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Tucked into the north-eastern corner of Romania, Bucovina lies between the Carpathian foothills and the Romanian plains. Here the region's hero, Stephen the Great, fought back the Turks in the 14th and 15th centuries and then built churches and monasteries throughout the region to celebrate his victories. There are 48 monasteries in total, complete with fortified walls to protect them against invaders. These unique monasteries and Byzantine churches with their exceptional exterior frescoes are some of the most fascinating sights in Romania. Seven of the painted monasteries have been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The area is worth visiting, not only for its wealth of religious art and the beautiful monasteries, but also for the breathtaking natural beauty of the region, with its rolling hills, teeming forests and lush valleys. The countryside is scattered with picturesque villages and lovely rural scenes. Local folk go about their daily business driving horse-drawn carts on cobbled streets and haggling at bustling food markets. This fascinating region of Romania is a stark contrast to the frenetic pace and way of life shaped by the modern face of city living.
The largest town in the area, and previous capital of Moldavia, is Suceava, the gateway to the painted monasteries of Southern Bucovina. The town has various sites of interest, including old medieval churches, the Bucovina History Museum, and its main tourist site, the Neamt Citadel, a fortress built to hold off the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II in 1476.
The 15th century painted monasteries of Southern Bucovina have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Monuments, and represent some of the greatest artistic monuments in Europe â€' certainly a must for serious history buffs. Among the most picturesque treasures in Romania, most of the churches are fortified with strong defensive surrounding walls, which once provided protection against Turkish invaders. The exterior walls of the monasteries are richly decorated with vivid frescoes depicting dramatic Biblical scenes, intended to teach Christianity to the illiterate. The artwork has, amazingly, survived harsh exposure to the elements for over 450 years and the intense colours have been well preserved. The five main painted monasteries near Suceava are Humor, Voronet, Moldovita, Sucevita and Arbore.
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