Suceava; The Monastery of St. John the New; A strange hostel; Back to the castle; The shortcut discovered

We knew there were a couple of hostels in Suceava, but not their names or where they were. There was no internet at the guesthouse, so we couldn’t look it up, and it seemed in bad taste to ask the manager. So we said goodbye to Connie and Max, who were off to Braşov, and followed our only clue, a single sign downtown pointing to a hostel 2km away. Eventually we found it. The place was empty except for the cleaning crew, a couple of kids, who called the manager to ask if there were any free beds. There were, so one of them took us up to our room, showing us the facilities on the way, including the washroom, shower, and “chicken” - pointing at the kitchen. I never make fun of people’s English, because my Romanian, for example, is non-existent, but it was all I could do not to burst out laughing at the inadvertent humour. I was very proud of both us, though - neither Sheryl nor I so much as cracked a smile. In fact it took us fifteen minutes after we were alone even to dare to refer to it. It’s been a running joke ever since, though.

It was a very hot day, and Sheryl and I had had enough of each others’ company for a while, and so I read my book while she went to an internet cafe to caption some photos. Neither of us felt terribly guilty about missing Suceava’s sights, because there really aren’t any. It’s a grey, rundown sort of place without much to offer. We were becoming a bit disheartened about visiting the monasteries, even. Putna Monastery, it turns out, was nearly completely destroyed and all its paintings were unrestorable, so it has been rebuilt and the paintings replaced not so many years ago, and nothing there is older than a few years. Also, I’d thought it would be possible to stay there and had been a bit enchanted at the thought of staying in a monastery - I’m not really sure why - but it turns out that only pilgrims can stay there, which we are most assuredly not. I couldn’t even fake being a Catholic pilgrim for thirty seconds - trying to pass myself off as an Orthodox pilgrim would get me caught instantly. The other two big monasteries in Bucovina - Sucevita and Moldovita - were both farther west and I’d effectively given them up when we didn’t get out of Connie and Max’s car at Câmpulung Moldovesc. The hostel did run a day tour to all four monasteries , but it was 100RON per person (about CAD$45) which we both instantly decided was a stupid amount of money, especially given that we’d already seen Voroneţ and had decided to skip Putna. I do regret not going to Sucevita though, it looked very beautiful.

In the evening when it was cooler we went out walking. There’s a very nice monastery right in Suceava, as it happens - the Monastery of St. John the New. Unlike Voroneţ, it’s an active monastery, and I felt as if I was bothering the monks and getting in their way. They didn’t really seem to mind much, just patiently ignoring us and all the other tourists. After the monastery we decided it was to to head back to the castle. The group we’d seen the night before doing pyrotechnics and mock combat was scheduled to perform again. Since it was daylight we were easily able to find the shortcut we’d missed last night. It took us right to the castle, emerging beside the historical-village museum - the same one we’d asked the locals about and which they’d said didn’t lead to town. Sometimes I get awfully tired of being screwed around by locals with questionable senses of humour, I really do.

The mosquitoes were swarming madly and the show turned out to be only 20 minutes long. After I nearly got hit by a sword we decided to move back a little and no sooner had we than it was all over, so it was back to the hostel to try to plan the next steps. The hostel was sickeningly hot and had booked way more people than there were beds, so there were cots and mattresses everywhere, and our planning was continually interrupted by the manager - one of those irritating hovering nervous types who asks every five minutes if everything is okay. But finally we decided to get the local bus to the train station, catch a train to Buzău and stay there than night with the aim of seeing the mud volcanoes the next morning. The manager told us the mud volcanoes were stupid and boring and we shouldn’t go, but Buzău was her home-town, and I take with a grain of salt anything someone says about the place they grew up in, since it’s always stupid and boring.


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Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
This travelogue comprises 16,426 photographs and 402,515 words in 307 dispatches written from 335 places in 52 countries on 6 continents around the world.
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