He who does not have a vacation, should buy one – I would paraphrase that famous word about the elderly.
Well, I really bought one. Actually not one, but three so far! But all three were canceled because of the pandemic.
So I take advantage desperately of all the trips I make for work, to enjoy every beautiful corner of the country and to fool myself, so I am on vacation…
I came to Bucovina. After 20 years! Me and the musketeers… In 2000 I came with the friends, in 2020, with the shooting crew.
In the tour of the country I made in 2000, I was very happy to revisit the monasteries, being nostalgic for my childhood, when I came here and visited them for the first time.
It’s now August 2020 and we have something to do in Suceava. Woken up at 5 in the morning and heavily worked until the afternoon, we still gather our strength to go visit to some of the monasteries. First on the list – Putna.
THE PUTNA MONASTERY
I admit that I feel an emotion, because I have some memories of this place: as a child I stayed here one summer. “Here” means right inside the monastery, in the guest rooms!
I ate at the same table with the monks, and my vacation was marked by a funny incident: during the first dinner, I was admiring some paintings on the walls. “Look how cool that picture is!” – I said to my sister. A monk turned to me and, amused, he asked me: “It’s cool, you say? Really?” Since then, during every breakfast, lunch or dinner, Father Calinic would ask me if the scrambled eggs were cool, if the soup was cool, if the plates were cool and so on. To everyone’s amusement, obviously.
(After many years, more precisely nowadays, I would discover that Father Calinic from Putna is none other than… the current Archbishop of Suceava and Radauti! What a “cool” thing, right? J))
Putna meant for me, in those years of childhood, the life-size portrait of Stefan cel Mare (Stefan the Great) who was “short in height”, it meant rambling on the surrounding hills, legends about the place where Stefan shot the arrow to decide the place of the new monastery; and it also meant Putnisoara, the village over the hill, where, in the house of some welcoming people, we used to lick our fingers after we devoured some homemade bread, baked on the stove and greased with lard.
I have no photo from those times. The camera was a luxury and, as we were on vacation without our parents, no camera with us.
In 1992, I returned to Putna, after a very long journey, changing several trains from Bucharest. I stayed in some local people’s house, on the main street. It was the vacation when I ran to the post office, to call home with reverse charge, to find out the news! A clerk sent me to a booth after she managed to make contact. That’s when my father told me I had passed the university admittance exam. God, what a joy!!!
In 2020, all these memories came back to me. Maybe that’s one of the good parts of the pandemic…
I lit candles for those who have left us, then… I quickly returned to reality: a world of masked people appeared in front of me. Because only the masked ones can go inside the church.
I haven’t kissed any icons. Not me. And I came out of the church with a dilemma: is the recent painting inside the church in the same style as the original or did someone do a lot of harm to this place?…
I couldn’t find that out, because I was in a hurry.
I quickly took some selfies, had a quick dialogue with the gentlemen in the cart which had a beautiful horse and I ran.
Next stop? Sucevita.
THE SUCEVITA MONASTERY
In Sucevita some clouds are gathering, actually a lot of clouds are gathering. This is no joking matter. I manage to take a picture with me and one without me, then, my God, it starts pouring down! What a rain! We run for shelter, most of us, into the church. This is a good opportunity to admire not only the paintings inside, the altar, the icons, but also to enjoy the sound insulation J.
And then it starts with all the lightning and the thunders, that you really feel afraid to look at the sky!
We become… refugees inside the church. The rain is spectacular, I would say trying to describe the situation as precisely as possible.
The car is far away, we don’t have any coats and no umbrellas. So we sit on the veranda of the church, well protected from the rain.
We study the paintings on the walls, the scaffolding put for the restoration works, we take pictures, we re-enter the church… We are the only tourists here, together with two nuns.
In a corner, I notice a poster:
Now, seriously, who in his or her right mind would write his or her name right on the painting on the wall of a monastery which is part of the UNESCO patrimony?!? At least, if you’re stupid, follow that saying we have with “the stupid’s name on all fences” and do it there, not here. My God I am a bundle of nerves now!
It’s 6 o’clock in the evening. We decided to leave after all. Up to the parking lot, where the car is, we get soaking wet.
We leave through a crazy rain, the lightning flashes in our eyes, but we don’t give up, we go to Voronet.
THE VORONET MONASTERY
It is raining here too, so I put my camera under my shirt. I came so prepared for this trip, I have two very good waterproof jackets, plus two other plastic ones, for quick use, I have rain shoes and a lot of other things too. But they are all in Suceava, not here, with me…
A waterproof bag that I have from the camera becomes the best way to protect myself against rain… And gives me the picture that can cure anyone’s depression J)).
In addition to candles and the papers for akathists, some surgical masks are waiting for us inside the church. Blue, to be in tune with the famous Voronet blue, of course.
They are for sale, self-service. 2 lei each (0,4 euros). Only 2 lei?!? Well, I would like to buy a few boxes, because I can’t find them anywhere at this price…
When we go out, the gentleman who sold us tickets proves to be multitask: besides being a gatekeeper, a ticket seller, a security guard, a souvenir seller, he is also a… bird tamer!
The truth is that the small birds in the yard were very friendly, and they literally came to eat out of his palm.
I went around the church several times, to better see the part with the erased painting, and the part with the painting that is still all right. And to try to decipher the messages that the people of the time transmitted through the painting.
Next time I’ll take a guide…
The selfie session followed with a wonderful rainbow, that none of the few tourists there wanted to miss.
And… the half day vacation is over! Three monasteries, 5 lei (less than 1 euro) entrance for each, so you get a cheap vacation too, if you don’t buy all the souvenirs and church objects.
THE SEAT FORTRESS
Catching a taste (and some speed…), the next day we went to Suceava to visit the Seat Fortress of Moldova.
A place where some investments were made, as we have seen, to make it attractive to tourists. And that took 16 lei (~3,5 euros) out of our pockets!
Here I saw the rich – court-like version of myself J)). For the amount of 3 lei (0,6 euros), these people dress you digitally in such a way that you almost expect Stefan the Great to come out of nowhere and ask you to be his wife…
And speaking about Stefan, after the visit inside the fortress, we went to see his impressive statue on horse, we have heard so much about.
It really is impressive! You can sit at the bottom of it, to eat and drink – bottoms up!, and meditate or argue with your children.
I did something naughty here. But don’t blame me. What could I do, if at the souvenir shop inside the Suceava Fortress they have medallions with… Decebal and Sarmisegetuza? I took one too, because it was too cool. And I took a photo with it next to the lord of Moldova:
Stefan, no offence, they only had a magnet with you!
And, after all, I am a Dacian girl, right? And anyway, as Stefan said: “Moldova was not my ancestors, is not mine”… so I’m not hers J