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The Byzantines & The Balkans 5

V. 5

The Byzantines & The Balkans 5

Journal kept by Susan Hanes during a six-week trip to Southeastern Europe from May 9 ~ June 21, 2012. Photos by Susan Hanes and George Leonard, copyright 2012. V. 5


The Byzantines & The Balkans 5

The Byzantines & The Balkans 5


The Byzantines & The Balkans May 4 ~ June 21, 2012 Transylvania’s old world charm still lingers, in the forests and in the mountains, in medieval churches and ruined watch-towers, and mysterious caverns, in the songs of the people and the legends they tell. ~Emily Gerard, The Land Beyond the Forest, 1888

V. 5 Romania

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Wednesday, June 6

Bucharest, Romania

It was after noon when we continued north, crossing the Danube into Romania. Interesting that halfway across the bridge, the excellent road deteriorated into a potholed mess, just under the “ROMANIA” sign. Encountered several horse wagons on the road as we dodged massive potholes. However, once we were on the road into Bucharest, the divided highway was fine, although congested even at 2:00. Marishka came through for us and led us through a tangle of traffic to the Athenee Palace, Bucharest’s historic hotel, built in 1914 for the rich and famous. We are here because of an online pre-paid arrangement; in addition, when we arrived we received a nice upgrade to a junior suite with executive club privileges. Very nice. Spent the afternoon at the Art Museum, housed in the formal Royal Palace, where we reveled in the Gallery of Romanian Medieval Art. Spectacular examples of frescoes, icons, and gold. Also walked through the European Art Wing, but by then I was running out of steam. Back at the hotel, enjoyed wine and hors d’oeuvres in the executive club before heading out to dinner at Bistro Atheneu, just around the corner. It was just what we wanted: a cozy atmospheric pub decorated with old Bucharest antiques and the menu on a board. Our dinner of grilled trout and a salad followed by a hot apple pie was perfect. 2


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Thursday, June 7 Bucharest, Romania Taxied to the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. As we whizzed along Calea Victoriei, passed a number of ornate late 19th century residences that have managed to survive, reminding us that Bucharest was once dubbed “Paris of the East” until an earthquake in 1977 and Ceausescu’s megalomaniac vision for the city in 1984 resulted in the replacement of these elegant structures with ugly city projects. The museum is housed in an imposing building that was formerly the Museum of Communist Party History. Now it has collections of traditional peasant artifacts fro m all reg io ns o f Ro mania, including needlework, wooden implements, and wood and glass painted icons; there is even a reconstructed three-room peasant dwelling. I had a ball taking pictures of everything in sight.

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Palace of Parliament

Left the museum just as school was getting out; waited for our taxi driver to pick up his daughter before he dropped us at the Palace of Parliament. This massive structure, claiming to be the second largest administrative building in the world (after the Pentagon) was the crown of Ceausescu’s Centru Civic. Forty thousand people were relocated and 9000 structures were razed to create the center and the palace. As we would have had to wait an hour for the next English tour, we chose instead to walk around part of the building, getting a sense of its immenseness. 17


Another taxi brought us to Bucharest’s historic quarter, Lipscani, a pleasantly ramshackle tangle of streets and decrepit buildings that house upscale restaurants and boutiques. Visited the tiny Stavropoleos Church and its peaceful cloisters; if I worked in the area, I would spend my lunch hour in contemplation there every day. Checked out the shops in the Hanul cu Tei bazaar; disappointingly, most seemed to sell art supplies. Found Thomas Antiques nearby on Covaci; I had read how great it was; left Jake sitting on a bench below while I went through three floors of basically junk. Had more success enjoying a beer in the central courtyard of the flower-bedecked Hanul lui Manuc, a former caravanserai that has recently been renovated. Returned to Lipscani for dinner at Caru’ cu Bere (“The Beer Cart”), an ornately decorated tavern dating from 1875. With its high vaulted Gothic ceiling and stained glass windows depicting Bacchus, the whole place was over the top. Our table on the balcony had a bird’s eye view of the proceedings: tour groups, dancers, and waiters waltzing between it all, balancing laden trays. Dinner was not too great but that was not the point; Caru’ cu Bere must be the premier tourist site of the city.


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Friday, June 8

Sibiu, Romania

On our way out of Bucharest by 8:45; it took us 45 minutes to clear the city and get on the autoroute to Pitesti; continued to Ramnico Valcea and then turned off to Horezu Monastery, getting there around noon. The sun was shining as we reached this peaceful, secluded convent complex (a UNESCO site), established at the end of the 17th century in the style of Constantin Brancoveanu: a fusion of Western and Ottoman elements, with ornamental stone carving against austere, white walls. The complex has a central church with a colorful pillared porch and richly carved doors. I especially liked the series of portraits of the saints on the interior pillars. A school group came about the same time that we did; they were there no more than ten minutes. We have noticed these groups wherever we go, and they always run in and out, allowing just enough time for the kids to light a candle, and then they are back on the bus and gone. It seems that this must take a lot of planning and one would think that while they are there, they could have a lesson in history or religious art. The town is famous for its pottery that is traditionally given as keepsakes at funerals. I looked at several stands that were set up outside the convent walls and bought a small plate for a few cents. The whole time, gypsy kids followed me around, asking for money; I suppose this was the first of several such encounters we will have.

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Horezu Monastery UNESCO


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Back on the road; shared it with countless trucks. Too bad; the drive through Cozia National Park would have been lovely, but we were both concentrating on the traffic blowing along on the two-lane road. Noticed the vernacular architecture; little houses ringed with interesting fences, most with grape arbors. Saw a lot of work going on along the road: painting, road repairs, gardening. Arrived in Sibiu around 4:00 and miraculously found a parking place. Our hotel, the Am Ring, is right on the Piata Mare and is great in every way except that it is accessed up two flights of steep stairs. Sibiu (Hermannstadt) was the chief city of the Transylvanian Saxons and today still looks much like a German town, at least in the old area where we are staying. In 1143, the King of Hungary invited Germans to colonize strategic parts of Transylvania; Sibiu was the most powerful. Headed across the plaza to see the Brukenthal Museum. For its relatively remote location, it has some extraordinary paintings, including two Brueghels and a van Eyck. Unfortunately, 15 of the museum’s 24 masterpieces are on loan, and have been replaced with poor photocopies. Did enjoy the paintings in the museum’s Romanian collection, especially those of peasant life and some haunting Saxon portraits. They also have an important collection of 13th century Anatolian “Transylvanian” rugs that had decorated the Lutheran churches; they were acquired by the Transylvanian Saxons who donated them since the rugs were not figurative and therefore acceptable to the church. Later, we settled in at the Amber Café near our hotel where we drank local Silva beer, shared pizza, and watched the activity all around us. We are here for the kickoff of Sibiu Fashion Week and we watched as people poured into the plaza. The thumping beat of club music accompanied a parade of models on a stage set up to resemble a banquet table. Our window is right over the action. Not sure about sleep tonight, but hey, the night is young. 28


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Sibiu

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Saturday, June 9

Sighisoara, Romania

Enjoyed a leisurely walk around the square on a sunny morning. Few people were around after the fashion event last night and we were amazed at how much had been cleaned up and put away. Sought out the Evangelical Church, but found it in obvious disrepair and not open to visitors. Had coffee and yoghurt at a cafĂŠ on the Piata Mare before checking out of our hotel and lugging our bags down those stairs.

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Sibiu

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On the way out of town, visited the outdoor museum of traditional folk civilization, or ASTRA. Walked a couple of kilometers around a small lake where we were able to step inside Romanian rural life: windmills, homes, tradesmen’s shops and churches, all moved from their original locations throughout the country. We particularly loved a small wooden church that the caretaker opened for us. It had a low narthex and barrel ceiling that were completely covered with well-preserved folk-art paintings that were, in fact, quite sophisticated. Further on, I waved at an old fellow threshing grass and he came over and insisted that I climb the steps of a vine-covered house so that he could take a picture of me. Perused a group of artisanal producers who had set up booths selling cheese, sausage, breads, and palinka on the museum grounds.

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Got on the road to Sighisoara, turning off to see several UNESCO-listed fortified churches. The road was chopped up the entire way: one third of the right lane and the shoulder had been excavated to a depth of three feet. Fortunately, this being a Saturday, the traffic was not too much of a problem. First visited Valea Viilor in Wurmloch. Found it closed, but a woman told us to wait five minutes and called someone on her cell phone. Soon a man arrived and after proudly announcing in German that he was a Saxon, opened the church to us. The interior was simple; it was the fortified walls that were truly evocative. Drove past several signs for other fortified churches that are a part of the UNESCO group and stopped at the one at Medias, the fifteenth century Evangelical Church. The best part about this one was its remarkable collection of Anatolian rugs that decorated the walls on both sides of the altar. Further on, we detoured nine kilometers through beautiful countryside to Biertan, best known of the Saxon fortified churches in Transylvania. We had the road to ourselves and the green hills dotted with dark trees loosed my imagination and I was in a carriage 300 years ago, making my way across the magical, mythical countryside of Transylvania. Biertan Church is situated high on a hill and ringed with two series of walls linked by a long covered staircase. It was the seat of Lutheran bishops from the 16th century until the mid 19th. The interior was late Gothic, with ribbed vaulting. It too, had several Anatolian rugs displayed along the balcony. Noticed some interesting details in the church, including the door on the sacristy, which had no less than 19 locks.

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Valea Viilor UNESCO


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Medias


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Biertan UNESCO

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It was only a short distance into Sighisoara, a UNESCO site unto itself. The citadel area, where we are staying, is a jumble of ancient, leaning houses; its spooky atmosphere befits the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler; next to his home, the 17th century clock tower has several moldering gravestones. Visited Teo Cororan, whose family has made fruit brandy for eight generations. Of course, after a sample, we bought some to take home. We are staying at the Fronius Residence, a hotel since 1609. Our room has a vaulted ceiling and remnants of frescoes. A real chance to live the history we are seeing. Had dinner at Case cu Cerb on the square and watched the sun set into a golden afterglow on the clock tower.

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Sighisoara UNESCO


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Sunday, June 10 Brasov, Romania

Saschiz UNESCO

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Left Sighisoara in bright sunshine for a series of short drives to see several fortified churches. Today is voting day in Romania and we were hoping that this would not affect our plans. First visited Saschiz, a small community where less than 100 people of Saxon heritage still reside. Its roadside church is unusual in that it is not surrounded by walls; its clock tower resembles the one at Sighisoara but looks like it is about to split down the middle. Reached Viscri (one of the UNESCO group of fortified churches in Romania) at the end of a badly resurfaced road. The drive took us through rolling farmland dotted with small villages of orange-tiled houses. How I love these excursions off the main road when we see deep into the countryside and are virtually the only car. Long climb up a stone path to the white church set at the top of a small hill; a group of French hikers and some local painters were there before us. The interior of the church is surprisingly small, with rough wooden benches and primitive paintings on the lofts above and on panels along the wall. A small museum in one of the towers has interesting artifacts that reveal the life of the Saxon inhabitants in the late nineteenth century. Now the village is predominately Roma and is prospering due in part to a local cottage industry of sock-knitting. Lines of knitted socks, scarves, and hats were set out in front of several houses. We stopped at one place and each bought a pair of thick woolen socks from a friendly young woman whose son and daughter played nearby. Saw a crane and her two young ones in a large nest atop a nearby building.


Viscri

UNESCO


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It was not far to Brasov, but we continued 30 km south to see the famous castle at Bran, built in the 14th century and now owned by the descendants of Queen Marie of Romania. Although Bran Castle bears little relationship to Bram Stoker’s Dracula or even to Vlad the Impaler who was supposedly the inspiration for Stoker’s book, the castle certainly looks the part, set on a massive rock on a darkly forested hill. Inside, it is filled with secret stairways, hidden nooks, and oddly shaped rooms, and I found it easy to imagine Jonathan Harker’s unholy encounters there. Interestingly enough, although the castle draws a great number of tourists and the attendant souvenir stands, there was not nearly the emphasis on Dracula that I would have expected; I saw far more “Draculiana” in Whitby, England. Whether because of the influence of the beloved Queen or the beauty of the surrounding gardens or the fact that Dracula was written by someone who never visited Romania, the castle remains a beautiful home (but granted, a spooky one!)

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Suddenly, I became conscious of the fact that the driver was in the act of pulling up the horses in the courtyard of a vast ruined castle, from whose tall black windows came no ray of light, and whose broken battlements showed a jagged line against the moonlit sky. ~ Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897

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The Black Church 60


Returned to Brasov, arriving around 4:00; checked into Bella Muzica, a small hotel in a 400-year old building across the street from Piata Sfatului, the handsome Germanic square in the heart of the city’s old town. Quickly crossed the street to the gothic Black Church, hoping that we would be able to see it in spite of today being not only Sunday, but voting day. We were. What a treat: the huge church is filled with an unbelievable collection of late 17th century Ottoman prayer rugs that line both sides of the upper level and the lower walls. There were probably about 70 displayed; each more lovely than the next and all creating a beautiful softness and texture against the dark stone. Stayed a long time, just sitting and contemplating our amazing surroundings. Walked down Strada Republicii; lots of people out enjoying the warm weather and their day off. Dinner later at the low-ceilinged cellar of our hotel.

Brasov

Black Church South Facade

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Monday, June 11 Gura Humorului, Romania At first, were afraid that we would be subject to Monday closings and not be able to visit the places we had planned on our itinerary. Arrived at Harman, 12 km northeast of Brasov, shortly after 9:00. Did not see anyone around and feared the worst. Then Jake spotted an old man with a walker at the end of the long passageway. He motioned for us to come forward, and we entered this peasant fortress built around a Romanesque-styled church. The church and walls were gleaming white, and the garden inside was filled with roses. Inside the church, rough-hewn benches were an interesting offset to a group of beautiful Anatolian rugs that hung on the walls and from the organ loft. German lettering and primitive folk painting added a sweet contrast as well. Drove on to Prejmer; this UNESCO church, the most powerful peasant fortification in Transylvania, did adhere to a Monday closing, but at least we got nice outside photos that showed its comprehensive fortifications. For much of the rest of the day, we drove north through flat, fertile land that would historically have been highly sought after (and fought for). Along the way, we passed interesting stands selling giant loaves of handmade bread, sacks of potatoes, strawberries, pickles in jars, mushrooms, and brooms and baskets. 62


Harman


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Prejmer UNESCO


As we moved out of Transylvania to Bukovina, we could tell from the road signs that the cultural influence was changing from German to Russian and Hungarian. By late afternoon and with some difficulty, we found Dragomirna Monastery, a few kilometers north of Suceava. This church is uniquely tall and narrow. The complex is still an active convent and we bought entrance tickets from a friendly nun whose English was good, despite her protestations. The church is striking, with cabled molding and a heavily carved octagonal tower. Thunder was booming above us as we left and we encountered rain and sun on the way to Gura Humorului. We are staying at Hilde’s Residence, a pleasant guesthouse where we have a nice balconied room (although not much of a view). After sitting on our balcony, sipping the apple rachiu that we had bought at ASTRA, went down for dinner at the restaurant below where we tried traditional dishes of Bukovian cabbage rolls and tochitura, a pork stew.

Dragomirna

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Tuesday, June 12

Gura Humorului, Romania

This was a perfect day. Weather, sunny and cool; driving, moderate; sites, exquisite. From our base at Hilde’s, we visited five of Bukovina’s magical painted monasteries, all of which are UNESCO-designated sites; their murals follow iconic conventions inherited from the Byzantines. A short distance from Gura, Voronet Monastery was founded in 1488 by Stephen the Great in fulfillment of a pledge after he was successful in defeating the Turks. When we walked though the arched gate, I caught my breath. To see these exquisite buildings completely covered with frescos was absolutely stunning. The monasteries are all actually convents; all but one we saw today are run by nuns, and the gentle gardens that they tend add greatly to the sense of peace we felt at each.

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Voronet Monastery UNESCO


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In Vama, we visited the Muzeul Oului or Egg Museum; it is actually the home of Letitia Orssivschi, who has collected over 3000 eggs from all over the world. When we arrived at her doorstep, we caught her in a pink shift; she welcomed us to come in, but asked us to wait for her to “change her costume.� A few minutes later, she appeared wearing a Romanian folk dress in traditional Bukovinian colors of rust and brown and gold. Using a pointer, she guided us through her extensive collection and explained the various techniques used in decorating Romanian eggs. In Bukovina, a batik wax method is used; the wax is not colored but rather cooked for various lengths of time and with different woods to create natural colors. Many kinds of eggs are decorated; ostrich eggs are used in convent church lamps. She explained how salting the eggs makes them stronger and showed us an implement she uses in the decorating process that is only the size of a hair. We bought a traditional Bukovinian-style egg and she enthusiastically explained the significance of each symbol on it. As we said good-by, Letitia kissed us each on both cheeks.

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Moldovita Monastery UNESCO


A short distance away, we found Moldovita Monastery, founded by Stephen the Great a bit later than Voronet, in 1532. It too was tall and narrow, with three tall arches on the west faรงade that were covered in paintings. The interior frescos were lovely, as they were in all of the churches we visited, but we were disappointed not to be allowed to photograph inside an active church.

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Our route to Sucevita Monastery took us over a mountain pass of 3700 feet, where we were treated to idyllic scenes of partly forested hills with imposing woods; we saw people out in the fields using scythes to cut the grass, which was then piled into stacks. Sucevita was the last and largest of the monastic complexes to be built in Bukovina. Scenes on the exterior were particularly dramatic; the Ladder of Virtue depicted angels helping the righteous to paradise while sinners fell through the rungs to demons. Further down the road, we stopped at Marginea, a town where pottery has been made since 1500. Peeked into the studio and saw pots being thrown but were not tempted to buy anything. At Arbore, we saw another painted monastery; this one was not a working

church so we were free to take pictures as we wished. The frescoes inside the painted churches are obviously in better shape than those outside, so we enjoyed this opportunity. On the exterior, there was a lot of repair work in progress. Continuing our bucolic drive, we circled back to Gura, stopping finally at Humor Monastery, a working convent dating from 1530. As we explored the compound, the sweet chanting of a nun was amplified over the grounds, adding to the serenity of the compound. Inside the church, scaffolding was installed for the extensive restoration in progress there. We returned to Hilde’s after 5:00 and spent a pleasant couple of hours on our balcony, sipping our rachiu as we watched the sunset over the lush hills that surround us. 75


Sucevita Monastery UNESCO


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Abore Monastery UNESCO


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Humor Monastery UNESCO


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Wednesday, June 13

Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania

We were hoping that our successful day yesterday could be repeated in the Maramures, the northern part of Transylvania. This area has continued to maintain a rich tradition of building wooden churches that started in the 16th century. Leaving Gura, we drove west past forested mountains, dotted with clumps of trees and scattered flocks of sheep. The road, which skirted Rodnei Mountains National Park, was rough and potholed; there was evidence of recent rain but certainly not of road maintenance. Descending from a 4600-foot pass at Prislop to the Iza Valley, we came to the first of the group of UNESCO-listed wooden churches that we hoped to visit. The Church of the Nativity is on a forested hill at the end of a narrow road in the

village of Ieud Deal. We climbed through an overgrown cemetery with graves marked with carved wooden crosses but found that the church was locked; a note on the door gave a number to call. A local woman came up to us and offered to call on our behalf but our phone did not work properly and we soon gave up. She asked if I would come and see the weavings she had for sale; I promised Jake I would take only a couple of minutes. Anusha, as she introduced herself, showed me into her modest home nearby, to a room filled with fabrics of all kinds. Most were garish, but I did buy a piece of old homespun that she indicated was the same age as her mother (80) who was dressed for the part in an apron and babushka and smiled silently nearby.


Ieud

UNESCO

Just a peep through the keyhole! 85


A few kilometers on, we found the wooden church at Poienile Izei, built in 1604 and one of the oldest of the Maramures. The man with the key happened to be there, so we were fortunate to see the interior of this church, painted at the end of the 18th century in a post-Byzantine tradition. The entrance was through painted double doors framed by two angels. Looking for the UNESCO church at Barsana, we drove along back ways where we saw peasant people working in the fields, carrying buckets of water or farm tools along the road, or tooling along on old bikes. The women all wore babushkas and aprons and the men sported small-brimmed hats. Many of the houses are still wood: a good number had heavy beamed gateways called poartas. Saw a number of wooden churches and prayer crosses along the road, proving that the woodworking tradition still thrives in this area. After driving back and forth a number of times, we spotted the church high above the town, but could find no way to access it. Finally gave up and continued to Sighetu where we will spend two nights at Casa Iurca de Calinesti, a restaurant with rooms. Our guidebook indicated that the rooms have Internet and AC; they have neither. Fortunately, it is a cool afternoon. Around the corner we had dinner at the restaurant affiliated with the hotel; a popular place with an Old World feel and traditional Romanian dishes. 86


Poienile Izei UNESCO


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Thursday, June 14 Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania Spent a full day exploring Maramures and visiting four UNESCO-listed wooden churches. Discovered three challenges to seeing the churches: poor roads, inaccurate signage, and obtaining the keys. Started out in the direction of Baia Mare, the largest town in Maramures, driving through the lush Mara River Valley to the church at Desesti, nestled among a grove of trees. Founded in 1770 by the village community, the church was decorated with rustic post-Byzantine paintings. We entered the churchyard through a poarta and climbed the uneven stone steps to the door. A handwritten message was posted, indicating that the key could be obtained 40 meters away in the direction of the arrow. I followed the instructions and knocked at the door of a nearby house. A man peered through lace curtains and nodded that he would be right out. What a treat we had waiting for us behind that locked door. The interior was totally covered, walls and ceiling, with wonderfully na誰ve and moving paintings. The caretaker allowed us up in the small balcony for a closer look, and permitted us to take as many photos as we liked. Many of the scenes were divided into squares and framed with vines; the subtle shades of blue and red and yellow made them even more appealing. 90

Desesti

UNESCO


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Drove though the village of Mara, enjoying its splendidly carved poartas, and ascended through forest and over the 1000-meter Gutai Pass to the town of Surdesti. The 1766 church was (until a few years ago) the tallest wooden church in Europe, and even though its tower is 54 meters high, the structure maintains a beautiful proportion. A young girl selling beaded bracelets directed me up the hill for the key. I eventually found an old man sitting out in front of his small house and motioned that I was unlocking something. He called to his wife, who came out, grabbed a handful of potato chips from a bag sitting on the shelf over his head, and led me down to the church. The interior was decorated with icons draped with colorful weavings, an effect we did not particularly like. The walls and ceilings were covered with paintings from 1810 that badly needed restoration and did not compare to those we had seen earlier. Still, the effect was warm and colorful, and the church’s exterior was truly remarkable. We walked though the churchyard, filled with grave markers made of stone, wood, and metal. All were decorated with garish artificial flowers and bright ribbons; some even had tinsel and glittery banners; profusion of wildflowers softened the effect.

Surdesti UNESCO

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Plopis

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Continued down the road toward Plopis but could not find it. After doubling back, discovered why we had missed it earlier: the sign for the turnoff was facing the opposite direction. The church was at the end of a narrow farm road and set in an open field. At the door, we noted several telephone numbers to call for the key. I tried three of them, using the word for key in French and German to no avail. At my fourth attempt, I spoke to a little boy who knew enough English to tell me it was not possible to open the church. Plopis is supposed to be the “little sister� to Surdesti, with paintings from the same collaborator. If that is the case, perhaps we did not miss too much. Drove through Cavnic, over the Neteda Pass, and along the Cosau Valley to see Budesti Josani Church, dating from 1643 and located in the center of town. Entered an open poarta to the churchyard and were hopeful that we would find the church open. That was not the case; again, there was a list of telephone numbers that I tried. A nice woman apologized that no one was available to bring the key, so Jake and I walked far up into the cemetery and took several photos of the impressive building. Just as we returned to the car, a man drove up and asked if we would like to see the church. We were, of course, delighted. He opened the lock with a special tool and showed us how the ancient apparatus worked, and allowed us to take a few photos of the interior. The paintings, by a famous icon artist, were surrounded with painted frames, in shades of brown, white, and black; whether intentional or caused by time, the effect was very pleasing.


Budesti Josani UNESCO

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Returned to the hotel restaurant this evening and took the same table that we had last night. This time, we ordered the house special: a huge wooden bowl of pork, potatoes, and vegetables. A costumed trio played and sang traditional Romanian songs during the evening. It was particularly fun for us, as the other guests all appeared to be locals. Everyone clapped and sang along, and two couples got up and danced so enthusiastically that we were concerned they would knock over the performers.

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Friday, June 15 N o co ffee to be fo und at breakfast so we got an early start, driv ing w est to w ard Budapest. Our last site in Ro mania w as the M e rry Cemetery (Cimitirul Vesel) at Sapanta, 20 kilometers from Sighetu. The cemetery was started in the mid-1930s when local folk artist Stan Ioan Patras carved and painted hundreds of wooden crosses to mark the graves of deceased villagers. On the upper part of each is a basre lie f sc e ne that de sc ribe s something important about the life of the departed (good or bad). Below is a clever poem or epitaph that is, unfortunately, only in Romanian. The cross is then decorated with folk motifs and painte d brig ht c o lo rs, particularly blue. There are more than 800 of these graves in the Merry Cemetery, as Stan’s apprentice took over the project after Stan’s own death. 99


Journal kept by Susan Hanes during a sixweek trip to Southeastern Europe from May 9 ~ June 21, 2012. Photos by Susan Hanes and George Leonard, copyright 2012. V. 5 100

2012 Balkans 5: Romania  

2012 Balkans: Romania

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