Preliminary Day by Day Itinerary
April 15 Arrive Bucharest
Welcome to Romania! Check in to our well-located hotel and stroll around the Revolution Square. Dinner is at our hotel. (D)
April 16 Bucharest - Ploiesti
We start the morning with a visit to the Parliament House, the megalomaniacal project of the communist dictator Ceausescu. Leaving Bucharest, we head towards Ploiesti; its history and today’s activity are related to refineries and the petroleum industry.
We continue on Prahova Valley, passing Sinaia and heading to Brasov for overnight accommodation in the center. Brasov (Kronstadt) was originally a Saxon fortress and still exudes echoes of Krakow. Take a gentle walk from our hotel in the Council Square to admire the beautiful Black Church, Europe’s most eastern Gothic church and one of the most beautiful in Romania. (B)
***** Aro-Palace Hotel
April 17 Brasov – Bran Castle
Tuesday Viscri - Sighisoara
We drive 30 km southwest of Brasov to visit the famous Bran castle, built in 1377. In 1920 the castle became the summer residence of Queen Marie of Romania, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England. The castle is strangely linked to Count Dracula even though it is doubtful that Vlad the Impaler ever spent the night here. Leave Wallachia and continue our drive to Viscri, located in a remote hidden valley in the heart of Transylvania. Here, an English-Romanian foundation called Mihai Eminescu Trust, has restored part of the church and at least 50 facades in the beautifully preserved village. The white fortified church that gives the village its Saxon name, Deutschweisskirch, is UNESCO-designated. Have a look inside accompanied by a local Saxon guide. The town of Viscri was visited twice by HRH Prince Charles of Wales, who also owns a house here. Enjoy a private lunch with a Saxon family in the village. We head to the fascinating medieval town of Sighisoara for an overnight accommodation right in the old center. (B-L)
*** Casa Wagner
April 18 Sighisoara - Biertan
Wednesday Richis - Malancrav
Sighisoara is considered to be the most beautiful and complete medieval architectural assemble in Romania and the most beautiful inhabited citadel throughout Europe. The medieval citadel is perched on a hillock and is fortified with a 14th century wall. We make an excursion 18 miles west to Biertan, where we find the largest Saxon defensive fortress. With its three surrounding walls, Biertan is considered to be among the most fantastic structure of the Saxon heritage in Transylvania. The fortified church is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Not far from Biertan, hidden in the valley, we find Richis and its beautiful Gothic church, unique in Romania for its stone carvings and the green men. Decrypt the secrets of the church with the Saxon gentleman who opens it for you, Mr. Schass. We make one more stop in Malancrav to admire the 15th century frescoes of the church, the widest frescoes which remain in a Lutheran church. Outside the church lies the very well restored Apafi Manor. Lunch in Malancrav in a restored Saxon house. Return to Sighisoara for overnight accommodation. (B-L)
*** Casa Wagner
April 19 Bicaz Gorge
Today is a long and tough, but beautiful drive. We leave Transylvania and the central part of the Romania and head the northward. We cross the impressive Bicaz Gorge where we will stop to have a walk and admire the high limestone rocks and see some crafts, sold by artisans beneath the rocks. We are now in Szekely Land, but soon we pass onto Moldavia.
Overnight stop in a remote village in Moldavia, in Neamt region, in a beautiful restored Manor House belonging to Stircea family. The house was nationalized by the communist and now claimed back and restored by its descendants. Dinner at the Manor house, prepared by a women in the village. (B-D)
*** Stircea Manor House
April 20 Neamt Area - Bucovina
Friday Gura Humorului
We start with visits in Neamt area, like nuns villages in Agapia and Varatec. Have a stroll to see the beautiful monument houses of the nuns (only outside) and visit the rug workshop, where nuns are weaving rugs in the loom.
Visit a private museum made by a local couple of artisans who rescued old traditional objects from the village. They used to carve in wood and make traditional masks. In this part of the world, on New Year’s Eve, many devil masks are worn to ward off spirits (you will see them plenty inside the private museum). Lunch at the museum, cooked especially for our group.
Late after noon, continue driving to Bucovina. Overnight accommodation in a small boutique hotel, in Gura Humorului. (B- L)
April 21 Moldovita - Sucevita
Saturday Arbore - Humor
Bucovina, or the land of the birch tree, is famous for its extraordinary Painted Monasteries (UNESCO World Heritage site) at Moldovita, Sucevita, Arbore, Humor and Voronetz. In all five the interior and the exterior walls have been adorned with traditional Orthodox frescoes painted in Byzantine style, which makes them unique from the other Orthodox churches. We start our visit with Sucevita, noted as the green one, which was last painted and thus the best preserved. Lunch is in Sucevita with a local family, who prepare traditional Bucovina food for us. Continue a winding road, we head towards Moldovita, the yellow church, which also holds The Golden Apple prize. In Moldovita, we can have an egg painting demonstration. We visit a famous artist, who decorates the eggs in a traditional way in Bucovina - with local symbols and natural colors. (B –L)
April 22 Voronetz - Probota
We start our day with a visit to Voronetz, the Sistine Chapel of the Orient. The predominant colors is blue and the Last Judgment painting is one you will always remember. We leave the area of Bukovina, driving towards east, but with a stop for lunch with the nuns in Probota. Probota is out of the touristic way, is very seldom visited but one of the first to be painted.
Overnight stop in Iasi, former capital of Moldavia. (B-L)
**** Grand Hotel Traian
April 23 Iasi
Monday Butuceni, Moldova
Today Orthodox Romanians celebrate Saint George. The churches in Iasi will have services.
Continue over the border from Romania to Moldova. Expect that this will take some time since we are crossing from an EU country to a non-EU country.
Let’s first set the scene. Moldova, unlike Romania, was once part of the USSR. At one time, before the Second World War, it had been part of Romania and Romanian is still the national language. In the general carve-up of Europe after the war and along with many other countries, it was absorbed into the USSR where it remained until the fall of Communism. It declared sovereignty in 1990 followed by full independence in 1991.
Having been part of the USSR for over forty years, it is not surprising that its development has shown marked differences from its neighbor, Romania. In particular, modernization occurred at a much faster pace and, whilst the country is in fact poorer than Romania, first impressions are deceptive.
We now continue to the village of Butuceni and our first stay in Moldova. The home stay has been brought fully up to the standards expected by modern travelers whilst keeping its original charm. It comprises several former houses in the village. One of these has been converted into the restaurant whilst another has an outdoor pool.
The village is situated in the deep gorge of the River R?ut and dominated by the Orhei Vechi Monastery. A walk up to the monastery itself is well worthwhile. Most surprising of all is the underground chapel which opens out directly onto the cliff face. (B –D)
April 24 River R?ut - Chisin?u
After leaving the village, we stop briefly for a visit to Cricova winery. This is typical of the USSR influence. Developed in the 50s, it is a vast underground complex, not at all like the rather homely wineries you might see in, say, the Rhineland area of Germany. In addition to the production area, there are banqueting rooms and sumptuous lounges where visiting foreign dignitaries were entertained.
Once upon a time, Moldova supplied the USSR with nearly all its requirements for wine but, in reprisal for the country turning its back on Russia, this market is no longer available and the rest of Europe has become more important.
We have a tour of the complex which will include wine tasting and lunch.
Continue to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. The central area of Chi?in?u is not quite what one would expect from a former USSR city. It’s true that there are plenty of drab high rise apartments in the suburbs but there are also parks like Stefan cel Mare near our hotel and other open spaces which create a pleasant environment. Overnight in Chisinau, for the next 2 nights. (B–L).
**** Jazz Hotel
April 25 Chisinau
Wednesday Optional Transdniester
Today, is free in Chisinau, visits its parks, museums and the very large market. See optional excursion to Transdniester below. (B)
**** Jazz Hotel
Transdniester Option, April 25
$TBA per person for guide and car
Take an optional trip to Transdniester (or Transnistria) and officially the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, also known as “back in the USSR”.
We recognize that a step back into the USSR may not be to everyone’s taste. However to anyone with an interest in post Second World War history, it is recommended. We don’t say you will enjoy it, just that you will find it interesting!!!
When Moldova declared its independence in 1990, a small section of the country beyond the Dniester River refused to accept it. We can see striking similarities with the situation today in Eastern Ukraine but the short civil war in Moldova never made headlines in the UK because Moldova, unlike Ukraine, had no strategic significance. This civil war was never finally settled and the situation today is that the self declared Republic of Transdniester is unrecognized by nearly all of the rest of the world.
Unlike Eastern Ukraine, which has allegiance to Russia, Transdniester broke away in 1990 and therefore is much more influenced by the former USSR. It is in fact a micro Communist state complete with the occasional tinny patriotic music coming out of loudspeakers and large photos of past heroes outside the Soviet Parliament building. We return back to Chisinau around 4 – 5 PM.
April 26 Depart Chisinau
Transfer to the airport. (B)