Rose and raspberry sherbet in our winter collection of thrills

Bucovina, also known as the land of beech trees where tall, blonde, blue-eyed and kind-hearted people live, is the place where the earth keeps warm even in winter time and the dishes are refined to everyone’s liking.

In Romania, we genuinely believe that we get the best of our country when paying a visit to Bucovina and Northern Moldavia. It is a magical place no matter the season, but in winter time join us for quite an epic journey to the north. The road is long, but good even when it snows and with an early start, you’ll reach the first stop in merely a couple of hours after noon.

Varatec Monastery is neither geographically nor historically part of Bucovina, but strongly linked to it by Orthodox heritage. In Romania, the monasteries are no usual convents, but quaint communities resembling old time villages, idyllically set on hilltops among wood sanctuaries. At Varatec, the nuns live in small farms and are more than happy to welcome you in one of their 150 years old houses.

Don’t take too long admiring the cozy low-ceiled rooms as the nuns prepare the fresh lunch. It is very likely to arrive during the fast before the Christmas celebration, but don’t worry, fasting meals at the monastery are indeed finger-licking and entirely homemade, even the bread.

After lunch, you might like to take a good nap or visit the scenic surroundings including the monastery, the laic village of Varatec and the forest nearby. Return to the house for dinner – if it’s on Saturday fish meals are allowed, then you ought to try the fish borsch.

During winter months and especially snowfalls, the only sounds you shall hear around the monastery are footsteps crushing the frozen snow, the fire crackling in the wood stove and the church bells waking you on the Sunday morning. Leisurely delight each taste bud with a copious breakfast – don’t forget to also try a slice of fresh baked bread with bitter cherry and lemon zest marmalade.

You may join the Sunday service or one of the nuns as the best local guide to visit the nearby village of Humulesti, home of our dear storyteller, Ion Creanga. He is renowned for being the first Romanian author who collected and wrote folktales using the Moldavian regional speech more than 150 years ago.

On the way back, stop at Agapia Monastery for a lunch in the warm kitchen, perhaps a visit to the old church, but it is mandatory to return by horse sleigh, comfortably bundled in blankets. No insight about dinner, you shall be pleasantly surprised.

Do not say goodbye yet to the lovely nuns, but prepare to continue your journey to the heart of Bucovina on a frozen morning with trees along the road sparkling in the sun. Welcome to Gura Humorului, a tiny little town in the foothills where you’ll be hosted at the most chic with a hint of traditional guesthouse. Raluca, a thoroughly Bucovinean, will welcome you with the finest of borsch from Radauti – a free range chicken soup seasoned with fresh sour cream – and other local treats.

Have a short siesta admiring the apple orchard and the old huts, but soon after, get back on your way to explore Humor Monastery and the jewel of Bucovina: Voronet Monastery. The latter was built in 1488 by Stephan the Great, ruler of Moldavia to commemorate a victorious battle. The exterior paintings exhibit the bright, striking blue, a beauty among colors such as the Titian red. Go round the main church and you’ll be rather surprised to discover the northern wall has its unique paintings almost wiped out due to the north wind. Back at the guesthouse a superb dinner accompanied by a local folk music ensemble awaits you to heartily enjoy it.

Start early and as soon as you finish your breakfast, share the road with horse-drawn wagons while the trotting animals shake the red tassels hanging behind the ears. Before reaching Putna Monastery, stop by at the village of Marginea, widely famous for its black ceramics. You might fancy a visit at a local workshop or maybe visit the close at hand Cacica salt mine.

Pass through the thick fortified walls and the original gate and once you’ve listened to the legend of Putna Monastery, visit the burial place of Stephan the Great, then lunch with the monks. Change the route to south and arrive before night fall at the village of Vama.

As its name says, Vama was a long time ago the border settlement separating Transylvania from Moldavia. Nowadays it is a beautiful village, mostly representative for the ancient craftsmanship of egg decoration. Accommodate in a traditional guesthouse and relish on the most exquisite dinner cooked exclusively in Bucovinean style while the lady of the house shares some of the local stories.

Spend the morning at the Egg Museum where you shall travel in time and space with the detailed stories of the huge egg collection decorated using various techniques. Furthermore, there is an unrivalled opportunity to assist the artist herself while decorating the eggs with archaic symbols belonging only to land of Bucovina.

Treat yourself for lunch with another display of Bucovinean home cooking and later on travel back to the merry nuns of Varatec, eager to await you with hot bread and the best preserves from their pantry. Our tip is to ask for rose and raspberry sherbet as a dessert, you’ll be amazed.

Wake up at your own convenience, then prepare to embark on the journey back to Bucharest. You’d surely like to know that in Bucovina there is no winter without snow and there are plenty of other exciting, here and there breathtaking things that you could do while visiting: a swim in the Olympic heated pool with salt water, horseback riding at the famous Sucevita stud farm, skiing, learning how to knit or paint glass-icons on long winter evenings near the hot stove or a ride with the Mocanita steam train.

We have a bag full of magical tales about Bucovina and we haven’t unrevealed it during autumn, yet. It seems your appetite on Bucovina’s marvels and thrills should be fed without hesitation with a longer holiday treat.

Note that in certain contexts, Romania might be an overwhelming experience as there are areas which do not avail modern day facilities such as television and Internet connection. Furthermore, parts of the local infrastructure weren’t intentionally modernized in order to preserve the rural, authentic surroundings. Roundtrip transportation from Bucharest can be organized upon request and number of tourists by car (private tour or rental), coach, train or airplane. Some tours are subject to availability as the activities depend on the traditional farms’ yearly schedule (mowing, fruit/mushroom picking, jams, pickles and preserves etc). However, all tours are flexible and may be adapted, as well as the activities interchanged. Local families are trained to cook special meals for vegetarian and vegan tourists.

All tours and activities represent suggestions to selected areas and can be changed according to individual client requests.