A few words before setting off
“The past is the door to the future.” (Hasdeu)
Man is the root of all things, and, at the root of man’s identity, there are all those things which nurtured his greatness and endowed him with the gift of infinite life through the ever glorious past: the nature, the religion, the history, the places, other people, the wind, the sun, the birds, the traditions moulded in the time’s oven, the poetry, their faith and their beliefs. Man has walked the earth and built universes throughout thousands of years of travelling around the world, whose limits used to be unknown and uncanny to him. He was confident, he planted, waited, prayed, dared and hoped that the things he left behind would also continue to make history for his followers.
It was also man who dreamt that his descendants would stay united, would not forget their origin and would honour the legacy that gave them the great gift of living it or looking at it. The legacy starts with the fields and the woods, goes through the villages and the peasant’s proud soul, lives in walls, crucifixes and monuments, becomes a symbol of great significance and returns to the nature, to God who created them all and who gave them all back to man to teach him humility, respect and love for everything he chooses to leave behind.
This is the same way we write our destinies in Moldavia, our beautiful, majestic Moldavia, which is full of nicely flowing stories and tales, with rulers, beautiful nature, eternal vows and unspoken prayers of “forget-me-not”. Who, where and how could anyone ever forget it, with all its nooks, crannies and hidden places filled with history, myths, legends and faith laid as a testimony to the foundations of the most wonderful churches in north-eastern Romania?
“I feel bound to Moldavia through all my fibres. Nothing can undo my connection with the Moldavian earth, sky and waters. I feel like home in the tranquil Moldavian landscape and among this blessed province’s decent people with discreet spiritual nobility. I feel twinned with everything related to Moldavia”. (George Enescu)
The capital of the 7 hills lies naturally at its heart, as if inviting everyone to discover it. Iași, the revelation which is born in front of its visitors’ eyes, is the result of its relief and settlement, of a history haunted by heroic victories, of a God who was kind to the Moldavians and who protected them and kept them safe from misfortunes. The same God made the Moldavians of the past and of the present think of raising the name of the town of Iasi through the people and the places that would honour the two free nodes which give birth to the essence of our nation.
- The religion, the culture and the tradition of a blessed place
Without our faith in God, without our cultural heritage (placed prominently in museums, factories and mansions to always remind us of the past without which the present is bound to die), without our sacredly preserved customs and traditions, which represent a primordial gift that honours our origin and identity, how can we call ourselves and how can we recognize each other as inhabitants of Moldavia and of the great town of Iași?
We are setting off on our ancestors’ path of faith in God (religion), in the power of the past (culture) and its preservation in the eternal present (customs and traditions). We start our journey from places that are already familiar to the eye and mind (which gave the name of the region) but also from places that are familiar only to the local people who are going to unveil their mystery in these pages.
- “The connection to the Moldavian land, sky and waters” – protected areas and recreation
As long as the land allowed curious steps to roam across it, as long as the green woods were not ashamed to quiver when they offered shelter, as long as the waters cleansed souls and things, as long as the grass allowed itself to be laid down in clearings and as long as the meadows allowed their running waters to love them, nature followed its natural course. It revealed itself in all its matchless beauty, it allowed everyone to discover and visit it and it allowed man to learn its secrets and to welcome it into his world.
The town can be difficult to bear sometimes. Since ancient times, when its spirit has become depressing, the surroundings will lift the load off its shoulders, while the ever welcoming nature will charge the feelings with all that is pure and humane. The area to be discovered is rich and becomes richer and richer in new mystical, enchanting and fulfilling places. We shall set off together again on their roads to adorn them with the same curious steps that certify their presence.
The journey and the people
The itinerary presented here is comprehensible and adapts to the soul. It is born from the local people’s drive, those people who are united and bound under the inheritance and the tacit promises made to their predecessors. 4 local action groups have assumed the role of pioneers and promoters of the projects that remind you why Iași is kind with its people and with those who want to learn about it.
The road is not difficult, nor tangled, but it is full of wonders. It starts from the North, the monumental green core – Rediu – Prăjeni, it goes through the Prut Valley with its churches, ponds, lakes and its dam. It takes a nice break in the purifying waters of Ștefan cel Mare, it roams the hills of Colinele Iașilor and it returns to the place where it all began. This is the infinite, circular road of man’s everlasting longing for this place. It’s an invitation full of symbols and meanings, which nurtures identity, a revelation of simple and pure things from which everything started.
The fruit and its history
The pages put together and held now in worthy hands are the fruit of the odyssey of 4 teams (Local Action Groups or LAGs): the “Colinele Iaşilor” LAG, the “Rediu-Prăjeni Region” LAG, the “Stephen the Great” LAG (Romanian: Ștefan cel Mare) and the “Prut Valley” LAG. The wonderful trip is the initiative of the project called “Cooperation of Local Action Groups to promote the tourist attractions of the common territory, by creating an interactive tourist guide with QR technology elements.”
This is a humble gift in return of the inheritance frequently mentioned in these few introductory words, which is never to be forgotten in the future. It’s a promise made to our descendants, who will carry it on when their time comes.
The land of water and green expanses invites to relaxation and to a peaceful journey. We are entering the last collection of tourist attractions that can be admired on the journey. We visit them carefully and remember them for future visits when other old and new friends will be joining us.
Natura 2000 objectives, protected areas and natural monuments
Prăjeni-Rediu is a region that is rich in protected areas and natural monuments, which we are careful not to miss on our way
- The “Valea lui David” (“David’s Valley”) floristic reserve (the commune of Rediu, Valea Lupului)
- “Dealul lui Dumnezeu” (“God’s Hill”), stretching on 570 ha (the commune of Românești)
- The Forest and Meadows of Mârzeşti (Rediu)
- The Saltings of the Lower Jijia – Prut, stretching on 10976 ha (the commune of Vlădeni, Gropnița, Şipote, Movileni)
- The Jijia’s and the Milentin’s ponds, stretching on 19425 ha (the commune of Vlădeni, Gropnița, Şipote, Movileni)
- The Saltings of “Valea Ilenei”, stretching on 112 ha (the commune of Românești)
The “Valea lui David” (“David’s Valley”) floristic reserve
Main access way: European road E583 (Iaşi-Târgu Frumos), access through the south of the site (located at about 2 km)
Secondary access way: county road DJ280E, through the locality of Rediu, follow the existing local roads and the farm roads with access to the east of the site or to the county road DJ248B, through the village of Bogonos.
On our journey, we continue to discover the richness of fauna and flora. The piece of land called David’s Valley, named after Professor Mihail D. David, hides in its steppe many gifts received from nature, which are unique in Moldova: a quarter of the Romanian flora (over 570 plant species and rare flowers), 63 species of crickets, grasshoppers and locusts, more than 85 species of birds and hundreds of other wonders that we can discover step by step. And, since we are talking…
In David’s Valley, we step on welcoming and friendly ground, yet we step carefully. Among the protected plants and dense vegetation, the Moldavian meadow viper always crawls its way. It lives in the middle and the upper part of the slope (if we are scared by the idea, we can easily avoid it) and it uses its venom only to defend itself from predators or to catch its food. We’re its friends, so we won’t stand in its way and it won’t in ours.
We listen to the murmur of the stream called Pârâului lui David („David’s” Creek), which divides the site into two, from north to south, before continuing our journey towards a point of relaxation.
Dealul lui Dumnezeu (“God’s Hill”)
Another lookout point and a unique site appear on the route. Whether we come from Iași, on the county road DJ282, or from the village of Epureni, on the farm roads in the west, God’s Hill is the place where some people might say that we are brave to have dared to come. The site is one of the few “homes” of the Moldavian meadow viper – Vipera ursinii moldavica – one of the most endangered species in Europe (currently, God’s Hill is home to more than 500 specimens). However, the viper is far from turning us into heroes: it is one of the smallest species, and its bite is the least harmful of the entire Viperidae family. The venom of the Moldovan steppe viper can kill a cricket or a mouse, but it is almost harmless to humans. We don’t know this for sure, however. We aren’t going to provoke it or be in its way, especially since it’s a known fact that the viper gets more easily scared by humans than humans by it. We walk again carefully trying to keep intact this corner of heaven.
The site is a diamond in terms of the flora and the fauna it houses. Yet, it is difficult to get to it (the degree of isolation from inhabited areas is higher than in the case of other sites such as “David’s Valley” and “The Forest and Meadows of Mârzeşti”). The hill is pure and unaltered, and it is immediately obvious why grasslands have found a nest here to grow peacefully.
The Forest and Meadows of Mârzeşti
We reach this new protected area by taking the north exit of Iași, on national road DN24 to the Sculeni customs. We leave this road to the northwest (traffic sign “Rediu”) on county road DJ282 at the northern end of the village of Rediu; the western part with the forest is on the east of the road.
The site is rich and precious in Moldavia for its fauna and vegetation: 13 protected species of creatures, among which the meadow viper and the Jersey Tiger, 613 identified plant species, including 15 species that are protected at a European level.
We know we reached the spectacular site, as we see the secular oaks in Capul Rediului and the oak in the Mârzeşti Forest, from the side of the county road DJ282. We say “Hello” to the villagers and ask them for advice – we want to buy a handful of the best, freshest and most aromatic boletes, red pine mushrooms, morels, brittlegills or chanterelles. Until they answer us, a European bee-eater (with its colourful plumage) catches our attention. What a wonderful place have we landed on our surprising journey!
The Saltings of the Lower Jijia – Prut
We gently step into a new protected area in the rich north-eastern part of our country. Our route crosses one of the richest avifaunistic areas in Romania (with 205 species of identified birds, of which 8 are protected globally), one of the most important nesting areas in the Romanian Prut Basin, a resting place which is rich in food and quiet during migration.
The place is special due to its stretches of water that you can find almost everywhere; it is characterized by reed and cattail, canals and piers, marshy areas, meadows with short grass, saltings and ponds for fish farming.
The Jijia’s and the Milentin’s ponds
We remain on the stretch of water and we reach the Jijia’s and the Miletin’s ponds (important avifaunistic area identified by Bird Life International), with which the Saltings share the great gift of being home to over 205 species of birds (of which 117 species are nesting birds and a number 34 are protected species in Europe) and of being together on the list of protected areas in the region.
Born to reduce the risk of floods and flash floods, the ponds currently work as fisheries or they supply water to the settlements in the area; they include: the ponds in Vlădeni and Hălceni storage pond (set on the Miletin), Balta Borşa (Borşa Pond), the ponds of Larga Jijia (created by embankment of Jijia riverbed at the point of confluence with the Miletin), Movileni storage pond and Jijioara’s storage ponds.
The site is one of the most important nesting areas in the basin of the Romanian Prut Basin, a great place for a stop during migration and a wintering area for birds in eastern Romania. We also nest here for a while and we hope to see at least one of the nine species protected worldwide. A Moldavian “Delta” gives a spectacular performance of protected species during migration: the stilt, the avocet, the wood sandpiper, the golden plover, Montagu’s harrier, the pygmy cormorant, the white stork, the great egret, the ferruginous duck, the lesser white-fronted goose, the short-toed eagle, the ruff and the great snipe.
We’ll come back in autumn, for the spectacular migration of the 5000 white storks!
The Saltings of “Valea Ilenei”
To arrive at the Saltings of “Valea Ilenei”, we head to the national road DN28 (the road sector between Iaşi and Târgu Frumos), from near the locality of Leţcani. The site is also accessible by taking local / farm roads from the village of Avântu and the village of Ursoaia.
Just like David’s Valley and God’s Hill, the Saltings are home to many botanical species. However, the fauna here is a topic of continuous study. This is a new place where vegetation grows freely; the area is included in the category of protected areas.
Movileni calls for us to offer us a lesson of history and life. However, a bit of the story remains here, in Românești.
THE COMMUNE OF VALEA LUPULUI
Contact details: 64 Rediu Street, Iași; 0758.526.153
If the road gets too hot in midsummer or if the sun sets before we see all Rediu in the daylight, we needn’t worry, as “tomorrow is another day”. The pool calls us for a bath in its cool water; the restaurant invites us to a table filled with goodies, while the beds in the guesthouse are eager to receive us for a good night sleep.
So, let’s pull over for an hour or two even if the road is too tempting and we don’t want to keep it waiting for us. We can always come back here if it’s getting late or if it’s a long way back home.
THE COMMUNE OF REDIU
“Apollo” Swimming Pool
Contact details: DJ282, Breazu, Iași; 0744.276.556, 0232.254.801
If today is a bathing day, it means it’s the kids’ favourite day who are dedicated a pool at Apollo Summer Lounge in the commune of Rediu. 100 square metres are dedicated to children and 220 square metres of cool water are dedicated to grownups. You can come here, in the sun god’s home, for a lunch, as well; the menu is designed to easily relieve your hunger on a summer day.
“LEO” Tennis Club
Contact details: Rediu road (2,800 metres from OMV Păcurari); 0748.996.299
We feel the need to turn our socks brick-red and to exercise our tennis skills. However, if we totally lack talent and we have more than one afternoon available, we can take some lessons from the tennis instructors at the LEO Tennis Club in the village of Rediu. The court is equally welcoming to all who animate it or rent it, be it amateurs or beginners. We won’t add unnecessary weight to our backpacks: the balls and the rackets are available for rent here, as well.
After game, set and match, we tap our racket against our sneakers to take off the slag, just like famous tennis players do, and we continue our journey. The road is waiting for us, but the tournament, well …maybe it’s for the youngest of us.
Let’s get on the road again!
The “Tăuteşti” Pond, Breazu
Keen on fishing? The carp, the catfish, the crucian, the grass carp and the pike can bet we stand no chance. Let’s try!
10 km away from Iași (the exit through Copou), we turn left onto a country road right after the traffic sign announcing the exit from Breazu and we continue for about 1 km to the storage pond. The pond is waiting for us; it is docile and friendly as always. We pitch our tent, take out our 4 fishing rods (maximum allowed) and promise not catch more than 4 kg a fisherman. As the saying goes, we rip what we saw: either we hit some fish and have it fried (victory!) or we hit the road on an empty stomach and hope to come across a restaurant on our way, where we might be luckier (just like the fish which ran away from our bait).
In Rediu, the lookout point awaits us on the Breazu Hill. We admire a green landscape, full of houses and inhabited by hard-working people. It’s quiet here and the light is beautiful. Perhaps we should linger a few more moments to admire the view over Rediu, before walking farther to take a closer look at the place.
The Breazu Forest
Attention, travel companions! We walk into a protected area and we find the Breazu-Munteni Forest as proud as ever. In the past, the name of “Rediu” (meaning “young forest”), designated a place covered in forests in the vicinity of Iași, where noblemen’s horses were kept; Tatar slaves were renowned for their skill and passion of taking care of horses. The deciduous forests that cover the hills of the commune are home to different species of trees such as oak, sessile, hornbeam, Norway maple, ash, linden, elm, acacia, wild cherry tree and other species, as well as shrubs: hazel, cornelian cherry tree, blood twig dogwood, hawthorn, wild apple, blackthorn, rosehip and elderberry.
Romanian Heroes’ Cemetery in Rediu Tătar
History catches up with us and we remember a sad painting of World War II in the Heroes’ Cemetery in Rediu. The spring and summer of 1944 transformed into heroes over 800 soldiers involved in the military confrontation that took place on the territory of Rediu-Tătar, when the Red Army in full offensive was stopped by the Romanian and German armies on the Chișinău – Iași – Târgu Frumos front line, with an important defensive sector on territory of the village of Tăuteşti.
782 of the killed soldiers were buried in the cemetery of the church in Rediu. In August, 1946, the wooden Crucifix, which is struggling to stand up to the passage of time, was raised in front of the church in their honour.
The “Adormirea Maicii Domnului” Church (Virgin Mary’s Assumption Church)
Since it unveils to us in such a symbolical place, we ought to hear its story: the church erected in the middle of the Heroes’ Cemetery has a long history. There used to be an old wooden church here. The church we see now in the parish of Rediu-Tătar, under the patronage of “Virgin Mary’s Assumption” and “St. Gregory the Theologian”, was sanctified in 1911 by Patriarch Nicodim Munteanu.
The crucifix (built in the summer of 1946) of the Heroes’ Cemetery is the eternal reminder that 800 Romanian soldiers sacrificed their lives for victory in 1944.
The places where we stop now seem to put a heavy load on our shoulders. We promise never to forget our history before moving on…
Sheep farm – Petru Omuşoru
After such a spiritually charged day, we are happy to sleep in a unique and atypical place. A good option would be to rent the two rooms available at the sheep farm: 0741.794.505.
The “Sf. Nicolae” Church (St. Nicholas Church), Tăuteşti
In Tăuteşti, we come across a building with an interesting story for the community. Originally built in 1864, the church was later demolished by bombing during the wars. As the villagers wanted a place of worship, they erected a new church in 1960. This one was partly made of bricks taken from the old church. Procopie Florescu, founder of the building and former foreign minister under Voivode Al. I. Cuza, was buried in the cemetery.
However, we are going to hear another interesting story in a church from the village of Românești.
THE COMMUNE OF ROMÂNEȘTI
The “Sf. Mare Mucenic Gheorghe” Church (St. Great Martyr George Church)
We arrive in Românești, curious to see the only Church “dressed” in red bricks stately rising in the sun, a true monument of beauty and spirituality, whose construction began in 1905. The entrance of the Church is marked on the outside by a painting embodying St. George, the saint who ensures the victory and protects the Romanian Army, by killing a dragon (according to recent iconography).
Ventilation tunnel and stacks
We stay in Românești for a while and start an imaginary journey by train following the Dorohoi – Iași route, on one of the first railway lines built in Romania in the nineteenth century. Thus, we find an excellent opportunity to make another amazing stop.
130 years ago, the tunnel was built by architect Ioan Cantacuzino. It is 964 metres away from the Movileni station. It is made of bricks manufactured in Ciurea and of Portland cement especially brought from Braila, which was poured on the foundations of two ventilation stacks (this kind of material was used for the first time in Romania for a building). Italian engineers and much of the local workforce brought their contribution to this project. The ventilation towers still remain two of the most interesting pieces of architecture in the country because of their story and because of the innovation that firmly lie at their foundation.
The tunnel is still full of history. While in 1896 it drew the attention of the whole country through the value of the project and it caused disputes among various interest groups, in 1944 the mouth of the tunnel was located just a few hundred metres from the front line. Local people believe that mines and parts of weapons can still be found in the area.
THE COMMUNE OF MOVILENI
The Green Paradise
Contact details: village of Iepureni, near county road Dj 282-19 km away from Iași; 0743.680.171
We take our tents and we go fishing again! This time we can choose among three ponds (one of 2.5 ha, another one of 1.5 ha and a third one of 0.75 ha, with a total area of 40,000 m² and 65,000 of water surface); the capacity is of 56 places and we can use fishing rods or sliding lines (the water can be as deep as 7-8 metres).
We accept the limits of 3 tools / fisherman and a maximum of 10 kg of fish, as well as the challenge launched by the Green Paradise and, as long as there is fish in the pond and the calendar shows it is summer, it is worth making a stop here!
“La Izvoare”, Iepureni
Contact: 15 km away from Iași, on the route Iași – Breazu – Horlești – Iepureni. On entering Iepureni (commune of Movileni), the fishery can be seen on the right; 0785.794.108, 0748.426.497 or 0728.274.34
With our set rods (maximum 4 / fisherman), we find the “La Izvoare” Pond in Iepureni, which is full of carp, catfish, crucian, perch, bighead carp, silver carp, bass, pike and grass carp. The truth is that, as we promised, the route across the Rediu-Prăjeni LAG has good waters! We pitch our tent here, as well.
The Moldavian Delta – Piscicola – Larga Jijia
Here we are in one of the most unimaginable corners of beauty that nature and man could ever give to Moldavia: a paradise of water, birds and vegetation, which seems to be taken from the Danube Delta, which is highly appreciated and sought after. The “mini-delta” in Larga Jijia consists of a complex of lakes spread over an area of approximately 1,250 hectares, located at a distance of 24 kilometres from Iași, in the commune of Movileni.
Since 1977 (when the area was merely a huge expanse of water dotted with reeds), after the establishment of a fish farm in the lake complex of Larga Jijia and, consequently, after numerous bird species were attracted by the place due to the existing fish, Moldavia has been able to boast of having its own Delta, with over 197 species of birds (more than 50% of the bird species existing in Romania), with over 300 white swans that halt on the 50 ponds in the floodplain of the Jijia River and with “Insula Urzicilor” (“Nettle Island”), where the birds commonly build their nests.
We also get the chance to go fishing in the spectacular Moldavian Delta. Who wants to catch the topless carp, a trademark variety of Larga Jijia, has found the right place.
We resume our journey hoping that we will come back more often to the paradise of the Jijia River.
The Jijioara Pond
Contact details: county road DJ Iași – Movileni; 0745.413.777, 0742.044.777, 0743.244.777
Still thinking of fishing, we come across the Jijioara Pond in Movileni that can offer us carp, crucian, pike and catfish. The 37 ha give us many opportunities to find our peace and catch the fish we want.
Winter customs and traditions
If we come to Movileni for the New Year, we will enjoy a real show. Here, the winter customs and traditions are sacredly preserved: the horse dance, the goat dance, the bears, Coroi’s band, the doll dance and the ram dance.
The horse dance
One of the New Year’s traditions is the horse dance. The tradition is still preserved today, yet not for its symbolic meaning, which was forgotten a long time ago, but for the spectacularity of the show given by the performers’ masks and costumes. Therefore, the young people that are selected to participate in the horse dance must be excellent dancers and must be able to express the vitality and exuberant force of youth. Most often, the performers wear horse heads made of wood and covered in white linen and other decorative elements (mirrors, garland, tassels, myrtle and ribbons).
If they want us to take part in their dance, we won’t step aside, as their traditions are also our traditions.
THE COMMUNE OF GROPNIȚA
The “Adormirea Maicii Domnului” Church (Virgin Mary’s Assumption Church)
The “Adormirea Maicii Domnului” Church is a historical monument that amazes us through its modesty. Built in 1830, its walls guard the essence of faith and the simplicity of ancient times.
The lake chain
The commune of Gropnița also invites us to take a rest while fishing on the shores of the lakes that form a “chain”: Bulbucani, Bulbucani 1, Mălăeşti, Forăşti; these lakes make up for a total of 1024 hectares of water. We visit and we admire the area at the same time.
There is plenty of water in Rediu-Prăjeni, but not a chance to get tired of so much beauty and sublime tranquillity.
Vlădeni is calling us, but there no need to worry – we’ll get there in no time and make our next stop on the route.
THE COMMUNE OF VLADENI
The “Sf. Voievozi” Church (St. Voivodes Church)
Only 3 km away from Vlădeni, on county road DJ 282C, we find the village of Borșa, whose history was written and is now told to us by the new “Sfinții Voievozi” Church (St. Voivodes Church). It was built in 1826 and it raises questions on the certification of the village, as the earliest writings about it date from1866. Borșa seems to be the place where faith found a home before man did.
THE COMMUNE OF ȘIPOTE
The goat farm
In a fresh and green corner of nature, in the cleanest air and under the bluest sky, we are welcomed by an authentic place: the goat farm in Şipote. Making a stop here gives us the opportunity to find out more about people’s occupations in the area and how they manage to take such good care of the animals that provide many of them with the highly sought-after goat milk and cheese.
Moreover, the time is just right for a purely traditional meal in a genuinely Romanian place.
Blacksmith Joan Cojocaru
A craft with a distant origin, blacksmithing represented an important occupation in the area of Iași, having a long and interesting evolution in the context of rural and urban crafts.
There are craftsmen that have been practising their occupation for such a long time that they have become legends, and people start wanting to get to know them. This is also the story of blacksmith Ioan Cojocaru from Şipote, who respects the tradition of welcoming his guests. We will also go to meet him and listen to his stories and maybe he will sell us at least one secret of the craft he has been doing for a lifetime.
The Hălceni storage lake is destined to amateur fishing and is part of Jijia’s and Miletin’s ponds that we have just visited. We used our fishing rods there, so we’ll use them here, as well. In the 400 ha of water, we can fish both at daytime and at night-time, and quantity restrictions apply only to carp. We can only say good luck fishing!
THE COMMUNE OF PLUGARI
The Boroşoaia Museum
In Plugari, we stop at a unique place in the area, which was born through the love and respect for the past: the Boroşoaia Village Museum. It is a place where tourists can find Cucuteni ceramic items, traces of the two World Wars, documents, folk costumes and old tools used in villagers’ households.
THE COMMUNE OF PRĂJENI
The Church of Lupăria
We are welcome in Prăjeni, a commune in the Botoşani County. Of the four villages that make up the commune today (the last on our route), we choose to take a break in Lupăria and enjoy the coolness of “Sf. Dumitru” Church (the parish was established in 1937). The “Sf. Dumitru” Church is made of “Deleni” stone and brick and is dedicated to “Saint Martyr Demetrius, the Myrrh-Streamer”. Its construction began in 1935 and was completed in 1940.
The church has the shape of a cross and is made in the Byzantine style combined with Romanian elements; it has a front porch, the narthex, the nave and the altar.
The carefully crafted stained glass windows catch our attention.
The Romanian traditional house
Where could we best complete our long journey if not at home? In the traditional Romanian home, where life seems to be the same as it used to be in the past, where the adobe bricks and the polenta have had the same old recipe as years and years ago? This is where we constantly return to our origins and remember the Romanian traditions. Perhaps we will remember them better until our next visit.
“COLINELE IAȘILOR” LAG
Having arrived in the area dotted with hills and hillocks in the heart of Moldavia, we can only prepare ourselves for the ups and downs in our souls. The long way ahead of us is filled with nature, faith and heritage of great importance left behind by the people who have trodden this land before us.
Natura 2000 objectives, protected areas and natural monuments
The “Bârnova” Forest
We reach the north of the area by taking the main road – DN24 (Iași, Vaslui) between Păun and Poieni; if we take the county road DJ247 (the road that connects DN24 to the commune of Dobrovăţ), we will reach the central part of the place. DJ248 will get us to the west of this place, but, if we want to enjoy a beautiful trail starting from the Bârnova station, we can take the train to Vaslui. It is a good idea to set off in the morning, as we need time to admire the great beauties lying in front of our eyes.
We start our journey by visiting two major sites: the “Bârnova” Forest and the “Bârnova Repedea” Forest, which house over 120 species of birds, of which 33 are of conservation community interest. Due to the large number of resident owl nesting pairs in the forest, the “Bârnova” Forest is one of the most important in the country for the conservation of this large bird of prey. Who knows? We might catch sight of them one evening and admire them when they make their appearance.
The region is also rich in protected areas that invite to be visited: the Fossil Site of Dealul Repedea or the „Repedea”Hill (Bârnova – „Colinele Iașilor” LAG), the “Poieni-Cărbunărie” Forest (Schitu Duca), the “Pietrosu” Forest (Dobrovăţ – “Stephen the Great” LAG) and “Poiana cu Schit” (Grajduri – “Colinele Iaşilor” LAG).
We shall adjourn for a few hours in the Bârnova Woods (Romanian: Codrii Bârnova), a place where man finds his peace and purpose, before continuing on the road that is patient enough to wait for us.
The linden tree in yard of the Bârnova Monastery
Iași seems to have sprinkled linden trees right where man will cast his eyes. A tree dating from 1661 – 1665 but which is still strong and majestic (of which we know it was planted by Voivode Eustratie Dabija Vodă and his lady, Mrs. Dafina) is still guarding the monastery.
According to the chroniclers, the linden tree was found already old by Milchisedec Ștefănescu: “In a sunny clearing in the Bârnova woods, a church tried by rain and hardships of weather is guarded by a towering linden tree, which can hardly be encircled by a few people with outstretched arms…”
The Repedea Hill
After we let ourselves charmed by the beauty of the Bârnova Forest, the Repedea Hill calls us to see it. We arrive there after a few hours of walking through Bârnova; alternatively, we can go directly from Iași, through the southern part of the town. The imposing landmark is the TV tower, and the Hill will guide our steps across almost 6 hectares.
The wealth from the base of the Sarmatian Sea is a protected area of national interest, which hides secrets that few of the inhabitants of Iași know. 12 million years ago, there was a sea here, which left behind parallel layers of limestone and remains of marine animals. The proof is the unusually high altitude for this area (352 metres).
It is clear that we are in a special place, and if fresh air and sports are reasons important enough to get us out of the house, we promise that next time we will also bring our bicycles. The place is perfect for cycling and hiking, as the Repedea Hill offers tourists a unique view of Iaşi. The sunset is magic, and when the lights are switched on in the town, a totally different story starts.
Poiana cu Schit – floristic natural reserve
When we arrive in the locality of Grajduri, we make time to visit the natural area Poiana cu Schit in the Moldavian Plateau, located in the southern part of the county of Iaşi, on the banks of Cocoara creek (an affluent of the Rebricea river) in the forest of Boroşeşti, in the western part of the “Poiana cu Cetate” village.
In this place, history left a souvenir – the ruins of a monastery from 1932 that belonged to Prince Duma Negru, former governor of Ţara de Jos (Lower Land) in the time of Voivode Alexandru cel Bun. An outdoor exhibition (with thirty huge stone sculptures placed in the area) remains a tribute to past times that haven’t been forgotten.
We move on. We prepare for an exclusivist lesson in botany because a nationally protected area stretches here on 9.5 hectares: several species of steppe flora grow here (wall germander, crested dog’s tail, dorycnium herbaceum, fiorin grass and aira caespilosa).
The Poiana cu Schit Natural Reserve is the largest and most expressive clearing in the large Bârnova – Repedea Forest due to its rich flora (comprising around 200 species of superior plants) but also to its picturesque landscape. As far as the eye can see, everything is green and the sky seems to be put here only to let you know when to find shelter from the rain.
The Union’s Chestnut Tree in Vişani
In Vişani, Bârnova, we sit in the shade of a miracle of nature, which is twenty metres high and over 250 years old, a towering symbol of the first steps taken in 1856 for the Union of the Romanian Principalities. Back then, the chestnut tree in full blossom sheltered Kogălniceanu, Vasile Alecsandri, Costachi Negri, Dimitrie Ralet, Constantin Hurmuzachi, Petre Mavrogheni, Archimandrite Neofit Scriban, Costachi Rolla and Emilian Florescu when they gathered to hold their counsels.
The Union’s Chestnut Tree in Vișani was declared a double monument in 2004– a natural monument and a historical monument – and the story which started our present was written at its foot.
THE COMMUNE OF IPATELE
The “Sf. Nicolae” Wooden Church (St. Nicholas Woodenn Church)
A church dressed in wood captures our attention in the commune of Ipatele. It dates from 1805 and you can see, at a first glance, the traces of the past engraved on it. Its interior is adorned with icons and valuable paintings also dating from the 19th century; on the exterior, the horizontal beams made of massive oak defend the church against the time.
Everything seems to be a metaphor; every place where we stop seems to teach us a valuable lesson. What is important is that we remember them at the end of our journey. Yet, by that time, we still have a few more stops to make.
The “Sfântul Ierarh Nicolae din Bâcu” Church (Saint Hierarch Nicholas of Bâcu Church)
A church over which one can tell years have passed without sparing it is the “Sfântul Ierarh Nicolae” Church in the village of Bâcu, commune of Ipatele. It was built in 1789 and rehabilitated in 1804. We won’t leave the village without taking a peek inside.
Then we start admiring the surroundings from higher spots.
Lookout point for Hadâmbu and to Tungujei
In Ipatele, on a hill that seems to have been put there on purpose, we stop to take a look down to Hadâmbu and the village of Tungujei.
THE COMMUNE OF ŞCHEIA
On the way, our steps were guided to places and stories that many of us have never heard of before this revelatory experience. On our next stop, we are going to discover something else that will enrich our lives.
The commune of Şcheia is the place where the roots of the great monuments we admire today originate from. We talk about these monuments to people who visit our country for the first time. But what roots are we speaking about? Well, the most unexpected ones: the roots of rock.
Şcheia is the place that gave the natural resource of which many marvellous things are made: the foundations, the body and the tops of the Lions’ monument in the Copou Garden, the blackened walls of the “Trei Ierarhi” Church (Three Hierarchs Church) in Iaşi, the buildings of the “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University and the Metropolitan Church of Iași, the gravestones in the Hebrew cemetery and the middle tower of the “Sf. Spiridon” Church (Saint Spiridon Church) of Iași.
The “Sfântul Mare Mucenic Gheorghe” Wooden Church (St. George the Martyr Wooden Church)
Vasile Lupu comes to welcome us through the historical importance of the church that has been bearing his royal seal since 1650. He is also the one who donated the iconostasis made of oak on the year the church was founded. The church is built of thick oak logs supported by sturdy oak trunks whose roots are still in the ground.
We also lay our eyes on the gravestones in the old part of the cemetery surrounding the church. Here, the masons from Şcheia (once well-known all over Moldavia) put their craftsmanship into an old symbolism of remarkable expressiveness. The oldest stones dating from 1800 have inscriptions in Cyrillic and show the symbol of the sun and the moon.
We learn how our history is written in most unexpected places and we remember to continue to keep our eyes and mind open on our journey, as the past reveals itself to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
THE COMMUNE OF SCÂNTEIA
The “Sfinții Arhangheli Mihail și Gavril” Church (Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel Church)
The origin of the “Sfinții Arhangheli Mihail și Gavril” Church is mostly inferred and is connected to the victory of Stephen the Great in Scânteia in 1475. The fact that Stephen is the builder of the church is confirmed by the inscription on a large votive painting executed in 1846.
The “Nașterea Sfântului Ioan Botezătorul” Church (Nativity of St. John the Baptist Church)
On the site of the former Borosești monastery in the village with the same name, on the northern hill, the “Nașterea Sfântului Ioan Botezătorul” Church was built in 1868. The former estate of Petru Rares welcomes us and invites us to visit it.
The sites we pass through are generous in places of worship packed with history, and they await us on the track; yet, we must make one more stop in Scânteia.
The Mansion of Ciocârleşti
Hiding among orchards and fir trees, the Mansion of Ciocârleşti, with one floor and 20 rooms, is getting older and older in the village with the same name. Built in the late nineteenth century by boyar Eugen Tăutu, the mansion was designed by an Italian architect and is currently in the state’s ownership.
Time does not spare any building, and this is no exception. Even so, the two storeys of the building seem to be taken out of a fairy tale – a former fairy-tale residence with a happy ending.
THE COMMUNE OF GRAJDURI
The “Nașterea Maicii Domnului” Church (Virgin Mary’s Birth Church)
We are not going to make a stop in Grajduri without giving us the chance to admire the wonderful “Nașterea Maicii Domnului” Church dating from 1911.
The Ruins of the “Cujbă” Church, village of Poiana cu Cetate
We enter secret places, kept away from the city. Almost 20 km away from Iași, Poiana cu Cetate sits in the shade of one of the most ancient forests in Moldavia – the Boroşeşti Woods. Here, among the trees, we can see the “Sfântul Nicolae” (St. Nicholas) Church, which was built in the 19th century. After an earthquake and a long time of neglect, its ruins still attract tourists who come to pay them a visit.
THE COMMUNE OF CIUREA
The “Hlincea” Monastery
In Ciurea, we are going to learn the story of the Hlincea Monastery, a place with a tumultuous history (originally, the monastery was a church, then it became a desolate monastery, later on it was a military hospital during the Russo –Turkish – Austrian war of 1788-1792, an infirmary for patients with cholera in 1831 and finally it became the convent with own administrative autonomy in 1991). Initially, the site was dedicated to the Greeks, but it has always been coveted by the Romanians.
Even the founding of the church is unclear; many were those who claimed to have contributed to its building. The truth seems to be strongly connected to the name of Maria, daughter of Petru Șchiopul and wife of Zotu Ţigara. They erected it after 1574 in the honour of the “Dionisia” monastery on Mount Athos.
Rulers Vasile Lupu and Ștefăniță Lupu (his son) are among the big names who took care of the beautiful place by carrying on restoration works. Most of the transformation of the Monastery into the shape we know today seems to have been enough for Ștefăniță Lupu to call himself its founder. The votive painting painted on the southern wall of the nave is a clear piece of evidence that he, along with his father and mother (Ecaterina), were to bequeath a place with a story from which a few pieces were missing.
The “Sfântul Nicolae” Church (Saint Saint Nicholas Church), village of Picioru Lupului
Having got to Piciorul Lupului, Ciurea, we set foot on a place of historical and architectural heritage. The current „Sfântul Nicolae” Church dates from 1932 and was built under the guidance of priest Vasile Teleman after two other churches had been built on the same spot (in 1782 and in 1885).
The Crucifix of Slobozia
In the village of Slobozia in Ciurea, we come across a wooden crucifix which is over 80 years old. It is still strong and upright, as if proving that faith can stand up to the winds, the scorching sun, the rain or the snow, which don’t have much to say.
The “Sfântul Nicolae” Church (Saint Saint Nicholas Church) in the Ciurea village
On our way, we come across a church whose construction has Italian origins: Italian architect Carlos Scolari erected the Church „Sfântul Nicolae” Church in Ciurea between 1904 and 1909 on the site of another wooden place of worship which lost the battle against the time. It is painted by the painter Gheorghe Ionescu from Iași, an apprentice of painter Gheorghe Tătărescu.
The place is so nice and tidy that our next visit to the brick factory could we wait for a few moments.
The brick factory
In Lunca Cetățuii we find out that this is the place of birth of the red brick that has caught our attention everywhere: in the buildings of railway stations, depots, annex buildings on routes such as Vaslui – Iași, Iași – Dorohoi, Bucharest – Constanta, Ramnicu Sarat and in many railway bridges. The red brick is easy to notice and easy to use in construction, particularly for its strength.
The brick factory in Ciurea was established in 1891 by Gheorghe Duca. Today, it preserves the industrial heritage and technical value.
We cannot speak of modernization, as the craftsmanship of the people who make bricks and pots (in the main building there is a ceramics section with wheels and kilns for potters; yet, it was closed once with the disappearance of the last potter in Ciurea) is at its best when skilled people do the work by hand and with patience. However, the machinery (made in Germany) was equipped with electric engines in 1914 by the “Eisengiesserei Machinenfabrik” company from Nienburg.
We can only say that, sometimes in the past, potters and brick makers worked at a German quality level here in Ciurea. Now we make room in their past among the traces of what used to be one of the most important factories in Romania.
The “Dumbrava” pond
It’s very unlikely that we have our fishing rods on us at this point of the route, but it’s worth keeping in mind that there is good fat carp in Ciurea. We find the Dumbrava Lake at about 4.5 km from the Nicolina neighbourhood in Iași, on county road DJ 248.
The Ciurea Pond – “La poalele codrului” (At the foot of the woods)
Contact details: turn left in Lunca Cetățuii, cross the railroad and go to Ciurea; you need to take 3 more lefts to get to the pond: at the first two crucifixes you come across on the road and at the water treatment plant; 0742.345.131
In a pond of almost 3 ha, we find any kind of fish we like: carp, grass carp, silver carp, crucian carp, pike, catfish or rudd. When the sun burns too hard, we find shelter under the thatched pavilions, while children can play in a specially designed space with sand, slides, swings and toys. And if we don’t want to leave the place, we can always pitch our tents and stay longer!
THE COMMUNE OF BÂRNOVA
The Bârnova Monastery
In an area where God chose to gather so many wonders, it is easy to understand that the people found it natural to build places where they could properly show their gratitude or where they could live in peace.
We make a stop at the Bârnova Monks’Monastery, a place that went through many winters and which hides a lot of history behind the high walls (built of Repedea stone). It was built between 1626 and 1666 by two of its founders, Moldavian rulers Miron Barnovschi and Eustratie Dabija. It took the place of an old wooden church dating from 1603, and, since1663 (when the monastery was dedicated to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem),it was administered by Greek monks for 200 years.
Divided between state ownership, its status of parish and convent of nuns, it finds its peace in July 1991, when the Metropolitan of Moldavia and Bukovina restores its status of monks’ monastery.
Behind the 5-metre walls we can find a simple way of living in humility and faith. The lesson we started to learn here continues in Bârnova, so we linger in the area for a while.
The “Piatra Sfântă” Monastery (Holy Stone Monastery)
In Bârnova, on the highest of the seven hills that guard the town of Iași, the 18th century left a reminder of some bitter times that seemed to have been less kind to people. The „Piatra Sfântă” Monastery was founded in 1721, when a philanthropist from Iași, Dimitrie Bosie, offered “a piece of land on a hillock of Iași”, which was destined to be used as a “place of burial for the people killed by the plague”. In this place, Dimitrie Bosie also built a wooden church, which was called the Sihăstria Hermitage, because it was situated in a clearing away from the world. Some friars who led a hard life settled in this hermitage”, explains Enache Kogalniceanu in The Chronicle of the Moldavian Principality from first to fourth reign of Voivode Constantin Mavrocordat.
The monastery, born from the hermitage dedicated to the “Annunciation”, was then used along the history as a place of preventive isolation and quarantine of the sick (this explains the houses built around the church) and received support from rulers. In 1754, under the reign of Matei Ghica, a church entirely made of stone is erected here and it is meant to honour the “Assumption”. Ioan Teodor Callimachi decides that the hermitage should become a hospital.
Currently, it is a place where people come to heal their souls.
The „Sfinții Apostoli Petru și Pavel” Church (Holy Apostles Peter and Paul Church)
In the village of Păun, commune of Bârnova, we halt at another place of worship whose origins go back in the 18th century. The present church, whose patrons are saints Peter and Paul, was built in 1812 by its founders Spiridon Papadopol and his wife, Ruxandra, along with their daughter Anastasia and their son-in-law Căminas. The remains of the founders are buried in the nave and their portraits are kept in the narthex.
The complex of the “Inculeţ” Mansion and the “Sfântul Ioan Botezătorul” Church (St. John the Baptist Church)
We stay in Bârnova for as long as to discover a piece of history hiding among the trees, which makes us understand that faith was everything that connected our past to our future: a mansion for long summers and a church to be inherited by the nation.
The mansion of Ion Inculeţ in Bârnova served as a summer residence for the political figure who named it and for his wife, a wealthy princess – Ruxandra Cantacuzino – who had inherited the surrounding land with the former castle made of Repedea stone (this one was demolished to make room to a new construction in 1920).
What we see now is a building constructed in 2008, which has nothing to do with the original plans of the mansion: an extra floor and extra rooms were added to serve its current purpose – “Mia Casa” – Inculet Centre, built to offer support to 20 children coming from families with low income in the commune. The former mansion was donated to the Metropolitan of Moldavia and Bukovina in 2002.
The “Sfântul Ioan Botezătorul” Church was built in the courtyard of the mansion by the two sons of Ruxandra and Ion Inculeţ in 1947. Here, the parents’ remains are buried. The church belongs to the Metropolitan of Moldavia and Bukovina, to which it was donated in 1948.
The “HAMAK” leisure club
Contact details: 8 Poiana Izvoarelor, village of Pietrărie (); Accommodation & Adventure Park: 0745.388.156, Horse riding: 0744.876.342, Paintball: 0768.453.111, Restaurant: 0755.229.986.
In Bârnova, free time is not wasted. At Hamak, 12 km away from the city centre, we can find the first adventure park in Iași; we can also take horse riding lessons or go fishing, stay overnight in a hut or a tent, eat well and naturally, play (regardless of age), sit on the grass and watch the city for as long as we want.
Here, the hours fly in the company of nice, friendly and always smiling people, and the place will not let us get bored. Life is good to us at Hamak, so we linger a bit before resuming our journey.
The “Gramma” Winery – The “Olteanu” Wine House
Contact details: village of Vișan, commune of Bârnova; 0735.930.832
In Vișan, on the hill marked by the history behind The “Unirii” Castle, 60 hectares of vines catch our eye. Here, in one of the most famous wine regions of Moldavia (the oldest plantation of grape-vine in the county of Iaşi), we find the grapes used for the wine varieties of one of the youngest wineries in Romania: Gramma, the Olteanu Wine House.
We stay here for at least an hour and a half, as long as a tasting session lasts (with visits to vineyards and to the winery, followed by tastings of own wine varieties, seasoned with cheese and brown bread). The varieties grown today are Aligoté, Fetească Regală (Royal Maiden) and Fetească Albă (White Maiden); the wines produced here are premium dry DOC wines. “Gramma” also produces a sweet type of wine that we are eager to taste before taking the road again.
THE COMMUNE OF MOGOȘEȘTI
The Village Museum
We are heading to Mogoşeşti and we can hardly wait to meet the tradition and the authenticity. One place that can show the Romanian spirit best is the Village Museum, a house that has been gathering valuable items for 35 years, on the initiative of a young teacher from the village. The museum was inaugurated in 2011 and it has been waiting for our visit ever since.
The “Sfânta Cuvioasă Paraschiva” Church (Saint Pious Paraskevi Church) of Budeşti
Built in 1990, the “Sfânta Cuvioasă Paraschiva” Church of Budeşti was born from the faith of the villagers who, after World War I, were left only with the ruins of the former church, which was defeated by forgetfulness and later by a fire in front of which it had no chance. The place where it used to exist can be seen today – near the new church, which was built in three years and it was sanctified in 1993. The church on which the sun is shining in Budeşti now invites us in, with a bright welcome.
THE COMMUNE OF MIRONEASA
Having got to Mironeasa, we are heading to the divine places where the Hadâmbu Monastery is situated. Yet, we make one more stop on our route.
The plateau with secular oak trees
At the border between the communes of Mogoşeşti and Mironeasa, we come across a road with eight crucifixes. Beside it and impossible to miss, there is the plateau with secular oak trees where people usually gather when the weather is fine. We make a brief stop before reaching the Monastery, just enough to fill our minds with this view.
The Hadâmbu Monastery
In the village of Schitu Hadâmbului, Mironeasa, 30 km away from Iași, a fairy-tale–like place unveils itself in front of us. An imposing wall and an inquisitive entrance tower make us even more curious. The Hadâmbu Monastery will reveal many of its secrets today.
Inside, the rough stone church named “Nașterea Maicii Domnului” Church (Virgin Mary’s Birth Church), erected in 1659, is quietly waiting for us, allowing the visitors to see the youngest of them first: The “Acoperământul Maicii Domnului” Church (The Theotokos’s Mantle Church).
Also, the Icon of Our Lady finds its peace here as well. It is considered a myrrh-streaming icon that can do miracles.
The history of the Monastery is a tumultuous one, but the hardships it had to endure have always found it stronger, more beautiful and more flourishing.
The „Izvorul Tămăduirii” Church (Life-Giving Fountain Church), village of Urșița
In the village of Urșița, Mironeasa, near the cemetery, we are stopped by a small wooden church that bears the scars of time. It seems to always watch the road to see the visitors the day has in for it.
THE COMMUNE OF ȚIBANA
The occupations of the local people
The community living in the commune of Țibana seems to be “as old as the earth”, as people who live here like to say. A lot of archaeological evidence proves the existence of a thriving social and economic life since earliest times. Traces of a fortress dating from the 4th – 3rd centuries BC (Latène period) have been found at the archaeological site “Între Șanțuri”, on a very high plateau surrounded by forests.
We are amazed at all times by people’s lifestyle in the places we visit and, above all, we fail to measure the respect for those who carry on the occupations they were born for and that they transmitted from generation to generation. Unique crafts are preserved here: wood-barrel making, wooden wheel making, blacksmithing, horse shoeing, basketry and weaving.
On the way of the secrets that have been transmitted from father to son and from mother to daughter, we stop to meet Craftsman Gavril from Țibana, who has been weaving baskets for a lifetime. While his hands are artfully and quickly weaving the wicker, we are listening to the stories he is eager to share with us. Who said that history flourishes only in brick and wood?
THE COMMUNE OF ȚIBĂNEȘTI
The PP Carp Mansion, Țibănești
Our first stop in Țibănești is in a place whose beauty leaves us speechless at the thought that, once upon a time, the cream of the society used to live here. We imagine what it must have been like for them to step on the freshly cut grass and to walk in the freshly swept interiors of a mansion whose aspect amazes us even today and whose rooms have not been used by the family who rightfully own it.
One of the most influential boyar families of the Principality of Moldavia (who owned the entire village of Țibănești in the Vaslui county at a certain point) – the Carp family – built the PP Carp Mansion in Țibănești around 1820. The complex also includes a mausoleum, a park and a church. The mansion was originally a one-storey building, yet there were further improvements added gradually by the heirs of the estate who never neglected the building where they used to spend their summers or where they used to live when times were rough (politician PP Carp used to come here when he had difficulties in his political career; after retiring from public life, the former politician rebuilt the mansion and added a second floor to it in 1905).
During another kind of rough times – in World War I – the Carps allowed the mansion to be used as a hospital for patients suffering from typhoid fever.
In the mansion park, another building amazes us. Under the trees, in a secluded spot, we can find the concrete mausoleum of the Carp family; it is designed in Neogothic style following the plans of French engineer Gustave Eiffel.
In the common of Țibănești, we stop at the ruins (that are still standing) of the Grieşti and Tungujei mansions. First, however, we have two more stops to make.
The “Sfinții Împărați Constantin şi Elena” Church (Saints Constantine and Helena Church)
In the village of Grieşti, Țibănești, we find one of the oldest places of worship in the commune : The “„Sfinții Împărați Constantin şi Elena” Church (Saints Constantine and Helena Church). It is white, bright and comforting and it was built in 1884 by boyar Aga Ioan Carp. The church protects the people and their work and its bell has the power to disperse clouds in stormy weather.
The Carps left us another precious memory. We are heading towards it right now.
The „Adormirea Maicii Domnului” Church (Virgin Mary’s Assumption Church)
Not far from the central part of Țibănești, at the end of a winding country road that climbs a steep a hillside, there is another building erected by the Carp family – the wooden church of Jigoreni. The place is modest in size but it houses a fabulous panoply (here, we can find most of the objects that belonged to the Hermitage Castle which existed on the Carps’ estate until the late 19th century).
Built in the 18th century by Ioan Carp, the church took the place of another place of worship which had been burnt down by the Turks in the times when the land here was called “La Jigoreanca”. The foundation of the church is made of river stone, on which oak beams are connected in “dovetail” joints. Throughout the time, the wooden church went through restoration and fortification.
We are free to linger in Țibănești for a while. It is hard to leave behind the history imprinted in this place. Something, somewhere is telling us that there are still many things to learn about these places…
THE COMMUNE OF TANSA
The “Sfinții Arhangheli Mihail şi Gavril” Wooden Church (Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel Wooden Church)
The “Sfinții Arhangheli Mihail şi Gavril” Church (Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel Church) was built in the village of Suhuleț in 1780. The 18th century comes our way again in places of worship. The church where we are now is anchored in the present, as the ongoing rehabilitation works keep the building in good condition. The entrance tower proves us that we are on the right track.
The “Sfânta Treime” Church (Holy Trinity Church)
Since we are in Tansa, we halt at the “Sfânta Treime” Church (built between 1902 and 1911 following the plans of Italian architects). This monument transformed the carved stone (coming from the stone quarry in the commune) into one of the most popular building materials of its times. Skilled masons raised the imposing place of worship which later became an architectural landmark for the churches in the area and beyond.
We are in a place of historical significance and something tells us that there is something else waiting for us the churchyard.
Lookout point in Tansa
After having visited the “Sfânta Treime” church in Tansa, we halt for a while at the lookout point. The view stretching in front of our eyes is absolutely gorgeous, especially on sunny weather.
THE COMMUNE OF DAGÂȚA
The “Cetatea” Monastery (Fortress Monastery)
5 km away from the village of Mănăstirea in Dagâța, erected on Dealul Cetății (The Fortress Hill), the “Cetatea” monks’ monastery (restored in 1993) is waiting for our visit. Yet, it is not easy to reach it (it is surrounded by woods and the road leading to the village is a country road, which is almost impracticable because it is narrow and it has many steep slopes). Nevertheless, the landscape that reveals itself in front of our eyes and the matchless tranquillity makes it worth every moment spent on the road.
The church we see now was built in 1969, after boyars Carp and Tăutu destroyed the initial one claiming that it had been erected on the border of their estates. Another wooden church can be seen from the hill. It is the one erected by monks after the boyars took justice into their hands.
The parish complex catches our attention due to two churches: the old wooden church (mentioned above) named “Sfântul Ioan Evanghelistul” (Saint John the Evangelist), dating from 1723 and the new church named “Sfântul Ilie Tesviteanul” (Saint Elijah the Tishbite), built after 1990.
THE COMMUNE OF PÂNCEȘTI
We have arrived in the eastern part of the Neamț County, in the Moldavian Central Plateau, on the Upper Bârlad River. In Pâncești, we step on rich ground that is inherited from Stephen the Great’s yeomen, who are said to have lived here.
Two churches and a monastery convince us to halt for a while, enough to feel the history that is still being written by the people living here, who are the yeomen’s descendants.
The wooden church
The “Sfinții Voievozi Mihail și Gavril” Wooden Church (Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel Church) is small, modest and marked by time. Built of oak on a stone foundation in 1774, the construction has been looked after by diligent people who strengthened it and prolonged its life. Inside, it reveals another universe in the religious books which are printed in Cyrillic characters and which are owned by the Church.
We continue to discover our heritage.
The “Sfânta Treime” Church (Holy Trinity Church)
In Pâncești, another church was built – the „Sfânta Treime” Church – in 1888 (on the land belonging to landowner Ion Stroie and his wife). The imposing and elegant architecture is due to French architect André Le conte du Noüy, whose name is also linked to the “Trei Ierarhi” Church (Three Hierarchs Church) in Iaşi.
There is still an ice house in the churchyard (“the refrigerator” of past ages, a place where villagers preserved their food for winter). This was the invention of past times which remained unknown to many.
THE PRUT VALLEY LAG
Parallel to the river that bears its name, the Prut Valley LAG accompanies the territory of the county of Iasi from north to south-east, starting from the south-eastern part of Botoșani. This is an area blessed with all the beauties created by man or by nature, where we can start on a journey that feeds the mind and the soul in some of the most fulfilling areas of our beautiful region.
Natura 2000 objectives, protected areas and natural monuments
Jijia and Miletin ponds
The Prut Valley is a place where nature has decided to offer some of its most beautiful gifts. Shared with other regions around Iasi, Jijia and Milentin ponds (avifaunistic special protection area) bravely welcome our visits because man has taken good care of their beauties ever since he first saw them.
We can reach the Depression of Jijia (where the site with the same name is situated) by taking the national road DN24c or the county roads linking the localities of Movileni – Ţigănaşi – Mihail Kogalniceanu – Vlădeni – Hălceni – Şipote. The area is not difficult to find, we can hear its call from a distance.
The area houses protected bird species (here, 205 bird species have been identified, of which a total of 34 species are protected at a European level, including the ruff, the stilt, the wood sandpiper, the golden plover, the avocet and the great snipe). The largest mixed colony of herons in the Romanian Basin of the Prut River, as well as the largest and the most diverse group of shore broody bird species in Eastern Romania are considering whether to make their appearance in front of our eyes only to amaze us.
The migrating birds mentioned above, together with the wood sandpiper, the golden plover, the Montagu’s harrier, the pygmy cormorant, the white stork, the great egret, the ferruginous duck, the lesser white-fronted goose and the short-toed eagle inhabit this area (during their passage).
We will try to blend in with this environment dominated by rivers, lakes, swamps, peat bogs, cultures (arable land) and meadows. We are charmed by the water and the living creatures around it, and we find it hard to believe that such wonders can really exist, two steps away from us.
THE TOWN OF ŞTEFĂNEŞTI
The Stânca-Costeşti Dam
We have been waiting for quite a while to get here in this wonderful corner of nature that bears the name of Stânca-Costeşti Dam. Who would have guessed that man can help nature to give birth to a new paradise right in its heart: a lake with a smooth surface stretching as far as the eye can see (the largest artificial lake in Romania), unseen birds (out of 178 migratory species found here, 44 species are protected in Europe) and green expanses of trees which seem to have been planted one by one by the hand of God.
The dam has a fraternal story for us. Here, you can cross the border to the Republic of Moldova, and in 1971, when its construction began, the Romanians on both sides of the border moved houses to make room for it to grow huge, imposing and bright (7 villages in Romania and 11 villages in the Republic of Moldova were relocated). Since then, this huge reservoir of energy supplies both the Republic of Moldova and the Romanian bank.
This is the second largest dam in Romania, which stands proof to the ‘70s, a period that made Romania richer by one of the most expensive investments: 60 tons of gold for this concrete colossus of 43 metres high and 300 metres long. The seven years of work help us today to learn the recipe for an ever-stunning Romania.
The statue of Ștefan Luchian
In Ştefăneşti, we find a genius of beauty, one of the most talented hands guided on canvas by Nicolae Grigorescu: painter Ștefan Luchian awaits us immortalized in stone by sculptor Oscar Han. His bust is a tribute to the man who, for Romanians, has remained one of the most delicate and sensitive painters that this country has ever offered.
We miss the childhood’s anemones, Luchian reminds us of them and we hope to find them on our way as quickly as possible. Maybe this will also quench the nostalgia for times that it’s almost impossible to get back. The nature that inspired the painter in such a sublime way is unveiling itself in front of us, so we continue our journey hoping to see as much as possible.
THE COMMUNE OF ANDRIEȘENI
The church of Iepureni
We travel on DJ 282 F Vlădeni – Andrieşeni to the village of Iepureni where another piece of history awaits for us. St. Nicholas Church (or “Sf. Nicolae” Church), built around 1783, awaits patiently in the Jijia floodplain, where the centre of the village used to be. The bell tower and the graveyard keep it company, and soon we will as well. Just like a piece of sky painted on wood (it has a fairy-tale blue colour), it can be seen from a distance: beautiful, modest, old, like a grandmother who is waiting for her grandchildren.
THE COMMUNE OF BIVOLARI
40 km away from Iasi, the region has been claiming for a while what rightfully belongs to it. Ever since the Middle Ages, the north-eastern part of Romania has been certified as a wine region. Around the localities of Trifeşti and Bivolari, vineyards began to bear fruit four years ago on nearly 250 hectares (owned by two landowners).
We are curious to taste the praised and awarded wonder of the Lungu Domains, so we pay them a visit without a second thought. The grafts are French and Austrian and our expectations grow with every step we take. The white varieties – Feteasca Regala (Royal Maiden), Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Ottonel, Tămâioasă Românească (Romanian Incensed Maiden), Chardonnay, to which other varieties will soon be added: Traminer, Feteasca Albă (White Maiden) and Rhine Riesling, as well as the red varieties – Fetească Neagră (Black Maiden) are eager to ennoble our souls and our glasses. We are going to taste them and take a walk in the vineyard.
In Bivolari, the Lungu domains have even more surprises prepared for us, apart from the awaited wine tastings: fishing sessions, animal farms (ostriches, pure bred chickens, Mangalita pigs, Vietnamese Pigs, cattle, sheep, goats and buffaloes), entertaining games and pedal boats. It is a great place to halt, to enjoy a good meal and to take some rest.
Vasile Lungu is an example of the Romanian farmer who has found his home in the times we live. He is spiritually anchored in the past, yet he contemplates the future and permanently learns how not to stop his development. He gives us confidence that this region will bloom beautifully, which brings a smile on our faces while we continue our journey.
The “Sf.Ilie” Church – Soloneț Bivolari
The village of Soloneț, in Bivolari, is another target on our map because of the church dating from 1820. The church is a religious monument which bears the time patina. Each time we enter the modest rooms of the Sf. Ilie Orthodox Church we hope to find it the same, whenever these places lure us to pay them a visit.
THE COMMUNE OF ROȘCANI
The “Rădeni” Church
We started on the road to Roşcani with the certainty that it awaits us with something that will be unforgettable. In the village of Rădeni, we are charmed by an old wooden church called Archangels Michael and Gabriel (St. Voivodes). Built in 1780, it took the place of an even older place of worship, erected in 1485.
The little church takes us on a journey through several decades of life, and those who have ears to listen to all the stories will have learnt many historical secrets before leaving this place.
The “Sf . Treime” Church (Holy Trinity Church), Roşcani, 1750
To the north of the Roşcani Forest, another halt is planned by the chain of ponds: Comoara, Roşcani I and II, Căveşti and Rădeni I. There are so many wonderful places to rest and catch our breath here that we can hardly decide where to temporarily interrupt our journey. The Jijia River offered us a great gift and it still has many things to offer us further on during our journey.
The “Sf. Gheorghe” Wooden Church (The Saint George Wooden Church)
The “Sf. Gheorghe” Wooden Church in Roşcani is a place of history; it first saw the light of day in 1780. It is beautiful, white and tidy, as the local people didn’t sit and wait when it began to show its age. Its yard houses the monument erected in the honour of the heroes of World War I, while behind the altar there is the tomb of priest Gheorghe Ilievig (1840-1870).
We visit them both quietly, as nice guests who have just started their journey.
THE COMMUNE OF TRIFEȘTI
The Negruzzi House
We are going back to the bank of the Prut River, 5 km away from the Iasi – Ştefăneşti road, in Hermeziu (the former “Trifeştii Vechi” or “The Old Trifesti”, home to the Negruzzi dynasty) to try to better know the writer Constantin Negruzzi, whose mother’s name also gave the new name of the village. For this, we are entering the house across from the village church, in the mansion that the writer’s father inherited in 1807 and where Costache Negruzzi spent his childhood.
The house was transformed into a museum in 1995 and it was nominated, among 65 others from across Europe, for the European Museum Award in 1996 by Bristol EMYA Foundation. Thus, we enter a sacred space, decorated with manuscripts, first edition and autographed books, original photos, objects that belonged to the writer, numerous excerpts from their works, as well as those of their commentators, bio-bibliographic and genealogical records, paintings and portraits in oil.
The memorial rooms help us to know Negruzzi even better at a personal, almost intimate level. Family photos, portraits, musical instruments, everything seems to make us feel the vibrations of the former owners on the corridors, in the walls and through the open windows.
It’s funny how you can enter someone’s home for the first time, and even if you have never known that someone, you have the feeling that you’ve always known them when you leave. We will come back here, as we have felt like home.
The Prut River
The sun is burning and we are constantly looking for a trace of coolness when we stop. Just when I think that we are going to leave the Prut Valley when the heat is at its peak, the Prut River is calling us once again.
The Prut River has carved 9 terraces in the area of Trifeşti we can see on our way; the appearance of these terraces took place following the geological changes in the Moldavian Platform. They are between 2 and 140 metres in height. Here, the banks of the Prut River are sandy and this gives us the idea that it’s a great time to take a sunbath and go for a swim! We wouldn’t go back home without taking advantage of the coolness of its water.
We are curious what this place is like in midwinter. The landscape must be perfect for a beautiful painting…
THE COMMUNE OF PROBOTA
Iazul lui Dumnezeu (“God’s pond”)
Contact details: 30 km away from Iasi, village of Perieni (5 km away from the village, country road), commune of Probota; Tel.: 0232.411.470; 0788.401.895
40 hectares of water tell us that there are carp and pike hiding from us in the depths. It is said that, many years ago, a great rain caused a landslide, which gave birth to the lake by blocking the course of a stream. Fishermen come to the God’s Pond with a maximum of 4 fishing rods, they set the bait and they are happy. The place is splendid, a true wonder of nature.
All of a sudden, we are craving for fresh fish taken out of the pond, rolled in cornmeal and fried in hot oil. We are wondering if there is any fisherman nearby willing to invite us to join him for lunch.
THE COMMUNE OF ȚIGĂNAȘI
The Forest of Stejari
The next part of the road is a fairytale hike (on foot or by bicycle). Flat trails and beautiful scenery of the lakes, reeds and ducks reveal themselves behind the trees of the forest of Stejari, commune of Ţigănaşi. What a wonderful place hidden in a corner of nature so close to us!
We stop in the shade again, as it is so hard to continue our journey when this means leaving behind such fantastic places. We think of the people who live here. How can they not fill the area all day long? Or maybe the call of the land that needs to be worked is stronger than that of the trees which offer shade and invite for a rest?
The Jijia River
The beautiful and generous Jijia River crosses the Prut Valley LAG and wraps it in a veil of crystal clear water that you can only find in poems. Fortunately, nature put all this on our way and everything appears in front of our eyes right when we start longing for the river’s soothing murmur and colours.
The “Nașterea Maicii Domnului” Church (“Virgin Mary’s Birth” Church) of Mihail Kogălniceanu, 1994
THE COMMUNE OF POPRICANI
Teiva Vişina Lake
On our way, we first meet the Saltings of the Lower Jijia – Prut and stop to admire one of the wonders of the area. The Aquatic Reservation of national interest, Teiva Vişina, situated between the commune of Popricani and the commune of Victoria, makes us curious enough to find out that here we can see the glossy ibis and the tench (Tinca tinca, a protected species of freshwater fish).
Nearly 7 hectares of water surface charm our eyes and we can only think of one thing: we couldn’t have had a better start for our journey.
The „Sf. Proroc Isaia” Wooden Church (St. Prophet Isaiah wooden church)
A small church near the cemetery of the village of Cârlig, Popricani draws our attention and we approach to hear its story. Built in 1816 in the north-west of the village, the wooden church was named after its founder, the monk Isaia; ever since, it has been taken care of by its parishioners. It is amazing how such a small place can hold so much faith and give so many answers to so many prayers.
THE COMMUNE OF VICTORIA
The “Sf.Nicolae-Luceni” Church (St. Nicholas – Luceni Church)
The last stop on the Prut Valley is in the village of Luceni, the commune of Victoria, where the “Sf.Nicolae Church” has been welcoming believers ever since1800. Like almost all the churches in the area, it also guards a cemetery, where several old stone crosses stand proof for its age.
Our journey on the Prut Valley ends here. We already miss all the places we have visited and we feel somewhat guilty for leaving everything behind. Yet, we realize that this is just the beginning of our journey and that we will have this feeling quite a few times from now on.
“STEPHEN THE GREAT” ( “ȘTEFAN CEL MARE” in Romanian) LAG
We are entering an area stretching from Iasi to Vaslui. This area is full of historical glory and beauty and is endowed with unique natural jewels. It is blessed by men who have lived and worked the land and the fields, but also by God who chose this place to be the home of most of the Romanian history. We call ourselves heirs of Stephen the Great and now we follow his steps in these realms, we see the echoes of his endless faith rising to the sky and we gaze at the world where he spent most of his life.
Stephen, here we come!
Natura 2000 objectives, protected areas and natural monuments
The Medeleni Forest
From the county road DJ249 Sculeni – Podu Jijiei, between Victoria and Golăieşti (the west of Medeleni), 128 hectares of forest unveil their beauty in front of our eyes like an army ready at all times to receive orders. We only want two things from the forest: to be offered shelter from the sun and to be guided to the snake’s head fritillary and the summer snowflake, which can be seen very rarely and which are protected species in this area.
We walk carefully, as we do not want to bother with even a whisper the harmony that reigns here. We remain on this land because nature is generous with us. The Bran River Bend (Romanian: Cotul Bran) and the Old Jijia give us enough opportunities to postpone our future visits. As long as we travel across Golăieşti, Ungheni, Țuțora, Prisăcani and Costuleni we enjoy the fishing sessions or the relaxing hours we spend admiring the protected areas (the Bran River Band) of the Moldavian Plateau.
The forests around Dobrovăţ: the Bârnova – Repedea Forest, the Bârnova Forest, the Pietrosu Forest
Dobrovăţ is surrounded by green areas, as if it wanted to hide itself from prying eyes, or rather, as if it wanted to gradually uncover itself as a reward at the end of a journey of initiation. The trees around it make up the forests around Dobrovăţ; we take the liberty to use this name (since we are on friendly ground).
The Bârnova-Repedea Forest, the Bârnova Forest and the Pietrosu Forest have kept company to Dobrovăţ ever since the world was created. We will meet the first two later on the road and we will discover the Pietrosu Forest natural reserve when we go to the Dobrovăţ Monastery, as it will guide our steps there. From time to time, we gaze at the sky to admire the height of the beeches, hornbeams and lindens, which are specific to the Central Moldavian Plateau.—to check the exact location of Pietrosul on the map!! –
There are many opportunities of hiking on a trail among the trees of these forests and of spending the Sundays with your family here.
The pastures of Glodeni and the storage lake of Căzăneşti
Another gift of nature that needs to be cherished is in Glodeni. The pastures belong to the category of protected areas in the region and stretch on more than 50 hectares that are under the administration of the town of Negrești in Vaslui. We hope to see on our way the numerous important plants of the Romanian flora that grow here: the galium moldavicum, the tatarican colewort and the viper’s bugloss. The land that we are visiting now really represents that “locus classicus”, where the species of flora Galium moldavicum was first described.
And while we’re in the area, we shall take advantage and visit Căzăneşti (which is, without exaggeration, a stone’s throw away from here; anyway, the roads here are so beautiful that distances disappear like magic). The storage lake of Căzăneşti invites us to enjoy fishing on 156 hectares of water where the carp, the perch and the crucian seek the bait.
This is a great place for camping, so if we feel like fishing at night, there is always room to put up our tent. If we cannot sleep, we continue to look for fish (night fishing is allowed) with maximum 4 rods for each angler. The next morning we start again on the road anyway, as we have a long way ahead of us.
THE COMMUNE OF ARONEANU
The “Sf. Nicolae” Church (St. Nicholas Church)
Our journey in the Stephen the Great LAG helps us to get to know the Muşantin dynasty, one of the most important dynasties that ruled in Moldova. Among the most outstanding representatives of the Musatins is Alexander the Good (Romanian: Alexandru cel Bun), Stephen the Great (Romanian: Ştefan cel Mare) and Alexander Lăpuşneanu (Romanian: Alexandru Lăpuşneanu) – founders, rulers and grandiose figures of the Romanian history, of which the most resounding name is that of Stephen (his victories made the reputation of the Mușatins reach its climax). So, this is the kind of history we can get to know when we make our first stop in Aroneanu!
Having got to the commune named after Aron Vodă, we take a break in a place that, according to chronicler Grigore Ureche, is suspected to be the evidence of repentance of the ruler nicknamed “The Terrible” (Romanian: “cel Cumplit”): the Sf. Nicolae Church he built here in 1594 (at the time it was destined to be a friary). The new place of worship (the last known foundation erected by the Musatins which has been known so far) was built on the foundation of the old church (the Church of Greci) by his father, Alexander Lăpuşneanu.
The former friary was passed from the Greek to the Romanians and then alienated again, it was a campground for foreign armies, it was transformed into a province subdued to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, it was a supporter of the famous Patriarchal School (where Cantemir himself studied, as well!), thus it accepted its “nomad” fate, even if the land where it was built was always the same. The stone walls, the corner towers, the cells and the other annexes collapsed, while the only one still standing is the old church, which carries on the faith (it was restored in 1907 and it survived a fire in 1944).
It is a very special appearance in front of our eyes. The “Sf. Nicolae” Church is made of stone and brick and is an artistic revelation because of its harmonious proportions and original exterior decor, which is unique in the history of Romanian medieval art. The entrance door prepares us for something grand as we start looking for miracles in the church yard.
The “Sf. Ilie” Church (St. Elijah Church)
We still witness history every step of our journey in the village of Rediu – Aldei in Aroneanu, towards the “Sf. Ilie” Church, where Romanian soldiers were killed during the Second World War, when the building used to be an infirmary.
Built of stone and brick in 1718 by Maria Catargi, the construction reigns over the north-eastern area of the village. It has the shape of a boat but it doesn’t have a tower. Throughout its existence, the church was repaired by its parishioners on three occasions (1939.1956 and 1985).
Aroneanu and Dorobanţ Lakes
Looking for a place to halt and rest a little, we can choose between the two lakes that come handy in the village of Aroneanu. The artificial dam lake in the Moldavian Plain that bears the name of the village reflects the sky on its 23 hectares of calm and welcoming water. Carp, perch and crucian feel at home here and the shore anglers invite us to try our luck.
On the other side of the dam, in the village of Dorobanţ, the lake there (bigger, spread on 70 hectares) lures us to bathe a little in its cool waters. Typically, there are many young people here who come to bathe, so we pluck up our courage to try the water even for a moment before moving on. If it were a training day, we could see the junior canoers practising (the Dorobanţ nautical centre was declared an Olympic rowing training centre).
The whole area is sublime, covered by water and vegetation alike.
THE COMMUNE OF GOLĂIEŞTI
The “Sf. Nicolae” Church (St. Nicholas Church)
The village of Cilibiu is proud to house the “Sf. Nicolae” Church (Holy Trinity / St. Archangels Michael and Gabriel), which dates from the eighteenth century. Near the cemetery, we can see a very old building which has clearly been taken care of throughout its existence. On the site of a very old church, the Sturdza family erected a new building in 1818, next to which they placed the tomb where some of their relatives were buried (the vault was extensively damaged and it was used as pillbox by the Russians in the two world wars).
After centuries of torment and resistance to the toughest tests, the church still exists because of its parishioners from the village who will not let it perish.
The Old Orthodox Church
In the north-east of Iasi, Medeleni brings a smile on our faces as it reminds us of our childhood and appears to be our friend ever since we were children. We enter the village with confidence, as if we visited a place we have known forever and with whom we strangely feel to have something important in common.
It is still there, in our story, as it used to be when we were little. It is difficult to get to it, but we follow the road through Golăieşti, Grădinari, and we discover a place that seems to be untouched by time and still set in the past.
We walk on unpaved roads, feeling that this is the right way if we want to feel its entire spirit. We look for the church in the north-east of the village, which was built in 1845 by Boyar Alecu Donici (the owner of the Medeleni estate back then) on a piece of land donated by him forever.
We find it resting on the right bank of the Prut River – it has turned grey due to the hardships it went through and it is alone as a new church took it place in the meantime. Next to it, we can still see today a part of the old mansion which was connected to the childhood of many of us. We let our eyes caress the old church once again and we head it there excitedly.
The mansion of the Deleanu family
We feel overwhelmed when we enter the yard of the new church in Medeleni because here, among the trees described by Teodoreanu, we should find the mansion where he would spend his holidays and about which he would tell those beautiful stories. We learn that, in 1960, it was turned into a school which was closed after 40 years of existence.
The orchard that became real in front of our eyes when we read “La Medeleni”, is now the yard of the new place of worship of the village (The New Church), and the only reminder of the green spots once visited by the wealthiest landowners of the region is an old artificial orange tree (one of the foreign ornamental trees that used to fill the orchard).
The noblemen spent here three days in a row, and villagers (during the holidays) passed in front of the estate as a sign of gratitude for the family that kept the village alive. These old times are remembered with nostalgia and regret now, yet the hope that what is left of the former mansion will not be completely forgotten makes the local people feel confident about the future.
The former mansion is now a sort of memory, but the book we read helps us to see the complete image. We visualize in our mind the admirable Moldavian house, the porch with an oriental pattern and small balconies, the kitchen and the dining room; we also see the intact garden, just like Teodoreanu used to see it during the summers he spent here. Something important is unchanged, however: the place and its people. We feel like writing on a sheet of paper from a letter that “Everything is clean: the people and the things, the sky and the landscape. At the end of the holiday, I myself will become a poet! Do not worry!”.
THE COMMUNE OF UNGHENI
The “Sf. Mucenic Dimitrie” Wooden Church (St. Demetrius Church)
Straight from the Medeleni mansion, we set off to a village imprinted by the traces boyars’ slaves on the hill that guards the Prut and Jijia Plain. Thus, we arrive in Coada Stâncii in Ungheni, once again called by the religious spirit transposed into a church that was built many years ago, in 1830.
A descendant of a monastery in the forest of Coada Stâncii, now the “Sf. Mucenic Dimitrie” Church, is the symbol of the village that was born around it after the deforestation of 1820. The place is no longer the same, as the landslides caused by deforestation forced people to build their village 300 metres farther to Mânzăteşti. Thus, the remains of the former monastery were left behind.
It is true that the man makes the place. Here, it is clear that this meant raising these modest houses of worship, these modest churches that make us feel grateful for our past.
The church patronized by Saint Prophet Ilie Tesviteanul
20 km away from Iasi, in Ungheni, the Church patronized by Saint Prophet Ilie Tesviteanul has been listening to prayers since 1911, when its construction began. The work was interrupted because of the First World War, but the founders’ and parishioners’ faith could not be destroyed by the conflicts of that time.
We walk inside, as we want to feel the energy of a place that was sanctified during the reign of Ferdinand I. It seems that history fills the church more than the air does.
THE COMMUNE OF ȚUȚORA
The “Sf. Ierarh Nicolae” Church (The St. Hierarch Nicholas Church)
The first Moldavian drapery begins the story of the village we are about to visit. In Chiperești, (a village founded by Ruler Grigore Alexandru Ghica in the eighteenth century) we visit a church which was built between 1840 and 1845. It was built of wood and wattle and it was covered with shingle, like all the churches of that time.
We see it has been affected by the active landslides on the hill it was erected, and it seems likely that it will lose the battle in front of this power of nature. We watch it helplessly and we think that maybe this is nature’s way.
Before leaving Chiperesti, we also visit the cemetery to see the monument erected to honour the 122 soldiers killed on this hill in World War I.
THE COMMUNE OF PRISĂCANI
The “Sfinții Voievozi” Church (The Holy Voivodes Church)
In 1804, in Prisacani, the Metropolitan Bishop of Moldavia of the time, Veniamin Costachi, finished the construction of what was going to be, for the next 180 years, the only church in the village. Over the years, the church has been repaired and taken care of by parishioners, just like all the places of worship in the region where the villagers said their prayers.
The “Sf. Nicolae” Wattle Church (St. Nicholas wattle church)
Moreni is calling us from a short distance, telling us that we can also find history within its boundaries. We get to the centre of the village and we are curious to see the church which was built in 1830 and which was made of fir wood and later covered in yellow wood boards. Its shape reminds us of the other churches in the region but the green colour of its roof surprises us.
We stopped for a while in its yard where we see a monument that honours the local heroes as well as a crucifix.
THE COMMUNE OF COMARNA
The “Sfinţii Împăraţi întocmai cu Apostolii, Constantin şi Elena / Biserica Sf Voievozi” Church (Apostles, Constantine and Elena / St. Voivodes Church)
During the reign of Carol I, the church “Sfinţii Împăraţi întocmai cu Apostolii, Constantin şi Elena / Biserica Sf Voievozi” was being built in Comarna thanks to the parishioners’ contribution. The year 1910 is the reason why we stop in the village – this is the year which gives the name of the commune.
Made of stone and with a cross-shaped architecture, the church is impressive and different from what we have seen on our journey so far. We can almost guess its young age and understand that the year 1910 was good for it.
We become curious and we go in to find out what is hidden between its walls. The interior was painted in oil, the iconostasis was painted by priest painter V. Damian and the various iconostasis flower sculptures were executed at the former “School of Arts and Crafts” in Iaşi.
Around the building, we find evidence of the existence of another church in these places – Sf Nicolae (St. Nicholas). The evidence is a stone dating from 1804, the year of its construction.
Traditions – cultivation of cherries
Everybody has heard of Comarna cherries in this region inhabited by people with one-of-a kind occupations. The trades have gathered the people in villages and their talents have kept them unchanged. In Comarna, summer is in peak season when cherries crack near the seeds and we find a way to visit the place when the locals are most proud of their cherries.
Thus, our craving for cherries makes us spend some more time in their heaven, in a place where you would think they all come from. In total, there are over 600 hectares of orchard with cherry trees, and any villager in Comarna can give you at least a handful of cherries from his own cherry tree anytime in summer.
We eat some to quench our craving and we take some for the road – who knows when we get to visit this area again?
THE COMMUNE OF COSTULENI
The “Sf. Nicolae” Church (St. Nicholas Church)
The owner of the Costuleni estate at the time, Nicolae Tacu, is the founder of the church which we are going to visit next. It was built by local craftsmen of stone and brick in 1860 and it was repaired in 1999.
We walk on the well-known Ruşchiţa marble which replaced, in time, the wooden plank floor.
Traditions – Hilița jams and wicker baskets
Hilița Pomiviticola Association: Constantin Străinu, President: 0742.494.917;
Daniel Ionut Herea, Vice President: 0720.039.113; Gheorghe Isac, knitting craftsman
We swarm like bees to Hilița, as we are sure that the place has many sweet things to offer. The jars filled with sweetened wonders are well-known Romanian traditional products, especially since an important centre for processing fruit was established here.
Here at Hilița, we also look for wicker basket weaving craftsmen who will tell us at least some secrets of this trade. The baskets made by strong hands (like those of craftsman Gheorghe Isac) end up carrying the fruits and the grapes from the gardens to the households. This way, we learn from these people what community work means and how the trades transmitted from generation to generation can be a source of income today.
THE COMMUNE OF CIORTEŞTI
The “Soborul Sfinților Arhangheli Mihail și Gavriil” Church (Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel Sobor Church), village of Rotărie
We walk slowly across the village of Rotărie in Ciortești. After stopping at the church here, we are prepared a surprise at the end of the road. This is a miracle of Moldavia for which we are trying to save our energy. It’s difficult to visit so many places without filling your soul or backpack with something (yes, yes, our travel companions are some jars of jam from Hilița and some cherries from Comarna).
In the highest and most visible place in the village of Rotărie we find a church moved from somewhere outside the village, where there used to be a monastery a long time ago. Because the monastery was closed down and the place was plundered by thieves, the villagers, being concerned about their treasure, brought it piece by piece among them to take care of it as if it were their own home.
From the place of worship for the inhabitants of Rotărie, we go towards Dobrovăţ, to the monastery bearing the same name.
THE COMMUNE OF DOBROVĂȚ
The Dobrovăţ Monastery
Full of enthusiasm, we get to the locality named, according to the legend, by the great Stephen. It is said that, when meeting the hermit who had lived in the woods before the monastery was settled here, Stephen the Great greeted him by saying “dobrý večer”, in Slovak. After the visit of the great ruler, the hermitage and the future monastery were called Dobriveci and later Dobrovăţ.
The Dobrovăţ monks’ monastery is the last religious heritage that Stephen left us before he died. Hiding in old woods, 25 km away from the south-eastern part of Iași and 35 km away from the north of Vaslui, it is one of the most beautiful victories of the ruler, even if the completion of its construction had to take place after his death, which came after a 47-year reign. It was also Stephen who gifted the monastery with 5 villages for it to guard.
Important boyars’ names (the Racoviţă family) and rulers such as Bogdan III, Petru Rareș, Simion Movilă, Vasile Lupu and Alexandru Ioan Cuza were part of the long story of the Dobrovăţ Monastery during the years when it seemed never to find its peace. A troubled history just like Stephen’s reign, this is how we can best describe the history of the Monastery.
Its church, which was also intended to be a necropolis, hides tombs of former rulers, boyars, people of the court and their ladies. We have a strange feeling when history gets so close to us. We know our past, but it is still strange to have it in front of our eyes. We believe that the former Ruler remained here and is now watching us as we admire the legacy he wisely left us. Only this way can we find out who we are and where we inherit our honour from.
We throw a last goodbye glance at the bust that dominates the monastery and continue our journey.
The “Sf. Pantelimon” Wooden Church (St. Panteleimon Wooden Church)
Our steps take us towards the village of Dobrovăţ-Moldoveni, to the old cemetery that has been guarded since 1789 by the wooden church dedicated to Saint Panteleimon. Its story is connected to the people and the vital need for faith.
Part of the village (Pahomia) is named after its founder, the monk Pahomie, who was helped to build a sacred place by the villagers of Dobrovăţ, who wanted to hear sermons in Romanian (at the time, the monastery was dedicated to the Greeks on Mount Athos, and the monks gave the sermons in Greek). Not having the abbot’s blessing to build the church in the village situated on the land belonging to the monastery, the villagers cut a few oak trees near the Fâstâci Monastery and built a place of worship in the village; this place remained unsanctified for 10 years.
The churchyard is 4000 square metres wide, and part of it includes a walnut tree orchard. We also find here a tall crucifix dedicated to all the people buried around the church until 1864.
THE COMMUNE OF CODĂEȘTI
The “Nașterea Maicii Domnului” Church (“Virgin Mary’s Birth” Church)
We are heading to the “Nașterea Maicii Domnului” Church in the village of Pribeşti, commune of Codăești. It was built in 1844 by Governor Lupu Balș and his wife Eufrosina. Another church had been constructed on the same spot in 1636 (St. Nicolae); yet, this one was discouraged by the passage of time.
One can acknowledge the passage of time over the present church. However, the brick walls and the foundations with high stone pedestal help it to resist the wrath of time.
The Rosetti- Balș Mansion
We stay in Codăești to visit one of the oldest and most beautiful secular buildings in Moldavia, dating from the eighteenth century. The Rosetti-Balș Mansion is still standing thanks to its walls that are almost a metre thick.
The ensemble where we are now comprises the Rosetti-Balș house, the church, the administrative house and the annex buildings. All these belonged at a certain point to Governor Lupu Balș who, together with his wife Eufrosina, built the present “Nașterea Maicii Domnului” Church (the one we have just visited).
It immediately amazes us with what must have been, at its time, the replica of a traditional Romanian home at a large scale. It is a sturdy and true boyar’s house, which would have been described in books had it not been forgotten.
The “Sf. Trei Ierarhi” Church (St. Three Hierarchs Church)
The “Sf. Trei Ierarhi” Church was sanctified in the mid-19th century in the village of Codăești (1857). The earthquake of 1940 shook its structure a little, but the parish priest managed to restore it immediately afterwards. The ‘77 earthquake tested it again, but the plaster was quickly repaired both in the inside and on the outside.
The Church finds us a little tired now, but still willing to visit all the historical buildings and places that come our way.
THE COMMUNE OF TĂCUTA
The “Sf. Voievozi” Wooden Church (St. Voivodes Wooden Church)
2 km to the west of the village of Mirceşti in the commune of Tăcuta, in the cemetery (on a steep hillside), we can see the “Sf. Voievozi” Wooden Church, which was built in 1532 and then rebuilt in the nineteenth century. It is the church of a former monastery which was made almost entirely of wood.
There are two more monument churches we want to visit in this community.
The “Sf. Gheorghe” Church (St. George Church)
Boyar Gheorghe Sturdza and his wife, Smaranda bequeathed us the proof of their faith in Tăcuta: the “Sf. Gheorghe” stone church, which was built by them in 1879. Tormented by time, the construction lost its sparkle but not its historical significance.
Here, Sturza fell in love with the places and, in the 19th century, he built the mansion that bears his name (and that is still shaded by secular trees in the park that he created as well).
From the Sturdza Mansion, we continue our journey to Protopopești, the village that connects us to the “Colinele Iașilor” LAG, to the Poiana cu Cetate. We decide to stick to the track and also visit the other three communes that are left of the Stephen the Great LAG, as we are neither ready nor willing to give up any bit of history in this area.
The “Sf. Nicolae” Church (St. Nicholas Church)
As we planned, we reach the village of Protopopești, commune of Tăcuta because we want to visit a church dating from 1804. The “Sf. Nicolae” Church was built by Ioan Slicariu and his wife, Zoiţa. Having been repaired 3 times, the church still resists and welcomes us without hesitation.
THE COMMUNE OF DĂNEȘTI
The “Emil Racoviță” Memorial House
We go to the village of Emil Racoviță, commune of Dănești to see the house where the scientist who gave the name of the village was born and grew. 45 km away from Vaslui, on the national road DN24, in the Memorial Museum, we find four objectives to consider during our visit: the Old Body (the 19th century), the New Body (the 20th century), the Ruins of the Cellars (the 19th century) and the Park with Secular Trees – located in the east of the village (the 19th century).
Before being named after the scientist, the village where Racoviţă was born was called Şurăneşti. There, his parents – Gheorghe and Eufrosina Racoviţă – owned more than 1000 hectares of arable land and 15 hectares of forest. After he became the owner of the land, he shared his land to the peasants in Şurăneşti and donated the forest to the state, keeping for himself only the house and 11 hectares of land.
The memorial house where Emil Racoviță was born and grew up was turned into a museum in 1964. Here we are eager to see the objects that remind us of his childhood, but also the maps, photographs and glass slides made by Racoviţă himself in the South Pole, the drawings, the observation charts for the Arctic flora and fauna, the scientific papers, the reviews, the interviews and the conferences he held, plus the personal items he had with him on the expedition: his travel kit and his camera.
The “Sf. Nicolae” (St. Nicholas) wooden and wattle church
The “Sf. Nicolae” Church waits for us in a corner of the village of Boţoaia, in an old cemetery (the church was built in 1757 and it was rebuilt in 1857).
THE TOWN OF NEGREȘTI
The cemetery and the wooden church “Sf. Nicolae” (St. Nicholas)
The “Sf. Nicolae” Church in Căzăneşti was built around 1818, and it has been repaired and improved on 5 occasions so far. Like all the churches of its generation, it shows the passage of time on its face, yet its resistance in front of all the torments gives it even more dignity.
Traditions – beekeeping
Negreşti Beekeeping Association – Contact details: Sorin Popovici, President, 0762.087.754.
We are not leaving Negreşti until we have found out everything there is to be known about beekeeping and until we have tasted the honey.
Beekeeping is a great profession here. After having established the Negreşti Beekeeping Association, the beekeepers in the region made efforts and launched projects to facilitate the training and the development of new generations in the art that many of the veterans master perfectly.
We meet Sorin Popovici, president of the Association, and we let ourselves guided by him in the secrets of the best local honey, the kind of honey we always want to have on our table from now on. On the property of the same company, we roam across the clearings and the old forests of acacia and linden, only to listen to the lively hum of the bees which seem to urge us to fill our jars with their liquid gold and continue our journey.
THE COMMUNE OF REBRICEA
The “Nașterea și Adormirea Maicii Domnului” Church (The “Birth and Assumption of Virgin Mary” Church)
Rebricea is a new stopping point for us. Here in the village of Tatomireşti (situated five kilometres away from the Rebricea station, lost in the smooth valleys around Negreşti), Boyar Arghire Cuza chose to offer a great gift to posterity: a stone church (the only one in the diocese) whose construction was completed in 1790 and which was named The “Nașterea și Adormirea Maicii Domnului” Church.
Having undergone a transformation and having been repaired 3 times, the church remains sturdy and durable. It’s cool and comfortable inside, and its shelter gives us peace. It’s easy to understand that these places are sacred. The village has been attested in documents since Stephen the Great’s reign. Ever since we set off on our journey we have felt his presence and apparently he never ceases to cross our way.
Traditions, local customs – blacksmiths, oven bread
In Drăxeni, our souls rejoice in meeting the people who remained loyal to the craftsmanship passed from one generation to another. You feel a certain kind of pride when you can tell the people you meet that the only training you’ve got took place in the yard, and your teachers were your parents and grandparents. The profession passed from father to son and from mother to daughter reaches the rank of art, for the hand (after such a long time) acquires supernatural powers. This is what we want to see and this is where we are going to let ourselves amazed.
In the village of Drăxeni we want to meet the blacksmith, Dorin Ilade, who is willing to tell us and show us how to work with the iron. He is not at all afraid that a handful of tourists could learn the secrets of the trade that his ancestors have been doing for a lifetime.
Watching the fire, we remember of our next stop and our mouths start to water instantly. Zâna Cibotaru and Maria Bârleanu master the art of the oven and amaze all our senses with the bread and the pies they sometimes bake all day long. We are wondering how many years have passed since we last tasted something so delicious…
We feel like we don’t want to leave behind these realms with people from whom we have so much to learn. Our hopes are fed by the respect for the past, by the preservation of family traditions in a world where values easily lose their importance and by the desire to leave this unique inheritance to the posterity. We resume our journey full of confidence and optimism (and with full bellies!) and go to pay a short visit to the village church.
The “Sf. Nicolae” Wooden Church (St. Nicholas Wooden Church)
The “Sf. Nicolae” Church in Rebricea was built of wood around the year 1723. It was relocated in 1850 and it was later repaired in 1934. We find it easily, near the cemetery of the village.
3 shorter routes for longer stops!
We have roamed across 4 LAGs until we started to believe that we knew them by heart. Now we realize that time has rushed us every time we were charmed by a landscape, a story, a fairy-tale or a long talk on a patch of grass while taking a well-deserved break.
After these full days away from home, we can realize that we didn’t actually go so far from it. We discovered so many places and things, we couldn’t believe our eyes what was in front of us and we finally decided to visit these places more often. Thus, since time is our eternal rushed and thrifty friend (but dear to us with good and bad), we found great joy in the 3 routes outlined below. Even if condensed in terms of duration and tourist attractions, the 3 routes send us and our families and friends to visit historical monuments, to relax on the river banks or on the lake shores around Iasi or to ride our bikes on roads especially designed for two wheels.
Route 1 – “Culture and tradition”
A two days’ tour of the most important historical monuments around Iasi (churches, monasteries, memorial houses and mansions in the north and the south of the county) convinces us to look for one night’s accommodation somewhere on the road. We prepare for visits that are going to soothe our souls and add knowledge to what we already know, as all the buildings that we are going to see are filled with history.
Here’s the plan for the following two days of tracing our origins and enriching our knowledge of the past:
Route 2 – “Nature and recreation”
If we choose this route, we never forget to take our tents and sleeping bags with us because we never know which of the waters or lands we visit will charm us so much as to convince us to stay overnight. Each of the places we are about to visit is a corner of heaven, one more beautiful than the other, with green expanses (hills, forests, meadows) or stretches of water. They are protected areas around Iasi, real treasures that are home to the most unique species.
The sublime journey unfolds in front of us:
Route 3 – Cycling
The surroundings of the town of Iasi are generous for cyclists as well. Thus, if we are lucky and the weather is fine and if we feel up to it, we can ride our bikes and cover the distance between the attractions. We have outlined below the most beautiful bike routes to the most remarkable sights in the region.