Tag Archives: churches

Romania (my 107th country) – 6 day interior tour. Part 1 – A brief stop in Bucharest, the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina and painted eggs

I decided I wanted to see more of the interior of Romania while I was here so ended up booking a private guide/driver to take me around for 6 days. While more expensive than small group trips this is a great way to really get a feel for the place and have a captive knowledgeable person answering all my incessant questions – The lovely Laurensiu has done a great job so far. Here he is picking some young pine needles for me to try nibbling as the locals do – not my favourite.

After a lazy evening enjoying the view from the apartment in Bucharest …….

Views over Bucharest from the my Apartment

……we did a quick round trip of highlights of the city. As I am back for a few days at the end of the tour I will do more of Bucharest then when I will also be joined by my friend Lorna for a few days.

So a must see is the exterior of Palace of the Parliament

The Palace of the Parliamnet

built by the infamous Ceaucescu who wanted to have the largest parliament building in the world – and for a while he did – until the US built the Pentagon and now it is the second largest. That’s the way it goes. This country has around 19 million people and 600 members of parliament! Quite a lot but even though, most of the 1100 rooms are rarely used so it’s a bit of a folly. Unfortunately it is not possible to go inside at the moment as the current President of the EU is from Romania and so until that finishes at the end of this month there are no visits permitted.

Then we passed the Atheneum which is now an opera house, the national museum of Art (which I will visit on my return), the central library of Bucharest, refurbished hotels and the former HQ of the communist party in Revolution Square where Ceaucescu made his last speech on 21 December 1989 thinking he could bring his people round to his way of thinking one more time – he was wrong and the crowd went against him. Even though he escaped he was recaptured within the day and he, his wife and son were shot.

Giant sized buildings & monuments in Bucharest

On to the marvelous Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum which is housed in a massive park on the outskirts of the city that also included the former Royal family’s palace.

The museum is fascinating because it is a gathering of houses and other dwellings/buildings from each of the regions of Romania that have been lifted and shifted whole or deconstructed and reconstructed in this area – so they are all original – and show the diversity of style in building. It’s a brilliant idea because having now been to some of those regions it is clear that there are very few of these styles of houses left so Mr Gusti had an excellent vision to preserve things in this way.

Traditional wooden houses from the countryside

Blue and white colours reflect Greek influences

Local wood is often carved or etched with symbols

Next we had a long drive to the north east of Romania through very scenic countryside ……

and an overnight stay at Gora-Humorului – where I got to try Ciaorba chicken soup and then cabbage and smoked pork – served with garlic cream and sour cream – this meant I was in heaven and then I saw this lovely old trabant which made me laugh. They look much prettier like this!

I also saw the first of many tin covered churches (they look silver) in Bacău and I rather like the variation from the usual gold or copper.

Next morning we started to explore the 3 of the many painted monasteries in Bucovina – starting with Voronet which is the oldest and dates back to the 1400s. The main colour of the exterior painting is blue made from lapis lazuli and is such a unique shade that it is officially known as Voronet blue. Given the age of this monastery (which like most of them is actually full of nuns) the paintings are in credible shape. These monasteries were build as defence strategies against the invasion of the Ottoman Empire and so had walls around them to aid defence and secret storage places behind secret doors for the Christian treasures. (No pics allowed inside)

Voronet Monastery showing off Voronet Blue

After a walk through the local craft market …..

All sorts of handicrafts

…….we moved on to Moldvitsa Monastery built in the 1530s. By now they were building higher walls to aid defence and the external colour focus was more red. The paintings depicted as much of the New Testament as possible and also the stories of the saints and the journey to heaven or hell depending on your behaviours on earth. In the absence of literacy this was a great way to educate the ordinary people on what had gone before and what was to come – I guess they were the emojis of their era?

We headed through more gorgeous countryside to Suceava for some local bbq’d mici (like mini minced meat kebabs but much more juicy) at the peak of the surrounding valleys. Stunning.

On top of the world

Moldvitsa Monastery – no holy water, tap’s good enough for me.

The last monastery we visited was Suzemitsa Monastery – which was the biggest and by now walls were even higher and defence towers stronger. I managed to sneak a few internal pics while the nuns weren’t looking:)

Suzenitsa Monastery looking like a real fortress

Typical wells found at monasteries and still in use.

Interiors of the monastery – nothing is left unpainted.

Finally, a fascinating stop at the private museum of the old skill of egg painting. the museum is in the egg painting artist’s house – and she is indeed an artist – I cannot begin to tell you how amazing her work is or the volume of it (over 1009 apparently). She is famous both inside and outside of Romania for her work. Painted eggs use a batik style approach where designs are etched in the lightest colour first, then dunked in wax, then etched again in the next lightest colour and dunked again and so on until complete. Then the egg is held near heat for the wax to melt so it can be rubbed away and you get this!!!

Egg painting taken to a new level

I couldn’t get enough of these eggs

And my two favourites

Traditional and Art Deco style

Malta – churches, more churches and a few cathedrals

It feels like there is a church for every inhabitant in Malta and a few to spare. Not just any churches mind you but quite a few massive cathedrals (or co-cathedrals as they call them). Churches are small, medium and many are massive with art (some of it spectacular in its own right) and gold and wood and stone carvings that would not be out of place in Rome. I think a lot were built following the arrival of the Knights of St John when they were kicked out of Rhodes by the Turks and it has gone on from there. To be honest I found the interiors somewhat excessive for my taste and I am always concerned by extravagant interiors in churches in places where the people are not exactly well off – and certainly would not have been at the time many of these were built. But equally, the Maltese are very proud of them so there you go. Take a look.