Moldavia: Religious Devotion and Traditional Villages

Often overlooked, Eastern Romania or Moldavia is a destination that might just surprise you if you give it a chance. Located between the Carpathians and the Prut River, Moldavia has its share of authentic experiences, especially religious, and slow countryside life. With a landscape dominated by hills and plateaus, the region has a long vineyards tradition. From big to artisan wineries, local wine is the most distinctive product of Eastern Romania.

golia-church

Golia Church

The other particular element, its strong religious devotion also goes back centuries. Since medieval times, religion had an essential role in rural Moldavia, encouraged by local princes who linked their power to divinity. Less influenced by Western values, Orthodox values remained strong until the communist regime imposed a drastic limitation on religious events. However, after 1989, the new religious freedom often translated into the building of many new churches and monasteries. So many that the largest city in Moldavia, Iasi, has more than 100 churches today.

A short history of Moldavia

One legendary prince, Stephen the Great (1457-1504), marked the medieval history of Eastern Romania. No other local leader has enjoyed such popularity although he died more than 500 years ago. Celebrated for his real efforts to resist Ottoman expansion, the prince became even more famous after the communists used his image to promote a nationalistic history. Still, his cultural legacy is outstanding, and his many churches built all over Eastern Romania survive until today.

Closer to modern times, the region’s history was often determined by the neighboring Russian Empire and its territorial claims. In fact, until 1775, the surface of the province was almost double, including the southern part of present-day Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. Several wars and peace treaties reduced its territory, including in the 20th century.

In 1859, Moldavia united with Southern Romania and formed the Romanian state. In the end of WW1, Romania united with Transylvania, Bucovina, and Basarabia but lost northern Bucovina and again Basarabia in WW2.

Palace of Culture Iasi

Palace of Culture, Iasi

Places to see in Eastern Romania

Take a few days to visit the region. Driving is the best alternative, but direct trains connect Iasi to Chisinau, the capital of the Republic of Moldova.

Cities

Iasi

The capital of Moldavia, Iasi, was once one of the most romantic cities in Romania. The decades of communist systematization have disfigured its architecture, but the city still conserves its lovely Copou Park, the impressive Palace of Culture, old aristocratic mansions, many centuries-old churches, and its provincial atmosphere of peace.

Iasi theater

The National Theater Vasile Alecsandri

Wineries

If wine-tasting is a favorite activity, you’re definitely in the right place. From major wineries to artisanal producers, you have enough choices to keep you on the go. You can book a wine tasting at Cotnari, close to Iasi, or even better, at one of the smaller producers Ochean, Averesti, and Girboiu from Vaslui and Vrancea.

History & Culture

Neamt Fortress

This fortress is one of the few medieval fortifications that still exist in Eastern Romania, surviving the Ottoman-ordered demolitions. A historical reminder of the extensive defensive measures taken by Stefan the Great, this landmark is one of the few medieval sites you can visit in Moldavia.

Ruginoasa Palace

Dating from the 19th century, this small palace was for a while the home of Alexandru Ioan Cuza, who, in 1859, became the first prince of the United Romanian Principalities. Today, Ruginoasa Palace is one of the rare aristocratic residences from Moldavia still intact after the communists destroyed most of them.

Forbidden love stories, adulteries, and illegitimate children add to the official history of the monument.

Ruginoasa Palace

Ruginoasa Palace

Check the visiting schedule on  http://palatulculturii.ro

Miclauseni Caste

Close to Ruginoasa Palace, you can visit Miclauseni Castle. While WW2 and the destructive behavior of the communist regime almost destroyed it, you can still imagine its past glory if you take a closer look at the architectural details that survived degradation.

Nature

Ceahlau National Park

The perfect choice for both experienced and beginner hikers, Ceahlau National Park has some of the most panoramic views of the Carpathians. With a maximum altitude of 1,907 meters, dense forests, picturesque abysses, and odd geological formations, Ceahlau is a great nature destination.

Ceahlau National Park

Hiking towards Toaca Peak

Bicaz Gorges-Hasmas National Park

Add one or two extra days and combine the hike on Ceahlau with a tour in Bicaz Gorges-Hasmas National Park. Go off the beaten track and explore the adventurous trails of Bicajel Gorges, but don’t miss a stop at the unique natural dam Red Lake that appeared after an earthquake.

Bicaz Gorges-Hasmas-National-Park-Moldavia

Abandoned summer hut, Bicaz Gorges-Hasmas National Park

Bicaz Lake

This is the largest dam in Romania and one of the biggest infrastructure projects of the communist regime, sadly built by political prisoners from labor camps. Bicaz Lake, also known as Izvorul Muntelui, powers up a nearby 210 MW hydropower plant. A hike on Ceahlau Mountain offers a great view of the entire lake, but a drive around it is also spectacular.

Bicaz-Lake-Moldavia-Eastern-Romania

Bicaz Lake

Discover more attractions in Eastern Romania