As we struck out on the first day of our Romanian tour, we were in awe of the country’s spirituality, its dedication to Christianity, and the number of churches. You couldn’t travel more than a half mile (sometimes the distance was no more than twenty feet) without seeing a church. And in old downtown Bucharest, there are places of worship on almost every corner, oftentimes across the street from one another.
Motoring through the Carpathian countryside was no different. Even in the most remote and poorest of villages, there always stood a well-kept, ornate place of worship somewhere near the epicenter. Ninety percent of the country is Orthodox Christian, but many of the people, particularly in the rural areas, still cling to the superstitious beliefs and practices of their ancestors, which made the number of churches somewhat surprising to me. Statistics from 2013 noted that ten new churches were being built every month, and this has put a financial burden on the citizens of the country and a wedge between the younger, more modern tax-payers and the older, more traditional.
At the end of the second day, we visited Chindia Tower (The Municipality of Curtea de Arges in Arges – “The Episcopal Church”), which was built in the early 1500s on top of an ancient church that had been abandoned. It was then rebuilt in the 1600s after a fire and remains today as an important historical monument of architecture for that period. Renovations were also made in the 1700s and 1800s.
On the third day of the trip, we visited what was rumored to be one of the final resting places of Vlad Tepes III (Vlad the Impaler), the Snagov Monastery. This beautiful structure was founded on a small island just outside of Bucharest in the 1400s. No one has been able to verify the legend that Prince Vlad was buried there at his own request, although many historians and archaeologists have tried. Several burial stones were lifted and excavated, revealing nothing but horse and unidentifiable bones.
Even more unnerving was a tale we were told by the tour guide that during the erection of the church, many untoward occurrences took place, spooking church officials. After months of the unrelenting issues, they resorted to their superstitious beliefs and agreed that a sacrifice had to be made. Unlucky for him, the head official, who had no other family to offer but his pregnant wife, chose the shortest straw. It is said that when his wife came to bring him one of his daily meals, she was tricked into a makeshift room where they first trapped her and then walled her up into the building. After the sacrifice, the incidents that plagued the construction of the church stopped, but it is said that many people have complained of hearing a woman wailing in the walls.
For more information on the monasteries and churches of Romania, visit: http://romaniatourism.com/painted-monasteries.html.
For more information on taking the Dracula Country Tour of Romania, write Dacre Stoker at firstname.lastname@example.org.