Forget LED-lit glass vitrines, multilingual exhibit labels, and carefully arranged displays: when you visit the Museum of the Communist Consumer, be ready to embrace chaos. The truth is, if you want to understand how life in Romania was during the socialist period, Orthodox churches and Austro-Hungarian squares won’t give you any answers. Instead, wander beyond Timişoara’s top-10 attractions, because this underground museum will undoubtedly be an immersive experience into Ceaușescu’s Romania. In true socialist fashion, the museum doesn’t charge entry fees. The Museum of the Communist Consumer started off with a personal collection of LPs, and kept growing thanks to donations and lucky finds in flea markets and elsewhere.
Scattered around a five-room apartment, floor-to-ceiling shelves are covered in all sorts of objects, giving you a dusty glimpse of the objects that citizens were able to buy during what the socialist regime referred to as “Romania’s golden age”. Family pictures, communist-era vinyls, miniature Soviet trains, plastic dolls dressed in Romanian folk outfits, and even a shopping list from the 1960s are among the objects you’ll find in this memento-fetishist’s paradise. Surrounded by Persian-style carpets, floral cushions, and stuffed animals, feel yourself at home in the museum’s living room and take your time browsing through communist-era vinyls, propaganda books about Romanian history, and someone’s family photo album. If claustrophobia isn’t a problem, then exploring fragments of life in socialist Romania in this eccentric museum will be a couple of hours well spent.
— If you need to wind down after your visit, you needn’t travel far. The museum is located in the basement of the Scârţ Loc Lejer bar, a dim-lit wooden pub opened by the members of a local theatre company to create a community space for artists. Make sure you try their cocktails with Vișinată, a Romanian sour cherry liqueur.
— Ballet at a bargain: catch a performance in the city’s opera house for just 40 lei (£7). During the 1989 Revolution, around 40,000 people gathered outside the building, constructed during Austro-Hungarian empire, to listen to speeches given from the balcony.