Romania is still quite the underrated European destination but wait a few years and more people who want to travel the Balkans will have discovered its unique charms. An especially gem packed location is Bucovina Romania, up North in Romania. For such a small region, it packs a punch and when it comes to traditional handicraft and tradition, it is a true master. Imagine world class, delicately painted Easter eggs, churches covered in bible stories and villages painted with folk ornaments. Come and join in on this trip to the past!
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1. Traditional Egg Painting
There is no way you visit Bucovina and not take a peek into the Museum of Decorated Eggs in Vama, Bukovina. It is a one of a kind Romanian attraction. Descriptions are provided in English, German and French. The collections are pretty self explanatory, with over 7,000 delicately painted Easter eggs from all over the world displayed. Gathering them in this one place took 14 years! Types of eggs include emu, nandu, turtles, crocodile, flamingo, geko, ostrich, partridge, sparrow, pigeon and porcelain.
A special case showcases the local pieces of art that are Vama egg paintings, featuring very old motifs and patterns. Not only is this handiwork impressive but also the fact that solely vegetables were used to create the colours. And they have lasted this long! Some of the eggs are 100 years old. That is true sustainability!
If you are lucky, you can watch traditional Bucovina eggs being handpainted with wax in the museum right in front of your eyes. The swiftness and precision of the egg decorating are truly impressive! You can buy local painted eggs in store or after your trip at the airport or online at Art & Craft Romania.
This video is part of the Art & Craft video campaign to bring traditional Romanian skills and traditions into the world.
2. Painted Bucovina Monasteries
Bucovinians do not only love traditional egg painting but also decorating the exterior of important buildings. Just a little apart, you can find both “the Sistine Chapel of the East”, Voronet Monastery, and Moldovița Monastery. At first glance they look pretty similar with the Last Judgment fresco covering the entirety of the outside walls but have slight differences.
The first one mentioned of the painted monasteries dates back to 1438 and its special shade of blue is widely known as the “Voronet Blue”. It has never faded over time, which is yet to be explained. There are no records of exactly how it was made as the artists worked in isolation and kept their secrets hidden.
The art seen on the painted monasteries is pure Byzantine art and can be read as a diary of complete cycles of religious events as well as a calendar in the entrance rooms. The point of this was to bring the stories of the bible to life to the villages’ illiterate peasants. Preaching is all the more effective when you can directly point out stories you are talking about. Entering the church is an onslaught of visual impressions and a lot of gold. It is truly wonderful!
Colours are a big part of traditional Romanian painting techniques – not only for eggs – but also on monasteries. While Voronet is predominantly blue, the church of Sucevita is very much green and Humor is mostly red. Other Bucovina monasteries worth checking out are Arbore, Dragomirna, Moldovita and Putna.
Please note: Photography inside isn’t allowed. I received special permission so I can document the painted monastery on this blog.
3. Painted Villages of Romania Bucovina
Speaking of painted monasteries, did you know about he painted villages? Ciocănești in the county of Suceava is decked in traditional Romanian ornaments started it all. A local hadasked village artist Dumitru Tom to decorate her house and the mayor loved it so much, he soon made it mandatory for every new house built.
Now, you can admire dozens of local houses with folk patterns and ornaments. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter that your house is painted but how elaborately it is painted. The more detailed and high quality the wall paint, the better your status!
Nearby villages also adopted the style and you can easily spend an hour just walking around the small villages, adoring their unique look. The local Romanian countryside will make you feel like you are travelling back in time, everything is so pastoral and quaint.
4. Time Travel Train Rides
Another way to feel transported back to the good old times is by taking a ride on the steam train Mocanita Hutulca. Make your way to the village of Moldovița in the commune of Moldovița and hop on the narrow gauge train. It was actually built by a German, of the known Louis Ortieb, who wanted to transport wood from Moldovița to Rosoa. The railway system was expanded over time and reached up to 73km by 1987.
Four years after its discontinuation in Romania Bucovina 2001, it was purchased by a private company and is now used for tourism. To be honest, I am not a fan of trains but this short train ride of 10.7km was in fact fantastic. The Moldovița countryside is picturesque with wooden houses on slopes, grazing horses in backyards and quiet streams bubbling alongside. You will end the journey in Argel Village, where you can enjoy a small break. The entire trip duration is three hours.
5. Gorges, Forest and Lakeside Hikes
I have been highlighting the nature in Bucovina plenty and you really should take full advantage of it while you are on your Romania travels. Start with Bicaz Canyon National Park (Cheile Bicazului-Hășmaș National Park), where you should explore a few things. For one, there is the name giving Bicaz Canyon, which looks just awe inspiring as you drive along the small mountain creek and gaze up the steep ridges. Do stop and get out! And stop at both ends of the Canyon as well.
Follow Bicaz River to Bicaz Lake close by. It holds two records, namely that of being the largest artificial lake and the largest natural mountain lake in Romania. Alternative Bucovina hiking trails can be enjoyed in Ceahlau National Park. It is a place that is dear to Romanias as it holds the sacred mountain of the Dacians, which are the Romanian forefathers.
To get even better lake views and a forest hike under your belt, drive to the Red Lake near Gheorgheni. You can hike the entirety of its shoreline for a few hours and enjoy its blue shimmer from above. When you get close though, you will understand where its name came from. It often appears reddish due to its iron hydroxides and oxides from the lake sediments.
Which Bucovina Souvenirs to Take Home
Since Romania is a treasure trove of regional arts and crafts, Bucovina is not exempt from that. In fact, Bucovina Romania has so much to offer, you might not be able to fit everything in your suitcase. Plus, you might be afraid of breaking your precious Romanian souvenirs so I found a great alternative solution.
Art & Craft Romania is a one-stop-shop for all things Romania. You can find them at Romanian airports, online or on facebook. Be it traditional folk fashion, the obligatory Dracula merchandise or handmade Bucovina souvenirs. In total, there are a total of over 3000 products! After all, they want to bring Romanian culture closer to travellers to Romania and spread the word.
The number one Romanian souvenir to possess is, of course, a delicate, handpainted Bucovina Easter egg. Those Romanian eggs aren’t just beautiful pieces of decoration meant for Easter. Depending on their colour, they are said to help improve certain areas in your life or bring about good fortune, such as love (red), youth (yellow), nature (green), blue (health) and eternity (black).
How to Get to Bucovina
Bucovina isn’t a county in Romania, more a region that isn’t entirely unique to Romania either. This historical region is split between Romania and Ukraine. In the Middle Ages it belonged to the neighbouring region of Moldovia, which lies south of Bucovina.
Your best bet for travelling around is to rent a car and go on a road trip. Touristic infrastructure is in its baby shoes. Also, don’t expect extensive public transport networks either. The area is very rural.
Romania has several airports throughout the country, the most important being Otopeni in Bucharest. With Ryanair flying here, you can easily find great deals for Bucharest and then jump on a plane to Suceava as the base for your Romanian holiday.
Alternatively, you can take the bus or train from Bucharest. Trains take around 7h and buses 8h. The latter are definitely cheaper. There are tours from Bucharest all the way up to Bucovina, including Transylvanian day trips, if you want to make your Romania trip as smooth as possible.
How to Travel Around Bucovina
To get to the painted monasteries from Suceava by taxi, it takes around 18 minutes and costs around 40$. So it might be smart to join a local tour around Bucovina.
When to Best Visit Bucovina
A great time to visit Bucovina is from spring to autumn. Especially during Easter in Romania is striking with the Easter Egg Festivals. In spring, you can see the fresh greens explode all over the northern slopes of the central Eastern Carpathians and in spring, the foliage will turn into a colourful mess. So pretty!
What to Pack for Bucovina
Depending on the season, you might want to wrap up or bask in the sun. Bucovina is located in the mountains, so expect a mild climate. Suceava, for instance, will see temperatures around freezing point in winter and maximum temperatures of 25°C in summer. July is the hottest month with an average daily temperature of around 23°C.
In short, a must have is an all-weather jacket that keeps both wind and rain at bay. If you want to wear flowy dresses and light blouses – such as are traditionally Romanian – it might be a good idea to wear light undershirt and tights. Romanian women typically dress really prettily in skirts and dresses. For extended walks in nature, be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots and wear a backpack with your provisions.
For winter visits, take a very warm jacket to keep the cold at bay, paired with gloves, a scarf and woolly hat. It WILL get frosty. When I visited in late October, it was already freezing and we even saw some snow. I wish I had known about the possible temperature drop before visiting. But at least you do now.
Is Visiting Romania Bucovina Worth It?
Bucovina might be far up North coming from Bucharest but if you are interested in Romanian traditions, arts and crafts, it is a definite gem. You can admire century old traditions and even get to see the process of some of them. Romanians are such nice and hospitable people, don’t be shy! There might be a language barrier but that wasn’t actually a problem when I visited.
Besides these five must sees discussed, the Romanian painted eggs, painted monasteries, painted villages, steam train rides and national parks, you can spend days just exploring museums on local woodcraft and folk art. The Bucovina History Museum, for instance, shows various displays of medieval armor, coins, tools and ancient documents, including a recreation of Stephen the Great’s court, which is great for history lovers.
Tell me: Is visiting Romania Bucovina on your bucketlist? Which of these attractions would be your number one?
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