Chapter 10: The Knights Who Say "Neamt!"

The next morning, we stumbled down into the hotel's restaurant looking for coffee (or in Pam's case, tea). There are those of us who just don't deal well with the world in the morning until we've had our little wake-up fix of caffeine. Unfortunately, to the Romanians, coffee is something you have after a meal. So, we had to keep badgering the waitress. "Yes, we would like our coffee now please." We began to speculate that they were out somewhere harvesting the beans. Eventually we got our java, but it was Turkish style, in those little bitty cups, and had that layer of grounds sludge on the bottom. Invariably, you get a mouthful of that as you get near the least it wakes you up.

We also had some very tasty little triangles of local cheese that had been battered in egg and flour and then deep-fried. I keep meaning to try that in my kitchen, but I never seem to get around to it.

Neamt Citadel

Our hotel was well-situated for our next stop--right at the foot of it, in fact. On a hill overlooking the town and the valley below is Neamt Citadel, or Cetatea Neamtului, built in 1359. A road leads up to the citadel, but apparently it is closed to public traffic, so we had to hike up on foot, a reasonably arduous climb. You could really get a sense of how difficult it must have been to attack a place like that. We were all huffing and puffing by the time we got to the top, and we weren't even wearing chain mail.

Afterwards, we came barreling down the hill (much easier the other way), and spent a little time wandering around Targu Neamt, shopping and such. We went into a bank to change some dollars into lei, but found the bank was out of lei.

A mix of the modern and the traditional:
a street sweeper in Targu Neamt
Photo by Kathy Lindquist

The rest of the day was monasteries. Painted Orthodox monasteries, to be exact. Moldavia is full of them, mostly built between the 15th-16th centuries. "Painted" doesn't mean they chose exterior latex over aluminum siding, it refers to the elaborate murals of religious scenes painted on the outside of the church. Some of these paintings are in excellent shape, others are nearly gone. There is a big restoration effort underway in Romania to stabilize the paintings that are in trouble. We saw people working at this at a couple of places we visited.

An ornate housing around a well

On the way to the first monastery, we pulled over in a small village--a wide spot in the road, really--to look at the map, and ended up spending some time visiting with some of the people there. Out here in the country, far from the crowded, jaded cities, people were open and friendly, and eager to meet foreign visitors.

In many places in Romania, but especially in the country, horse-drawn wagons are still commonplace. You can even see them in many of the bigger cities, where they seem to co-exist fairly well with motor traffic. During our stay, we saw horses pulling everything from hay to TV sets. One wagon I spotted had a bunch of horseshoes tied to one of the axles: spare "tires," I guess.


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