Friday, November 20, 2015

farewell Romania

so on to Iasi (pronounced YASH) -

Iași is the largest city in eastern Romania. Located in the Moldavia region, Iași has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Romanian social, cultural, academic and artistic life. The city was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia from 1564 to 1859, then of the United Principalities from 1859 to 1862, and the capital of Romania from 1916 to 1918.  Known as The Cultural Capital of Romania, Iași is a symbol in Romanian history. The historian Nicolae Iorga said "There should be no Romanian who does not know of it". Still referred to as The Moldavian Capital, Iași is the main economic and business centre of the Moldavian region of Romania.

According to Eurostat, with 382,484 residents, Iași has the second most populous functional urban area in Romania.  Home to the oldest Romanian university and to the first engineering school, Iași is one of the most important education and research centres of the country, and accommodates over 60,000 students in five public universities.  The city is also a candidate to become, in 2021, the European Capital of Culture.

Iași also figures prominently in Jewish history, with the first documented presence of Sephardi Jews from the late 16th century. The oldest tomb inscription in the local cemetery probably dates to 1610. By the mid-19th century, owing to widespread Russian Jewish and Galician Jewish immigration into Moldavia, the city was at least one-third Jewish.  In 1855, Iași was the home of the first-ever Yiddish-language newspaper, and in 1876, the site of what was arguably the first-ever professional Yiddish theater performance, established by Avraham Goldfaden. The words of HaTikvah, the national anthem of Israel, were written in Iași by Naftali Herz Imber. Jewish musicians in Iași played an important role as preservers of Yiddish folklore, as performers and composers.  According to the 1930 census, with a population of 34,662 (some 34%) out of the total of 102,872, Jews were the second largest ethnic group in Iași. There were over 127 synagogues.

After World War II, in 1947, there were about 38,000 Jews living in Iași. During the Postbellum period, Iași played a prominent part in the revival of Yiddish culture in Romania, and, from 1949 to 1963, it was home to a second company of the State Jewish Theater. The intellectuals of Iași included many Jewish academics, scientists, writers, journalists, doctors, lawyers, and engineers. However, the number of Jews continued to drop because of massive emigration to Israel and, in 1975, there were about 3,000 Jews living in Iași and four synagogues were active.[27]

Currently, Iași has a dwindling Jewish population of ca. 300 to 600 members and two working synagogues, one of which, the 1671 Great Synagogue, is the oldest surviving synagogue in Romania. Outside of the city on top of a hill there is a large Jewish Cemetery which has graves dating from the late 19th century; burial records date from 1915 to the present day and are kept in the community center. Since 1996, an annual publication on the history of the Jews in Romania, has been published by the local history and archeology institutes of the Romanian Academy. There is also a Jewish community center serving kosher meals from a small cantina. (source wikipedia)

our first stop was on the way into town - the Jewish cemetery mentioned above-

The Great Synagogue of Iași was built in 1671 and is the oldest surviving synagogue in Romania. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Monuments.  The building has round-arched windows, and two wings. One wing is two-stories high and capped by a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The other is a tall, single-story hall with and a 32' diameter dome capped with a lantern. The dome was added to the building in the early 20th-century.

Of the more than 110 synagogues in Iași before World War II, only the Great Synagogue remains as a result of the Holocaust. It is a free standing building in a small garden off Cucu Street (once called Sinagogilor Street for the many synagogues located on it) just north of the city center in the old Jewish neighbourhood of Târgu Cucului. The synagogue underwent major renovations in 1761, 1822 and 1864. It was partly restored in the 1970s and a major restoration was begun in 2010. The Women's gallery houses a small museum of the Jewish community of Iași. The synagogue is one of only two which continues to serve the dwindling Jewish community of Iași. (from wikipedia)

we couldn't go inside because of the renovations but the exterior seems pretty complete- 

I did find one photo from 1970 on the Internet that shows the inside of the synagogue-

from there we went off to our swanky new hotel - named for a bunch of stars--- oh yes Pleiada or some such... we had one last meal out at a traditional Romanian restaurant and turned in- unfortunately we have to part with Cornl tomorrow morning and that will be sad because we have really liked spending this time with him.

we went to this nice restaurant which was ALSO out of cabbage rolls- LOL but we did get another papanasi-  a double for Phil and a single for each Cornl and me... and we made jokes with each other about how he knew us so well he could write a bio about Phil and how we would come back to visit when he was getting close so we could help edit.... and - how we thought he had been a really excellent guide and how much we appreciated the time and effort he devoted to making sure we had the trip we wanted....

so I actually think these are the perfect last photos from Romania- a trip we enjoyed immensely and would recommend to all..... next up some more restaurant reviews and our Thanksgiving feast and Cuba trip planning.... picking classes for the winter term at school... lots to do- 

here is our menu for Thanksgiving- so next week- big food days LOL

Romania, Romania... our last day

I find I have been kind of dragging my feet about this last post on the trip- I think it's a combination of it being "over" and also I have two other steps to complete before I can leave for Cuba in early December... I have to post photos (edited ones) to the travel photo website and finally - make my souvenir photo book of the trip.  So I guess the trip really doesn't end until I finish all those steps and start packing for the next destination!

The last touring day in Romania was completely full- we started in Gura Humorului and ended in Iasi - started with painted monasteries of UNESCO fame and ended with Jewish history and sites near the border with Moldova.  The final day of Romania - as we make our farewells to Cornl at the border in the morning and transfer to Natasha in Moldova along with Valentin for our new driver.  We have grown fond of Cornl who is extremely knowledgeable - he is quiet but has a terrific sense of humor and we have really enjoyed spending this time with him.

As we had come into the Moldovia region of Romania (not to be confused with the country of Moldova - which is next door) we started seeing a great deal of farm houses with the local tin work on the roof lines and on the gates and all sorts of decorated parts of their homes.  Every one of them was different and nearly every one was extremely beautifully done detailed metal work.

here are a few photos of one of them that we slowed down for so I could take a few pictures-

but on to the churches- the stunning frescoed churches-

The eight UNESCO World Heritage churches of northern Moldavia were built from the late 15th century to the late 16th century, their external walls covered in fresco paintings, are masterpieces inspired by Byzantine art. They are authentic and particularly well preserved. Far from being mere wall decorations, the paintings form a systematic covering on all the facades and represent complete cycles of religious themes.Their exceptional composition, the elegance of the characters, and the harmony of the colors blend perfectly with the surrounding countryside. (from the UNESCO website)

so the three monasteries we visited before leaving the area of Bucovina are the Voronet, the Humorului and the Moldovita... and I have lots of information on each of them because they are super famous.

Humor Monastery located in Mănăstirea Humorului, about three miles north of the town of Gura Humorului where we had stayed last night. It is a monastery for nuns dedicated to the Dormition of Virgin Mary. It was constructed in 1530 and the monastery was built over the foundation of a previous monastery that dated from around 1415. The Humor monastery was closed in 1786 and was not reopened until 1990.  Humor was one of the first of Moldavia's painted monasteries to be frescoed and, along with Voroneţ, is probably the best preserved. The dominant colour of the frescoes is a reddish brown. The master painter responsible for Humor's frescoes, which were painted in 1535, is one Toma of Suceava.

The subjects of the frescoes at Humor include the Siege of Constantinople and the Last Judgment, common on the exterior of the painted monasteries of Bucovina, but also the Hymn to the Virgin inspired by the poem of Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople relating to the miraculous intervention of the Theotokos in saving the city from Persian conquest in 626. The Persians are, however, depicted as Turks which is a common device in these monasteries, their paintings being used in part for political propaganda in addition to their spiritual meaning. (my how things have changed in five hundred years- LOL- NOT!)

then it was on to Voronet-

The Voroneț Monastery is a medieval monastery in the Romanian village of Voroneț, now a part of the town Gura Humorului. It is one of the famous painted monasteries from southern Bukovina, in Suceava County. The monastery was constructed by Stephen the Great in 1488 over a period of 3 months and 3 weeks to commemorate the victory at Battle of Vaslui. Often known as the "Sistine Chapel of the East", the frescoes at Voroneț feature an intense shade of blue known in Romania as "Voroneț blue."

The monastery is located to the south of Gura Humorului, in the valley of the Voroneț River. The legend of the origin of the church unites two men central to Romanian history: the founder of the monastery, Stephen the Great, and Saint Daniil the Hermit, the first abbot of the monastery. The tomb of Saint Daniil is located within the monastery.

Voroneţ was known for its school of calligraphy, where priests, monks and friars learned to read, write and translate religious texts. The school produced two notable copies of Romanian translations of the Bible: The Codex of Voroneț, discovered in 1871, and The Psalter of Voroneț, found in 1882. These books are now held at the Romanian Academy.  The monastery was deserted soon after 1775, when the Habsburg Monarchy annexed the northern part of Moldavia. The monastic community returned to Voroneț in 1991. Since their return, those living in the monastery have constructed housing for the resident nuns, a chapel, fountains, stables, barns, and a house for pilgrims.  

The main church of Saint George at Voroneț Monastery is possibly the most famous church in Romania. It is known throughout the world for its exterior frescoes of bright and intense colours, and for the hundreds of well-preserved figures placed against the renowned azurite background. The small windows, their rectangular frames of crossed rods and the receding pointed or shouldered arches of the interior doorframes are Gothic. The south and north doors of the exonarthex of 1547 have rectangular frames, which indicate a transition period from Gothic to Renaissance. But, above them, on each wall is a tall window with a flamboyant Gothic arch. The whole west façade is without any openings, which indicates that from the beginning the intention was to reserve it for frescoes.

and the third- still as breathtaking as the first two- was the Moldovita -

The Moldovița Monastery is a Romanian Orthodox monastery situated in the commune of Vatra Moldoviței. Moldovița was built in 1532 by Petru Rareș, who was Stefan the Great's illegitimate son. It was founded as a protective barrier against the Muslim Ottoman conquerors from the East.

It is one of the eight monasteries in Northern Moldavia with frescoes painted on the outer walls. Sister Maika, who has been living in the monastery for more than 50 years, says that it is "the holy scriptures in color".  Moldovița's frescoes were painted by Toma of Suceava in 1537. They are filled with yellow accents and are well preserved. The predominantly yellow-and-blue paintings on its exterior represent recurring themes in Christian Orthodox art: a procession of saints leads up to the Virgin enthroned with the Child in her lap, above the narrow east window; the "Tree of Jesse" springs from a recumbent Jesse at the foot of the wall to marshal the ancestry of Christ around the Holy Family; The "Siege of Constantinople" commemorates the intervention of the Virgin in saving the city of Constantinople from Persian attack in A.D. 626.

Tall arches open the porch to the outside and daylight. Within it, "The Last Judgment" covers the entire surface of the west wall with its river of fire and its depiction of the sea giving up its dead to judgment. Moldovița and Humor are the last churches built with an open porch, a hidden place above the burial-vault, and with Gothic-style windows and doors.

Note: all blue text above is from wikipedia entry on the painted churches of Romania-

each of the three had its own style and color scheme- and in every location there was some part of the frescoes that really drew my attention (that "aesthetic arrest" concept) in the Humor it was the clothing of the men with its incredible patterns-

in the Voronet it was River of Fire depiction-

with the hand of god holding the life in balance - weighing it with angels on one side and satan on the other-

in the Moldovita it was the intensity of the colors - and the animation of the painted subjects-

Each a special place- and I am sure the other five would be amazing to see as well-

they did have plenty of postcards if you were averse to paying the photography fee... which of course I was happy to pay so I could share these with you...

we headed on the road- another fairly long journey ahead - to almost the border with the country of Moldova and the Jewish sites of Iasi (pronounced YASH) but along the way we found a road side cafe for a quick lunch - and a humorous menu - bad news was they had no stuffed cabbage but the good news was they did have Magnum bars! LOL which sounded much better than the numerous preparations of CRAP they had on offer...

so next up the very very last Romanian post from Iasi- stay tuned!