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SOUTHERN BUCOVINA ......There were advantages and disadvantages in taking a tour. On the plus side, I never would have been able to find them on my own. Perhaps I would have found some, but it was so much easier to be delivered to the doorstep. However, when you take a tour to many different locations in one day, it doesn't matter if the tour is in Romanian or any other language. Destinations blur together.

I knew nothing about the monasteries in advance. Yes, I should have read the guidebook before hand. Lesson learned. But, surprise was also good. I knew the monasteries were built in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but I had no idea that many of them were painted inside and out. That was the inspiration of Grigore Rosca as a means of educating the illiterate of biblical events. Painted in a Byzantine style, the art also had a healthy infusion of traditional folk art and lore. Thankfully, they were built with large eaves that helped to protect a lot of the art. Of course, the interiors were much more protected and preserved, but some of the exteriors were in amazing condition.

They monasteries weren't just churches. They were built as fortresses to protect the Orthodox church from invasion by Turk and Tatar infidels. There were dwellings for the monks and nuns (who still lived on the grounds), guard towers, elegant walls and now each had a museum to share its history. The fortresses were usually set at the head of a valley to create a defensive bottleneck. The exact locations were determined by shooting arrows from atop a mountain. The first arrow was for the water source; second arrow for the altar; third for the belfry, and so on. It certainly eliminated arguments with architects.

I'm not sure how many monasteries I saw on the tour due to the blur effect. But, I did visit Voronet Monastery, Sucevita Monastery and Putna Monastery.

MARTIN

Copyright 2009 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.