(Click on photos to see captions)
In this post, we stayed at an inn and at a hotel, not writing ahead, not asking our hosts to engage or talk to us or tell us their story. It was a bit of a break from interviewing people, a bit of a diversion from our theme of “people first.” We learned a bit of history and some some lovely sights but, you’ll see, the people element is missing.
We drove out of Breb on smallish roads through more bucolic scenery and started climbing higher. The road we were now on was newly paved–so new, there was no painted lines. But it doesn’t matter much; Romanians don’t pay much attention to them anyway.
One last reminder of the fantastic woodwork of the Maramureş region as we leave the gates of Gura Humirului.
We stopped at a wide place in the road and took some photos of the view. Higher up at the pass, there was a monastery and we stopped but didn’t get out. Down the other side we went through evergreen and deciduous trees that were now yellow and orange. What looked like a Romani village had lots of trash in the river.
We ate lunch in the car from the food we had bought in one of the towns we had stopped earlier.
The views of the Suceava Valley
We kept driving towards Suçeava, but the good road ended and we had many kilometers of roadwork, driving on a gravel road, so we decided to call it a day and looked for a place to stay. We kept a lookout until we found a pension that might fit the bill, and not right ON the road. It looked pretty nice. We pulled in and the sign read, “SPA,” so that meant a pool, at least. We checked in and went for a lovely swim in an indoor pool that had a stainless steel lining and lights underwater that changed color. We sat in the sauna for a bit, too.
Then we changed for dinner and ate in a glaringly bright dining room. I had green food, YEAH! and then we headed to bed.
Rebecca enjoying the Spa
Breakfast was the usual, egg omelette with bread and jam. I was served meat, so Woody put it with some bread and made a sandwich for his lunch later. He also saved a piece or two for the friendly dogs that hang around the parking lot outside. (Later we learned that that was not such a good idea!)
We left by 9:30 and headed to Suçeava. On the way, we stopped at one of the painted monasteries dating from the 1400’s.
It was interesting, but I don’t need to see the other 19 listed in my guide book of the monetsary tour. These icons on the inside and outside of the church had been restored. Their claim to fame was the blue background they all had.–On to Suçeava.
Downtown Suceava traffic moves at a standstill as mourners march, remembering a loved one and offering bread to passers-by.
Near the Fortress of Suceava, locals are preparing for the upcoming Romanian Centennial (or Unification Day) on December 1st, carrying a huge 12 X 18 meter (about 37 by 56 feet) flag to decorate the national park.
In Suçeava, we kind of got lost finding the church we had read about, but we did find the Citadel on the hill. That was interesting to read about but we couldn’t explore it because it was closed on Mondays. In 1388, it was built and in the 1400’s it was strengthened to 33 meter-high walls that were 4 meters thick. This is the place where King Stephen stopped the Turks from the Ottoman Empire. My guide book said if they hadn’t been stopped, none of the monasteries would have been built and this part of the world would probably not have remained Christian. Interesting idea.
This amazing Fortress of Suceava was closed for entry on the day we passed through Suceava, but we were able to enjoy the view from afar.
We had a bite to eat at a little cafe by the Citadel that was open, then headed on our way. We stopped at one of the four star hotels that Woody read about offering a discount, but they wouldn’t give us the discount that Trip Advisor had promoted, so we did not stay. We decided to drive on to Iaşi (pronounced Yash).
We arrived in Iaşi just at rush hour. I had read about an old hotel in our guide book called the Grand Hotel Triain. It was designed by Gustav Eiffel and has some of his wrought iron elements to it. With heavy traffic and getting our GPS wrong, it took us 40 minutes to find it after we got to the city. It has lots of old world charm and Woody finagled a suite for us, the Eiffel Suite for 100 Euros, so we are splurging and staying in luxury.
We ate dinner in a hotel across the square on the 13th floor with a good view. Woody paid the piano man to play some songs for us. We had a nice waiter who spoke Spanish and English and the food was good. We’ve decided to stay another day here.
The Grand Hotel Triain–the Eiffel Suite
In Iasi, we wanted to stay in a nice hotel downtown to get a flavor of the historic old town. We stopped at the Traian Grand Hotel, (based on a discount offer from TripAdvisor.com). This hotel was designed by Gustav Eiffel, and shows faded old world elegance. We decided to splurge a bit when the guest agent offered us an upgrade for a nominal increase. He asked if we were interested in staying in one of the two suites available. For just an extra ten Euros, the agent said we could stay in the Eiffel Suite, the second biggest room in the hotel. I looked at Rebecca and she looked at me. “Why not?” I said. So for about half the price of the sterile, overpriced room in Hallstatt, we were staying in the second largest suite in the second largest city in Romania. Clockwise from top left: the huge updated tub was a nice chance to scrub off off some of the Maramures dust; the four meter ceilings dwarfed the 19th century furniture; from the 13th floor (Romanians snub their noses at superstitions) restaurant next door, we look down on our suite at the Grand; Rebecca took this photo from our table capturing a selfie in the reflection of our grand vista; Rebecca stands next to the Victrola in the drawing room with the portrait of Gustav Eiffel, who was said to have stayed here several times.
Woke up in the big, lovely room in the Triain Hotel, high ceilings, billowy curtains, furniture is more ornate than I like, but look period. They have a few antiques in the room–an old gold mantle clock, an old Victrola that spins but does not have a needle for the record that is cracked, anyway, and some silver candlesticks.
The breakfast was typical of what we have had before but a bit more lavish. We set out to find the Palace of Culture about three quarters of a mile down the road from us. It’s a huge palace that’s gone through many iterations. We learned that this one was built between 1908 and 1916. It has good symmetry and elegant lines. Inside, there are four museums on two floors. In the technology section, we saw music boxes, watches. cameras, typewriters, and even an early computer.
In the Romanian Art collection, we saw paintings from the 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries. The Impressionists were my favorite.
In the Ethnographic section we saw clothing, pottery, and more mechanical artifacts. There were stamping machines and oil presses.
In the Iasi History section we saw changes to the palace since the 1200’s and costumes and artifacts from the Iron Age to the elite going to the opera in the Golden Age. A good variety to hold our interest.
We walked back to the hotel looking for scissors for Woody–no luck. We ate a late lunch from the food we had in the car and Woody spent time writing.
At about 4:30, we went for a walk looking for scissors and a place to mail my postcards. Evidently, post cards are not common.-mail delivery isn’t a daily thing here–odd.
We finally found scissors in a women’s cosmetic shop, then found our way back to the hotel. We passed a sign about the Jewish pogrom that was here. 13,000 Jews were rounded up and either killed here or sent to death camps in Germany. They were restoring the official building where the official orders were given and carried out. Had we more time, I’d like to learn more. Back at the hotel, we got ready for dinner. We ate in the dining room downstairs–a depressing place because all the tables but ours were empty. This place has a shabby, sad appearance. How do they stay open? Back up to our room and packed, ready for tomorrow.
After breakfast downstairs at the Traian, we got our bags and drove out of town. Iasi had a lot to offer, but I was ready to leave. It said on our GPS that it was 4.5 hours to Tulcea. We drove through hilly farmland and little towns. We had one interesting experience. I noticed some colorful houses on the hill and Woody stopped so we could take a photograph. Then he decided after we passed to turn back and investigate it, so we did. We drove into the village and up the hill where there was a separate community. We realized we were in the middle of a wealthy Romani community. Their houses were huge and new and ugly. They had stronger looking fences and gates than other villages. A few men were standing at one gate and stared at us as we drove by. An old woman in a white and silver flowing skirt and scarves walked down the street toward us. She used a cane and had gawdy gold necklaces and dried herbs around her neck. She stared at me as we drove by and I felt we were in danger. She was creepy, though later, when we talked to her, she was pleasant enough, just wrinkled old woman with long white braids hanging beneath her headscarf.
Each house was different with brightly colored or elaborate tiled or metal roofs and spires that sparkled silver. Up at the end of the street, we had to turn around. A gate was open and inside that yard was a bunch of junk–broken pieces of concrete, a plastic chair and buckets piled in a heap. Two or three young kids in dirty clothes chased a dog in a little alleyway that continued down the road. We took a couple of pictures and on the way back, more woman come out to stare. The old woman had stopped at a gate to talk to another woman. She also motioned for us to stop. In our broken Romanian, we explained we came to admire the big houses. “Formosa” we said, which means pretty. She smiled and waved us on. What a relief, that was a “non tourist” experience.
Our GPS directed us down some narrow streets in Gelati, and finally out of town on a small road along the river. I began to think we were getting, once again, into GPS hell. Then I saw a ferry up ahead. We double-checked the maps and, indeed, we were headed for the Danube Delta. Apparently, Google Maps understands how to get where you want to go more than I give it credit. We waited in line for some time. At one point, I saw a woman get out of the car and go to a kiosk and buy a ticket , then come back and find her husband who had advanced about 50 meters in the meanwhile. Rebecca agreed to do the same. Within minutes, she had a ticket for us. 14 Lei for the car and two each for the passengers. Then, a minute later, we were directed to a smaller ferry for smaller cars. Soon, we were on our way across the wide Danube and onto the great Danube Delta, the size of Massachusetts.