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For over 620 years, the Neamt Fortress has been standing guard over the Ozana Valley to Agapia and Varatec. The fortress was mentioned by great writers of Romania in their works.

Photo credit: (c) Adrian CUBA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

In his ‘Muma lui Stefan cel Mare’ (Stephen the Great’s Mother), Stefan Bolintineanu describes Stephen’s defeat in the battle of Valea Alba-Razboieni to Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror.

In his ‘Sobieski si romanii’ (Sobieski and Romanians) Costache Negruzzi mentions the bravery of the Moldavian armies before the Polish armies, as well as the strategic position of the fortress.

Great storyteller Ion Creanga in his ‘Amintiri din copilarie’ (Memories of My Childhood) describes the local river of Ozana as beautifully flowing and crystal clear, in which the Neamt Fortress had been mirroring itself for so many centuries.

The earliest history of the fortress history dates back to the end of the 14th century. It had been built strategically atop the Plesu Hill by Petru I Musat, between 1374-1391.

‘There were three brothers, Peter, Stephen and Roman Musat, who broke up at the right time and Peter Musat came from Suceava, from beyond the hill, and placed here the foundation of the fortress. The main entrance to the fortress is not where tourists enter today, but through the second gate, the gate referred to as the Musat Gate, and the bridge was originally in a straight line,’ museologist Mihai Cucolea tells Agerpres.

Photo credit: (c) Adrian CUBA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

Photo credit: (c) Adrian CUBA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

He adds that the strategic and military strengthening of the fortress was performed by ruler Stephen the Great and Holy. ‘Great prince Stephen the Great and Holy reinforced the entire land of Moldavia in military and then political terms. It is about the capital city of Suceava and the fortresses of Soroca, Chilia, Tighina, Hotin, Cetatea Alba, Baia, Scheia, Roman and the Neamt Fortress. He brought in Italian, Transylvanian and Moldavian craftsmen and erected it. It had three floors, it was very comfortable, it had a roof of lead and brass foil, in a word it was shaped like a castle. The Voivode also changed the defence system of the fortress. He had the linear bridge demolished and made the bridge in the form of a semicircle, the bridge on which tourists come in today. But the bridge had no railing, because the enemies must be received ?properly,'”says Cucolea.

Poet Stefan Bolintineanu depicts in his ‘Stephen the Great’s Mother’ how the Voivode, defeated by Sultan Mahmud the Conqueror returned to the Neamt Fortress, only to be urged by his mother to seek revenge and die a hero.

‘The battle took place at Valea Alba Valley — Razboieni, where Stephen the Great and Holy lost. Hurt, he withdrew to the fortress late at night, knocked at the gate and the voice of an old woman asked who was there. Inside the fortress, in times of war, his family would probably be inside the fortress, his mother included as the chroniclers say, part of the wealth of Moldavia brought from Suceava, very many children as to not to be kidnapped and turned into janissaries, and troops that would stand guard. Stephen left for Suceava, where he knocked on the door to the cell of monk Daniil Sihastru, the hermit, but the monk did not welcome him in as he was praying. Only after finishing his prayer did the monk welcome him in and gave a piece of fatherly advice. ‘My lord, do not bow the country down to the enemy. Keep fasting for you and your army for three days and three nights, and place an icon of St. George the victory bearer, on the battle flag, build him a church, and victory will be yours, my Lord.’ As the priest said and thanks to the ruler’s wisdom, the Turks were lured here at the fortress. They vainly tried to capture it for two days, after which they began to bombard the fortress. Very sharp spears had been placed under the bridge and the bridge could not be used for crossing. Others fell into traps or died of arrows fired from the castle, and Mahmud returned to Istanbul. Stephen rounded the prisoners of war in the courtyard, he waved his sword on the ground and told them: ?you have sought earth and water, so dig to find water and if you do find it you will be free.’ They dug about 110 meters until they reached the Ozana and built a well in the process. The prisoners who were still alive after that were freed,’ says museologist Cucolea.

For as long as Stephen the Great and Saint ruled, no Moldavian fortress feel into the hands of the enemy.

‘Inside the Neamt Fortress, there were two prison houses: one for dishonest merchants and thieves and one for the treacherous boyars. Stephen the Great was followed by Alexandru Lapusneanu, who put the citadel to the fire. In 1691, the King of Poles, Sobieski, came to the place on a military campaign. He stopped over at Cotnari, where he learned about a fair lady, daughter of ruler Vasile Lupu, living in Preotesti that was keeping the ruler’s fortune. He found her and took her and the treacherous boyars to the Neamt Fortress believing that the riches were stored there. They found nothing and killed her in terrible pain in the area where the Mint is standing now. The gates to the fortress were opened to King Sobieski by the treacherous boyars,’ says Cucolea.

Photo credit: (c) Adrian CUBA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

That was not the only time when the gates to the fortress were willingly opened.

‘For the second time, the gates opened in 1600 to unifier Michael the Brave, and the third time is today, when they open to over 150,000 visitors annually. After the structure was demolished in 1718, by Phanariot rulers, only the outer rooms and some doors were left standing of it. The fortress was refurbished for the first time in 1966, and the latest refurbishment took place in 2011 on funds from the European Union. Today, people dressed likes medieval Moldavian soldiers welcome the visitors to places inside the fortress called ?The Black Gaol,’ ?The Mint,’ ?The Kitchen,’ and ?The Assembly Room,” says Cucolea.

Every year in early July, the Days of the Neamt Fortress are held and a Medieval Arts Festival, while in August the fortress hosts a national festival of lute music. AGERPRES

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The largest collection of Eneolithic art in South-Eastern Europe is assembled at the Cucuteni Museum in Piatra Neamt, a section of the Neamt County Museum Complex.

Photos: Cucuteni Eneolithic Art Museum

Archaeologist Daniel Garvan, a Cucuteni culture specialist, told AGERPRES that the highlights among the 7,000-year old artifacts are the famous ‘Ring Dance of Frumusica’, ‘The Council of the Goddesses’ or ‘The Thinker of Tarpesti’, figurines that stirred the interest and imagination of archaeologists with their expressiveness.

The eponymous site of the Cucuteni culture is located on the present-day spot called Cetatuia, of the Baiceni commune — Iasi, and was discovered in 1884 by folklorist and ethnographer Theodor Burada. The first researches were performed by Nicolae Beldiceanu and Grigore Butureanu in 1885. The Piatra Neamt museum was inaugurated 120 years later, in 2005. It is headquartered in a heritage building from the year 1930, a former seat of the National Bank of Romania. The grated vaults where the cash or valuables of the Romanian state were kept are still in place, now preserving priceless artefacts.

The headquarters were not picked just randomly and the choice is not necessarily related to the security of the building, but to its location, the historic center of the Piatra Neamt municipality.

Archaeologist Daniel Garvan says the artifacts are regarded as objects of art.

“The Cucuteni Eneolithic Art Museum represents a national one-of-a-kind by the theme approached, being simultaneously a history and an art museum which currently houses the most important collection of Eneolithic art in Southeastern Europe. This is dedicated solely to the Cucuteni culture, with its two basic components: decorative and figurative art. The most spectacular artefacts are showcased here, genuine objects of prestige belonging to the Precucuteni — Cucuteni — Trypillian Cultural Complex, in fact the most important and spectacular European prehistoric civilization.

“The exhibition includes both three-dimensional objects and photo-documentary resources belonging to all phases and development stages of this civilization, represented in its entire area. Cucuteni means painted ceramics and statues, because the other artefacts can be found in all cultures. We do not know if in that time painted pottery was considered as a work of art produced for this purpose or if these were everyday objects. It is a question that will remain unanswered,” said archaeologist Daniel Garvan.

Due to their uniqueness and long age, the artefacts were invited to international exhibitions, and the most important exhibits could be admired in the U.S., Switzerland, Vatican City, Greece or Poland.

Some objects also have a contemporary story, as is the case of the ‘Ring Dance of Frumusica’. The historians relate that in 1973, when the National Museum of History was established, spectacular items were collected from several museums and they also requested the ‘Ring Dance’. Its restorer, archaeologist Aurel Buzila, made an exact copy of it and sent the replica to the National Museum of History without anyone noticing this, so that the Bucharest museum opened with a copy of the original artefact on display.

In its basement, the building of the Cucuteni Eneolithic Art Museum accommodates an impressive repository of archaeological items, as well as the restoration-conservation laboratory; the ground floor and the 1st floor are occupied by the permanent exhibition arranged in three halls. There is also a vault on the ground floor where the valuables of the banks formerly headquartered here were kept and where the Cucuteni culture artefacts are currently preserved. A modern multimedia center in two rooms on the first floor, equipped with last generation audio video electronic equipment, offers the visitors enlightening presentations.

The second floor is intended for temporary exhibitions which constantly switch within the two halls and a hallway.

The first room, located on the ground floor, is themed to the history of Cucuteni researches. A series of graphic materials illustrate the portraits of outstanding personalities of Romanian archeology, but not only, as well as the main stages of research into this civilization. A natural demarche was to highlight the major role the Piatra Neamt History and Archaeology Museum has played over time in researching and fully shining a light on the Cucuteni cultural heritage. The most important cultural-scientific events related to the Cucuteni culture are also reviewed here. Also on display are the main monographs and summary works, catalogs and collections of studies and articles that rendered visible in publishing media the discoveries made over time throughout the Cucuteni area.

The second room, which is also on the ground floor, is devoted exclusively to decorative Cucuteni art, represented most often by the painted decoration of the pots, although etched, incised and grooved decorations are also showcased. Almost the entire range of shapes and decorations is displayed, with four major categories of vessels — probably for ritual worship — being clearly outlined: crown-vessels, binocular-vessels, ring-dance vessels and the vessels with support and small columns. It should be noted that they are specific to this civilization alone. The vessel discovered at Izvoare was transposed to the logo of the Neamt County Museum Complex.

The third room, located on the first floor, houses the masterpieces of Cucuteni decorative art illustrated by plastic anthropomorphic, zoomorphic and ornitomorphic stand-alone motifs or painted on vessels, relief protomes applied on the outside of the pots, models of shrines and various ornaments and worship items. Noteworthy among the exhibits are the famous Cucuteni worship complexes at Poduri and Ghelaiesti.

The fourth hall on the second floor is dedicated exclusively to temporary exhibitions that are in constant succession. This gives the possibility to exhibit for quite a long period other types of items specific to the Cucuteni cultural milieu, discovered at some sites and researched by specialists from other relevant institutions in Romania.

The first temporary exhibition hosted by the Cucuteni Eneolithic Art Museum is the one titled ‘Cucuteni Masterpieces from the Scanteia Site — Iasi County’; this is a settlement dating from the first development phase of the Cucuteni culture, which produced a very rich and spectacular heritage found in the collections of the Institute of Archaeology and of the History Museum of the Iasi-based “Moldova” National Museum Complex. It was minutely researched for many years by renowned specialist Dr. Cornelia-Magda Lazarovici.

Subsequently, this was the venue for the exhibition ‘Art and Passion’, which brought together the most valuable exhibits belonging to the “Cucuteni for the Third Millennium” Foundation in Bucharest, from all stages and development phases of this civilization in Romania. In the fourth hall there are currently about 500 valuable items discovered in recent years in the most important Cucuteni settlements on the present territory of Romania, and the adjoined hall depicts some aspects of the older archeological excavations conducted here under the lead of Dr. Dan Monah; all these items are included in the tribute exhibition ‘Poduri-Dealul Ghindaru. 30 Years since the First Excavations.’

The fifth hall, also located on the second floor, and the lobby initially illustrated some of the masterpieces of the Trypillian area outside the borders of Romania, brought together in the photo-documentary exhibition “Cucuteni — Trypillian Eneolithic Art in the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine”. This included various types of pottery, plastic anthropomorphic and zoomorphic representations, shrine mock-ups and religious and ornamental objects, among which the treasure cache at Carbuna — Republic of Moldova stands out. Also shown are some personalities who distinguished themselves through research conducted in the Trypillian area, as well as graphic reconstructions of the giant settlements of those ancient times.

Later on, a number of artefacts belonging to the Boian civilization, the linear pottery, Precucuteni and Stoicani-Aldeni-Bolgrad cultures, respectively, were displayed in the fifth hall as part of the exhibition titled ‘Precucuteni. The Origin of a Great Civilization’ organised with the support of the “Eastern Carpathians” Museum of Sfantu Gheorghe and the County History and Archaeology Museum of Ploiesti.

Currently, the same exhibition space encompasses valuable items belonging to some of the most brilliant prehistoric mainland civilizations — Gumelnita and Cucuteni. ‘Ancient Civilizations of Europe’ is an exhibition organised with the support of the Teleorman County Museum in Alexandria.

Most of the artefacts on display were discovered during archaeological investigations carried out by professionals and contributors of the institution — outstanding personalities of Romanian archeology — especially at the now famous Cucuteni settlements in the present territory of Neamt County: Izvoare, Tarpesti, Bodesti, Piatra Soimului, Ghelaiesti, Traian, Valeni, but also outside county boundaries, at Trusesti and Targu Ocna. The tell settlement at Poduri — Bacau County, which is the top important settlement of the Precucuteni — Cucuteni — Trypillian cultural complex in Romania and one of the most important in Europe, remarkable through the amount, diversity and quality of the Cucuteni vestiges, is a site ranked in the “national importance” category.

In recent years the site received generous financing from the Ministry of Culture; in recognition of the importance of the research and promotion of its assets by the International Center for Research on Cucuteni Culture, the exhibition titled ‘Poduri — the Ghindaru Hill. A Troy in Moldavia’s Subcarpathians’ and the accompanying volume were awarded the Adrian Radulescu prize.

In the short time since its inauguration, the Cucuteni Museum has earned recognition for its uniqueness and spectacular character, becoming one of the most popular and visited institutions of its kind in Romania. It has thus heavily contributed to asserting Piatra Neamt city as an important cultural, scientific and tourism centre in the country and abroad. Throughout this period, its priceless treasures left a strong impression on culture lovers who also noted their appreciative thoughts in the museum’s Book of Honor. Recognized as a centre of outstanding cultural, scientific and artistic value, the Cucuteni Eneolithic Art Museum is definitely enshrined in the Romanian and international cultural landscape. In 2006 the Ministry of Culture and Denominations awarded it the Iulian Antonescu prize for the museology management project and the accompanying volume, called ‘The First Cucuteni Museum in Romania.’

The Cucuteni Eneolithic Art Museum in Piatra Neamt is open to visitors from 10:00 to 18:00 from April to September and from 09:00 to 17:00 between October and March; the admission price is 2 RON for adults and 1 RON for students. AGERPRES

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Located eight kilometres away from the Piatra-Neamt municipality, the Bistrita Monastery is one of the most important monastic settlements in the Neamt County, built by ruler Alexander the Good in 1407. The ruler endowed the monastery with villages, estates and expensive jewels.

Photo credit: (c) Paul BUCIUTA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The monastery entered a new historical stage in 1498, when ruler Stephen the Great built a one-storey belfry with a small chapel dedicated to St John the New of Suceava, the mural painting, preserved until today, being of a great artistic and iconographic value.

In 1546, Peter Rares rebuilt the surrounding walls of the monastery and the entrance tower, erected a new princely house next to the ruins of the first founder’s home, and ‘restored the holy monastery from scratch’, as according to a document from 1546. He also endowed the monastery with the Mojesti village. Eight years later, ruler Alexander the Good completely rebuilt the monastery.

The Bistrita Monastery has a special historical and archaeological value, having been built in the Byzantine style, with rich ornaments. The original front door is still well-preserved until today.

Highly remarkable is the icon of Saint Anne, given as a present to Lady Anne, the wife of ruler Alexander the Good, in 1401, by Empress Irene, the wife of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos and Patriarch Matei of Constantinople. Later, the princely family donated the icon to the Bistrita Monastery. In the 18th century, the icon was restored and in 1853 it was placed in a pew made out of carved wood covered in gold, donated by Hieromonk Varnava, the Abbot of the Pangarasi Monastery, who was cured here of a serious disease, as the medallion above the icon tells the story.

The main building of the Monastery is square-shaped, being surrounded by a 4 to 6 metres high stone wall with battlements. The entrance to the monastery is made through a canopy tower, with a chapel devoted to St Nicholas built upstairs by Peter Rares, between 1541 and 1546. The wall also had a defence role, having been rebuilt in 1776 by Abbot Iacov the Archimandrite.

In the north-eastern wing of the church there is the Belfry Tower built by ruler Stephen the Great, in 1498. In the churchyard there is also the royal house of Alexander the Good, restored by Peter Rares, alongside one row of monks’ cells from the 18th century.

The Bistrita Monastery is the place where one of the oldest monuments of the Romanian medieval culture, the diptych of the Bistrita Monastery, can be found. The diptych offers the most interesting data about the beginning of the voivodal history and the beginning of the church history in Moldavia. Started, continued and concluded at this monastery, including the names of rulers and their family members, bishops, archimandrites, monks, donors, high dignitaries, scribes, governors, boyars and soldiers who fell on the battlefield at Podul Inalt, this document is, without any doubt, a historiographical work of a great importance for the history of Moldavia. The first entry in the diptych was the date of 6915 (the year 1407, when the diptych began to be written at the Bistrita Monastery).

Photo credit: (c) Paul BUCIUTA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The introduction includes general considerationS about mercy and salvation, followed by the listing of the benefactors of the monastery, which list had to be approved first by ‘the abbot with counsel from all the other brothers in Christ.’ Then follows the list of the godly rulers of Moldovlahia’.

The diptych was written by more than one person, which was proved by the various handwriting styles it shows. Thus, two pages and a half, where the rulers until Stephen the Great are listed, are written in one style and then follows a series of other different styles.

Although the introductive part has on it the supposed date when they started to write the diptych, the debate over the precise date of this important document was quite vivid, renowned scholars coming up with different hypotheses.

After studying this valuable manuscript, Damian P. Bogdan came to the conclusion that the first three pages were copied during the rule of Stephen the Great after a diptych dated in 1407, which was probably written on wooden boards or painted on the wall behind the table of oblation. Later, the diptych was completed with names and notes, the last one being from 1682.

Starting with 1407, after Dometian became the Abbot of the Neamt and Bistrita Monasteries, the diptych was recopied, completed with new names of rulers, hierarch, monks and believers and translated into Romanian.

No one seems to have ever questioned the place where the diptych was written and neither the authors or the writers of this valuable historiographical document. The document itself says it very clearly that this was — the Bistrita Monastery — the place where the first words were written and also the subsequent completions.

The writers of the diptych didn’t put their names in, but from the content it becomes very clear that they were monks living at the Monastery. For instance, the decision to write in the diptych the names of the founders and donors only after getting the approval of ‘the abbot with counsel from all the other brothers in Christ’ was taken at the Monastery.

The theological considerations on benefaction, reward and salvation, from the introduction, were probably the words of a monk. The correct mentioning of the ranks and titles of the clerks that appear in the diptych — Metropolitan, Bishop, Archimandrite, Abbot, Monk, Hieromonk, Hierodeacon, Confessor, Verger (Grigore), the Ecclesiarch of the Metropolitan — all are proofs that the authors were monks who were familiar with the religious terminology. Moreover, they mentioned famous copyists and miniaturists from the Neamt and Putna Monasteries, such as Gavriil, Paladie and Teodor.

Most probably, this historiographical work was written either in the altar or at the abbot’s place under the abbot’s guidance, either in the anonymous monks’ cells, who had to be scholars back then.

The grave of ruler Alexandru the Good, his wife Anne, of Alexandru, the son of Stephen the Great, and of Chiajna, the wife of Stefan Lacusta and Anastastie, the Bishop of Suceava are to be found in the church of the Bistrita Monastery. AGERPRES

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Erected in 1991 in Hasca clearing of Stanisoara Mountains, by archimandrite Justin Parvu, Petru-Voda Monastery is an altar built in the memory of those who suffered in the communist prisons. Having been imprisoned for 17 years in almost all communist jails, father Justin Parvu said he felt ever since the prison years he had the mission of building a monastery back home.

Photo credit: (c) Gabriel APETRII / AGERPRES STREAM

‘The longest road is the one from home to home,’ father Justin quoted poet Nichita Stanescu as saying.

The monastery can be reached through a forest road, a by-passing from Petru Voda village, connecting Poiana Largului to Targu Neamt town.

The monastic complex erected by father Justin Parvu is made up of two monasteries, one in Petru Voda and one in Paltin-Petru Voda. If in Petru-Voda, a monk monastery, there is only the church and their sanctums, in Paltin-Petru Voda father Justin built a church, sanctums for nuns, an asylum for elder people, an orphanage and a clinic with general practice and dentistry consultation rooms, all for needy people.

The nuns of Paltin have a laboratory for the preparation of natural remedies, through medicine herbs processing. The team preparing these remedies is made up of doctors, pharmacists and GM nurses.

The social and medical activity of all these places is coordinated through a foundation initially called Petru-Voda and renamed Justin Parvu, in the memory of its founder. The foundation also owns a book publishing house, Petru Voda Monastery Publishing House and Atitudini magazine.

The most known figure of the monastic places is, most certainly, that of the founder, archimandrite Justin Parvu, increasingly more often compared with father Arsenie Boca.

Justin Parvu was born in Petru-Voda village, on February 10, 1919, and began his monastic life at Durau Monastery, at the age of 17. In 1939, after he became a monk, he entered the monastic seminar of Cernica, near Bucharest. During the Second World War, between 1942 and 1944, he served as military priest on the Eastern Front, all the way through Odessa. After the communists took power, the father was arrested on political grounds and sentenced to 12 years in prison, serving his sentence in the jails of Suceava, Vacaresti, Jilava and Aiud. Before being sent for re-education to Pitesti, he was sent, while still a prisoner, to work in the mine of Baia Sprie. He served the largest part of the sentence in Aiud prison, which was also the toughest period of the 17 years of detention.

After he finished his sentence, in 1960, he got 4 more years of prison for not having abandoned his faith. In 1964, he was released and became a forest worker. After two years, in 1966, he came back to the monastic life, at Secu Monastery, where he was a monk priest. With the intent of controlling him, the communist ruling forced father Justin in 1975 to serve in Bistrita Monastry. After 1990, father Justin returned to Secu Monastery and worked as priest and confessor at this monastery. Two years later, he withdrew to solitude, thinking of spending the rest of his days in fasting and prayer. In 1991, he established the Monastery of Petru Voda. The father continued his mission of changing even a bit this world, and in 2000, he built a nuns’ hermitage near Petru Voda Monastery, an education centre for children and an asylum for elder persons and three years later he established an orthodox education and attitude monthly publication, called Glasul Monahilor (The Voice of Monks).

Father Justin Parvu died on June 16, 2013, at 94 years of age, and was buried near the church he built in Petru-Voda. The cemetery of this church is also the resting place of priest Gheorghe Calciu Dumitreasa and poet Radu Gyr.

The name of Petru-Voda Monastery has been connected over the past few years with data concerning the active involvement in national disputes like that on biometric passports or on the exploitation of shale gas. Thus, through the voice of archimandrite priest Justin Parvu positions contrary to the idea of introducing the respective type of passport have often been expressed. In 2013, on the ground of a wider movement supporting the manifestations against the exploitation of shale gas, part of the monks of Petru-Voda made a solidarity gesture with the anti-Chevron protestors of Pungesti — Vaslui. This gesture materialised in bringing to the protest site a symbolic roadside crucifix from the Petru-Voda Monastery cemetery.

The monastery’s community is also linked to some controversial moments. Thus, archimandrite Justin Parvu was recorded on video in February 2009 and 2011, while the nun choir of Paltinu was singing to him, on his birthday, legionary songs.

In November 2013, seven years after father Gheorghe Calciu Dumitreasa was buried in the monastery’s cemetery, his remains were exhumed, contrary to the provisions of his testament. By father Calciu’s son perseverance, who threatened to send the monastery to court, his body was buried again, although part of the monastic community wanted his canonisation, as the remains were not rotten.

Shortly after that, in January 2014, on the monastery’s website, a release in the form of an open but not assumed letter by the monastery’s leaders accused the intelligence services of supervising and controlling the activity of the monks through some moles, for deteriorating the image of the monastery.

Beyond all these aspects, the Monastery of Petru-Voda remains a piece of heaven, a place of high spirituality, sought by thousands and thousands of believers. AGERPRES

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The Ceahlau Mountain is a central symbol of Neamt County and is also featured as a main element on the county’s crest. Identified for hundreds of years as a genuine Olympus of Romania, the Ceahlau or Dacians’ Kogaion – Axis mundi (mentioned in the writings of Strabo) – was regarded since ancient times as a sacred mountain.

Photo credit: (c) Simion MECHNO / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The local elders say that on clear summer days, the Ceahlau can be admired from as far as the mouths of the Danube. The highest peak of the massif is considered Ocolasul Mare, with an elevation of 1,907 meters, while the Toaca / The Semantron peak measures 1,900 meters. The Ceahlau Massif that includes the Ceahlau National Park is located in the central group of the Eastern Carpathians, in the southeastern part of the Bistrita Mountains, at the intersection of the 47th north parallel with the 26th meridian east.

The mountain hosts a rich fauna, with the most important species being the Carpathian bear, the wolf, the mountain rooster, the chamois or the viper, but also a distinctive flora the pride of which is the delicate edelweiss.

Photo credit: (c) Nicolae BADEA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

To build on the sightseeing potential of the Ceahlau Massif, it has been fitted out with routes and resting places as early as in the previous last century. The Cantacuzino family laid out around 1860 the first hiking trail leading to the heights of the Ceahlau, and the first refuge huts were built at sites where powerful springs sparkle down the rocks: near Fantana rece in 1906, and near Fantanele in 1914, respectively.

Some of the main tourist attractions are represented by the conglomerate structures in the central area, the most spectacular forms being Toaca/The Semantron, Panaghia, Caciula Dorobantului/The Footman’s Cap, Piatra cu Apa, Detunatele/The Lightning-struck Cliffs, Dochia, Claile lui Miron/Miron’s Haystacks. Another interesting activity for climbing enthusiasts are trips along the various scaling routes in the massif.

Photo credit: (c) Simion MECHNO / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

Only two chalets operate in Ceahlau, Dochia and Fantanele, but the locality of Izvorul Muntelui and the resort of Durau have plenty of hostels and hotels to provide tourist accommodation.

The Fantanele Chalet
Photo credit: (c) Simion MECHNO / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

In summer, the climb to the Dochia chalet is possible along 7 tourist routes. The trail running from the Izvorul Muntelui Chalet to Curmatura (the Saddle) Lutu Rosu — Piatra cu Apa — Detunatele — Dochia Chalet has an altitude difference of 953 metres and can be completed in about three hours and a half.

The Dochia Chalet
Photo credit: (c) Simion MECHNO / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The trail Izvorul Muntelui Chalet — Curmatura Lutu Rosu — Paraul Izvorul Alb — Stanca Dochiei — Jgheabul cu Hotar — Dochia Chalet takes about 4 hours.

Another trail, Izvorul Muntelui Chalet — Poiana Maicilor/The Nuns’ Glade — Claile lui Miron — Piatra Lata — Dochia Chalet, takes a bit longer, that is some 6 — 7 hours.

From the resort of Durau one can climb to Poiana Viezuri — Cascada Duruitoarea / The Rumbling Waterfall — Poiana Scaius — Curmatura (the Saddle) Piciorul Schiop — Dochia Chalet in about 5 hours.

The Durau Monastery
Photo credit: (c) Simion MECHNO / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

Starting from the Neagra village through Curmatura Varatec — Poiana Maicilor — Claile lui Miron one reaches the Dochia Chalet in about 7 hours.

Another route has the commune Bicazu Ardelean as starting point, goes through Telec village and the point of confluence of the Bistra rivers, climbs to Curmatura Scaune, then to Curmatura Stanile and ends at the Dochia Chalet; this one takes some five hours and a half to complete.

Mount Ceahlau is at the center of several legends.

One has it that the mountain was built under imperial command. Wishing to defend the inhabitants of these places against the barbarian hordes sweeping in from the east, the Roman Emperor Trajan, conqueror of Dacia, ordered that this mountain be raised to put an obstacle in the way of the invaders. To accomplish the Emperor’s command, all of Decebal’s subjects taken as slaves were rounded up and told of the tough ordeal standing ahead of them. They had to carry and place on the site of the future mountain one stone upon another, rock over rock, until the mound was high enough to satisfy the Emperor. Their toil was terrible and most of them perished from exhaustion, but the order was carried through. The Emperor, pleased with the accomplishment, demanded that a soundboard be placed on the mountaintop.

A soldier was ordered to stand guard and hammer on it whenever he would spot the enemies at the horizon, thus announce the inhabitants in the valley. This was so until one day when the soldier was killed by an arrow shot by the foes and there was nobody to beat the soundboard any more.

Ceahlau National Park
Photo credit: (c) Nicolae BADEA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

A beautiful legend is spun around Dochia’s rock. They say that it is the petrified frame of an old shepherdess who set off wrapped up in nine sheepskin coats with her flock, towards the top of the mountain, although the elements were adverse to the journey. As she traveled, it started raining and snowing and as the upper coat was getting soaked wet and wore heavily on Dochia’s shoulders, hindering her advance, the old shepherdess one by one took off eight of the nine coats. And then God sent a bitter freeze that mercilessly turned her to stone together with her sheep and goats.

Another legend presents Dochia as an emperor’s daughter on the run from the invader monarch who wished to marry her; Dochia disguised herself as a shepherd girl and climbed with a flock of sheep in the mountains. As the weather was mild, she started taking off her coats one by one. But almost near the top, a big freeze suddenly set in, as if in winter. Unaccustomed to the cold but fearing to return, Dochia began to murmur against God. The Almighty punished her by turning her into stone and the sheep into boulders. Another variant says that just as she was about to fall into the hands of the conquering emperor, the girl asked God to turn her into stone, and He granted her wish. AGERPRES

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