For those on a northern excursion of the country, Iasi, the ancient capital of Moldavia, is definitely worth a visit. And it's also an important stop for those who want to get closer to the Romanian heart and intellect. During the latter half of the 19th century, Iasi (pronounced Yash) was known for its literary life.

Iasi had a strong Jewish community before the second World War, with a lot of artists, academics and writers. Traces of the community are still left in the form of old synagogues and Jewish cemeteries.

The streets of the older part of the city are ideal for walking past one example of grand architecture after another. Also of interest is the Gh. Asachi Technical University—it has an extensive library—and the Museum of Literature M. Eminescu, honoring Romanian poet Mihail Eminescu.

Most of Iasi's best-known landmarks are in the center of town: the beautifully restored 17th-century church, Trei Ierarhi (Three Hierarchies), with its carved-stone facade; the 17th-century Golia monastery; and the 20th-century Palace of Culture (done in Gothic style, it contains several museums, including historical, art, polytechnic and ethnographic ones). The monasteries in town are definitely worth a look—the friendly monks may even give you a personal guided tour. The splendid Hotel Traian, designed by Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame), is worth a visit, even if you're not staying there. 200 mi/320 km northeast of Bucharest.

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