by Alexandra Duță

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

The historical region of Bucovina, now divided between Ukraine and Romania, covers the northern part of the latter and represents the most fruitful Romanian land in terms of history, linguistics, traditions and religious ancestry.

THE PAINTED MONASTERIES

There are six of them, one more spectacular than the other, from north to south: Putna, Sucevița, Arbore, Moldovița, Humor and the crown jewel, Voroneț. Called by some the Sistine Chapel of the East, the latter displays vivid frescoes painted in the perfect cerulean blue. 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.

Red, green, yellow and blue, each monastery has its own historical charm as the monastic residents share old time legends sweetened with their soft regional accent. Do not leave the monastery without enjoying every bit of a finger-licking lunch. Our tip is to ask for rose and raspberry sherbet as a dessert, you’ll be amazed. Then test your bargaining skills at the nearby permanent fairs for the most whimsical woven peasant blouses and other artisan objects.

The best way to visit all-important monasteries with a single tour is to hire a car transfer; check for availability with local guesthouses in Gura Humorului. We highly recommend guided bicycle tours and leisure walks to Humor and Voroneț monasteries as they’re located within reach of Gura Humorului city center.

THE ART OF DECORATING EGGS

The locals from Bucovina are most proud of their ancient craftsmanship: the art of decorating eggs. The egg is carved, dyed or painted and, even though every technique is spectacular, perhaps the most exceptional is the ornamentation of the egg with six layers of colored wax which creates a unique texture. A visit to the largest egg collection in our country would be well worth it for a chance to assist the artist herself while she decorates the eggs with archaic symbols belonging only to land of Bucovina.

The Egg Museum – prof. Letiția Orșivschi

+40745 869 529 +40230 239 212

[email protected]

MARGINEA BLACK POTTERY

The northern village of Marginea shelters more than 30 potter families, distinguished bearers of the unequaled tradition of crafting nacreous black ceramics. They are proud to share each stage of the manual production as visitors are welcome to join the process of preparing the clay, molding it barehanded on the potter wheel, applying stone polish and finally burning the pots in sealed ovens.

As the renowned Sucevița stud farm is close at hand you shouldn’t miss the chance to take a recreational ride or enjoy an equestrian show. Magopat Family Workshop

+40 745 922 949 www.ceramicamarginea.com

Forest Ecvestru Park

622a Sucevița village +40 744 628 154

www.ecvestrupark.ro

MUSHROOM PICKING

Covering the Eastern Carpathians, the thick forests of Bucovina, a wildlife haven indeed, are pure bliss for hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, bird watching and of course, mushroom and berry picking. The local star is the fleshy porcino along with the chanterelle, both enriching the taste of the zesty baked appetizers and pickles. The enthusiasm for this mushroom rises every autumn when locals from Vama celebrate the Porcino Festival (between September 1 and October 15).

BUCOVINA, TASTEFULLY YOURS

Bucovineans are truly passionate about food. Their cooking tradition has been influenced in the past centuries not only by the local ethnic minorities but also by the Orthodox heritage. Vegetable sour soups and hot peppers (borș cu ardei iute), nests of meat stuffed cabbage rolls and polenta (sarmale cu mămăligă) and tinted trout (păstrăv la baiț), all topped with organic sour cream. The local housewives’ cooking techniques can only be matched by monastery kitchens where exquisite fasting or vegetarian meals are prepared. These are entirely homemade, including the bread. Nonetheless, the masterpiece of cuisine is by far the freshly puffy and delightful poale-n brâu, a cottage cheese and raisin filled pie.

Every dish is thoroughly matched with the finest Moldavian wines, from the rich flavored farmer harvest to the award-winning boutique wines.

A DAY IN GURA HUMORULUI

At the heart of Bucovina, this charming little town knows no dull moment regardless of the season. The Ariniș recreational area includes an Olympic-size swimming pool, heated during winter, floodlit sport courts and an ice rink. In wintertime, bare limbed apple orchards with their ripe fruits still hanging are the most inviting places to enjoy a glass or two of fresh apple juice and perhaps a soothing massage after a ride down Șoimul ski slope located in the immediate vicinity of the town. Also, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the close-by Cacica salt mine for a look around and a bath in the salt-water pool.

HOTELS

Hilde’s Residence Boutique Hotel

2 Șipotului St., Gura Humorului

+40 230 233 484 www.lucy.ro

This would be the most chic with a hint of traditional guesthouse. Raluca, a thoroughly Bucovinean host, will welcome you with the finest of borș from Rădăuți – a free range chicken soup seasoned with fresh sour cream – and other local treats as the freshly squeezed apple juice.

Casa Călin Guesthouse

1 Horia St., Vama

+40 230 239 225 www.casa-calin.ro

Widely famous for their lively traditional picnics, at Casa Călin each day is an epic journey across the local cuisine, beautifully finished with a unique demonstration of the reverse painting on glass technique. Naturally, this would be accompanied by a glass of fizzy fir tip syrup.

Inima Bucovinei Guesthouse

833 Frasin +40 230 340 067

www.inimabucovinei.ro

With the largest playground in the region, Inima Bucovinei is entitled to be considered the children’s heaven no matter the season. Meanwhile, the adults are invited to catch dinner from the nearby trout pond, everybody enjoying later on the sizzling fried fish and steamy polenta in a rustic ambiance at the sheepfold lodge.

Bucovina Lodge

17A Dimitrie Cantemir St., Vama

+40 330 080 382 www.bucovinalodge.com

At the edge of the thick spruce-fir forest, there are few things to match the peace of mind at the sight of the mellow sun setting behind the hills surrounding the sleepy village of Vama. The smoke curls twist and twine above the tiny rooftops while a few tired children drag along their sleds. Inside the lodge a savory smell of home cooking tingles your taste buds.

RESTAURANTS

National

67 Unirii Square, Rădăuți

+40 230 565 551

[email protected]

This place is highly appraised for its traditional Bucovinean dishes, authentic setting and excellent pricing. Make sure you take a walk or a cab to the restaurant, as it doesn’t have any parking space.

Orso Bruno

1 Putnei St., Rădăuți

+40 742 188 538

www.orsobruno.ro

Cozily located at the heart of Rădăuți, this is the best Italian restaurant serving the most sought after pizza in the county.

Latino

9 Curtea Domnească St., Suceava

+40 230 523 627

www.restaurant-latino.ro

Mosaik

68 Sofia Vicoveanca Blvd., Suceava

+40 230 220 099

www.hotelsonnenhof.ro/ro/restaurant-mosaik