Moldova – Iasi, hidden gems and fantastic scenery

Posted on January 10, 2011


Finally I managed to put some time to write about my trips in the last months. And I start with a fantastic (and first) trip across the mountains, to Moldova, the land of wine, beautiful girls, culture and great scenery.

Before I begin, I must mention we had a fantastic weather for the period – not too often can you walk around in a t-shirt during the Romanian November.

Start with the beginning. We left Cluj Friday 6 PM – a bit late, but what can I say, one needs to work if they want to afford traveling. That, I think, is me. Or the other way, one needs to plan ahead if he wants to leave early. That, I know, is not me.

So we left, and I decided, against all advice, to take the road less traveled, i.e. to not go via Sovata-Cheile Bicazului (which is the way we came back), but rather try the route I manually created on viaMichelin (the link should show the exact route) , via Mociu-Reghin-Toplita-Borsec. And it was the best decision, as I was very pleasantly surprised by this road – a lot of it was recently rebuilt, so a comfortable ride. What also made it a very enjoyable ride was the absence of traffic.
Note: a bif of discomfort when driving around Bicaz Lake, as there were some landslides and the road sometimes welcomingly offers some unexpected dips.
We arrived in Bacau around 11 PM, 5 hours of driving later. Next day, we woke up and decided to visit Iasi, the capital of the Romanian Moldova, a city I’ve never been to but that everybody recommeded I visit. So, we drove on the nice road the 120 or so kilometres, and we arrived in Iasi.

First, we walked a little bit around the “heart” of the city.

The HQ of the Orthodox Church – The Cathedral

Still the HQ – as opposed to a Communist building

A staircase inside the Orthodox HQ

Inside the Cathedral

The Asachi School

Old v. New in the centre of Iasi

The Palace of Culture and the statue of Stefan cel Mare

After this initial stroll, we took a bus and headed to Copou, the bohemian part of Iasi, home to the Universities and a beautiful park. Of course, the most important picture I had to take was with Eminescu’s linden tree, a tree that inspired one of his most romantic poems – “Dorinta” (“The Lust”? – my own translation, try Google translate to come up with an English translation)

After the park, we went to visit the University, and the famous “Alley of the lost steps”, a long hallway whose walls have been painted by one of Romania’s most famous artists of the last century, Sabin Balasa.

After this, we had the most fantastic discovery – after some discussions with the doorman about whether or not we were allowed to take pictures, he said he’ll show us something unique. Obviously, we were reluctant about this “uniqueness”, but we decided to stick around and see what he has to show us. Five minutes later, the wait was worth everything. He took us into an amazing room, something I’ve never seen before, a room full of history and grandeur. Apparently, this room was home of the Romanian Parliament for a brief period during the 19th century and was the venue for some very important events in the history of the country.

Once we left the University, we headed back to the Center, and stopped on the way to a famous bookstore – owned and managed by a famous antiquarian – Mr. Grumazescu. The bookstore was very charming, had a lot of personality and we were surprised to meet some young visitors resting on one of the armchairs.
As we were looking around, we started talking to Mr. Grumazescu, a man of endless stories and tales – I could probably listen for days to his stories about books, poems, and writers. And he showed us something fascinating – some of the smalles books in the world. The smallest one (see picture below) contains all 98 verses of the “Luceafarul” poem by Eminescu – a poem considered one of the universal literature’s most beautiful poems.

After this stopover, we left Iasi and headed back to Bacau for some fantastic food, good times and laughter, and for a good night’s sleep considering the next day we’d head back to Cluj – this time via Bicaz. We wake up, eat, and then head towards the Bicaz Dam and, a bit further, the Bicaz gorges. Now what’s a breahtaking drive, as the road carves through mountains so deep you feel there’s not enough room for the car to squeeze between the massive rocks.

The Bicaz Dam

Unfortunately, there are still mountains of garbage left, even after the great effort last year by Lets Do it Romania.

The Bicaz Gorges

After we passed through the Gorges, the road climbed sharply towards the Red Lake, another famous location with some fantastic sights.

Moldova was fantastic, but I know I barely scratched the surface of it. There’re many more locations to see, and I plan on visiting again soon. Next will be Suceava and the Monasteries, plus a bit more of the wine country there.

Posted in: english, Travel