luni, 29 octombrie 2012

Piatra Neamt, a Romanian pearl

Piatra Neamt (or Neamtz, for an accurate pronounciation) is really something special among the cities of Moldova, which have been for decades subjects to a forced industrialization, which destroyed their landmarks.
Panoramic view of the city Piatra Neamt with the neighboring mountain Pietricica behind

I think that in Piatra Neamt this process was not so brutal, and this is one of the reasons for the city acting so relaxing and wonderful. It is definitely a city to fall from the first sight, due to its privileged position in the middle of the mountains. The city has been not totally spared to the communist systematization at all, you can see the unavoidable blocks of flats. The city consists actually from two cities, the Northern one and the Southern one. The Southern part of the city is well developed, but lacks on landmarks and personality, while the Northern one is much nicer, greener and shows a strong personality. My tip: prefer the North, of course!
The old church of Stephen the Great from 1497 is a must see in Piatra Neamt. Notice the  high  bell tower, which served in the peaceful times as observatory for the firemen.

Piatra Neamt lies on the boundary between town and city (100 000 inhabitants) and enjoys the vicinity of the Pietricica peak, offering an excellent view of the city. My tip: visit Popasul Gospodinelor, a good restaurant on Pietricica, in the middle of the forest. The etymology of Piatra Neamt is not easy to define: Piatra means rock, but there are other many towns in Romania carrying the same name. To make a difference, was added Neamt=German despite lack of any special relation to Germans!
The amazing Cucuteni Museum of Neolithic Art will delight any Art and History  freak.

Piatra Neamt has a wide offer on hotels and restaurants, and is a favorite starting point for many trips in the surrounding area (Durau, Ceahlau, Pietrele Doamnei etc). Also, the city itself has some very interesting museums and buildings. Start your tour with the King's Church build in 1497-1498 by the great Romanian ruler Stephen the Great. The bell tower served as observation point against fires, and offers a nice shot of the city (tip: ask for the key in the church, it is not permanently open). The interior paintings are not so impressive anymore, being not the original ones. A few steps further to the West the small, but interesting Ethnology Museum, shows up a collection of traditional suits, carpets and tools, as some traditionally decorated rooms.
Piatra Neamt is nice and spectacular also in winter

The Art Museum is much more interesting and have rich works of Romanian masters in painting, scupture and tapestry. My tip: don't miss the section called the Museum of the King's court, but probably you must ask for the key and pay another fee! This is actually a rounded cave hosting artifacts and photos. Pay attention to the superb green ceramic tiles, they are original.

Even more spectacular is the Cucuteni Museum of Neolithic Art, which is unique in the all Romania, totally dedicated to the Cucuteni culture. See in the ground floor a nice collection of colored decorated pottery, and in the first floor antropomorphic and zoomorphic figures representing the Neolithic culture of Cucuteni in an amazing good state of conservation. Another place to visit is the unique wooden synagogue from the 18th century, which is not in function anymore, being replaced by the Leipziger Temple. Unfortunately, they are almost permanently closed and can't be visited.

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