Exploring Romania; Wooden villages, painted churches and Saxon citadels30 August - 10 September, 2018

Trip Dates:
30 September - 10 October, 2018
Trip Price: £2570
Single Room Supplement: £260
Trip Length: 11 days

Gillian Gloyer will show that the cultural heritage of the three former principalities of Transylvania, Moldavia and Wallachia that make up the modem state of Romania is composed of elements derived from numerous outside influences. Over the course of its turbulent history, Romania has been subjected to the cultural influences of  the ancient Greeks and Romans, Slav, Bulgarian and Hungarian invaders, Byzantium, from German settlers, from the Ottoman Turks and from the Habsburg empire. All these have blended with one another and with the ancient indigenous civilization of the Geto-Dacians to give Romania one of the richest and most varied cultures in Europe with wonderful art and architecture.

After flying on the direct British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Bucharest, the journey begins in the beautiful valleys of Maramures. Here the party will visit some of the region’s finest wooden churches with their tall and elegant spires and their elaborate woodcarving. Amongst these woodcarvings are a wide repertoire of ancient motifs that often recur in the architectural decoration of the wooden village houses, as well as in the local furniture, stone carving, metal work, textiles and jewellery.

Continue on to Bucovina in northern Moldavia and visit some of the most important of the magnificent Moldavian painted churches. These churches, which are generally associated with monastic foundations are situated in surroundings of outstanding natural beauty and constitute one of Romania's most original contributions to the European artistic heritage. Many were built between the late 15th and early 17th centuries, and while the idea of decorating the outside walls of churches with religious paintings is not peculiar to Moldavia or to that period, what does seem to be unique is that their exterior walls are entirely covered with paintings from foundations to roof. The paintings were executed al fresco, using a palette of glowing colours, including the famous Voronet blue, and they combine Byzantine formality for the portrayal of exalted themes with a more naturalistic, vernacular style for homelier subjects.

From Bucovina, the party will drive south through the beautiful forest and mountain scenery of Transylvania, staying at Sighisoara, Sibiu and Brasov, which are three of the Siebenbiirgen, the seven fortified cities built in the Middle Ages by German settlers (collectively known as Saxons) and visiting on the way a series of monasteries, churches and Saxon fortified citadels. In Sibiu admire the collection of paintings, sculptures and icons partly made by Samuel Brukenthal, Imperial governor of Transylvania from 1777 to 1787, and housed in his Baroque palace. In the nearby village of Sibiel, there is a splendid collection of icons. painted on glass. The magnificent late Gothic Black Church in Brasov contains a notable collection of Oriental carpets and a fine Viennese organ.

Before returning to Bucharest, visit the magnificent Peles Castle, built for King Carol I and Queen Elisabeta, better known as the writer Carmen Sylva, in a bizarre mixture of pseudo- Renaissance, Byzantine and Moorish styles. Nearby is the late 17th century Sinaia Monastery, which houses an important collection of icons and ecclesiastical vestments. The journey ends with  a visit to Bucharest itself where magnificent byzantine churches are juxtaposed  next to palatial Beaux-Arts town houses. Time permitting there will be a visit to Casa Poporului, apotheosis of Ceausescu's megalomania and the exquisite Palace of Mogosoaia, built in the first years of the 18th century by Prince Constantin Brancoveanui of Wallachia.

Please note that Distant Horizons has sole responsibility for the operation of this tour. The participating University has no direct control over the operation of any tours.


Maximum Party Size: 20

Trip Leader: Gillian Gloyer

Gillian Gloyer studied ancient languages at Wadham College, Oxford. She was president of the Oxford University Archaeology Society and, while at school and university, excavated in the UK and Italy. She first visited Romania while a student, hitch-hiking to Bucharest from a summer job teaching English in Austria. After Oxford, a varied career took her back to the region via Scotland, Spain, Chile and Belgium. In her work on democracy related projects she has worked in a much-changed Romania, co-deliver training workshops with political party activists.

Gillian is now based in Edinburgh, from where she continues to work on democracy-related projects, mainly in the Balkans, the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and Africa. She is the author of the Bradt Travel Guide to Albania, now in its fifth edition.


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Exploring Romania; Wooden villages, painted churches and Saxon citadels Trip Comments:

‘All the members of the team in Romania put themselves out for us. Their love and loyalty to Romania was impressive. The worked well together as a team and ensured that we had a very enjoyable trip.’
‘The visit to the jail gave us an invaluable insight into some of the horrors of the Ceausescu era – interesting how a single work of art says more than hundreds of words.’
‘The trip was extremely interesting both for the political background, the spectacular scenery and for the buildings and paintings. I would not have missed it.’
‘A very well organised and enjoyable trip. It was interesting to contrast the expert’s view with the view on the ground from the local guide’