I he breathtaking monastery-complex of i rrnica (Sfanta Manastire Cernica) boasts mime of the loveliest interior paintings in Uomania. This undiscovered gem is nestled mi a small island in the middle of Cernica I .ike 14km east of Bucharest. Two churches, '.iniie chapels, a cemetery, seminary and a ■mall museum are contained within the in-li nsely beautiful fortified complex, founded nil the site of a former 17th-century church In 1781.

An earthquake in 1842 destroyed much nl the complex, but it's now impossible to li'll what damage was caused as it was re-hlOred successfully in the 1990s. A smaller church, St Nicolae's Church (Biserica Sfantul Nicolae din Ostrov) was built in 1815, but it was not until the mid-1800s, under the guidance of St Calinic of Cernica, that the monastery really flourished.

Between 1831 and 1838 St Gheorghe's Church (Biserica Sfantul Gheorghe) was built, a library and seminary were opened and a school for religious painting set up. After WWII the monastery was closed, not reopening until 1995. Some 50 monks live on the island complex - joined by a causeway to the mainland. The graves of Romanian painter Ion Tuculescu, and writer and priest Gala Galaction, are in the cemetery on the lakes shore, in front of St Gheorghe's Church.

Getting There & Away

From Bucharest, take tram No 14 or 46 to the end of the line in Pantelimon. From there, swap to bus No 410 or 459, which both stop directly outside the monastery gates. Tickets cost €0.20 and the trip takes 20 minutes.

By car, take Road 3 to Pantelimon, and turn right towards Bude^ti.

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