Bucovina is a territory in the North-Eastern part of Romania and it’s famous for its painted monasteries that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage. I wanted to go and see them a long time ago but to do this long drive (460 km from Bucharest) alone wasn’t very appealing. So I convinced Judit to come with me; it was an easy job!

The painted monasteries were built mostly in the 15th-16th centuries and they exhibit a unique architecture and painting style both on the inner and the outer walls. It’s amazing how well some of the outside paintings were preserved withstanding the weather for all those centuries.

Humor Monastery (1530-1535)

The paintings show scenes from the Bible and they are like comic strips telling stories.

Stories on the walls of Voronet Monastery
Heaven and Hell: the angels and devils fight for the souls

The outside walls were painted because after a while the congregation was too large to fit into the church for the services. Even today, people stay and pray outside during the service. The dome of the church was built in a unique way as well to give the church special acoustic qualities so the sermon could be heard outside as well. Today the special acoustics is helped by loudspeakers!

The Monastery of Voronet (1488) is one of the most beautiful ones!

Voronet Monastery

Outside the monastery we met some nice doggies but they were very lazy!

Lazy but very cute dogs – stray dogs are all over the country

The Bucovinian landscape is also very beautiful, too bad we didn’t have more time to take some walks!

When we stopped to take pictures of the landscape a friendly face was watching us.

We also stopped in Suceava, the main city of the area. It once was the capital of Moldova. Today it is the capital of the county of the same name. It has a nice village museum showing how peasants lived in the old days.

Judit on the veranda of a Bucovinian peasant house

Land of Monasteries

As long as nice summer weather lasts I’m not wasting my time during the weekends. During my drive home from my previous weekend trip I noticed an interesting looking gorge and I decided to come back here to check it out. Then I found out that the area has several Orthodox monasteries worth visiting, one of them even part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

In fact, I’m not surprised about that as the country is full of monasteries! I don’t know how many altogether but you can look around and count if you visit this site.

The first monastery I visited is situated in the village of Polovragi, right at the entrance of the gorge that caught my interest the previous weekend: Cheile Oltetului.

Cheile Oltelului – inviting to visit from far away

The church of the monastery was unfortunately closed due to renovation works so I could see it only from the outside but it was nice. It was built in the 17th century although the original church dates back to 1505. You can find out more about it here.

The church of the Polovragi Monastery

Going into the gorge soon you get to a cave that can be visited by tourists. The cave itself is 10 km long but only an 800m part is open to visitors. Fortunately, as I can imagine the devastation that is caused by the hordes of visitors. All kinds of people, most of them in their lightest summer outfit, slippers, shorts and sleeveless shirts, carrying babies on their arms … and even the part open to the public was not that easy to walk through – sometimes really slippery surface -, not to mention how cold it was inside. From what I could see in this part, I can imagine how beautiful it can be further on.

Moon-like landscape in the Polovragi cave

There are a lot more caves in the area, some of them partly open to the public. I wanted to visit one more but when I could see the masses of people waiting for the entry already an hour before the next group I changed my mind. As rain was coming in, going for a hike was not an option either so I just drove off to see some other sights.

This is how I got to a nice road in the valley of the river Cerna (pronounced sg, like tcherna), surrounded by spectacular rocky mountains! This is the most beautiful route in Romania I’ve taken so far. I’m sure to come back here to explore it a bit more.

Cerna valley from Baile Herculane

Baile Herculane is a really old bath town founded by the Romans as they discovered its natural hot springs. After the Romans had left the town was abandoned and its miraculous healing waters were rediscovered only in the late 18th century by a Viennese doctor. After that it was a popular resort but in the communist era it was neglected again. In the 70’s modern hotels were built but some of the old baroque buildings can still be seen.
The nature here is really breathtakingly beautiful.

Cerna Valley
Inviting rock face in the Mehedinti Mountains (Cerna Valley)

On my way back to the hotel I had a nice view of the Godeanu Mountains I visited last weekend.

Time to say goodbye to the mountains for today

The next day I visited some more monasteries:

Horezu Monastery – part of the UNESCO World Heritage
Bistrita Monastery, inhabited by nuns only
Govora Monastery – less visited but equally nice

In Horezu, which is also known of its famous pottery, I met this very friendly cat.

Lazy cat in Horezu – no wonder it was above 30C at 10am!

Fortunately, these birdies (shame on me I don’t know what kind but I’m sure Istvan and Pete will know at a glance) were at a safe distance sitting on the wires. (And the cat didn’t look too active either)

And finally, I was lucky to get a nice shot of this night creature having its dinner on the balcony of my hotel room in Horezu.

Dinner time!