Week 3: Ukraine/Romania – Endless wilderness and lots of monestaries

Day 16: To Romania and its monasteries, part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage!

After a one-week tour through the Ukraine, we are heading towards Siret in Romania. Today’s challenge is a bike ride of 95 kilometers on gravel roads, with the Romanian Carpathians lying ahead of us beyond the border. Small wooden cottages with front yard flower beds and horticulture, typical of the Ukraine, are lining the road. The picturesque landscape is a mosaic of agricultural plots and beech forest patches.

Again, we cross the border without difficulty – much different from what we experienced when traveling by car.

Day 17: From Siret to the Moldovan monasteries

We cycle from Siret to Humor, covering a section of 62 kilometers, across wide unpaved trails and glowing sunflower fields.

After a few kilometers (passing the timber operations of the Austrian companies Schweighofer and Egger), we reach the Radauti monastery, which is currently under restoration. But the next monastery, Arbore, is only a stone’s throw away.

Before reaching a further monastery – Humor –, we have to cycle over a pass of over 500 meters altitude gain on bumpy gravel roads. It is a sultry day and after a sporty descent we arrive in Humor, where we will be staying at “Pensiunea Casa Bunicilor” for two days. Our charming lodge, built back in 1901, is the former summer residence of an Austrian military officer. Here they serve us typical Romanian food.

Moldova boasts many well-preserved Byzantine-style churches and monasteries, all of them forming part of a fascinating world cultural heritage.

Day 18 (a day of rest and sightseeing): To the monasteries of Humor and Voronet, and a unique color called “Blue of Voronet“

Elisabeth, Alfred, Walter, Herta, Gerold

Day 19: Meeting Xenia at the Slatina monastery

Xenia, who has spent her entire life at the monastery, is trying to tell us her story in a mix of Romanian and Italian. The morning hours are dedicated to work. While the other nuns are busy sweeping the floors or peeling potatoes, Xenia is talking to us with her charming smile.

Xenia and Elisabeth

Day 20: Visiting the Neamt monastery

The next gem on our list is the Neamt monastery, which boasts the largest church of the region. As we enter the church, we dive into darkness. The use of candles throughout centuries has left black sooty stains on the frescoes. The entrance area to the monastery is currently the subject of extensive restoration activities, which are being performed with technical assistance from the monks. We have shortened our cycling distance for the day (as accommodation for six people is pretty hard to find) and arrive at Durau, a town located amidst the Carpathians at 700 meters sea level, right on the edge of Ceahlau National Park.

Walter is buying the entrance tickets

Day 21: It is raining. We are soaking wet

Today‘s destination is Miercurea Ciuc, and we are faced with a strenuous bike ride of 130 kilometers. Our route through Ceahlau National Park is a laborious uphill struggle on a partly rocky forest road that leads us to the top of a pass.

Soaking wet: Andy crossing a stream

After the descent, we are soaking wet and freezing. In Bicazu Ardealen, we stop at an inn to have a hot cup of tea and change our wet clothes.  Then comes the second pass, which we are approaching on the main road. Our bike ride up to the lake of Lacu-Rossu takes us through a scenic – and touristy – gorge, lined with numerous market stalls. On account of the extreme weather conditions (pouring rain), we decide to stay on the paved road, which is our trekking route via Georgheni to Miercurea Ciuc.

Day 22: To Darmanesti – through the land of storks and buzzards

Yesterday’s rain has cleared the air and the landscape presents itself in exceptional the clarity. Never before have we seen so many storks and buzzards passaging ahead of us, seemingly also drying their wings.

Church dating from 1230 on our way to St. Martin
In Ukraine and Romania, all church tower clocks are set to quarter to twelve
Even the storks are “going to Mass” on Sunday

We cycle through the beautiful valley of Valea Uzului, across mountain pastures and alongside a brook, towards the impoundment of Darmanesti.

Waiting for the sheep to clear the way

We find the cemetery of Uz really upsetting. It bears testimony to many battlefield atrocities that happened here during the First and Second World War.

In front of the cemetary of Uz

Before reaching Darmanesti, we come across a refinery which was abandoned more than 20 years ago. Shockingly, we can still smell the oil…..