August 19, 2013
Orheiul Vechi, Moldova’s Most Famous Site
Moldova isn’t exactly know for being crammed full of tourist draws, but after asking around, everyone that I talkred to had one recommendation in common: Orheuil Vechi. A monastery complex that was built in YesterYear (around the 14th century, for those that like specifics), Orheiul Vechi is located about an hour outside Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, and is a perfect place to wander around for a couple of hours and soak up the scenery.
But first, you have to find the bus. Chisinau’s central bus station is located in the same place as its central market which, as you can imagine, results in a whole whirlwind of chaos, with minibuses parking wherever they like and there not being much of an order to things. It took me about twenty minutes to locate the bus to Trebujeni – do not take a bus to Orheiul – and this was after a lot of asking around. I even showed bus drivers, ‘Orheiul Vechi’ and ‘Trebujeni’ written down. It turns out Moldovan bus drivers don’t seem to know much about their country’s most famous site.
Despite momentarily fearing that I would never, ever find a bus bound for Orheiul Vechi (and then spending a lot of my time walking around worrying that I would never find a bus back), I found the bus and was one of two passengers at the mercy of a chain-smoking driver with a raspy voice that blasted MC Hammer’s ‘Can’t Touch This’ and Boney M’s ‘Rasputin’ while unleashing several strings of Moldovan curse words at other drivers and furiously pounding his horn. The bus journey took a little longer than it should have, as the driver made a pit stop behind a roadside ambulance, which it turned out had a garage functioning from the part where it should have been carrying patients. Both me and the middle-aged Moldovan lady, the bus’ other passenger, were rather confused and exchanged glances of the ‘I-hope-this-bus-doesn’t-explode-and-result-in-our-charred-corpses-being-shovelled-off-the-side-of-the-road’ variety.
Anyway, enough about the bus ride. What was Orheiul Vechi actually like? Well, it turns out, closed. You see, summer in Europe isn’t just the season of sunshine, it’s also the season of construction and restoration, and this is exactly what was happening at Orheiul Vechi on the day I chose to go. But you know what? I wasn’t really bothered. Rather than lamenting a lack of monks and frescoes, I spent my time at Orheiul Vechi gawping at the scenery, and sitting on rocks overlooking the natural splendour that spread out in front of me. You know how I’m not really into nature? Well, that didn’t stop me from enjoying Orheiul Vechi, although knowing that I’d soon be back in civilisation in Chisinau probably helped a lot. There’s really not much more I can write about Orheiul Vechi outside the lines of, “ohmygod it’s SO pretty” seeing as the insides were, you know, closed. So here are some pictures.
Is a trip to Orheiul Vechi worth it? Well, take a look at those photos. There were puppies! It’s absolutely worth it, even if you only have three or four days in Moldova. With its location perched on top of a hill, the cool breeze provided respite from the urban heat and according to the lovely Katie Aune, it’s pretty lovely in winter, as well. Moldova isn’t heavy on the sites, but Orheiul Vechi definitely ranks up there among the best places I’ve been to on this trip, and the location and serenity gave me a sense of peace, similar to the experience I had in Buyeo. Finding the bus to Trebujeni might shave a few minutes off your life, but you’ll gain them right back and then some if you make the trek out to this sublime slice of spirituality in the Moldovan countryside.
So there you have it, folks! Now, I want to hear from you! Does Orheiul Vechi look like the kind of place you’d like to visit? Have you ever been to a site only to find it closed when you got there? What place you’ve visited has given you a sense of peace? Let us know in the comments below, or shout out on Facebook or Twitter.