Tucked into the northeastern corner of Romania, and the medieval principality of the Moldavian region, Bukovina lies in the easily-defended Carpathian foothills where the region's hero, Stefan the Great (Stefan cel Mare ruled between 1457-1504), fought back the Turks in the 14th and 15th centuries and then built churches and monasteries throughout Moldavia to praise God for allowing him to win. He used to built one monastery after each of his battles. His descendant, Petru Rares, continued his work by setting the foundations for many other famous monasteries. There are 48 monasteries in total, some with fortified walls to protect against invaders. These unique monasteries and Byzantine churches with their exceptional exterior frescoes are one of the most fascinating sights in Romania. Seven of the painted monasteries have been included on the Unesco World Heritage List.
Much of the former Romanian province of Bukovina, previously part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was lost to the USSR (now the Ukraine) in 1945 together with its capital, Cernauti. The name Bukovina came into official use in 1775 with the region's annexation to the Austrian Empire The name has a Slavic origin and is derived from the word for beech tree 'buk' in Ukrainian; the German equivalent, das Buchenland, mostly used in poetry, means, literally, "beech land", or, more poetically, "land of beech trees". In Romanian the original name of the region during the rule of the Moldavian Principality was "Tara de Sus" (Upper Country), referring to the altitude, as opposed to the lower plains called "Tara de Jos" (Lower Country).
Bukovina is worth visiting, not only for its wealth of religious art and the beautiful monasteries, but also for the natural beauty and simplicity of the region. It is a territory with clean unspoiled nature. It has a unique landscape: thick forests and imposing crests ("obcine"), branching off from the Carpathians, which allow a wonderful panorama of valleys, with houses scattered here and there, with large gardens and farm yards inviting one to lie down by the haystacks and look up at the blue sky with its marvelous hues. You might even catch a glimpse of a buffalo, a species that is being reintroduced into a natural reservation. The countryside is scattered with picturesque villages and rural scenery as local folk go about their daily business; horse-drawn carts dominate the lanes, driven by people bundled up against the cold, outdoor wells and piles of chopped wood adorn the yards, and produce markets bustle with activity. These are some of the scenes the traveler will encounter in this fascinating region of Romania, a stark contrast to the frenetic pace and way of life shaped by the modern face of city living.
Moldavian wines have been known for five centuries. There are vineyards that can be visited.