On a pleasant autumn day we decided to go to Bessarabia (Republic of Moldova) for a few days. But as the road from Cluj is quite long, we thought it would be better to split it in half and have a stop in the “Romanian Moldova” to discover another corner of the country. It was an almost 6 hour drive from Cluj to Suceava, on a beautiful road along the natural beauty of Bucovina and Tihuța pass, with amazing landscapes, tall mountains and rich forests.
Bucovina Village Museum
The first objective we reached was the open-air ethnographic park near the Suceava Fortress. It’s not very large, but it’s quite well maintained and interesting to visit, especially for foreign tourists, but also for us, as we had the opportunity to learn interesting things about the old traditions of the area.
The museum houses a collection of dozens of traditional houses from Bucovina, including wooden churches, water mills, barns and wells, all gathered from many settlements in the north of the country. Most of them are from the 19th century, but there are some exhibits that are even older.
The incursion into this world of Romanian traditions is always fascinating and wakes up a sense of nostalgia, bringing back memories about grandparents’ house and childhood, from more loving, simpler, warmer, beautiful times…
After visiting in the past similar traditional museums in Cluj, Timișoara, Sibiu and Bucharest, we were now able to compare them with that in Suceava and see the specificity of each ethnographic area.
The Princely Fortress of Suceava
A couple of steps away from the Village Museum is the entrance to the fortress, which was renovated a few years ago and looks very good now. Fortunately, it being an off-season working day, there were few visitors, so we were able to admire it in peace.
The fortification was built in the 14th century to defend the principality from the attacks of the Ottomans, being extended and reinforced during the reign of Stephen the Great. The fortress was destroyed at the end of the seventeenth century, and the first archaeological excavations began only two centuries later, during the Austrian administration.
Although it was consolidated and studied during the communist era, the construction remained at ruin stage until recently, when it was renovated using European funds. It is currently in a much better condition, with advanced facilities and technologies which bring tourists closer to those times, such as holographic projections of historical scenes.
Visitors can walk through the interior of the fortress, through several rows of thick walls, enter the cellars that once served as supply storages or dungeons, and climb up the ramparts, from where the view of the city and the green hills is superb.
We also liked the objects kept here, ranging from period-specific clothing to arms, vases, coins and Moldovan medieval jewelry. It is also worth watching the movie projected in one of the halls, which explains in detail the tumultuous history of this important place for our history.
Suceava City Center
As it was almost evening and we didn’t have much time left in Suceava, we refrained from visiting other beautiful locations in the city, such as churches and monasteries, choosing to take a walk through the central area and through the European Union Park instead.
The old center is not very large, few pre-war constructions have been preserved. There are some beautiful buildings that are now home to institutions, museums and hotels, which are worth the patience of the traveler. We liked that there was an underground parking, so there are no cars parked everywhere and people can walk freely.
The pedestrian area includes shops and restaurants with decent prices, so we sat at a nice terrace to have dinner. There are many communist blocks here, the scenery reminded us of the city center of Târgu Jiu. But it is still a place where you can spend a few hours without regretting anything.
The next morning we went further to Târgu Neamţ, a small Moldavian town set on green hills, with beautiful households, but also with the ubiquitous gray blocks. From Suceava to here it’s just over an hour drive. We parked near the fortress and after a short walk on a paved road through the forest, we arrived at the entrance.
This fortification too has been recently restored and is in a very good condition, so it never misses curious visitors. Its history is similar to that of Suceava: it was built in the same period (the end of the 1300s), reinforced by the great Moldavian voivode Stephen the Great and destroyed after three centuries.
For over a century, it has been left uncared-for, then it was fenced sometime in the middle of the 19th century, consolidated only 100 years later and refurbished only a decade ago, with European money as well. The construction is smaller than that in Suceava, but the access bridge is more spectacular, and the landscape that can be seen from above is impressive.
At the foot of the fortress flows the Neamţ River, also known as Ozana from the writings of Ion Creangă, the famous author of folk tales and literature, with which Romanians get acquainted in their early childhood. There is a plateau of tens of kilometers with houses, pastures, roads and clusters of trees. The forest near the citadel is an ecologically protected area.
The fortification had a military role, and there are vestiges of those times that make us imagine how our ancestors fought to defend their lives, families and small assets in the face of Turkish, Tatar and Polish invasions. We recommend this place, even for those who are not passionate about history, at least for some fine photos.
Ion Creangă’s childhood house in Humuleşti
Within a short distance, on a secondary street of the town, there is the house where Ion Creangă grew up and about which he wrote in his famous novel “Memories from childhood”. The museum here includes the house itself, in reality a modest hut, built in the specific style of the Moldavian peasants from two centuries ago, as well as household objects and a few belongings of the author.
It’s a small place that can be visited in a short time because not many objects have been preserved from that time, and the family in which the writer grew up was relatively poor, consisting of ordinary people who did not have the impressive material goods that were enjoyed by other colleagues of his guild who were coming from wealthy families.
Next to the house there is a small private museum with puppets and exhibits that remind of Creangă’s works, which we didn’t enter, because from the outside it seemed just an improvisation meant to take the money of the tourists. But we believe that it could be interesting for children who enjoy puppet shows.
Ion Creangă’s house in Iaşi
After leaving Târgu Neamţ, we decided to make one last stop before crossing the border, at Ion Creangă’s house in Iaşi, the famous “shack” where the author lived and created. It was an about two hours’ drive. It’s a bit tricky to find on the GPS and there is not enough parking space by the house, the road being narrow.
This house too, is on a side street, up on a hill in a neighborhood of houses, many of them very modest. Inside, however, it is arranged for tourists, and a few decades ago a literary memorial museum was built next to it, the first one in Romania.
The house is small and low but cozy, with a beautiful courtyard full of greenery. Here you can see objects belonging to the author, as well as things from the time when poet Mihai Eminescu was hosted by Creangă. Photos and documents displayed are especially interesting for those passionate about the history of Romanian literature. But it is not really a place to bring tourists from outside the country, who are unfamiliar with the writer’s life and creation.
After this short one-and-a-half-day tour on the right side of the Prut River, we headed east to cross the river and visit the other Moldavia, which is as Romanian as this one, but is separated by customs at the moment. We’ll tell you in the next article what we discovered there.