BUKOVINA (Bucovina) and MOLDAVIA (Moldova) travel guide


BUKOVINA:Travelling east along the Ukrainian border, crossing the Carpathians through Prislop Pass at 1,416 metres altitude, we reach the rolling hills of Northern Moldova, Bucovina, home to one of the world’s greatest art treasures -  its painted Monasteries, part of UNESCO’s World Heritage, for their rarity and beauty. There is indeed no other place in the world like Bucovina, where a fascinating collection of Orthodox monasteries with their exterior mural paintings are to be seen. Built in the 15th and 16th centuries and featuring colourful exterior frescoes depicting dramatic religious scenes, these richly-decorated houses of worships are unique in the world.

Bucovina is among the most attractive and frequented tourist area on Romania’s map. It is not by chance that this area, today famous worldwide, was honored by the International Federation of Tourism Journalists and Writers with the international “Pomme d’Or” prize in 1975, and the ancient architectural monuments with internal and external frescoes were appointed by UNESCO, and admitted to the list of universal art monuments. Bucovina is worth visiting not only for its wealth of religious art and the beautiful monasteries, but also for the natural beauty and simplicity of the region. It is a region with clean, unspoiled nature. It has a unique landscape: thick forests and imposing peaks, branching off from the Carpathians, which allow a wonderful panorama of valleys, with houses scattered here and there, with large gardens and farmyards inviting one to lie down by the haystacks and look up at the blue sky, with its marvellous hues.

The countryside is scattered with picturesque villages and rural scenery as local folk go about their daily business; horse-drawn carts dominate the lanes, driven by people wrapped up against the cold, outdoor wells and piles of chopped wood adorn the yards, and traditional farmers’ markets bustle with activity. These are some of the scenes the traveller will encounter in this fascinating region of Romania, a stark contrast to the frenetic pace and way of life shaped by the modern face of city living.

Bucovina’s Painted Monasteries: The Bucovina Region of northern Romania is known for its Painted Monasteries. These beautiful structures, averaging between 4 and 5 centuries old, are decorated inside and out with richly coloured frescoes as old as the buildings themselves. They are deemed significant enough to be protected by UNESCO, and they also give visitors an excuse to explore the Eastern Carpathian Mountains, rural villages of the region, and other, non-painted churches.

Bucovina’s Painted Monasteries – Arbore: Arbore, though not really a monastery, is nonetheless painted in a similar manner as the four authentic Painted Monasteries. It is located in the village of Arbore, and is difficult to get to by public transportation, but is located very near to Suceava. Getting a taxi ride to and from this church should not be expensive if you want to include Arbore on your own tour of the Painted Monasteries.

Bucovina’s Painted Monasteries – Humor Monastery: Humor Painted Monastery is located in the vicinity of Gura Humorlui, and can be reached on foot from this town. Gura Humorui is a good place to base yourself if you plan on seeing other monasteries in Bucovina. You can get to Gura Humorlui by train and  bus from either Suceava to the east, or Campulung to the west.

Bucovina’s Painted Monasteries – Voronet Monastery: Voronet Monastery can also be reached on foot from Gura Humorlui. This Painted Monastery is probably the most famous of the four Painted Monasteries – the particular blue special to the monasteries is widely called “Voronet blue.” In addition, the frescoed walls of Voronet are extremely detailed, depicting the Last Judgment and other religious scenes.

Bucovina’s Painted Monasteries – Moldovita Monastery: Getting to Moldovita Monastery and the village of Vatra Moldovitei can be confusing for someone not familiar with local public transportation or the area. If you choose to use bus or train, make sure to make note of their schedules and the stops needed. Moldovita Monastery’s frescoes also depict the Last Judgment and other scenes besides illustrating the monastery’s founder, Petru Rares.

Bucovina’s Painted Monasteries – Sucevita Monastery: Sucevita is one of the best examples of Painted Monasteries in Bucovina. It contains a museum with antique tapestries on display, and, of course, intricately detailed frescoes. If you decide to use public transportation to see Sucevita Monastery, plan on staying overnight in Sucevita. A bus runs from from Campulung, but not very often.

Bucovina – Other Monasteries and Churches: On your tour through Bucovina, you will see other medieval churches and monasteries, and you may want to make special effort to see those not located on the way to any of the Painted Monasteries. Among some of the most interesting monasteries and churches are Dragomira Monastery, Putna Monastery, the church at Solca, and Suceava’s many historic churches.

MOLDAVIA rivals Transylvania when it comes to rich folklore, natural beauty and astonishing history. Over the past 500 years, history, culture and religious life have molded Iasi, the cultural capital of Moldavia. Iasi boasts an impressive number of Orthodox churches, representing the nucleus of the city, around which the city has developed over the centuries.

One of the most famous monuments in the city is the stunning Church of the Three Hierarchs, built in 1639. Another major landmark in Iasi is the neo-gothic Palace of Culture, built between 1900-1926, currently housing the Ethnographic Museum, the Art Museum, and the Moldavian History Museum. The old capital of Moldavia, between 1375 – 1565, Suceava may be the best starting point for a trip to the monasteries.  It has some noteworthy attractions of its own, such as the remains of the Fortress of Suceava built in 1388. Today, visitors can tour the remains of the impressive fortifications and take in a great view of the city. Other sights in Suceava include St. George’s Church (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Mirauti Church, Zamca Monastery and a number of museums dedicated to woodcraft, ethnography, history and folk art. The Bucovina History Museum displays medieval armour, coins, tools and ancient documents. Its Throne Hall is a re-creation of Stephen the Great’s court with furniture, weapons and costumes.

A visit would not be complete without some stunning nature walks through Ceahlau National Park, Romania’s Olympus – the sacred mountain of the Dacians, the forefathers of the Romanian people. Make sure you bring binoculars as some 90 species of birds can be seen in the park area. Hikers will not want to miss taking a crack at Bicaz Gorge, a steep, a twisting-and-turning climb more than three miles long. Going south from Suceava we reach Neamt County , located in the central-eastern part of Romania. Neighboring counties are: Suceava, Harghita, Bacau, Iasi and Vaslui.

Neamt County is an area blessed with many tourist sites: Century-old monasteries, fascinating museums, fortresses and strongholds as well as many natural parks ideal for hiking and wild-life watching. Monasteries Neamt – the oldest in eastern Romania (Moldavia) and Agapia – featuring by Romania’s best known painters: Nicolae Grigorescu at Agapia Monastery, the Ceahlau Mountain – also known as The Athos of Romanian Orthodoxy – the beautiful and spectacular Cheile Bicazului (Bicaz Gorges) Vanatori Nature Reserve, are all located in Neamt.

Thanks to Radu Fifea for this nice article

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