May 23, 2015
We’re here for two days, so we don’t have to rush to see the sights. So we had breakfast at 8:30 am and then organized ourselves for the day’s outing. Our hostess had told us about a ceramic workshop just down the road in Marginea, so that was our first stop. We watched the potters—all men, no women—making various pots out of the local black clay. Their output was quite attractive, and pricing was very low so we ended up buying a vase and a small decorative plate with flowers painted on it.
Now we were off to see painted monasteries. First up was the one at Arbore, since it was closest. It didn’t seem to be on the main monastery trail, as there was no admission fee. It was built in 1503 but the murals on the outside were done at a later date, and only one of them was still visible. So this was an inauspicious start.
From here we headed to Gura Humorului to visit the Humor monastery. Now we were on the tourist trail—there was pay parking (3 lei) and you had to pay to use the WC (3 lei). And then there was a nun at the door collecting entrance fees (5 lei each) and photography fees (10 lei, outdoor photography only). Its murals were also painted in the 16th century, but they only had a small part worn off. And it was totally painted on the inside too, and those paintings hadn’t been affected by the weather at all. This was much more impressive.
By now it was lunch time, so we bought some food at the little store and sat in the sunshine to eat. Since we were on the tourist trail this monastery had numerous vendor stalls, and after eating our lunch we walked back to one where we had seen a lady doing cross-stitch. She had several embroidered blouses, hand-made and machine-made, hanging on a rack. Rosemary noticed an older hand-made blouse made from a heavy cotton fabric which fit her very well, and by the time we left we had bought that plus a large scarf plus a woolen wall hanging. More than we had expected to buy, but nice souvenirs none the less. And we didn’t see anything like them at the other vendor stalls either, making them unique.
(Later we would find that similar merchandise anywhere else in Romania on the tourist trail would cost more than what we paid here at Humor!)
The next monastery, at Voroneț, was not far away. Here there was a dress code forbidding bare legs for both sexes, and we saw at least two men wearing a sort of wrap-around long apron while visiting the church. It was quite similar in style to Humor, although the pictures on the outside included enemies with guns being defeated by miracles, something we hadn’t seen before. And apparently the deep blue colour in the murals is a special blue which is unique to Voroneț, although we didn’t notice that when we were there.
From here it was a longer drive to the last monastery of the day, at Moldovița. It was very much like the other two, except less commercialized by tourist traffic. And unfortunately many of the lower paintings had been vandalized by 19th-century tourists.
So we headed back, completing the loop by driving the winding road over the Ciumârna Pass. This road was only completed in 1968 and at the summit there was a hand-shaped monument commemorating the road workers who built it. There were also people selling coffee and drinks and barbecued meat, and we declined to buy decorated eggs, even wooden ones, from the toothless gentleman who was selling them.
By the time we got back to Casa Felicia we didn’t have long to wait until our 6 pm dinner time. Tonight we had noodle soup, followed by home-made beans with sausage along with a cabbage salad. Dessert was a nut cake. Like last night the food was very good and filling. For the first time since Bucharest we had some rain this evening, but it only lasted for half an hour and didn’t amount to much.
Next: Sucevița and Putna