Romania: A Multi-Part Journey with Dr. Guillaume Durand - Context Travel

Romania: A Multi-Part Journey with Dr. Guillaume Durand


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Join Guillaume Durand on a multi-part virtual journey through Romania, a region at the crossroad of History and Empires which has kept breathtaking monuments and landscapes both included as the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Based on a holistic approach that includes history, art, archaeology, religion, and natural sciences we will discover some of the emblematic sites of the country. Our sites will include everything from Bucharest (known as “Little Paris”) between the two World Wars to the Delta of the Danube river, a natural park that keeps the vestiges of Greek settlements (Istria, Constanta). We’ll discuss the victory at Adamclisi of the Romans over the local population, the Dacians, to Transylvania and its Saxon / Germanic Medieval cities and villages whose churches were fortified to face the invaders. We’ll conclude our journey in the North-West part of the country as we learn about the unique and incredible sixteenth-century Painted Churches of Bucovina. As a result of these impressive locations and sites, we will understand just what it is that makes Romania such an exciting and endearing country.

Along our journey, we will encounter some of the prominent figures who shaped this region into a unique one in Eastern Europe, “A Latin island in a Slavic and Hungarian sea”. We’ll meet characters such as the Roman Emperor Trajan and his enemy Decebal, prince Vlad Ţepeş (better known as Dracula), Nicolae Grigorescu who went to Barbizon in France and learned plein-air painting, Constantin Brâncuşi considered as the father of modern sculpture, Nicolae Ceausescu the last Romanian Communist leader and Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1986.

Led by Guillaume Durand Ph.D., an expert on the history and art of Romania who spent years living in this country and still guiding groups there, this journey will explore the main cultural and natural objectives of Romania. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased knowledge of the region and its historic and natural sites.

Lecture 1: Bucharest–From Dracula’s Capital to the ""Little Paris"" of the Balkans

Our first stop is Bucharest, Romania’s capital. We’ll discuss its growth from the fifteenth century as a custom and trading outpost under Dracula’s reign and its independence from the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century. From this period, Bucharest is known as the Little Paris of the Balkans as the architecture imitates that of the French capital. Today, Bucharest ranks itself as one of the most cultural cities in Eastern Europe, with its museums (fine-art museum, archaeology museum, museum of the village…) and universities, and despite the 50 years of Communist regime illustrated by the mammoth monument known as the House of the People (Casa Poporului).

Lecture 2: The Delta of the Danube River and the Dobrogea Region

Leaving Bucharest, we will drive to the seaside, a region known as Dobrogea, and to the Danube delta. A melting pot of ethnicities, it is the only region where we can meet, along with the Romanian population, some Tatar minorities. These are Old Russian Orthodox groups who were exiled at the time of Czar Peter the Great and ancient Ottoman Turks who settled in this region during the Medieval period. Apart from its beautiful natural landscapes, this region is known to hold the oldest archaeological vestiges of the Greek and Roman presence, especially illustrated by the ancient city-states of Constanta and Istria, or the trophy built under Trajan after his victory over the Dacians at Adamclisi.

Lecture 3: Following the Footsteps of Dracula in Wallachia

We cannot leave the region of Bucharest, Wallachia, without walking on the steps of the one who is considered as one of the most prominent rulers during the Medieval period: Vlad the Impaler (Tepeş in Romanian) better known as Dracula. Our third session will allow a discovery of the places where this prince got his reputation: his capital Targovişte, Poienari when he built one of his castles, Cozia and Curtea de Argeş, and the Monastery of Snagov considered by some historians as his burial site.

Lecture 4: Saxon Settlements in in Transylvania

The name of Transylvania immediately brings us into an area where mist, mountains, and castles combine together to create a kind of fantasy movie. Taking the distance with this cliché, we will discover how this region of the Hungarian marches was heavily occupied by a Germanic Saxon population in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Moving from one city to another, we will visit the fortified churches of Saxons at Prejmer and Harman, the Medieval citadel of Sighişoara (Schäßburg), the birthplace of Dracula, and the cities of Braşov (Kronstadt) and Sibiu (Hermannstadt) known for their Central European ambiance.

Lecture 5: The Mountainous Region of Maramureş–Popular Icons and Atrocitious Dictatorships

Our fifth stop will lead us to the border between Romania and Ukraine, in the region of Maramureş. Landlocked in the mountains, this microregion of Transylvania has preserved the most ancestral Romanian traditions which can be discovered through the wooden Orthodox churches. These spaces are filled with religious paintings made by the local icon painters which testify to the presence of popular worshipping. Maramureş also holds the sinister reputation of having the most-secured prison in the country: Sighetu Marmatiei was built by the Austrian authorities in the eighteenth century. The place has then served as a political prison during WWII and the Communist era. We will discuss this past through the lens of Maramureş-born Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Peace prize in 1986, and survivor of the Holocaust.

Lecture 6: The Painted Churches of Bucovina (Moldova region)

With our last stop, we will discover what is considered as the jewels of the country: a set of Orthodox churches that were entirely painted on the exterior walls. These paintings deal with the main topics of Orthodox religion, from the Genesis to the Revelation, and were all created in a short span of time in the first half of the sixteenth century by the local Prince Peter Rareş and the metropolitan Grigorie Roşca. Apart from the breathtaking iconography, these vivid and colorful scenes offer a snapshot into the mind of these people during the transition between the Medieval period and modern times, 70 years or so after the collapse of Constantinople, the second Rome, in 1453.

Guillaume Durand Ph.D. fell in love with Romania at the age of 20 and decided to dedicate his scientific career to the Ancient and Medieval history, art, architecture, and archaeology of Romania. Having spent years in this country to fulfill his degrees, he now regularly travels to Romania for international conferences and lectures as well as guiding groups in order to make them discover, appreciate and understand what is considered as one of the less known countries of Eastern Europe. In addition, Guillaume Durand is also assistant dean and professor in archaeology and art history at the Institute for American Universities and the American College of the Mediterranean in Aix-en-Provence, France.

How does it work?

This is a six-part journey held and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the journey?

The journey is $210.

Is a recording available?

Yes. If you need to miss a lecture, you will be sent a recording after the event.

This course is not suitable for children under age 16

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 23 reviews
87%
(20)
9%
(2)
4%
(1)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
T
T.G.
Wonderful Series of Presentations

This series of presentations was just wonderful. Dr Durand was so engaging , knowledgeable, enthusiastic and interesting. Makes us really want to visit Romania.

G
G.E.S.
Romania

very informative!

S
S.-.B.
Examination of the Fascinating Painted Churches in Romania

A final session of 6 of an incredible journey through Romania highlighted the unique churches in the Moldova region. Truly one of a kind with most displaying a similar iconography on each of the 4 outside walls with variations of saints and stories. We obtained an internal view also of the churches. Dr Durand used helpful maps, actual photographs, and great visuals to point out the focus of discussion with sequential additions. The story behind these churches was presented at the start to enhance understanding. A wonderful end to this multi-part course.

A
A.
Excellent Series on romania

This was an excellent series of six lectures on Romania. Dr. Guillaume Durand condensed hundreds of years of history into six fascinating lectures. He is very knowledge and obviously loves his subject matter.

K
K.
Exploration of Romania

This is a fascinating introduction to a country which is not well known in the US. Dr. Durand’s enthusiasm for Romania is infectious as he provides a thorough and well paced introduction to the history of that country and focuses on a number of cultural highlights. He provides inspiration for visiting that country once we can all travel again.

Customer Reviews

Based on 23 reviews
87%
(20)
9%
(2)
4%
(1)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
T
T.G.
Wonderful Series of Presentations

This series of presentations was just wonderful. Dr Durand was so engaging , knowledgeable, enthusiastic and interesting. Makes us really want to visit Romania.

G
G.E.S.
Romania

very informative!

S
S.-.B.
Examination of the Fascinating Painted Churches in Romania

A final session of 6 of an incredible journey through Romania highlighted the unique churches in the Moldova region. Truly one of a kind with most displaying a similar iconography on each of the 4 outside walls with variations of saints and stories. We obtained an internal view also of the churches. Dr Durand used helpful maps, actual photographs, and great visuals to point out the focus of discussion with sequential additions. The story behind these churches was presented at the start to enhance understanding. A wonderful end to this multi-part course.

A
A.
Excellent Series on romania

This was an excellent series of six lectures on Romania. Dr. Guillaume Durand condensed hundreds of years of history into six fascinating lectures. He is very knowledge and obviously loves his subject matter.

K
K.
Exploration of Romania

This is a fascinating introduction to a country which is not well known in the US. Dr. Durand’s enthusiasm for Romania is infectious as he provides a thorough and well paced introduction to the history of that country and focuses on a number of cultural highlights. He provides inspiration for visiting that country once we can all travel again.