National Geographic : 1969 Jun
Latin-speaking countries of the West. "Good evening" in Rumanian, for example, is "bund seara," with obvious roots in Rome and no similarity to the Russian "dobryi vetcher." In a chance conversation with a Rumanian philosophy professor in Bucharest, the coun try's capital, I was told, "Our Rumania has been a crossroad of cultures, but this has left us without a deep cultural well of our own to tap. Many Rumanian intellectuals turn to France and other countries of the West as sources of sophistication." To illustrate the linguistic kinship, but also the provincialism he deplored, the same pro fessor told of a peasant who became a sailor and made a voyage to Italy. On his return, his friends pressed him for his reaction. "Well," he said, "it was beautiful, but they speak Rumanian with a terrible accent!" Hospitality in a Mountain Cloister The Carpathians were a cool and silent contrast to the traffic of Bucharest, with its new Fiats, Rumanian-built Dacias, and Rus sian Moskvitches speeding along boulevards. Our first stop in the mountains was at Sucevita (pronounced Soo-che-VEET-sa), one of a cluster of northern Moldavian churches known throughout the world for their mag nificently frescoed outer walls. Here we felt like intruders into a way of life that is virtu ally unchanged since the 15th and 16th cen turies, when such religious shrines were built by ruling princes to commemorate victories over invading Turks, or by wealthy boyars, or landowners, as retreats for themselves and their families. Walls built to keep out brig ands still guard these medieval cloisters from the world (page 817). "Most of the Moldavian churches are sen sible and small," an artist in Bucharest had told us. "They were never designed to be mon umental, like Gothic cathedrals." Within the fortified walls of Sucevita, we were met with a warm smile by a sister who introduced herself through our interpreter as the mother superior, Xantipia Anitescu. "You look tired," she said, after Mugur had described our long day's travel. "Please come in and have a meal. There is food left from our dinner." She led us to an immaculate kitchen, where we were seated around a long table. Two nuns busied themselves at the wood stove, and soon a heavy plate of spinach soup with sour cream was placed before each of us. The soup was followed by an omelet, a rose wine made by the nuns and kept in their 814 Saluting the ladies, a violinist entertains at the Maidens Fair on the slopes of Gaina Peak. The July fete originated centuries ago as a mar riage mart, where young girls from surrounding areas displayed their faces and their dowries to prospective husbands. Today costumed folk dancers, like the high steppers below, perform for the sheer love of dancing.