luni, 31 decembrie 2012

Epic myths and legends about Brasov and The Black Church

Brasov makes a wonderful junction between modern days and history. Only 160 km away from Bucharest, and 43 from Sinaia, lies literally in the center  of Romania. There have been rumors and propositions for Brasov to become the Capital of Romania in different periods of the Romanian history.

You can call it Brassai in Hungarian, or Kronstadt in German, but you must accept anyway the charming reality: Brasov is attractive to any visitor due to the perfect mix between the Medieval flair in the downtown, and the excellent possibilities of entertainment.

The area provides best conditions for the human to set and live here. Archaeologists discovered an antique Dacian temple, and a later Roman fortress. Further, in Middle Age, The Teuton knights bring Saxon colonists on behalf of the mighty Kings of Hungary. Shortly, Brasov turns into the turning plate of the handle from Budapest and Vienna to the Othoman Empire and all Asia. The Teuton knights  build more fortresses, going much further the beginning order, which upsets the King Andrew of Hungary. He orders consequently the expel of the Knights, but Brasov keeps on developing. In 1234 it even appears in official documents, under name of Corona.
Tne Black Church from Brasov in winter has a special charm

The mix of population in Brasov was not always so smooth and peaceful like today. In the Middle Age the Romanians occupied an area outside the fortifications, in the today quarter of Schei, while the Hungarians and Saxons had the privilege to stay inside the fortification, around the Bartolomeu Church.

I propose to start the visit in Brasov in The Old Square, with the Council House, hosting nowadays a History museum (closed on Monday, like all the Romanian museums). It has been build around an impressive Defending Tower, where some merchants used to exhibit their products. Afterwards, The Black Church attracts you from any corner. It is among the best renowned Gothic monuments in Romania, and with its impressive dimensions (89 Meters length,28 Meters width, 65 Meters heigth)represents the biggest worship building between Vienna and Istanbul. It has been build in the XIVth century, and restored between 1770-1772, after the devastating fire from 1689 (which destroyed most of the wooden houses of Brasov).
The Black Church from brasov is a must for every culture an d art freak visiting Romania

The Black Church hides many mysteries and records. The daylight is filtered through wonderful glassworks, and the southern balcony has oak doors with the coats of arms of Matei Corvin and his beloved wife Beatrice of Aragon (probably from 1477). Discover also on the Eastern wall a significant painting of Fritz Sculerrus, depicting the City council swearing  on the "Reformation book" of Honterus in 1543 (it was one of the channels of Honterus to introduce the Protestant religion in Brasov, discover his statue near the church). The Southern tower hosts three belts; the big one wights not less than 6300 kg, being actually the biggest in Romania! Another special mention for the big organ of the church, which is also one of the biggest in Romania with its 400 pipes ( if you are really lucky, it is possible assisting to a concert). The breathtaking instrument has been build in three years, between 1836 and 1839.
Catherine gate from Brasov was one of the places to enter the fortress, actually the only one still standing

During the XIXth centuries, the attendants to the Divine service were wealthy locals, mainly traders. Everyone tried to do something for the community, making donations. along the years, decades and centuries the collection of Oriental carpets from Black Church became very rich and famous, don't miss it neither!

After so much culture and breathtaking stories, you are entitled to take a rest to the many restaurants in the neighborhood. I would recommend whether a Quiche Lorent, thinking about international cuisine, or meat rolls with a glass of wine!

duminică, 30 decembrie 2012

Epic trips from Constanta on the Romanian Riviera

Supposing you are on the Romanian seaside for a longer or shorter time, and you must take a break from sun, bathing etc (due to sun burns, bad weather, or simply for changing, or because you want know in depth the cultural Romania). Tell me the scheduled time for your trip, between 1 and three days I suppose!

Well, you have for sure a wide choice. You can go to Tulcea and have a wonderful relaxing ship cruise inside the Danube Delta. You are going to need a good camera, the Delta is a protected natural paradise. You can taste some exquisite wines on the ship even, and you can taste also the fish soup (no one, but absolutely no one can cook it so tasty as the locals do). You can stay one day long, or longer, as you wish, and depending on how much you are going to like (but everyone likes, I can bet on it)
Tulcea is a gift of the Danube, and you can have excellent trips on the river, inside the Delta

Another possibility is driving along all the Romanian seaside, 150 km away. Visit all the Romanian seaside resorts, from Mamaia to Mangalia and Vama Veche. In Vama Veche you can simply turn, or going further in Bulgaria. If you really love water and sea, is a right trip! Observe the different properties of all these resorts. In Costinesti, e.g., it is almost impossible to sleep at night. This resort is renowned for its entertainment and very popular among youngsters and students. Vama Veche, on the contrary, has much more style. It is quite, relaxing, unbelievable cheap, and we hope to last in this state!
Ancient Greek artefacts in Histria

Another possibility is an archaeological tour to Histria and Adamclisi. Histria has been for centuries a Greek colony and port, and you can admire its ancient ruins. About Adamclisi there are some things to comment, for sure! Adamclisi is only 60 km away from Constanta, and that means less than 1 hour by car or bus. Observe the sunflower plantations, but also the vineyards (wine tasting in Murfatlar is almost a must do!).

The monument from Adamclisi is called Tropaeum Traiani and measures 38 meters in diameter, and 39 meters in height (shall this be the golden cut? The first impression about the monument is very positive indeed). It has been build to honor the Roman emperor Traian between the years 106-109, for a winning battle against the local Dacians, which took place in 102.  The clush was sharp and bloody. The Romans were better armed and equipped, while the locals fought sometimes only with empty hands. Observe the subtle ancient propaganda: the enemmies of Romans, no matter how brave they may have been, are depicted dying or being captured. The remaining foes of the Romans should draw the necessary lessons. Observe also   the local suits on the locals, very similar with the Romanian National suits from our days!
Wild beach parties in Vama Veche until dawn

The Monument from Adamclisi, as you can see nowadays, is actually a restauration.By the beginning of the XXth the archaelogists discovered the remaining ruins ( no more than a pile of stones!). Its restauration and inauguration in 1977 was a major success for the communist propaganda (nothing new under the sun)

vineri, 28 decembrie 2012

Expressive paintings made by a legendary Romanian painter in Agapia monastery

If you heard something about the Romanian painter Nicolae Grigorescu is very good, but if not you must hold something in your memory about. If you have by chance the opportunity to find a painting signed by Grigorescu, I would advice you to not hesitate even a minute, no matter the price. It is very possible that you won't have the second occasion.

His paintings are the best investment possible, and be sure to double its value within 5 years. You can be sure to sell it in the best conditions at least in Romania, but Grigorescu is becoming more international, viral and global day by day.
 Grigorescu was born in 1838 and 10 years later he started painting icons, as an apprentice of a Czech master. He managed to sell almost all his paintings, but was still not able to make a living.
The Monastery of Agapia welcomes the visitor with order, and many flowers.

In 1858 he heard that the Holly Monastery of Agapia, in the Neamt County is to be restored and looks after very good painters, able to do that job. He managed somehow to get the money for coming to Agapia from Bucharest and showed him up before the superior nun. He did not trust very much that very young boy, but put it nevertheless to a test: he was supposed to paint an icon of The Holly Virgin Mary with the Baby Jesus. Grigorescu also smiled, showing himself a little arrogant, which made the Superior even more suspicious.
If you ask yourself how was Grigorescu looking , and can trust the rich imagination of an artist, this is a self portrait

The coming facts were much more important than the first impressions: he painted the icon in the best conditions, and to the highest aestethic and quality standards! A peasant from Agapia served as a model, and the Superior ended to be convinced. Nicolae Grigorescu got the contract, and made an excellent job, transforming the Agapia monastery into the Sisstine Chapel of Romania. His Saints are alive,not totally according to the Byzantine traditions, but rather similar to the works of the famous masters of Italian Renaissance!

If you understand art, you are going to fall with Grigorescu paintings grom Agapia monastery (an expressive yet impressive sample)

The Monastery of Agapia lies only 40 km away from Piatra Neamt, and is neighbor to  another renowned monastery, namely Varatec. It welcomes you in summer with many flowers and is overwhelming you through  its dimensions, comparing to other monasteries from Romania. Agapia lies in the middle of a forest and has been build at 1642. Very few people are aware, that there is another Monastery Agapia, which is upper on the hills, and lost its wealthy due to a landfall. Agapia from the Valley, also known as the new Agapia, welcomes you with heavy smells, as the kitchen works hard for the Nuns, as also for the visitors who might need some refreshments (also possible to become a payed dormitory, on a budget). Once you enter the Church, everything else is totally forgotten. The paintings of Grigorescu are really amazing and breathtaking, and you will be able to better understand my long introduction. It is hard to describe that feeling, which is equally artistic and church ecstasy. Observe, please, and note, some specific paintings, and try to guess the foreign influences: "Angel leaving Tobie" is inspired by Rembrandt; " The funeral of Jesus Christ" on a theme of  Tizian. The other ones are much more original, but not less valuable!

Afterward you can visit the Museum, exhibiting artistic artifacts and church works. Equally rich is the library, with its 15000 toms of old books. Surprise, you can even find a memorial house "Alexandru Vlahuta" (important Romanian writer, whose sister was a Nun in this monastery). The Agapia Monastery was very appealing for many Romanian cultural personalities, who used to come here.

So much culture will raise the inner man. If you are lucky enough, you can eat to the monastery, but you can also look a pension next to it, or wait to reach the town of Targu Neamt.

joi, 27 decembrie 2012

Most important things to do in Suceava

If you plan to visit the painted monasteries from Bucovina, Suceava is the right place for lodging. The town has good connections to the Capital Bucharest, or Iasi, or even Transilvania. It is an excellent base for short trips to Voronet, Putna, Dragomirna, Moldovita and Sucevita, to name only the peaks.
The fortress of Suceava, the landmark of the city

But besides, Suceava has its own monuments and charming places, which you may not miss. The town is tighten to Stefan Cel Mare/Stephen the Great, and to the most glorious times of Moldavian history.

Suceava has an excellent position, to the intersection of trading ways from Russia to Transilvania, or from Poland to the Black Sea. Starting from the XIIIth century it became the Capital of Moldova for 200 years. Right here, in the lofty fortified citadel on the top of a hill, Stefan cel Mare welcomed many Turkish or Polish sudden attacks or sieges. The fortress last until 1675 when it was set on fire, according the orders of the Turks, which could not been disobeyed.

It is easy to reach the fortress, one of the city's main boulevard simply passes by. The outside walls are still good preserved and really look amazingly strong and reliable. Also,  from the inside separating walls has been kept arches and vaults. You can follow the defending system,, which is brilliant through its simplicity. In the good old times the fortress had one hanging bridge, as many narrow places, where the host could easily trap the unwelcomed guests. Walking through the ruins, simply to observe how little were all the rooms there.

Further, visit the old Mirauti church, which was the residence of the Moldavian archbishop, as also the very place where Stefan cel Mare was appointed and confirmed as the ruling prince of Moldavia. Very close to it the St. Dimitri church, build in the XVIth century, and still proudly carying a scuplture with the aurochs head, the coat of arms of the Medieval Moldavia.
The Mirauti Church from Suceava, very old and full of glory

If you are going to visit Suceava at about 15th August, search the Armenian Monastery Hagigadar, also called as the place where the dreams come true. You can be the witness of a very odd scene: hundreds of pilgrims climb on the knees the hill of the monastery, with a burning candle in their hands. After that, still on the knees, they go three times around the church. Thus, their hottest wish will come true. The origin of this behavior is losing in the old times. After the divine service, all the participants are invited to a ritual lunch ( or hurban, from Armenian), where they get beef rice, but also the delicoius, but strange, dumplings soup. These damplings are very specific to the Armenians, and are filled with meat.

If you wanna eat better, go to one of the city's many restaurants! I would mention first Bucovina and Casa Arcasului (excellent kitchen, good prices)

miercuri, 26 decembrie 2012

The Salt Mountain from Slanic

Leaving Ploiesti towards Slanic and Valeni de Munte means to drive in a certain way out the beaten path. So, don't leave the city of Ploiesti to Campina-Brasov, or Campulung-Brasov, and neither towards Buzau-Focsani. Please take care a lot to the indicators, maps, GPS, as otherwise you'll be in serious troubles!

Only 40 km away from Ploiesti, in a majestic landscape, the resort Slanic welcomes its visitors with rowing white firs, but also with one of the oldest salt mines of Wallachia, opened already from the XVIIth century. When the exploitation begun, there were actually two salt mines, but along the years one of them collapsed inside forming Baia Baciului/ The sheepherd bath. The precipice filled with water , resulting in the swimming pool you can see nowadays!
Typical house from Slanic

But in Baia Baciului another surprise is obvious: due to collapse of the first salt mine, the soil above the other mine has been removed and an entirely salt mountain emerged to the surface. It is an amazing view, looks like a giant crystal with cutting edges, changing color in the sunlight.

Inside this mountain, the mine filled it with water, building The Bride Lake. The legend says that a local girl comited suicide here, after her parents forced her to marry a boy she didn't love. The salt water pushed her to the surface and kept her there, but she died nevertheless due to the strong impact (he falled from a high rock).
The old salt mine from Slanic is excellent for fighting lungs diseases, due to the constant temperature

Unfortunately, only a few years ago, another part of the salt mountain collapsed, and the Bride Lake lost its fame. But the place deserves nevertheless a visit due to the strange bizarre aspect. You can take an excellent bath in the lake, don't forget your suits.

Visit further in Slanic the Salt Museum, as also the old mine, and continue your trip to Valeni de Munte, a small but interesting town, having many to reveal to any visitor. Nicolae Iorga, one of the most distinguished Romanian scientists ever, has lived here for 40 years, and his house is nowadays a Memorial, where you can admire fine paintings, and unique pieces of furniture, with a popular inspiration. Next to the Memorial house, a collection of church works of art, with a focus on icons and books from the XVIIth century.
Please notice the lake from Slanic with its amazing neighborhood, and finally take a good bath 

If you are rather interested on natural phenomena, direct to Cheia, and meet a very special thing: The Green Mountain. It consists on rare soft volcanic rocks, and the locals use pieces of it to obtain a special ornamental mortar, which you can observe to the most of the fences and houses.

luni, 24 decembrie 2012

Hidden places and secret symbols in Sighisoara

You can call it also Schaessburg (German), or Segesvar(Hungarian), according to your linguistic preferences or friends you might have in the area, but any visitor would rather call it the Museum town! I don't mean hereby the modern town, consisting on blocks of flats, but the old city with a labyrinth of narrow Medieval streets. They are amazingly well preserved, kept and restaured, and seem to host secrets and vampires.

Sighisoara is first unique through this simple fact, in the all Europe is  the first and the last populated medieval citadel! The town of Sighisoara shows its best wealthiest times between the XVth and the XVIIth century, when not less than 20 guilds (aka professional association) were active here. The towers of the citadel reminds each of such a guild (butchers', skinners', tinners', ropers', furriers', taylors', cobblers' etc). Artists from Salzburg, Bohemia or Koenigsberg came and gone, shorter or longer, according to their contracts. Also diplomates, army rulers or princes have played here the usually chess game, balancing between the Romanian States and the Big Empires.
The spectacular Clock Tower from Sighisoara, during one of the local festivals 

One of the important figures saw here in Sighisoara was Dracula's father, namely Vlad Dracul The Devil, who was belonging to the Dragon order (cruciates fighting against the Turks, carrying on their coat the scaring Dragon!). You can still visit Dracula's birthhouse, which is today a restaurant, even a good one, recommended by myself (ask about Mr. Attila)! Visit further the weapon collection and the torture room, whose walls were the silent witnesses of dying whoops. Afterwards, please climb in the Clock Tower, and observe its rudimentary medieval, but still working mechanism. It makes seven characters to rotate. These seven characters represents the days if the week, being actually colored puppets with the signs of the seven planets, known at that time. The Clock Tower is 64 meters high, and was first build exclusively for military purposes.It protected the main gate of the citadel, hosted the treasure and the sessions of the local council. The four little towers surrounding the central structure show the town Sighisoara having special rights (e.g. jus gladii= the landlords right of punishing the outlaws).
During the Medieval festivals from Sighisoara, it is usually to see such fights between the knights, caused by  a beautiful young lady!

Another very interesting target for your trip to Sighisoara is the Hills Church. You can reach it by climbing a covered stairs. It has been build between 1345 and 1525, with a good etnographic museum and sculptures inside. Outside, also to mention, the cemetery. The name of the craftsmen on the tombstones won't tell you anything, but observe the interesting masonry signs, e.g. the square, the divider and the eye. Maybe you are going to like history on this way, but please don't disturb the silence of this place. From the hill you can get also a splendid view of the entire town.

Best times to visit Sighisoara could be during the local festivals (but the town is overcrowded and you need prior reservations!):
-Medieval Art Festival, during the last weekend of July
-Academic Music festival, 1-10 August
-Proetnica Minorities festival, 24-25 August

Best Romania tour for seniors

A senior is in my approach  a 55+ person, which have worked all life long and now has reliable means for entertainment, providing a still good physical and mental shape.

If you belong to this category, be sure to rely on me, as I have been guiding elderly people in Romania for 30 years. I know the best corners for them, as also the best tips and tricks. I am myself not so young anymore (47) and that's why I am sure to be able helping you! My tourists came from Norway, Germany and all world!

If it is possible to gather more people together, I would recommend a bus trip. It is nice for socializing, costs effective and you have all the time someone pampering you! I already made a selection with the best highlights of Romania, so I have this unique proposition.

Itinerary: Bucharest Tour – Sibiu & Huniady Castle – Maramures Exclusive Programme – Bucovina Exterior Frescoed Monasteries – Bicaz Gorges – Transylvanian Highlights: Sighisoara & Brasov – Peles and Bran Castles
Duration: 11 Days
Tour Overview
This is an original, premium quality Romanian tour baseded on thorough investigations and many years of touring Romania.  The tour is meant to be a Window into the Romanian Culture. The itinerary encompasses all of the historic regions of the country with a focus on Transylvania, Maramures and Bucovina. Conveniently paced, with centrally located and full of character hotels, including meeting with local artists and artisans, exclusive talks, music and local dining, no less than two folklore shows, you go “behind the scenes” to experience the customs, color, traditions and daily life of this beautiful country. The tour is further customizable to fit your needs, time and interests. Guaranteed departures with a minimum of one traveler.
Bucharest downtown has fancy boutiques, and is easy comparable with Paris

 The Village museum is one of the first ethnographic museums in the world and the second ethnographic museum placed outdoors in the world.
Day 1: Bucharest, Romania
Arrival to Coanda International Airport in Bucharest
. Meet and greet by your professional English speaking tour guide right after you exit Customs. Transfer to your downtown Bucharest hotel with a short orientation tour. Afternoon at leisure. In the evening enjoy a Welcome Dinner and a Folklore Show.
T D Accommodation in Bucharest at Hotel Berthelot **** (centrally located boutique hotel)
Day 2: Bucharest Tour – Olt River Valley & Gorge – Cozia – Sibiu
Hot and cold buffet breakfast at hotel. This morning take an Architectural Tour of Bucharest
 including the Revolution Square, the Parliament Palace – the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon, Cotroceni Quarter for its representative architecture, The Village Museum – one of the world’s most interesting open air museums with century old original peasant households from all parts of Romania. Before leaving for Sibiu visit a typical 1930s downtown Bucharest Residence: an authentic example of the pre war architecture and city life style. On route later, make a short stop to the 14th century Cozia monastery built by Prince Mircea the Old. Drive along the Olt River Canyon  crossing the mountains into Transylvania. Reach Sibiu. Brief orientation tour on the way to the hotel. Overnight in Sibiu’s famous Romans’ Emperor Hotel, first built at the end of the 18th century. Dinner on own. Suggested is Crama Sibiul Vechi, best cellar – restaurants in town, serving Transylvanian fares and excellent local wines.
Central Big square from Sibiu/Hermannstadt/NagySzeben

B Accommodation in Sibiu at Imparatul Romanilor Hotel ****
Hotel Imparatul Romanilor, located in the old part of Sibiu near the main square, in a 16th century building built in traditional Transylvanian Renaissance style, a former merchant’s hall transformed into hotel in the 18th century, with many famous guests: Emperor Franz Joseph II, composers Franz Liszt, Johann Strauss as well as Prince Charles and many others.
Day 3: Sibiu Walking Tour – Huniady (Corvin) Castle – Cluj Napoca
Hot and cold buffet breakfast at hotel. Start your day with a leisurely walking tour of
 Sibiu (Hermannstadt), formerly the chief city of the Transylvanian Germans. The Great and Lesser Squares are the landmarks of the Old Town with the many merchant houses fearuring “”the sleepy eye” dormers. View the old surrounding defense walls and the remaining towers belonging to the merchant guilds. One of the landmarks of Sibiu is the Bruckenthal Museum assembled by Baron Bruckenthal, governor of Transylvania at the beginning of the 19th century and the second museum to ever open in Europe after the National Galley in London. Next is the Evangelical Cathedral completed in its actual shape in 1520 and featuring an exquisite fresco of the Crucifixion on the north wall of the choir dating from 1445. The tour ends with the original Pharmacy Museum located in a 15th century pharmacy.
Huniady Castle (Corvinilor Castle) – one of the most well preserved Gothic castles of Transylvania.
Before noon depart for Hunedoara for a guided tour of Huniady Castle – one of the most well preserved Gothic castles of Transylvania and home to the mighty Huniady royal family. This is one of the less visited castles of Transylvania but a gem of Gothic architecture. Late afternoon arrival to Cluj Napoca. Orientation tour followed by hotel check in.
B Accommodation in Cluj at Hotel Capitolina *** (or similar)

Cluj Napoca and its wonderful downtown at night

Day 4: Cluj Napoca City Tour – Baia Mare – Maramures
Hot and cold buffet breakfast at hotel. This morning you will have a choice between a stroll in the Botanical Gardens of Cluj and a guided tour of the Ethnographic Museum. Later drive north towards Baia Mare and reach the splendid region of
 Maramures (northern Transylvania). Due to the relative isolation of their land, the people of Maramures developed a particularly strong community with a unique personality, traditions, culture, fashion and lifestyle unspoiled for centuries. Make a first visit to the early 1720′s Church of Surdesti, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and until recently the tallest wooden structure in Europe. This is a good opportunity to learn about theUniate Church (Greek Catholic). Then stop in the villages of Giulesti to learn about the local dowry tradition and Mara for the wonderfully carved wooden gates. Accommodation in a private house (not a B& B) in the village of Iza. Dinner (and plum brandy) is included so that people get deeper into the local culture. Our hosts will join for dinner, this being a first hand cultural interchange.
The wooden churches and gates are a landmark of  Maramures

B D Home stay accommodation (modern villa) or Casa Maramures **** in Sighet (on request) two nights
Family home, with one section renovated into a modern villa with all modern facilities. The location is excellent, in a small village, quiet neighborhood, far away from the main street. The terraces offer a beautiful view on the village. Excellent home cooking.
The worldwide fame of Sapanta is due to the unique cemetery that has become an important tourist attraction. The original character of the cemetery is first of all suggested by its name: Cimitirul Vesel that means The Merry Cemetery.
Day 5: Maramures: Iza Village Walking Tour – Sighetul Marmatiei – Sapinta Village
After breakfast, take an exclusively designed walking tour of the village of Iza including an icon-on-glass workshop (learn about the technique), the local ancient type plum brandy distillery and a typical whirlpool still used by the local women to wash heavy woolen blankets. Enter the new Orthodox church of the village which in 2011/2012, will still be in the process of getting painted in fresco. Then drive to the nearby town of
 Sighetto mingle with the locals at the colorful fruit and vegetable market where you will have the oportunity to sample various produce from cheeses to sausage. Continue to the Anti Communist Memorial – a political prison in the Communist times. This is one of the main memorial sites of the continent, alongside Auschwitz Museum and the Peace Memorial in Normandy. The visit here provides a direct connection to Romania’s most recent history. Next is the house of Nobel Prize Winner, Elie Wiesel who was born in town. Continue west along Tisa River (very close to the Ukrainian border) and reach the village ofSapinta world famous for its “Merry Cemetery“. Here each wooden cross carries a funny epitaph about the person’s life. Before returning to Iza view what is the tallest wooden church in the world: Sapinta Pari. Late in the afternoon return dinner on an exclusively organized Maramures folklore show and accommodation.
B D Home stay accommodation (or hotel on request)

Day 6: Maramures: Iza Valley, Barsana & Ieud – Ciocanesti – Campulung – Gura Humorului (Bucovina)
Following breakfast continue exploring
Maramures along the picturesque Iza Valley – an excellent oportunity to witness daily life in this corner of Europe and also meet locals. Stop in the village of Rozavlea for a visit to a famous master carver in his own workshop. He represented Romania at the 1999 Smithsonian World Folk Festival in Washington, DC. Next is the exquisiteBarsana Nunnery, a great example of Maramures wooden church architecture. Visit Ieud, the oldest wooden church there is dating back from the 14th century. Depending on the day of the week, visit a local animal market. In the village of Dragomiresti tour the local museum located in a 235 year old house. Cross the Carpathian Mountains through the picturesque Prislop Pass into the northern part of Moldavia called Bucovina and driving throught the village of Ciocanesti, famous for its unique house decoration. In the town of Campulung enjoy an exclusively organized interactive egg-painting demonstration by a local artist in her own home, this being one of the local traditions of the area. You will also have the chance to admire painted eggs from all over the world. After arriving in Gura Humorului, check into the hotel. Evening at leisure.
B Accommodation in Gura Humorului at Hotel Best Western Bucovina **** (two nights)
Orthodox church in Suceava

Day 7: Bucovina Painted Monasteries Excursion (UNESCO World Heritage Sites)
A la carte breakfast at hotel. Bucovina monasteries are gems of medieval Moldavian architecture and artistry. Begin your day with
 Voronet, the most famous out of all, known as the Sistine Chapel of the East and featuring one the best Last Judgment fresco in this part of the World. The newly open Customs and Traditions Museum of Gura Humorului is a must. Next is Moldovita Monastery where the UNESCO Golden Apple Award given to the painted churches in 1975, is kept. As a cultural connection, enjoy a traditional Bucovina lunch in the picturesque village of Sucevita. Later continue to the nearby Sucevita Monastery, which is the largest of all, looking more like a mighty fortress than a monastery. The Ladder of John of Sinai is considered one of the best of the frescoes of Sucevita, rarely present in medieval Romanian art. In the village of Marginea visit the black pottery workshop – they use a technique called “oxygen reduction”, there is the same technique in Mexico only! End your day with the Monastery of Humor, the only one without a belfry tower. Return to the hotel.

B L Accommodation in Gura Humorului at Hotel Best Western Bucovina ****
The Bicaz Canyon is part of the National Park “Bicaz Canyon”, which includes actually the following protected areas: The Red Lake, The Bicaz Canyon and The Hasmasu Mare Mountain.
Day 8: Gura Humorului – Piatra Neamt – Bicaz Gorges & Red Lake – Sighisoara
A la carte breakfast at hotel. Begin your day with a drive south to
 Piatra Neamtfor a tour of the only wooden synagoguein Romania (dating back from the 17th century) and built half underground. The same morning take a cable car ride from the town to Cozla Mountain. Later reachBicaz Gorges where the surroundings are dramatic. Oportunity for a short hike. Next is the Red LAke, former by a mountain sliding in the 1830s. Optional lunch in the resort (restaurants here specialize in naturally grown trout). Once passing the Red Lake you are back to Transylvania passing through an area inhabited mostly by the Hungarian Szeklers community, which actively maintains its peculiar culture and even script. In the village of Praid tour the local salt mine (the mine has an easy access by vehicle). Afternoon arrival to Sighisoara – World Heritage Site and the only still inhabited medieval citadel in Europe. Accommodation in either one of the three hotels in the Upper Town. Suggestion for dinner: the Birthplace of Vlad Dracula.
B Accommodation at Hotel Sighisoara *** OR The House with Antler *** (two nights)

Day 9: Sighisoara & Biertan – Gypsy Village Tour and Home Visit
Before starting your walking tour of
 oldSighisoara attend an exclusive lecture on Vlad the Impaler – Dracula, what is truth and what is fiction. Sighisoara is one of a kind. It was developed by the German settlers as of late 12th century. It stands on a network of tunnels and catacombs and, according to one version of the myth; this is where the Pied Piper brought the children of Hamelin after their ungrateful parents refused to pay him his due. The walking tour includes the two squares of the Citadel (Upper Town), the Scholars’ Staircase, the House with Antler, the Tower with Clock (climb up for a great view), the Torture Chamber and the Weapon Museum. Sighisoara is the place where the Vlad the Impaler Dracula was born in 1431. The Birthplace is one of the main tourist attractions. Then driverive to the fortified church of Biertan, a World Heritage Site for a visit of the former Seat of the Lutheran Bishops.Afternoon Optional Trip: Exclusive Visit a Gypsy village followed by a home hosted dinner in a Gypsy home: this is an unique opportunity to learn about this less known yet controversial ethnic group, about its culture, identity and lifestyle. You will have the chance to try fares of the Gypsy cuisine as well as get acquainted to their traditional costumes.
B Accommodation in Sighisoara

Day 10: Sighisoara – Brasov – Dracula’s Castle in Bran – Sinaia
Hot and cold buffet breakfast at hotel. Leave Sighisoara in the morning. Journey south through the picturesque Transylvanian Plateau for a tour of medieval
 Brasov to admire the 14th century Black Church with its 4,000 pipe organ and over a hundred Anatolian prayer rugs given to the church as gifts by the rich Brasov merchants. Visit Schei Quarter and the First School in the Romanian language. Brasov has a wonderful pedestrian area around its Council Square. Time at leisure. Drive to the nearby village of Bran and enjoy cheese tasting. The locals are famous for the various types of cheeses from the smoked one to the cheese in wood bark. The attraction of the afternoon is Bran Castle also known as Dracula Castle. Initially a fortress by the Teutonic Knights, the castle was built in 1377 to safeguard the trading route between Transylvania and Wallachia, enlarged and restored a few times to become a royal residence for Queen Marie of Romania as of the 1920s. Later continue to Sinaia mountain resort. Named after St. Catherine Monastery on Mount Sinai, Sinaia became the unofficial capital of the Kingdom of Romania towards the end of the 19th century. The orientation tour of the resort includes a view of the famous Casino, inspired by the one in Monte Carlo. Evening at leisure in the resort.
B Accommodation in Sinaia at Palace Hotel **** (or similar)
Peles Castle, the most famous royal residence in Romania.

Day 11: Sinaia: Peles Castle – Bucharest
Hot and cold buffet breakfast at hotel. In the morning take a guided tour of the
Peles Castle and Gardens in Sinaia, the royal residence of King Charles I of Romania and known as one of the most beautiful summer royal residences in Europe. After the visit drive to Bucharest Coanda Airport for your return flight OR take our BULGARIA EXTENSION OR THE BLACK SEA & DANUBE DELTA EXTENSION. The tour is further customizable on request.

Included features:
·         8 nights at three and four star hotels
·         2 nights home stay in Maramures (or three/four star hotel on request)
·         fully insured sedan/minivan with climate control, for the entire distance
·         fuel & parking fees
·         all sightseeing tours & cultural connections
·         informal talks on: Vlad the Impaler – Dracula, Ceausescu and His Times, The Gypsies and Their Journey (all by the tour guide)
·         14 meals: 10 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 3 dinners
·         a professional English speaking tour guide (driving) to accompany you throughout
·         an exclusively organized folklore show in Maramures
·         an interactive egg painting demonstration in Bucovina
·         cheese tasting in Bran
·         Bucharest city tour, including a guided tour of the Palace of the Parliament
·         all transfers
·         admissions to museums and sites as per itinerary

PPrice 1300 Euros. Booking on the site you get 10 % off, and booking this year you get another 10 % off!