CURTEA DE ARGES
About 130 km NW of Bucharest in Wallachia, Curtea de Arges is a city with a great past, as it served as capital of feudal Walachia.
Curtea de Arges is also a place of pilgrimage for many Romanians for here stands the rather small in scale but beautiful “Episcopal” church built in the 16th century under the rule of king Neagoe Basarab, surrounded by a lot of legends on how it was built.
We arrived quite late in the afternoon in Curtea but the light from sunset was beautiful. Unfortunately the church was under construction so much of its exterior was covered. Nevertheless its interior was as rewarding as its legend tells!
Curtea de Arges and its legend
Only two hours away from Bucharest, Curtea de Arges was one of few favorite day trips destinations in my school times.
Who didn't know the sad legend of Master Manole who immured his own wife alive within the walls in order to finish the stunning Cathedral?
Despite its small dimensions (you probably don't need more than an hour to walk from one side to the other), Curtea de Arges was the center of important moments of Romania's history.
As the name is suggesting (Curtea means Court in Romanian), around 1 330 the settlement was mentioned as the second capital of Walachia and further more the Royal Court of the Basarabs was established, Basarab I, Vlaicu Voda, Dan I and Mircea cel Batran residing here.
Without doubt the church built by Neagoe Basarab (1512-1521) is one of the most valuable historic buildings in Romania and the ruins of the Royal Court with the Princely Church adorned with stunning frescos are part of the oldest feudal ensemble in the country.
Few kilometers away from Curtea de Arges are the ruins of so called real Castle of Vlad Tepes, better known as Dracula, and the stunning views of Arges Valley and Transfagarasan, the unique road running at 2 034m above the sea level, are worth the pain of climbing the 1 480 steps.
The trip would not be complete without the stop to the 166m high Vidraru Dam with the gigantic monument of Electricity, located 4 km further.
"Master Manole – a National legend"
The legend says that one day, a very wealthy and religious Walachia prince, Radu Negru, the Black Prince, employed the well-known Master Manole to build a church more beautiful than anyone may have seen before.
The masons started to work, but everything they were building during the day, by some mysterious actions, was doomed to fall down by night.
As Manole was not able to finish the walls and the prince was threatening them with death, following an ancient custom, they decided that the only solution was to place a living woman into the foundations.
In order to see their work done, the woman who first appeared on the following morning should be the victim.
The other masons warned their wives, and so happened the Manole's wife showed up to bring her husband's lunch, so that he had to keep his vow and immure his own wife alive within the church walls.
The curse vanished and the cathedral was build. But Radu Negru was afraid that Manole would build another church even greater then his own, so he ordered to leave them stranded on the roof.
They made wooden wings and tried to fly off the roof, but, one by one, they all fell to the ground and die.
The so called Manole’s well, located on the other side of the road from the Cathedral, marks the spot where he fell.
PS: The place of immolation of Manole's wife can still be seen between two walls of the southern front side of the church.
Great tourist attraction.
"One of my favorite tours."
Whats this is all about.
This is a tourist trip that, hopefully, you can still book at the Romanian Travel agests that are found throughout Bucharest.
It consists of going to three distinct places. The monestary, the salt mine and the dam.
1. It's an Orthoxod Church (main religion in Eastern Europe) Monestary at the foothills of the carpathian montuains.
You get to see the residents do their thing. It's very nice and open to the public.
2. The touristified salt mine with sculptures on the salt rock walls, and definitely a unique experience.
The mine has been around ever since roman times, and nowadays is one of the largest salt mines in Europe. You can also go there for respiratory therapy if you want, for 16 days.
It's got all sorts of stuff down there, a playground and even a church!
The ceiling of the mine is 20 meters high, to give you a sense of scale in that photo.
That area in the mine is the tourist level (level 50), and it's 120 meters (360 feet) underground.
Worth the visit, and definitely a must see, believe me.
3. The Vidraru Dam is an Arch damn, 166 meters (500 feet) tall and 305 meters (almost 1000 feet) wide, also one of the largest in Europe, and is an absolutely awesome sight. It's very much like the Hoover Damn, but a bit smaller.
The coach journey takes about 2 hrs there and 2 hrs back, leaving from Bucharest in the morning.