The names Moldavia and Moldova are derived from the name of the Moldova River; however, the etymology is not known and there are several variants.The name Bucovina means beech land.
Location: Northeastern Romania – between the Carpathian Mountains and the Prut River.Bucovina is situated in the northern part of the region of Moldova, bordering with Ukraine.
Area: 70.090 km2
Population: Approximately 4,5 milion
Main cities: Bacau, Botosani, Galati, Iasi, Piatra Neamt, Suceava, Vaslui
Moldova rivals Transylvania when it comes to rich folklore, natural beauty and astonishing history. Over the past 500 years, history, culture and religious life have molded Iasi, the cultural capital of Moldova. Iasi boasts an impressive number of Orthodox churches, almost 100, most of them located in the Golden Plateau, representing the nucleus of the city, around which the city developed over the centuries. One of the most famous monuments in the city is the stunning Church of the Three Hierarchs, built in 1639. Another major landmark in Iasi is the neo-gothic Palace of Culture, built between 1900-1926, currently housing the Ethnographic Museum, the Art Museum, and the History Museum of Moldova.
Nestled in the rolling hills of northern Moldova is the region of Bucovina, home to one of the world’s greatest art treasures: the UNESCO World heritage sites of the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina. Built in the 15th and 16th centuries and featuring colorful exterior frescoes depicting dramatic religious scenes, these richly decorated houses of worships are unique in the world.
The most famous of these, often called “the Sistine Chapel of the East” is Voronet Monastery. Erected in 1438 by Stefan the Great, Voronet’s most stunning feature is a Last Judgment fresco painted – as at all the churches – on the exterior façade. The blue paint that has miraculously never faded is known throughout the world as ‘Voronet blue’. The artists here worked in isolation, guarding their trade secrets and to this day, the composition of the paint remains a mystery.
Not to be missed other painted churches like Sucevita, with its distinctive greens, and Humor, where the frescoes are predominantly red. Also nearby are, Arbore, Dragomirna, Moldovita and Putna monasteries.
The town of Suceava, may be the best starting point for a trip to the monasteries. Once the capital of Moldavia (from 1375 until 1565), it has some noteworthy attractions of its own, such as the remains of the Fortress of Suceava built in 1388. Today, visitors can tour the remains of the impressive fortifications and take in a great view of the city. Other sights in Suceava include the St. George Church (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Mirauti Church, the Zamca Monastery and a number of museums dedicated to woodcraft, ethnography, history and folk art. The Bucovina History Museum displays medieval armor, coins, tools and ancient documents. Its Hall of Throne is a re-creation of Stephen the Great’s court with furniture, weapons and costumes.
A visit to Bucovina would not be complete without some stunning nature walks through Ceahlau National Park, Romania’s Olympus – the sacred mountain of the Dacians, the forefathers of the Romanian people. Make sure you bring binoculars as some 90 species of birds can be seen in the park area. Hikers won’t want to pass up taking a crack at the Bicaz Gorges, a steep, twisting-and-turning climb more than four kilometers long.
•The monasteries and churches with painted exterior frescos of Bucovina: Voronet (‘the Sistine Chapel of the East’), Moldovita, Sucevita, Humor, Probota, Arbore, Rasca
•The old monasteries and convents of: Putna, Dragomirna, Bogdana-Radauti, Neamt, Agapia (one of the largest nun monasteries in the Orthodox world) and Varatec
•Traditional Villages in Bucovina.The road from Bistrita to the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina runs east through the Bargau Valley and across the Tihuta Pass which peaks at 3,840 feet. The Bargau Valleyencompasses some of the most beautiful unspoiled mountain scenery in the Carpathians with picturesque traditional villages located in valleys and on hillsides, ideal bases for hiking, riding or discovering their vivid tapestry of old customs, handicrafts and folklore. Explore the traditional villages in the Bargau Valley: Livazele (5 miles northeast of Bistrita) with its small folk museum called the Saxon House (Casa Saseasca) displaying Saxon ceramics, woodcarvings and folk dresses; Josenii Bargaului (10 miles northeast of Bistrita), a traditional center for black and colored pottery, and Prundu Bargaului (15 miles northeast of Bistrita), the site of the first paper mill in Romania, opened here in 1768. Some of Romania’s most beautiful countryside is found in Bucovina, whose rolling green hills nestle villages and monasteries in their valleys. Horses, decked with red-tasseled bridles, travel country lanes, as villagers crows churchyards in traditional folk dress on Sundays and holidays. Bucovina remains the heart of craft mastery in Moldova. A felt mill in Vama serves the villages women, who bring their homespun wool cloth to be thickened for heavy coats against the harsh winters.
•The village of Marginea, located just 7 miles northeast of Sucevita Monastery, is renowned for the black clay pottery crafted here, said to preserve a centuries-old Gaeto-Dacian technique, passed on from generation to generation. Winter festivals abound, with caroling bands of merrymakers dressed in handmade masks and costumes celebrating the New Year.
•Trei Ierarahi Church in Iasi – built in 1635, its walls, real stone embroidery
•The Neamt Fortress (Cetatea Neamtului) in Targu Neamt
•The natural scenery of the Bicaz Gorges – one of the most spectacular road passes in Romania
•The Ceahlau, Romania’s Olympus – sacred mountain of Dacians, the forefathers of the Romanian people, where Zamolxes, their supreme god, had his temple.
•Take a wine tasting tour and try some of Romania’s finest sweet wines at Cotnari Vineyards, established in 1448
Bean soup, stewed sauerkraut, parjoale (the local version of meatballs) or iahnie (a dish made of beans), are some of Moldavians’ favorite dishes. Standing out among the soups and broths is ciorba de potroace, made with chicken entrails boiled with carrots, onions, parsley, a spoonful or two of rice and flavored with bors.
The Moldavian sarmale (meat rolls in sauerkraut leaves) are not only very popular in Romania but are also a famous dish served in Romanian restaurants around the world. These meatballs, rolled in cabbage or vine leaves, are made from minced pork mixed with rice, salt, pepper, chopped dill and parsley as well as chopped onion; small portions of this mixture are then rolled in cabbage or vine leaves and boiled. The sarmale are always accompanied by polenta, a finely ground yellow cornmeal.
Local deserts include papanasi – cottage cheese dumplings (boiled or fried) and Poale in Brau(sweet cheese pie).
For centuries, Moldova has been renowned for its vineyards and wines. One third of the wine growing surface of Romania is to be found in this part of the country.
Located in the small village of Cotnari, the Cotnari vineyards are famous for their delicious sweet white wines made of grapes rich in sugar and harvested in late autumn following the first frost. The quality of these wines relies on a combination of rich soil, the late harvest and the presence of a special mold (Botritis cinerea). The vineyards have a long history, spanning over seven centuries, dating from the time of Stephan the Great (1457 – 1504).
The winery’s most popular wines include Francusa (dry), Feteasca Alba (semi-sweet) – highly appreciated for preserving the flavor and freshness of the grape; and the sweet, golden Grasa and Tamaioasa dessert wines.
Grasa de Cotnari – A naturally sweet wine with a delicate fragrance and a smooth interplay of fruitiness and acidity.
Tamaioasa Romaneasca – A naturally sweet or semi-sweet white wine with subtle honey and basil aromas, an exquisite amber color and a persistent rich taste. Its sweet taste may also suggest a blend of rose petals and wild berries.
Moldova is also home to another well-know vineyard, Odobesti, one of largest and oldest in Romania. There are written references to the Odobesti wine growing region dating from the 17th century. The wide variety of wines produced by the Odobesti includes six traditional sorts of Romanian wine, namely: Galbena de Odobesti, Plavaie, Feteasca Alba, and Feteasca Regala (white wines) and Babeasca Neagra (red wine).
Galbena de Odobesti – A light white wine with a delicate bouquet that preserves the fragrance of the mellow grape.
Babeasca Neagra– A traditional full-bodied red wine with a delicate bouquet and a slight taste of clove.
Other vineyards in the region include:Bucium, Cotesti, Husi, Panciu