Sometimes, when you visit a country entirely new to you, it can feel as if you had already been there. As if everything just felt natural. Simple. And easy, really. This has exactly been my feeling when I first travelled to Romania. My brother having already had a taste of Romania two years ago, followed by an entertaining article he wrote about Sibiu & Transylvania, it now was up to me to discover this fascinating place in our Eastern European homeland.
The landscape of Bucovina, the destination of my journey, does recall certain elements of my own homeland in Lower Austria. What is entirely different, though, are the famous outdoor fresco painted Moldavian Churches, protected by UNESCO World Heritage.
“Enjoy taking a look at those churches”, my father tells me with a smile as I am on my way to Iaši, with temperatures soaring to a hot 33°C on 1 July. This city, the capital of north-eastern Romania, has a direct connection with Vienna airport and is surprisingly popular: My flight is virtually fully booked. Arriving, I immediately attune to an ambiance of welcome. Weather and human warmth are just like back home, and I gasp at just how much Romanian I understand thanks to all my other Roman languages – easily a 30-40% of the words and phrases read and heard!
High on those first emotions and happiness, I join my escort, lovely Lacra and her husband Lorin who have come to Iaši ahead of our EUROPETOUR meeting in the city of Suceava in order to share a little more of their homeland with a keen culture traveller like me.
Northern Romania joins up borders with modern-day Moldavia as well as southern Ukraine, having only little linguistic roots in common but taking its major influence from places such as Italy, Austria and Hungary, with Romania once forming part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It is interesting for me to hear Romanians speak quite well of the “Austrian Occupation” during history, connecting the time since 1775 with economic and social development as well as protection against other peoples such as the Turkish. They only really resent Austria’s former emperor, Kaiser Franz Joseph II, for having had all monasteries close during a period of secularisation.
Visiting the Churches & Monasteries of Voronet, Humor, Sucevita, Dragomirna & Moldovita is like a fairy tale come true. Never in my life have I seen anything quite like it!
Orthodox churches are famous for their iconography, now that is something I already knew. However, what I did not know was that the Moldavian Churches, internationally acclaimed for their intricate imagery, were just SO RICH in images – inside out, literally. It is not until you come face to face with them that you are able to succumb to the magic of just how well the colours have been preserved over a period of more than 500 years. Easy to see how people throughout generations have found peace, faith and awe in places like these. And still today, the local nuns (all of the above churches and convents we have visited are women’s convents) are “master storytellers” relating the history and faith of centuries, if not millennia.
If you wish to know more about the churches, monasteries and history of Moldavia and Bucovina, check out the homepage of UNESCO for further details. First of all, though, let me take you on a picture journey to Romania …
Apart from being proud about their cultural heritage, Romanian people just love sharing in their actual festivals and (foodie) traditions. Or did you know just how popular “mamaliga” really is?
Now, my dear readers, I am hungry. Not only from all the inspiration received by visiting those monasteries. But also because “mamaliga” indeed is something very tasty, either being served as a vegetarian dish with fresh mushrooms or together with meat & veggies. We are talking a rather simple corn polenta here, which for some (local) reasons is really very tasty around here. The fresh energy has us visit interesting local craftspeople, known for their skills in painting eggs and producing so-called black ceramics. Romanian people are definitely very handy, ingenious and just love to share food and culture with us visitors. Check this out …
If you want to find out more about our EuropeTour cultural tourism network, please check out www.europetour.tips. Wonderful just how much the EU encourages us to grow, network, link our offers, develop and share, let alone on a personal level with my new-found, “Romanian family”.
More travel pictures and ideas for places to go are here:
Disclaimer: My trip to Romania has been supported by our cultural tourism project “EuropeTour”. All opinions are my own.