21 June 2013

Neamt Monastery
Travel day to Guru Humorului

Today was mostly spent on buses.
The first thing we did was catch a bus out to Neamt Monastery, it is one of two UNESCO monasteries in the area, and the oldest in the region, if not Romania.
At the bus stop, we had a little help getting the right minibus, and off we went.  It is not that far away, but we were going through all the small towns on the way.  The view of the hills and fields, along with all the houses is quite pretty.
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Our driver was pretty good, and let us know when we were there.  It can be a bit hard to tell.  priest1There are churches everywhere, and some are very impressive.  However at the moment it is all about the roofs.  These are impressive constructions, made of all different materials from wooden shingles to Ash felt.  The metal work is so detailed, and although the gutter pipes don’t go all the way to the ground, the caps on the tops are varied and creative.  The trellises all seem to be individually created, and on top there are weathervanes or just decorations.  Over the entrance there are also weird constructions that resemble the bulbs from the churches but are long and narrow.

N34postlibraryAt the Monastery we were let out,and the first thing you see is the library. It is a magnificent bulb building, but we went to check out the well first.  After a quick look we headed back to the library.  Inside there was one of the monks talking to a German couple.  The library is now a sort of store, with books, trinkets, icons and food all over the place.  Very disorganised with an amazing amount of things there.  The building itself though is stunning.  At the top of the domed roof is a fresco of the Baptism of Jesus, around this is a ring of scenes from the old testament and then a larger ring with more scenes from the new testament.  They are all water based themes, and in the centre of the room is a large basin with consecrated water.  Water is a very special thing for this building.  N35postlibrary2We chatted with the Germans and the Monk for a while and learnt that all the paintings on the walls are in fact the history of the Monastery.  Started in 1392 to today.  The paintings are not that old, but they are done in a very specific style that has not changed in hundreds of years, so they would be the same as if they were painted when it was first built.
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N36postmonasteryGoing over to the main complex, we took a look at the construction work that is going on.  They are repairing parts of the monastery, and as we approached a monk in his full gear went racing past in a bobcat to get more sand for the cement mixer!  It is a strange sight indeed.  They are fixing up the balconies that surround the complex.  Going in underneath the tower we bought our tickets and entered the courtyard.  The church is off centre, and a large stage is in front of us.  Talking to a couple of the monks for a while, (it is nice how open and relaxed the monks are) we then went into a small museum.  Here there is a lot of printing presses, and we learnt how important the monastery was for translating and copying the bible and other books.  Tracing the history from hand drawn books through to early printing presses and even up to the current day.

N37postmonastery2We poked around a bit more before entering the church, finding another small chapel that is beautifully decorated.
The church itself is plain on the outside, but as soon as you step in, you can see it in all its glory.  It is fairly typical for an orthodox church, but the paintings are still original and in perfect condition.  After a few minutes looking around we headed back outside.  N38posttowerOne of the things we had seen a lot of in orthodox churches is an eye in a triangle.  There was a large ornate eye plastered onto the tower looking into the complex.  On asking a monk about this, we found out that it is God’s eye looking out for the monastery.  One question solved!

After leaving the monastery, we had a walk around then waited for the bus.  We tried hitching, but not too seriously, and no one stopped to pick us up.  With no luck with cars or buses we went back to ask the monks when we could catch a bus.  There would be one in about twenty minutes, then they were off for prayers.  We hung around and caught the bus back to town.

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Then off to the station to catch another bus.  We wanted to go north to Suceava and see the painted monasteries of Bucovina.  Getting the bus, and a long drive to arrive in town.  Seeing a sign for the hostel, we talked about going to it, but then decided to head out closer to the monasteries.  We caught another bus to Guru Humorului and hoped to get to Voronet.  This was not to be the case though.  On arriving in Guru Humorului we were dropped in the town centre.  It is a lot smaller than Suceava, and there are plenty of hostels listed in the region (mainly Voronet).  We picked a direction and started walking.  Finding a hotel, we stopped in to check the price.  It was 110 Lei, a bit more than we had hopped, and while we were trying to negotiate a small discount we got a couple of weird sounds directed at us from a guy sitting in the foyer.  With that attitude we didn’t want to stay there anyway and headed outside.  Now the sky opened up and we were stuck there for a while.  We hung around outside waiting for the rain to ease up.  Walking down the street we saw a sign on the road for a pension, and went down the street.  It was locked up tight, but we continued on looking for another.  N40posthitchNot the right street, but when we hit the dirt road out of town, someone stopped us and asked if we needed anything.  With a bit of help from Google translate on his phone, he called out to a woman passing by to take us to a pension.  It was really sweet.  The woman took us back to the pension, and was as surprised as we were that it was closed.  Yet she knew another, and pointed us further up the street.  Here we found a nice place that was only 80 Lei.  Perfect.
It even had a nice restaurant downstairs for a good dinner!

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