The Satu Mare county lies in the North-West of Romania, on the lower course of the Somes river, bordering the Ukraine in the North, Hungary in the West and the counties of Bihor, Salaj and Maramures in the South and East.The county has a total area of 4405 square kilometers, representing 1.85% of the national territory and ranks 36th among the other counties in this respect. From the plains in the western part of the county, crossed by the rivers Somes, Tur and Crasna, the relief gradually climbs towards the Oas and Gutâi mountains in the East, the Pietroasa peak reaching 1,200 m.The climate is temperate, with hot summers, cold winters and rich precipitations.
In June 1996, the county had a population of 395,014 inhabitants, of which 183,845 lived in the four cities: Satu Mare (130,729), Carei (26,224), Negresti Oas (16,539) and Tasnad (10,353). The structure of nationalities is Romanians (58.5%), Hungarians (35.0%), Germans (3.6%), Gypsies (2.5%) and others (0.4%). As far as cultural life is concerned, the Satu Mare county has quite rich traditions and an institutional network consisting of theatres, a philharmonic orchestra, 60 public libraries with over 1,000,000 books, 3 cinema halls, four multi-functional culture houses, 17 museums (including one dedicated to the preservation of the German population's traditions), two art galleries and an art promotion center. Mass media are also well represented by three daily newspapers, two literary magazines, two radio and one TV station. One in five inhabitants is engaged in the educational system which includes 269 kindergartens, 268 schools and 27 highschools, 14 vocational schools and 8 technical schools. Higher education is represented by a section of the Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj, as well as one of the Vasile Goldis University in Arad. Mention should be made here of the fact that 12,852 school-pupils, 2,169 highschool-pupils and 40 students study in Hungarian and German.
In the urbanization process Satu Mare has undergone, significant changes have occurred especially during the XIXth century. Between 1768 - 1772, the old City Hall was built in the baroque style, with a tower on the main facade. Among the most representative buildings for that period one should mention that which nowadays houses the art section of the County Museum, having two wings with different architectural styles. In 1789, Earl Vecsey bought the building a wing of which still stands as the oldest civil edifice in town, while in 1842 the now existing neo-gothic building was erected. Situated close to the Vecsey House, the Roman-Catholic Cathedral occupies a central position in the Liberty Square. It has been built between 1785 - 1798 and extended in 1937, during Bishop Ham Janos's term. Built in the neo-classic style, it has a monumental portal with an Attic frontispiece supported by six columns with Corinthian capitals. In the close vicinity of the Cathedral stands the Bishop's Palace, an architectural monument dating back to the first half of the XIXth century, built in the neo-classic style after the plans of the Würzburg architect Iosif Bitthamer. Another beautiful neo-classic construction dating back to the beginning of the XIXth century is The Ormos House, situated in the Liberty Square. Considered by both local people and tourists as particularly representative, the Dacia Hotel is at the same time one of the most beautiful secession style buildings in Transsilvania. It was erected in 1902 after a plan that had won the first prize at the architecture contest in Vienna. Floral motifs made of enameled ceramics are predominant on the expressive facade where the city coat of arms is also placed, while the roof in two hues of blue confers the building a special distinction. Situated also in the Liberty Square, "The White House" has got its name due to the aspect of the facade. It has been built between 1911 - 1912 in the secession style by the plans of Ede and Miklos Schneider, having as distinctive elements the white ceramic tiles on which medallions with floral motifs come into relief. Close nearby stands The Shoemakers' House, first erected in 1830, but undergoing radical transformations of the main facade and upper floor at the beginning of the XXth century, so that now the building has an eclectic look. A significant monument for the XVIIIth century architecture is the Reformed Church, built over a period of 19 years after the baroque architectural concept of Sigismund Preinlich. Well-known cultural institution, "The North Theatre" is housed in a building erected in 1889 in the neo-classic style; two or three shows a week used to run here in the 800 seats hall between the two World Wars. The monumental Saint Archangels Michael and Gabriel Orthodox Cathedral on December 1st 1918 has been built between 1932 - 1937. The blueprints belong to the architects Victor Smigelschi and G. P. Liteanu, while the style is inspired from the traditional Romanian architecture, with a central dome and two lateral towers with loggias.The old City Prefecture building on Vasile Lucaciu Street was erected in 1936 after the plans of G.P. Liteanu, in the manner of the Romanian architecture school of the fourth decade. The edifice gains monumentality through the five columns attached to the facade and houses today the Satu Mare County Museum collections, divided into three sections: archeology, history and folk art. The exhibited pieces are part of the national cultural heritage and constitute eloquent proof of the history, civilization, material and spiritual culture specific for the North-West of Romania. The County Museum also has three libraries and a restoration laboratory.The art section of the County Museum in the Liberty Square has over 3,000 plastic art pieces belonging to the most representative Romanian artists, such as Nicolae Grigorescu, Dumitru Ghiata, Henri Catargi, Corneliu Baba, Aurel Ciupe, Alexandru Ciucurencu, Ion Jalea, Ion Irimescu, Paul Erdos etc. In 1969, a permanent exhibition of the Satu Mare painter Aurel Popp was set up. . One should also mention the museums in Carei and Tasnad, the Swabian one in Petresti, the Hungarian one in Bogdand, the Mountain People Museum in Scarisoara, the Ady Endre and Vasile Lucaciu memorial houses, the wooden church in Soconzel (a folk art monument), the Aloisie Tautu memorial house in Valea Vinului, the Free Dacians' Reservation in Mediesu Aurit, the archeological reservation in Bobald - Carei.
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