18 Aprile 2006 | Balcani

Cycling Tour: the Painted Monasteries and Maramures

Cycling Tour: the Painted Monasteries and Maramures

The first part of your cycling is along the pilgrimage roads of the ‘Painted Monasteries of Bucovina’. As part of the Unesco World Heritage they are famous and unique by its outside mural paintings. Its pictoral texts combine Byzantine forms and Western book miniature painting with Romanian folk tradition. Its architecture and paintings would be unthinkable and impossible without the beautiful landscape of the “Sweet Land of the Bukovina”.
Over the Prislop pass we reach Maramures, the ‘land of silence’ or the ‘land of deer”, one of the most isolated and undiscovered regions of Europe. Ethnographically it is a treasury of old customs and rites still surviving. At one of the cemeteries, most beautifully decorated with flowers, you may attend an ancient funeral and be offered coliva and may be attend a feast in honour of the death. Abortion and divorce are unknown in this strict but happy society. The hills and fields look like painted or designed by a coffee-table-artist. Impressive are the carved gables and gates combining Pagan and Christian symbols and above all the wooden churches which are unique in Europe and are part of the Unesco World Heritage. One of the highlights is a journey with the narrow gauge train hauled by a vintage steam engine from the times of the Austrian-Hungarian empire.


The first part of your cycling is along the pilgrimage roads of the ‘Painted Monasteries of Bucovina’. As part of the Unesco World Heritage they are famous and unique by its outside mural paintings. Its pictoral texts combine Byzantine forms and Western book miniature painting with Romanian folk tradition. Its architecture and paintings would be unthinkable and impossible without the beautiful landscape of the “Sweet Land of the Bukovina”.
Over the Prislop pass we reach Maramures, the ‘land of silence’ or the ‘land of deer”, one of the most isolated and undiscovered regions of Europe. Ethnographically it is a treasury of old customs and rites still surviving. At one of the cemeteries, most beautifully decorated with flowers, you may attend an ancient funeral and be offered coliva and may be attend a feast in honour of the death. Abortion and divorce are unknown in this strict but happy society. The hills and fields look like painted or designed by a coffee-table-artist. Impressive are the carved gables and gates combining Pagan and Christian symbols and above all the wooden churches which are unique in Europe and are part of the Unesco World Heritage. One of the highlights is a journey with the narrow gauge train hauled by a vintage steam engine from the times of the Austrian-Hungarian empire.

1st day: Arrival Otopeni/Bucarest airport. Transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Bucharest.

2nd day: Transfer to train station. Train (dep.7.40 arr. 12.15) to Suceava. Transfer (30 min.) to Voronet. Visit to the monastery, your first introduction to Romanian-Byzantine art and iconography. Its superb frescoes gave it the name ‘the Sistine Chapel of the East’. Architectually it combines Gothic and Byzantine features. Bike excursion to Humor (possible also next day). The 16th century monastery is painted in blues, greens and reddish brown (from oriental madder pigment). 20 km

3rd day: Today you will bike first to the village of Caccica. Maria Theresia settled here polish miners. You may visit the old salt mine from Habsburgian times. Bike via Solca to the village to Arbore. The painted and recently restored chapel in the village center, built in 1503, is out of this world and away from the normal bus routes. Further on to Radauti. The pritty little town was once an important center of the former Austrian-Hungarian crown land. 43 km

4th day: First we bike to Marginea, a pottery village, and then along the Suceava river to Sucevita monastery. The undercoat of emerald green on which the frescoes are painted (1596) gave the monastery the name ‘a Poem in Green and Light’. Also the iconostasis is supposed to be the most beautiful one in the country. Accommodation in Sucevita

5th day: A bus or private car will take you up to the Ciumirna pass (1109) with beautiful views to the Objina mountains and the pastures below.. Bike down to the Moldovita valley. The blue undercoat for its tree of Jesse gave the monastery the name ‘a parchment dipped in blue colour’. Further on passing the villages of Stramatura andFfrumuosa (‘the beauty’) to Vama.

6th day: Today the Bus takes you up to the Prislop pass (1416m) with beautiful views over the Rodnei mountains. Downhill to Viseu valley. Overnight in the mountain resort of Borsa.

7th day: Cycle to Sacel where still unglaced ceramic is produced, further on to Bogdan Voda. The wooden church Sfantu Nicolae 1708 is one of the most valuable churches in Maramurs built out of pine wood, the paintings on wood or on cloth are well preserved. After visiting the village museum you head for Ieud . ‘The church on the Hill’ (1364) is the oldest in Maramures and housed the Ieud Codex, the oldest document written in Romanian language. The interior is adorned with superb paintings (1782). The steps to the tower of this double roofed building with tiny windows are build out of a single log. The village is also well known for making ‘cergi’, woolen. you bike back to the Iza valley along the river to the nun monastery of Barsana. The new wooden buildings out of oak set in a beautiful garden were built in the traditonal style and technique not using a single nail.. Accommodation in the nunnery, where the Prince of Wales also stayed overnight.

8th day: The wooden church on a hill in the center of Barsana is adorned with beautiful florid paintings (1806) and has an interesting collection of glass icons. In his preference of angels and cherubs the artist depicted Jesus Christ with wings. Bike to Cornesti where you meet only herds of cows and horse waggons loaded with hay on our way. In late spring summer the air is filled with lady’s mantle, a plant mixed with elder and wormwood to make ‘face water’. The wooden church was built end of the 18th C but has nice paintings and a good collection of old icons. We pass Sat Sugatag a former salt mine now some kind of a spa. We have a look to Desesti a bit out of the way. The wooden church with its beautiful cemetery is impressive. The saints and martyrs are painted in strong colours in contrast to the shady looking haeretiks: Jews, Turks, Tartars and Germans. In Giulesti we visit the water mill completely made out of wood. Then to Vadu Izei where you can have a look into the village destillery and have some plastic bottles filled for our journey home. Overnight in Sighetu Marmatei.

9th day: Bike to Sapanta where you visit the ‘Happy Cemetry’ famous for its humorous grave inscrptions and colourful pictures (“Griga, may you pardoned be, even though you stabbed me”). You can visit the house and workshop of the late wood carver’s nephew who keeps the family tradition alive. Night train to Bucarest.

10th day: Transfer to Bukarest airport.(Depending on time guided tour of Bukarest) Flight back to UK.

Self-guided Tour:
Accommodation: ****Casa Elena/Voronet, ***Fast Radauti, **Hanul Sucevita, ***Casa Calin/Vama, **Cerbul/Borsa, monastery Barsana, ***Perla/Sighet.
7 nights with HB, 2 x night train (1st class sleeping cabin), all transfers, assistance in Bukarest with (depending on departure time sightseeing tour), tourintroduction in English, luggage transfer during the cycling tour, contact on ground map, route description..
Net Price: 615 Euro (Brut price: 760 Euro)
Not included: Entrance and photo fees. Bike rental (21 gear Trekking bike with saddle bag) 55 Euro

Guided tour: : 7 nights with HB, 2 x night train (1st class sleeping cabin), all transfers, luggage transfer during the cycling tour, English speaking guide from/till Bucarest., entrance fees.
Net Price: 665 Euro (Brut price: 820 Euro)
Not included: Photo fees in the churches. Bike rental 55 Euro

Accommodation: ****Casa Elena/Voronet, ***Fast Radauti, **Hanul Sucevita, ***Casa Calin/Vama, **Cerbul/Borsa, monastery Barsana, ***Perla/Sighet.
All accommodations have rooms with twins and bathrooms en suite except Barsana monastery. At Barsana monastery there is a new building going up which will have rooms with twins and bathrooms en suite. The building should be ready in the summer this year.
If you wish to extend the journey and enable your clients to get more in contact with people and countryside we can offer two, very goog additional days During these days accommodations in agrotouristic pensions (shared facilities).