Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sighisoara, Romania

From the Painted Monasteries we traveled to the picturesque medieval town of Sighisoara in the Transylvania region. (Yep, Dracula country!) It reminded us so much of a yet-to-be-discovered Prague. I guess when Sighisoara becomes THE hot spot be we can say we knew it back in the day.We stayed at this beautiful Hotel Sighisoara in the center of the Old Town. Our room was spacious with an arched ceiling and filled with sunlight.We of course wasted no time settling in and getting out and about. The streets were rows of pleasing, colorful pastels. Many needed fresh paint and a little TLC - although then again that was part of the charm.This long covered staircase was a fun find.Connor came across this broom. These were actually what they used everywhere - no store bought Walmart brand broom here. See what I mean about feeling like we traveled back in time?The main thoroughfares were mostly clean and tourist-ready, but there were definitely more run down side streets.Sighisoara is where the famed Dracula, aka Vlad the Impaler, was born.The incredible Christian Orthodox cathedrals continued to pop up everywhere. This white one was especially eye-catching.The Sighisoara sights were astounding. We had the town at sunset seemingly all to ourselves. I felt comfortable and at ease here, skipping along the cobblestone streets.The next day we traveled further into Transylvania and to Bran Castle. Vlad's castle (Dracula).It was quite bright and beautiful to be Dracula's spot in Bran. Not nearly as dark and spooky as I expected. The surrounding village is an ode to Dracula trinkets and souvenirs.
Outside Bran we were on the highway and spotted this golden church in the distance. There was nothing around it, just gleaming on its lonesome.
Honestly before this trip, the extent of my Romania knowledge was centered on the famous gymnasts like Nadia Comaneci.... an ode to Romania I kept Connor's hair gymnast-style with the multiple barrettes.Connor was cuddly sweet wrapped in our sheets in the morning light. She loves to jump in bed with us at daybreak.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Painted Monasteries of Moldavia, Romania

Our first night in Romania we spent in Gura Humorului at Hilde's Residence. We were unsure of the exact address - which of course had me on pins and needles during our journey. But I should have never batted an eye. We reached the town and there must have been 50 signs in bold red pointing the way. After our extended trip the four star B&B helped me relax and settle into the country.

The 1000 Places To See Before You Die book pointed us in the direction of seeing "The Painted Monasteries of Moldavia" aka "The Sistine Chapels of the East" - so that is what we did. After the 7 hour trek + overnight for that sole purpose we were pretty cynical that these better be some darn good monasteries. Here is excerpt: "A handful of vividly painted monasteries are the highlight of this dramatically remote corner of Moldavia in northeastern Romania, one of Europe's most scenic and unspoiled areas. Most of the monasteries are painted inside and out, top to bottom, with elaborate frescoes - promises of redemption, warnings of damnation - remarkably fresh in color and quality despite 500 years of exposure to the elements and the whims of many rulers"

We pulled up to the first one, the Humor Monastery, and it was amazing. Romania was immediately worth all the trouble and work it took to get there. It was Sunday morning and as we got out of the car I heard the chanting and singing from within being broadcast on speakers. The Orthodox Christian service wasn't overly loud, but a lulling, melodic, loyal praise encircling us. The moment set me still and settled in my place in the world.

Once I treasured the sounds my eyes began to focus on the artwork within and without. Photos will never do this justice. The frescoes are meticulous and glorious. How on Earth they have stayed in tact is beyond me.The outside was spectacular. It was like someone took the church and turned it inside out.We did tiptoe inside even with the service in session. No photos, but I did find some online to share. The monastery was made up of small rooms one after another. Wasn't a lot of order to who was where during the service...kind of a big mish mash.Connor did enjoy the service. She managed to charm some of the elderly Romanian women who came out of the church to light candles.We passed more Orthodox churches as we traveled to the second monastery.And this unique egg structure too...Next up we found the Voronet Monastery.It shared some similar techniques and structural qualities to Humor. Equally breathtaking.I wish I had the time and patience to decipher all of the interwoven Bible stories. Can you even believe all of this?!? On the OUTSIDE.At Voronet the cerulean blue is obtained from crushed lapis lazuli! The scene below is "The Last Judgement"Surely God reserved a special place in Heaven for the artists who created this masterpiece!Inside was no letdown either.I struggle with how to articulate the beauty we saw. Like nothing I have ever seen nor ever will see again. I am thankful we made the trek. 7 hours each way out of our way for this. Worth it.

Click here for a great article on these Painted Monasteries.