Recommend July 2015 - (Page 18)

onsitereview CARLA HUNT europe N O V E M B E R 2 0 14 ROMANIA SUPERBLY SCENIC, MARVELOUSLY MEDIEVAL Sucevita Monastery. carla hunt The focus of our trip to Romania was quite singular: to see the unique painted monasteries of Bucovina, a region of rolling hills and dense forests within the northeastern principality of Moldavia. Deemed masterpieces of Byzantine art, they did not disappoint. With the support of the Romanian National Tourist Office in New York and my on-location guide, Ionut Maftei, I followed a highway that winds and climbs through the Carpathian foothills to find a treasury of some the most spectacular works of art and architecture in the world. romania's painted monasteries There seem to be no run-of-the-mill churches in this corner of Romania, whose regional hero, Stephen the Great, fought back the Turks in the 15th century, and then he and his descendants built 48 monasteries and Byzantine churches throughout Moldavia to celebrate his victories. My wish-list only registered Bucovina's seven Romanian Orthodox monasteries, covered floor to ceiling, inside and out, with vibrant and vivid scenes from the Bible and history; their exteriors in particular were designed to serve as lessons for the masses who remained outdoors during services during the Middle Ages. And those storytelling frescoes have amazingly survived exposure to harsh elements for more than five centuries: all good reasons to also be included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. One gateway to the monasteries is Suceava, formerly a princely capital, although today no beauty. Tell your clients to leave time to see the Bucovina History Museum and the Schaun Citadel-a fortress built to hold off the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1476- and drop in at the hectic market, where particularly on Thursday, cartloads of peasants (many in traditional dress) roll into town to sell their produce. The monasteries are spread out in all directions from Suceava, dressing Bucovina up like Joseph in a biblical coat of 16 july 2015 many colors. At Moldovita Monastery, built in 1532, the dominant color is golden yellow, and frescoes depict scenes from the "Siege of Constantinople" and "The Story of Jesus's Life." As in all monasteries, a votive painting inside shows the founder, in this case Stephen the Great. The color red takes over at the monastery at Humor, dating from 1530; here you focus on the "Return of the Prodigal Son" fresco, as well as the interiors, bedecked with sinners hanging by their feet, boiling in a pot, being strangled or decapitated. Sucevita, built as a fortified monastery, is known for its huge fresco, "The Ladder of Virtue," covering much of the church's north wall. The backgrounds of the exterior painting are green, as are those at Arbore, where weather has unfortunately erased many exterior images, with the best-preserved illustrating the "Lives of Saints." Founded in 1488, Voronet is perhaps the most beautiful, certainly the most famous. Spellbinding, for instance, is the full-blown rendition of the "Last Judgment," where against a vividly blue background (fashioned out of crushed lapis lazuli), biblical figures, saints and even animals await the verdict on passing to heaven or hell as the scales weigh deeds and misdeeds. Also known as the "Sistine Chapel of the East," this monastery (and others) is actually a convent, powered by some 20 nuns who combine farm work, painting, singing and housekeeping with a life of prayer and contemplation. transiting through transylvania Of course, getting to Bucovina from the country's capital of Bucharest proved half the fun. We crisscrossed Transylvania, driving along well-paved highways, historically following in the steps of the Romans and Goths, Magyars and Saxons who beat

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recommend July 2015

Editor’s Notes
Hotel Desk: Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Loews Hotels & Resorts
Tour Talk: Goway’s IslandsEscapes
Adventures in North America
Romania: Superbly Scenic, Marvelously Medieval
Central Europe With Adventures by Disney
Get Off That Beach Chair!
Off-Beat Adventures
INDABA 2015 (With a Taste of Durban)
A Treasured Journey Into the Past
Small Boats & Big Tortoises in the Galapagos
Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze
Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa 2

Recommend July 2015