We began our last day of touring Bucovina with another monastery that looks like a castle and was intended to be a fortress against Turk and Tartar invaders. The Dragomirna Monastery was built in the first decades of the 17th century after the time of exterior frescoes.
Going backward chronologically, we visited the 15th-century church at Patrauţi. This church was built in 1487 by Stefan the Great. It is a small structure with bits of an exterior fresco. The interior frescoes are currently being restored.
One of the interior frescoes shows Stefan (as donor) and his family: serial first and second wives, and two daughters. This fresco covers an earlier fresco in which Stefan's family includes a son. Stefan's legitimate son died so the fresco was repainted to include a second daughter. It was here that we learned that Petru Rareş was the illegitimate son of Stefan the Great.
On the way to lunch in Rădăuţi, we passed a cabbage market so, of course, we had to stop and roam among the vegetables. The sellers were very agreeable allowing us to take photos of them. In fact, two of the cabbage sellers insisted that I take a cabbage with me for a souvenir.
Many of the horses pulling wagons wore red tassels--sometimes one, sometimes two. Our guide said the red tassel was meant to deflect the evil eye and provide protection. The horses are strong, working horses required to pull heavy loads of vegetables, wood, dirt.
Lunch was at the National Restaurant in Rădăuţi where we had the town's specialty: a slightly sour soup called ciorba made with broth, vegetables, chicken, and and a dash of vinegar. While it sounds terrible, the flavor was fabulous. Sour cream is added to the bowl of soup and it is eaten with a pickled, hot pepper.
In the villages around Rădăuţi the aroma of sauerkraut hangs in the air. Along the road, large wooden casks are filled with shredded cabbage and vinegar. Once pickled, the cabbage is ready for winter preserves.
Our next stop was one our guide described as the "Mecca" for Moldovan/Romanian people. The original church built in 1470 by Stefan the Great was the first church built by Stefan. That church was destroyed by landslides and by a Cossack invasion. The current church is a 17th-century creation. It is occupied by monks who also run a museum that houses an amazing collection of preserved medieval textiles.
The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin at Putna Monastery is the final resting place for Stefan the Great who died July 2, 1504. Stefan's first wife is in a smaller tomb next to him and his second wife is entombed across from those two. Stefan the Great got his name because he was either undefeated or lost only two small battles in his life. He was sainted about 10 years ago. His tomb is a pilgrimage site for Orthodox believers.
The cave occupied by Daniil the Hermit, confessor to Stefan the Great, sits outside the walls of the Putna Monastery.
The final stop was at the village of Arbore where the Church of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist is located. The church was built in 1503. The slightly newer (1504-1523) interior frescoes depict the beheading and preserving of the head.
The predominant color of the exterior frescoes is a blue-green. The finely detailed clothing shown in some of the restored interior frescoes caught my eye.
The interior frescoes are currently being restored and cleaned.
Our short vacation was wonderful and stress-free thanks to our guide, Gigi of Axa Travel (www.axatravel.ro). We stayed in a very comfortable apartment (Union Apartment #185) owned by him which is located in the center of Suceava. It was within walking distance to good restaurants: Centru Vechi and Latino.
Our minibus back to Chisinau departed Suceava at 6:30 am. The bus ticket lady, actually two different bus station employees, told us the fare was 50 Romanian Lei per person but to pay the driver directly. We gave the driver 100 lei for our two tickets. He asked for an additional 10 lei. I don't know which amount was correct, but at 110 lei ($33) the return trip was about the same cost as what we paid in Chisinau. This driver did not stop to pick up extra passengers and baggage along the way. We arrived at the next stop, Iaşi, 45 minutes early so had time to stretch our legs and go to McDonalds for a breakfast and bathroom stop. It is the first time I have ever visited a McDonalds in a foreign country, but the stench from the portable toilets at the Iaşi Bus Station drove me to it. We breezed through customs at the border because no one would smuggle cigarettes into Moldova. Strangely, the Moldovan Border Guard wanted to know if we were bringing money or credit cards into Moldova.
Arriving back in Chisinau after our Stefan the Great highlights tour, it was good to be at our home away from home.