Bukovina and Moldavia
Moldova 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 Moldova. Iasi boasts an impressive number of Orthodox churches, almost 100, most of them located in the Golden Plateau, representing the nucleus of the city, around which the city 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 History Museum of Moldova.
Nestled in the rolling hills of northern Moldova is the region of Bucovina, home to one of the world’s greatest art treasures: the UNESCO World heritage sites of the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina. Built in the 15th and 16th centuries and featuring colorful exterior frescoes depicting dramatic religious scenes, these richly decorated houses of worships are unique in the world.
The most famous of these, often called „the Sistine Chapel of the East” is Voronet Monastery. Erected in 1438 by Stefan the Great, Voronet’s most stunning feature is a Last Judgment fresco painted – as at all the churches – on the exterior façade. The blue paint that has miraculously never faded is known throughout the world as ‘Voronet blue’. The artists here worked in isolation, guarding their trade secrets and to this day, the composition of the paint remains a mystery.
Other painted churches not to be missed include Sucevita, with its distinctive greens, and Humor, where the frescoes are predominantly red. Also nearby are, Arbore, Dragomirna, Moldovita and Putna monasteries.
The town of Suceava, may be the best starting point for a trip to the monasteries. Once the capital of Moldavia (from 1375 until 1565), 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 the St. George Church (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Mirauti Church, the Zamca Monastery and a number of museums dedicated to woodcraft, ethnography, history and folk art. The Bucovina History Museum displays medieval armor, coins, tools and ancient documents. Its Hall of Throne is a re-creation of Stephen the Great’s court with furniture, weapons and costumes.
A visit to Bucovina 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 won’t want to pass up taking a crack at the Bicaz Gorges, a steep, twisting-and-turning climb more than three miles long.
Outdoor Adventures & Parks in Neamt County
Ceahlau Natural Park – Visitors can explore seven well marked hiking routes: three starting in Izvorul Muntelui, two in Durau, one in Stanile and one connection hiking route from Fantanele Chalet to Duruitoarea Waterfall. Tourist attraction include: Duruitoarea Waterfall, Toaca Peak, Mt. Panaghia, Mt. Dochia and Mt. Caciula Dorobantului. Accommodations: Dochia Chalet, Fantale Chalet, Izvorul Muntelui Chalet
Vanatori Park – famous for its bison and Carpathian wildlife reserve and the hiking routes connecting the monasteries located in Targu Neamt area. Tourist attractions include: Neamt Monastery, Icoana Noua Refuge, Dragos Voda bison and Carpathian wildlife reserve, Sihastria Monastery, Secu Monastery, Sihla Refuge, The Cave of Saint Teodora, Agapia Monastery and Varatec Monastery.
Cheile Bicazului – Hasmasu Park – This is one of the most spectacular touristic areas in Romania. 18 hiking routes in the park offer access to the following tourist attractions: Lacul Rosu (The Red Lake), Cheile Bicajelului (Bicajel Gorge), Cheile Laposului (Lapos Gorge), Mt. „Piatra Altarului”, Barnadu Village (a remote community behind the massive stone walls of the gorge), Bicajel Valley.
Cheile Sugaului – Munticelu Nature reserve, located at the entrance in Cheile Bicazului. Tourist attractions: Cheile Sugalui (Sugaului Gorge), The Tunnel Cave, Munticelu Cave, Criminisul Peak
Cozla Mountain – located in Piatra Neamt. Access to the top of the mountain – which offers panoramic views of the city of Piatra Neamt and Ceahlau Mountain – is possible by foot and by gondola (cable car).
Hiking, biking, skiing and wildlife watching.