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Romanian Cultural Heritage Tour 14 days

DAY 1  / BUCHAREST
Arrive BUCHAREST
Our flight will bring us to Bucharest where we will be transferred directly to our hotel with the balance of the day at leisure. Hotel Howard Johnson, 4*+ (2 nights). Dinner in "Crama Domneasca" Restaurant, Old Town.

DAY 2 /  BUCHAREST
Highlights of our full day tour will include a walking tour of the old city centre, and visits to the Palace of the Parliament, perhaps better known as the People´s Palace. It is the second largest building in the world and the symbol of the Ceausescu era. Completed in 1989 it is constructed of the best materials and craftsmanship that Romania could provide. Lunch in "Pescarus" Restaurant – outdoor on the terrace with the view to Herastrau lake. Our other highlight visit will be to the Village Museum (Muzeul Satului in Romanian), an open-air museum located in the Herãstrãu Park, showcasing traditional Romanian village life. The museum contains 272 authentic peasant farms and houses from all over Romania.                  

DAY 3  / CURTEA de AGRES / COZIA / SIBIU
Our journey begins as we drive north into the Carpathian Mountains to the ancient centre of Curtea de Arges, possibly dating from 500 BC but definitely from the 14th Century when it was a Royal capital. The principal site in the city is the Cathedral, built in a Byzantine style with Moorish designs. We continue to a most picturesque setting in the Carpathians to visit Cozia Monastery, one of Romania’s most valuable monuments of medieval art and architecture. The church contains one of the richest collections of old art and literature in the country. This afternoon we arrive in Sibiu, at one time the capital of Transylvania and more recently the European Cultural Capital (2007). Hotel Golden Tulip Sibiu,4*, (2 nights).               

DAY 4 / SIBIEL / SIBIU
Sibiu is a treasure trove of historic buildings mostly centred on the two Town Squares, logically called Piata Mare and Mica (large and small). Explore this delightful centre on our morning walk, viewing the Council Tower, Gates and Stairs, the important churches and Liar’s Bridge. Following lunch we will venture to nearby Sibiel Village, set like a jewel on the Sibiel River surrounded by low mountains. The highlight of our visit will be the Museum of Glass Icons, Zosim Oancea, where we shall see a wonderful collection of glass, wood, pottery and much more.                 
DAY 5 / SIGHISOARA / TARGU MURES / CLUJ
Founded by German craftsmen and merchants known as the Saxons of Transylvania, Sighiºoara is a fine example of a small, fortified medieval town which played an important strategic and commercial role on the fringes of central Europe for several centuries. It sits on a small hill overlooking the Tarnava Mare River and is reputed to be the birthplace of Count Dracula. We will tour the Old Town (still partially surrounded by walls), including the Clock Tower, the History Museum and the Torture Chamber. The city of Targu Mures lies in the central part of the Transylvanian Plateau, on both sides of the Mures River. The multi-national traditions and the coexistence of several religious beliefs create a particular Transylvanian spirituality which sets this town apart. This evening we are in Cluj, the largest city in the northern region of Transylvania. Hotel Golden Tulip, 4* (1 night).                        

DAY 6 / CLUJ / BAIA MARE
This morning we shall explore the city, seeing the Botanical Gardens, the Orthodox Church, the house of Matei Corvin (Gothic in style from the 15th Century), the Justice Palace, the National Theatre and the Romanian Opera House. Heading north we shall enjoy the scenic countryside as well as seeing a number of traditional wooden churches, characteristic of this region. Our next two nights will be in the town of Baia Mare, the regional capital of Maramures County, which borders both Hungary and the Ukraine. Its medieval history is retained in the town square, Piata Libertatii, by houses dating back to the 14th Century. Hotel Carpati,4*, (2 nights).                 

DAY 7 / SIGHETU MARMATIEI
In the village of Sapanta we will visit the Merry Cemetery, particularly noted for the colourful carved crosses. The dead are remembered and portrayed in a most important moment in their lives. Sighetu Marmatiei is noted most for the horrors of the communist regime. Here we find a prison which during the Communist era was used to hold many important Romanian leaders as well common people who spoke up against the rulers of the time. We visit home of Elie Wiesel, awarded the Nobel Prize for peace. Along with some 38,000 other Jews he was placed in Nazi Concentration Camps where he wrote many books about what they endured.                         

DAY 8 / BOTIZA / BORSA / GURA HUMORULUI
We journey across the northern reaches of Romania today, admiring the beautiful rural scenery and the many quaint villages. This is the region of the UNESCO Painted Monasteries for which Romania is justly famous. Our first visit will be to Moldovita, founded in 1532. Prior to the current structure, there was a fortified stone church erected by Alexander the Kind-Hearted between 1402-1410 (its ruins are still visible). Built on safer ground in the valley of the Moldovita River, the monastery consists of a quadrangular structure with fortified towers, thick walls and a brawny gate - inside is a magnificent painted church. Next is Voronet, considered by many to be the ‘Sistine Chapel of the East’, due to its incredible frescoes, painted on the west wall (take note of the very unique Voronet Blue obtained from Lapis Lazuli). Lastly, Humor, a monastery which was only reopened in 1993 (founded in 1523). Humor is also noted for its exceptional frescoes and its tranquil setting by the Humor River. Our next two nights will be in Gura Humorului, in the region known as Bukovina, home to the UNESCO World Heritage painted monasteries. Best Western Bucovina,4*, (2 nights).                                

DAY 9 / The PAINTED MONASTERIES of MOLDAVIA
Our day is devoted to exploring a number of the world famous Painted Monasteries. Sucevita Monastery, the most recent construction, is the largest and finest of the painted monasteries of Bucovina. ‘A Poem in Green and Light’, it has its thousands of painted images on a background of emerald green. The fortress legacy of these mountain monasteries is nowhere clearer than inside and outside the massive walls at Sucevita. Set in a beautiful green valley, it is a square-shaped fortified citadel with watchtowers at its four corners, surrounded by a wall of 100 meters on each side, six meters high and three meters thick. Putna Monastery is a Romanian Orthodox monastery, one of the most important cultural, religious and artistic centres in medieval Moldavia. Stephen the Great is famous for building dozens of churches and monasteries across Moldavia (allegedly, he founded a religious edifice after each important military victory). The Putna Monastery houses the tombs of Stephen (a place of pilgrimage) and several of his family members. The icon veils and tombstones are held as fine examples of Moldavian art in Stephen the Great’s time. Dating from the 1500s, we will visit Marginea Ceramics, a well-known brand characterized by its black colour. Surrounded by forests, blessed by great clay soil and the Sucevita River, the region is ideal for the production of exquisite ceramics. In the village is located an ethnographic museum where we can admire traditional costumes from Bucovina.                  

DAY 10 / GURA HUMORULUI / PIATRA NEAMT
Today our road slices through the Bicaz Gorges (Cheile Bicazului), one of Romania’s most scenic routes. The gorge twists and turns steeply uphill for 5km, cutting through sheer, 300 metre high limestone rocks. At one point, the narrow mountain road runs uncomfortably beneath the overhanging rocks in a section known as the ‘neck of hell’ (Gâtul Iadului). One of the deepest gorges from Carpathians - Bicaz Gorges is a rock climbing paradise, with huge walls over 300 metre high. We shall stop by Red Lake (Lacu Rosu), the largest natural mountain lake in Romania. Its name comes from the reddish alluvia (iron oxides and iron hydroxides) deposited in the lake by the Red Creek. This evening we are in the Moldavian city of Piatra Neamt, delightfully surrounded by wooded mountains. We hope to visit the only wooden synagogue in Romania (dating the 17th Century), partially built below the ground. Central Plaza Hotel, 4*, (1 night).                                

DAY 11 / PIATRA NEAMT / BRASOV
Also known as the ‘Pearl of Moldavia’ Piatra Neamt was the city where Stephen the Great built his Princely Court and Church. Explore the city this morning before we continue our journey to Brasov. En route to Brasov we visit Prejmer a UNESCO World Heritage Site where we find an excellent example of a fortified Saxon church and fortress used by the early German settlers in Transylvania. Located in the central part of Romania, Brasov is surrounded by the Southern Carpathians and is part of the Transylvania region. The oldest traces of human activity and settlements date back to the Neolithic age (about 9500 BC) and research has uncovered continuous traces of human settlements since then. We shall explore the old city centre this afternoon, including a walk in the square and a visit to the Black Church, the largest Gothic church in South Eastern Europe. Hotel Ramada,4*, (2 nights).      

DAY 12 / BRAN / SINAIA / BRASOV
Discover Bran Castle, a national treasure that is commonly known as Dracula’s Castle, for reasons that will become quite obvious. It is the location usually associated with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Enjoy the dramatic legends, the period furniture and the small open air museum containing typical peasant dwellings. Our final stop today will be in Sinaia, where we visit Peles Castle, a former Royal Residence, built in the 19th Century German-Renaissance style, which will enchant us with its different furnishings.               

DAY 13 / BRASOV / BUCHAREST
Following a leisurely morning we will make our way back to Bucharest with a stop en route at a winery in Azuga for lunch and a champagne tasting at Rheins Cellars. This evening we gather for our Farewell Dinner at "Caru Cu Bere", featuring traditional dancing and music. Hotel Howard Johnson, 4*+ (1 night).

DAY 14 / BUCHAREST
After breakfast we will do the airport transfer for your return flight home.     

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