Early morning found us back on the road, finally headed toward the painted monasteries that are UNESCO World Heritage sites. As usual, the going was terribly slow until Ben gave up on the speed limits, joining the locals as we cruised through towns and villages. Though the way was fairly quiet, we were surprised when we arrived at the Voronet Monastery to find a pay by the hour parking lot already filling up with cars and tour buses. We hadn’t seen anything this touristy for our entire time in Romania! (Ben’s note: We of course pulled 100 feet away to a gravel lot that was much quieter and much free-er.)
We paid our entrance fee and even bought a photo pass before filing in to see the church covered with frescos on the outside walls. We barely made it past the gate when some guy started madly gesturing at us. Unclear what we he wanted from us, we simply followed him.
The man kept pointing at our knees and muttering some simple directions in Romanian. Not understanding – we followed him back to the entrance, where I was sure that Bree was going to be given the appropriate garb to cover up – usually a loose fitting skirt and/or a head scarf.
The man handed us two pieces of clothing – one dress for Bree, and one dress for me. Apparently my knees are just as offensive as Bree’s in this particular monastery. A little self conscious about being handed a black dress to wear but realizing I had no other choice, I donned my modesty-garb so that we could continue our visit of the monastery. We were both a little baffled to see other men in shorts or capris and even a handful of women with knee-length dresses strolling around the grounds. I guess the modesty police didn’t see them! We did have a good chuckle at a sign we passed as we walked out of the monastery that day, though.
Strutting around in our nearly-matching dresses, we checked out the exterior frescoes painted in the 15th century that are beautifully preserved. Every square inch of the interior was also covered in frescoes – each divided neatly into little squares. It was almost like a comic strip of religious motifs.
The church was pretty incredible, but the large tour groups crowding the small grounds, high prices (this is all relative, people. Ticket prices in Romania are incredibly cheap – especially for students) and lack of quaintness meant that we didn’t last long. We eventually jumped back in our little white Panda and headed off.
Since the Humor Monestary was only 20 minutes away, we decided to stop by it as well. Even though the frescoes aren’t nearly as well preserved there, we had an excellent time walking around the grounds with only a handful of other people – and no dresses. There was even an awesome tower that we were able to climb with impossibly narrow staircases/ladders (it’s hard to tell what they were, exactly) carved into the stone.
The more time we spend overseas, the more jaded we become with historic monuments and old churches. It seems that we have the “why do we even like travel” conversation almost daily – and the answer is usually this: To see beautiful places, to meet awesome people, and to better understand how other people live. None of those objectives include seeing all the things that our guidebook said we have to see. With that in mind, we didn’t bother visiting the rest of the monasteries. We had limited time with our car and had a lot of miles to cover, anyway, so we continued our journey.
As we drove through one small town, we kept seeing signs to an Egg Museum (yes, that’s right). Our camp host from the previous night mentioned that it was actually pretty cool – so we decided to give it a try.
The museum is actually in some lady’s house who gives tours of her own personal collection of painted eggs from around the world. Hand painting eggs is really a thing here – we see them for sale pretty much everywhere. The lady showed us how they use a hollow needle with a horse hair to make a sort of pen which is used to paint incredibly fine lines onto the hollowed out shell. It was interesting to see the eggs and learn about the symbolism in their designs, though my attention span ran out a little too early.
Two monasteries and an egg museum made for more than enough tourist nonsense for one day. I would much rather drive through and gawk at the Bucovian Mountains than hang out at the tourist highlights – so that’s what we did!
The rest of the day was spent making our way slowly to the Maramure region of Romania. As we tend to do when we rent a car, the day went on forever, our progress hindered by mountain roads and potholes everywhere. We often feel a need to get back on the bike in order to rest from our relentlessly intense road trips. Google’s estimates of driving times were off by about 80% it seemed, so in spite of our efforts to take it easy we were officially overbooked.
Getting too tired to go on, I finally called it quits a little early of our intended destination at a city set against the Ukrainian border. We eventually found a little guesthouse that allowed tents in their garden, where we crashed for the night.