(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program blog; the views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bucovina: Where we went in Romania

Bucovina, in the north-eastern part of Romania bordering Ukraine, is a beautiful mountainous area famous for its frescoed monasteries and churches.  Many of these fortified churches and monasteries were built between 1360 and 1600 as protection from the Tartars from the north (early) and the Turks from the east (later).  It was said that Stephen the Great built a new monastery after each successful battle and each illegitimate birth.

Humor Monastery: our homestay is in the background.
We stayed in a rural homestay in Humorului next to the Humor monastery...we could literally look at the monastery at night from our room. Great traditional Romanian food for dinner.

Humor Monastery

Suchevița Monastery
From Humorului, the Varonet monastery is about 20 minutes drive. We went on a loop to Moldoviței and Sucevița, driving through high mountains.  At one point on the windy mountain highway, we had to stop to make room for a horse logger dragging heavy timber down the mountain onto the highway.

We didn't make it to Putna, which we heard was really good.  At Putna the ancient art of fresco painting continues with the Romanian artist Mihai Moroșan, using the same techniques as Michelangelo.  I wanted to see this ancient craft, but didn't get up there.  Here's a link to my friend Duncan McDougal's blog about his visit with Mihai Moroșan


Sorting the orderly "virtuous" from the chaotic "evil-doers" at Sucevița

We heard that Sucevita or Putna has guest housing; that would be cool to stay overnight in a walled monastery.  Don't know how to make reservations, though.

The best way to reserve a rural homestay is through a local Cluj travel agent, Andre at PanTravel.  His phone number: 0722513100.  email: mail@pantravel.ro.  He has arranged most of our Romanian trips and we have been quite pleased with the rural homestays in his network.

For our US friends who want to travel in Romania, getting to these remote, but beautiful locations can take some time.  International carriers come into Bucharest, which is the other side of the country from Bucovina and Maramures, or into Budapest, Hungary, which is actually closer to Maramures.  Stay in your gateway city for a day or two to recover from the jet-lag and to see the sights.   From these cities, you can take an overnight train to Baia Mare (from Bucharest) or to Alba Iulia (from Budapest).  Book a two-person sleeping compartment; it's not expensive and the wood paneling in the private compartment made us think we were on  The Orient Express.  Once you are in the region, you'll need a car rental and a good map; that's where Andre at Pan Travel can help you.  

An alternative is to use less expensive gateway cities and fly to Cluj on one of the discount European regional carriers like Wizz Air (Rome, Madrid, Milan, or London) or CarpatAir (Rome, Milan, Munich).  These operate much like Southwest Airlines in the US in that you can only book reservations directly on their website, not through travel agents or booking sites. Recover from the transcontinental flight in a beautiful city, then fly to Romania.  We like to come into Rome, see the sights for a couple of days, then go to Cluj.

1 comment:

  1. I actually spent most of my summer holidays in Sucevita, where my grandparents (who had their main residence in Iassy) had another house. Bucovina is a wonderful part of Romania.

    I do not know who you should be talking to in advance, but once you get there, you could talk to one of the "maicutze" (priestesses) or even their "minister of finance", "maica econoama". There is also a beautiful road through the forest from Sucevita to Putna. It's not challenging but it's long, about half a day. You'd have to leave early from Sucevita.

    The village changed a lot from my childhood - many more good-looking houses, motels and "pensiuni".