Two rooms feature quirky steampunk-inspired artwork, including one with a large airship on the ceiling. Behind the bar are illuminated steampunk figures in top hats.

Reviews on TripAdvisor are generally positive. Joben is at Strada Avram Iancu 29, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

The bistro also has a second steampunk-themed location in Bucharest, Romania’s capital and largest city.

Q Caffe’s design, combining steampunk and dark-fantasy elements, was a collaboration between 6th-Sense and local artists.

The café has three rooms that represent chapters in a story about human striving "in a hierarchical and limiting society." One room contains a bar with a large sculpture of Icarus, the mythological figure who flew too close to the sun. Tables are painted with images from Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketches and Dante’s The Divine Comedy.

The second chamber features a mural sculpture dubbed Human Chain that hangs from the ceiling, with a hot-air balloon in the center. The third room includes a large steampunk octopus with illuminated tentacles.

Reviews on TripAdvisor are generally positive. Q Caffe is at Strada Petru Maior 13, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

If you want more reasons to visit Cluj-Napoca, check out the gallery below. It includes photos from the city as well as other places in Transylvania. The English-language Cluj-Napoca.xyz website has additional information about the city.

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