The real Romania?

Yesterday (24 September 2012) was undoubtedly the most fulfilling day I’ve had in this beautiful country. I checked out of the hostel in Suceava in the morning, backpack and all, moved my way along to the neighbouring bus station, and took a bus southwest to the small town of Gura Humorului. From there I walked to the train station that looked as abandoned as some of the communist-era factories that one sees; fortunately there was a clerk and after combining my elementary Romanian with her elementary English, I was able to buy a ticket with a couchette reservation to Timișoara on the other side of the country to the west (a 661km overnight journey lasting 12 and a half hours). My fortune continued when she let me store my backpack in the station, freeing me of 15 kilos off my back.

Gura Humorului is a good base for exploring a couple of the famed monasteries in the region, namely Voroneț and Humor, each about 5 km away. While it’s possible to take a maxitaxi (essentially a shared cab the size of a large van) to these sites, me being me, I opted to walk and in retrospect, it’s a decision for which I’ll always be grateful. The road to Voroneț is a single winding lane and I feel like walking through it transports you back in time…

On road to Voronet Monastery

I could see up close and personal, without any filter, rural life in this country in which just over half the population lives in urban areas. And from what I experienced, it’s a country where horse-drawn carriages share the same road with cars and trucks; where the clean country air is cut by the powerful odour of manure; where cows, chickens, sheep, and goats roam and graze freely and outnumber the human population. It’s a Romania of endless cornfields, at this time already harvested (and hence, one can understand why mămăligă is so often found on the dinner table) and countryside of varying shades of green.

On road to Voronet Monastery

It’s a Romania that clings to its centuries-old traditions and way of life, instantly making me an outsider and perhaps filling me with that unsettling feeling that I have made an intrusion with my presence. Stares directed my way were ubiquitous, but so were my “bună ziua” (“good day”) greetings that were welcomingly reciprocated and in this way, at the very least, I could forge a connection, however superficial, with the locals. I found kids, especially, to be quite friendly, as they tend to be, wondering where I came from, their stares reflecting this genuine curiosity. To be sure, daily life has undoubtedly been touched by the modern world, but I think the essence of what life was like hundreds of years ago can still be observed…

And what better way to experience this while proceeding to the Voroneț monastery, one of many built by Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great). Without going into too much history, Stephan cel Mare was a Moldavian prince from the 15th century who led his people to victory against the Ottomans in an incredible 46 out of 48 battles, and with each victory built a monastery in commemoration. The Voroneț Monastery is one of the most famous in Romania and is particularly renowned because of the vivid shade of blue used in the painting of its walls…

Voronet Monastery

Humor countryside

2 thoughts on “The real Romania?

  1. Pingback: La revedere, Romania | another traveller

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