When out of ideas on what to do during the weekend and longer trips out of Bucharest are not an option, we'd recommend exploring the areas around the Romanian capital city. There are plenty of places to choose from for visiting, but this time let's visit two monasteries. Two of the many surrounding Bucharest.
If you feel like a true explorer, the visit to the monasteries could include a drive through some of the nice villages around Bucharest. Not all of them are worth your time, but some might be just worth the trip.
Cernica monastery is first on our list. The first time we saw it, it was for a funeral, but that didn't stop us from admiring it, and made a promise to return. Come next weekend and the nice spring weather, and we were there.
The monastery is easily reachable from Bucharest from the Soseaua Pantelimon exit, passing by Cora Pantelimon, and then through another nice little village, Pantelimon. Cernica is next, and the monastery is visible from the main street.
What gives this monastery its charm- apart from the good timing we had for our trip, with the orchard in blossom and everything smelling like spring – is the way it is organized. You can see it is like a large, well functioning household, with a vineyard in the front, and orchard, some buildings for stables, but a lot of its charm comes from how it is laid near the two parts of the Cernica lake. The road that connects the entry to the first church and then to the second – yet unfinished, to the guest houses and the other buildings in the complex offers a nice view of the lake on both sides of the road. A beautiful wooden fence on both sides of this road towards the water gives a very rural atmosphere. The white of the churches and the white paint on the trees make a great combination, especially in spring.
The main church and the monks' cells, all exiting to a nice threshold and surrounding the church like a fortress, are very well taken care of, simple and beautiful. The church itself is a bit too large and too 'cold' for my taste in churches – I prefer the small ones, where the floors are covered in rugs, and where it smells 'old.' The church hosts the relics of Saint Calinic from Cernica. Calinic was the Prior of the Monastery in the early 1880s. The monastery itself is old, with the first papers mentioning it dating back to 1608. Its name comes from the high steward Cernica Ştirbei, who, together with his wife, Chiajna, created the monastery on their property.
If you're also looking at the practical side of it, not just the architectural and spiritual, a small shop near the main church sells some products made at the monastery: eggs, including quail eggs and cheese. Then there are some rooms to rent for around RON 80 a day, and a conference room and a lunch room which can be rented for events – mostly memorials.
A second monastery to visit is not close to the first, but it is also close to a lake. When coming back from Cernica, we took right on the ring road (the road is bad for a while, but it gets better a bit later, on two lanes) and then entered the A3 highway to Ploiesti. We took the Snagov exit and from there we drove to the villages of Gruiu and Lipia – Nuci. We could have also taken the route from Stefanesti to Dascalu and then Cardarusani – which we took when we returned to Bucharest, but we wanted to see how many highway exits have been opened. Unfortunately the A3 has just one exit (and one turn option), for Snagov, and we realized only after we passed it, so we had to go all the way to Ploiesti and return to get to Snagov. Luckily the highway between Bucharest and Ploiesti is only 55 kilometers, so the detour was not too long.
When passing through the above mentioned villages to get to Caldarusani, you will feel just like in the countryside. There is a mix of traditionally built houses and the new style villas and there are lots of agricultural lands. The monastery is also near a lake – called Caldarusani – and it seems to be a favorite destination for bikers, we've seen plenty. The look and feel of this monastery is a bit different from the one at Cernica. The household – let's call it that – seems to be smaller and the monks seem to live under stricter rules. Filming and photography were not allowed, we only managed to shoot one picture of the interior church. The church is smaller and much more to my taste – it really feels like an old style spiritual home. I'm not an expert when it comes to Orthodox churches I just judge them based on how being in the church makes me feel. Enough to say that I left the Caldarusani church with a sense of peace and serenity.
By Corina Chirileasa, email@example.com
(photos: the majority from the Cernica monastery, the last one from Caldarusani; photos by Corina Chirileasa/Romania-Insider.com)