Bucovina & Moldova

Facts about Bucovina and Moldova

About the
name
The name Bucovina means beech land
Location Northeastern Romania - between the Carpathian Mountains and the Prut River. Bucovina is situated in the northern part of the region of Moldova, bordering with Ukraine.
Note: The region of Moldova (often referred to in the Western press as Moldavia) is not to be confused with the Republic of Moldova, its eastern neighbor.
Area 27,062 sq miles
Population Approximately 4.5 million
Main cities Bacau, Botosani, Galati, Iasi, Piatra Neamt, Radauti, Suceava
Climate Temperate continental with hot summers and cold, snowy winters

Highlights

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.

Featured county of the month: Neamt

Neamt County is located in the central-eastern part of Romania.
Neighboring counties are: Suceava, Harghita, Bacau, Iasi and Vaslui.
Size:  2,276 square miles

Highest elevation: Ocolasul Mare Peak (Ceahlau Mountain) of 6,256 ft.

Neamt County is aa area blessed with many touristic 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 (Moldova) 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 natural reserve are all located in Neamt. 

Places to explore

  • The monasteries and churches with painted exterior frescos of Bucovina: Voronet ('the Sistine Chapel of the East'), Moldovita, Sucevita, Humor, Probota, Arbore, Rasca
  • The old monasteries and convents of: Putna, Dragomirna, Bogdana-Radauti, Neamt, Agapia (one of the largest nun monasteries in the Orthodox world)  and Varatec
  • Trei Ierarahi Church  in Iasi - built in 1635, its walls, real stone embroidery
  • The Neamt Fortress (Cetatea Neamtului) in Targu Neamt
  • The natural scenery of the Bicaz Gorges – one of the most spectacular road
    passes in Romania
  • The Ceahlau, Romania's Olympus – sacred mountain of Dacians, the forefathers
    of the Romanian people, where Zamolxes, their supreme god, had his temple.
  • Take a wine tasting tour and try some of Romania's finest sweet wines at
    Cotnari Vineyards, established in1448

Main Museums

  • Art Museum in Iasi
  • Ethnographic Museum in Iasi
  • Jewish History Museum and Great Synagogue in Iasi
  • Moldavian History Museum in Iasi
  • Bucovina History Museum in Suceava
  • Etnographic Museum in Suceava

Performing Arts

  • Moldova Philharmonic in Iasi
  • National Opera and Opereta House in Iasi
  • Vasile Alecsandri National Theater in Iasi

Festivals & Events

  • The Regional Festival of Folk Music and Dance (April) - Radauti
  • Ceahlau Folk Music Festival (Second Sunday in August) - Durau
  • Harvest Celebration at the Cotnari winery (September) - Iasi
  • Trandafir de la Moldova Folk Music Festival (October) - Iasi

Outdoor Adventures & Parks

  • Calimani National Park - volcanic plateau dominated by the Calimani caldera
  • Vanatori Neamt Nature Park – home of the Dragos Voda bison and
    Carpathian wildlife reserve
  • Ceahlau National Park – the Olympus of Romania
  • Hasmas-Cheile Bicazului National Park – spectacular gorges and the
    Red Lake natural reservoir

Activities

Biking, Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Nature walks, Skiing, Wildlife and bird watching

Food & Wine

Traditional food

Bean soup, stewed sauerkraut, parjoale (the local version of meatballs) or iahnie (a dish made of beans), are some of Moldavians' favorite dishes. Standing out among the soups and broths is ciorba de potroace, made with chicken entrails boiled with carrots, onions, parsley, a spoonful or two of rice and flavored with bors.

The Moldavian sarmale (meat rolls in sauerkraut leaves) are not only very popular in Romania but are also a famous dish served in Romanian restaurants around the world. These meatballs, rolled in cabbage or vine leaves, are made from minced pork mixed with rice, salt, pepper, chopped dill and parsley as well as chopped onion; small portions of this mixture are then rolled in cabbage or vine leaves and boiled. The sarmale are always accompanied by polenta, a finely ground yellow cornmeal.

Local deserts include papanasi – cottage cheese dumplings (boiled or fried) and  Poale in Brau(sweet cheese pie).

Other local specialties:
Poale-n brau - small pies made from dough, eggs and cheese and fried in oil 
Pasca - a sweet cheesecake

Vineyards

For centuries, Moldova has been renowned for its vineyards and wines. One third of the wine growing surface of Romania is to be found in this part of the country.

Cotnari Vineyard

Located in the small village of Cotnari, the Cotnari vineyards are famous for their delicious sweet white wines made of grapes rich in sugar and harvested in late autumn following the first frost. The quality of these wines relies on a combination of rich soil, the late harvest and the presence of a special mold (Botritis cinerea). The vineyards have a long history, spanning over seven centuries, dating from the time of Stephan the Great (1457 - 1504).
The winery's most popular wines include Francusa (dry), Feteasca Alba (semi-sweet) - highly appreciated for preserving the flavor and freshness of the grape; and the sweet, golden Grasa and Tamaioasa dessert wines.

Grasa de Cotnari – A naturally sweet wine with a delicate fragrance and a smooth interplay of fruitiness and acidity.

Tamaioasa Romaneasca - A naturally sweet or semi-sweet white wine with subtle honey and basil aromas, an exquisite amber color and a persistent rich taste. Its sweet taste may also suggest a blend of rose petals and wild berries.

Odobesti Vineyard

Moldova is also home to another well-know vineyard, Odobesti, one of largest and oldest in Romania.  There are written references to the Odobesti wine growing region dating from the 17th century. The wide variety of wines produced by the Odobesti includes six traditional sorts of Romanian wine, namely: Galbena de Odobesti, Plavaie, Feteasca Alba, and Feteasca Regala (white wines) and Babeasca Neagra (red wine).

Galbena de Odobesti – A light white wine with a delicate bouquet that preserves the fragrance of the mellow grape.

Babeasca Neagra- A traditional full-bodied red wine with a delicate bouquet and a slight taste of clove.

The Bucium and Copou vineyards are set in the very hills that surround the city of Iasi. Bucium's wine-production centre, located in the famous alleyway Plopii fara sot (in reference to the poem of the same title by Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu), also includes an interesting wine-growing and production museum and a wine tasting room, as well as the restaurant Perla Viilor which serves rustic cuisine and can host dinners accompanied by folk programs. The wine-tasting session concludes with the Bucium champagne, made from un-pressed Muscat-Ottonel must, which ensures a lower concentration of alcohol, sweetness, delicacy, and prolonged sparkle.

Odobesti Cellars

The vineyard features the Beciul Domnesc (Princely) Cellar, erected here in 1839, with a collection of more 100.000 bottles of old wines.

Panciu Royal Cellars

A visit to this vineyard also includes a walk among the vineyards to the famous Panciu Royal Cellars, dating from the time of Stephan the Great, where numerous bottles of champagne perfect their taste.

Photographs
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