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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Moldovita Monastery, Southern Bucovina, Romania
SLOVENIA Ljubljana Oct 7-8 Piran Oct 9-12

CROATIA Istra Peninsula Oct 13 Split Oct 14-15 Hvar Oct 16-18 Korcula Oct 19 Dubrovnik Oct 20-29


BOSNIA Sarajevo Oct 30 Oct 30 Nov 1

SERBIA Belgrade Nov 2-3

ROMANIA Bucharest Nov 4 Suceava Nov 5 Nov 6 Cluj Napoca Nov 7 Sighisoara Nov 8-9 Brasov Nov 10 Nov 11

BULGARIA Sofia Nov 12 Nov 13 Nov 14

MACEDONIA Lake Ohrid Nov 15 Nov 16-17

KOSOVO Prishtine Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 20 Nov 21

GREECE Thessaloniki Nov 22 Athens Nov 23 Nov 24
Moldovita Monastery, S. Bucovina, Romania, November 6, 2003

Romanian Flag ROMANIA: Southern Bucovina

November 5. BUCHAREST - SUCEAVA  The best thing about our hotel turned out to be its proximity to the train station.  We had an 8:20 train to Suceava. Train tickets in Romania were insanely cheap by our standards so decided we splash out for Prima Classe.  There stories about dodgy goings on in Romanian trains so it seemed like the wise thing to do.  Our ticketed cabin was full but the rest of the carriage was mostly empty so we just plopped ourselves into an empty cabin and stretched out.  Gypsies came by periodically to beg or other people  came by to beg or sell things.  They would just fling the door open and hold out their hands and often didn't close the door as they left.  It was annoying us until Rob figured out that by wedging his foot up against the sliding door it was too hard for people to open.  They gave us frustrated looks but we just waived them past.  The vendors weren't really that bad and were pretty considerate but the gypsies could get persistent.

The train was old but in good condition.  Each carriage had a row of cabins with a toilet at the end. Sliding door separated the cabin hallway with the toilet area and folding doors covered the outside door.  There weren't any carriage attendants so when people got on at a station the door didn't always get closed.  This caught me by surprise when I slid the door open at the end of the cabin hallway and was met with strong gusts of wind from the open door to the outside.  I could see the ground flying past in a blur but wasn't brave enough to reach out and close the door.  I just scooted over the toilet and scooted back to the cabin hallway hoping that anybody with a child on the train kept good hold of them!

The countryside in eastern Romania wasn't the country's most outstanding feature.  It was mostly flat, dry grassland with the occasional town.  Some of the towns looked almost like shanties with people camped out everywhere.  They may have been gypsies but it was evident from the dilapidated grand old houses that these towns were once in better shape.  The fields of one town were full of tanks and an old military plane went flying overhead so there were some military operations in the region.  We arrived in Suceava in late afternoon and it was nice and sunny.  We'd actually had nice weather for most of the ride, after we got outside Bucharest.  

The Suceava station was small but it took a while to sort out where we needed to catch the bus into town. As we walked around the front of the station we found ourselves being followed by one little stray dog after another.  The first was a really small dog, sort of the shape of a dachshund but with long hair.  She was usurped by a slightly larger dog who followed us to the bus stop.  We confirmed that we were in the right spot and Rob went to buy the tickets.  As I stood waiting for him the stray dog cleverly tried to get my attention, peering up at me with droopy eyes.  When I wasn't look at her I felt a tug on my pant leg and looked down to find her carefully grabbing my cuff in her teeth.  When she saw me look her tail started wagging and she rolled over to show me her stomach.  She was a talented dog and I had to wonder if she was a fulltime stray or just a pet with a side job.  There were several other strays around and watching the local people I noticed that they took care of the dogs in a sort of collective way.  The man who ran the nearby shop threw out a few scraps here and there.  A woman sitting next to me went digging in her purse to retrieve a cookie for one dog.  A man had dropped a can of yogurt on the sidewalk and just left it.  One of the smaller dogs couldn't turn over the can so a young boy went over and did it for her.  While we sat on the bench to wait for our bus driver another dog came over and turned on her charms.  She set her chin on my knee and then pulled a piece of trash out from under the bench so she had room to turn around and sit right next to me.  If I had been home I would surely have had a new pet.  Once our bus driver and his son were ready to go we were off to town.  The bus had rounded the park in front of the station by the time we realized the guidebook was missing.  I had become so distracted by the dogs that I left the guidebook sitting on the bench.  We jumped off of the bus and made a dash back to the bus stop to find that someone had turned it into the ticket counter.  

The weather was sunny but chilly and people were well decked out in warm clothing.  The young men mostly wore black knit hats while the older men wore more traditional Romanian hats that were made of a heavy material and stood up stiffly.  The women wore scarves.   It was another 15 minutes waiting with the dogs for the next bus.  We passed old houses and churches as we got towards the town, then we saw the  McDonalds. The down town area of Suceava was very commercial, not a picturesque little country town.  From 1388 to 1565 it was the capital of the principality of Moldavia, which until 1812 also included the western half of modern-day Moldova. Suceava was the place from which Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great) led the resistance against the Turks between 1457 and 1504.  But, today Suceava is just a the seat of Suceava County and the jumping off point for the painted monasteries.

We missed the central Suceava bus stop so we got off at the following stop and walked back to our first choice hotel.  It had upgraded substantially since our guidebook was issued and its prices were marked up accordingly.  So, we headed for a guesthouse instead, Vila Alice, where we found a fantastic room with a bathroom, TV, and frig for a reasonable rate. It was family run and kept in perfect condition.  They also organized transport to the monasteries so we signed up.  Public transport wouldn't work and it was too late to check tour agencies so we were glad to have the option.

We didn't find much in the way of cheap eats in town and it was too cold to spend too much time looking around so we just went to McDonald's for dinner and then found an Internet cafe to check our email.  We bought a bottle of Vampire wine at a market on the way home and enjoyed it in our heated room in front of the TV.