This past weekend, I joined the other teachers from my school on an “excursie” (field trip) to two monasteries in the northern part of Moldova, Saharna and Ţîpova. We departed from our village in a rented rutiera (small bus) at 5:30 in the morning. It was a bit over 3 hours from our village to our first stop in Saharna.
We walked around the Saharna monastery for a bit, visiting the main church. On the hills surrouding the monastery there are crosses that you can walk to. We walked up to one of them- it was a somewhat difficult, steep hike. Here, there were gorgeous views into the valley and overlooking the Nistru.
On our way back down the hill to the monastery, we stopped to take some pictures as a group. I handed my camera off to Maxim, the seven year old son of one of the other teachers, so I could get in some photos. He did a pretty good job!
Most of the rest of our group visited the izvor, or spring, that is located in the woods at the monastery. Here, you are supposed to change into a nightgown or robe and dunk yourself fully in the freezing cold water. The water is said to have healing powers. I did not participate, but I walked down to see the izvor. There were a lot of mosquitoes, so I went back to the entrance of the monastery with the Russian teacher from my school and we waited there for the rest of the group. While sitting by the entrance, I saw a woman who I thought was another volunteer, and it was! She was also visiting the monastery with her school.
From Saharna, we headed to Ţîpova Monastery. In addition to being a cave monastery, it is also a historical site and museum. We started off at the church at the top of the hill, which is actually a different monastery. From there, we walked down a steep incline and then back up and then down again. Ţîpova is located right along the Nistru River and the views were incredible! There is an entrance fee, though it’s pretty small, and our group paid for the guide.
Ţîpova is one of the oldest monasteries in Moldova, built in the 14th century. It is a cave monastery, built into the side of a small cliff. During Soviet times, it did not function as a monastery and fell into disrepair. Although some renovations and restorations have occurred since Moldovan independence in 1991, they are currently raising money to do more complete restorations, particularly, of the sanctuary built into the cave.
We visited the sanctuary, where services are held Saturday evenings and on major holidays. There is a small exhibit/museum off the sanctuary with some of the history of the monastery as well as images showing what they hope it will look like when restorations are complete. We also checked out some of the smaller caves down below and above, where the monks would have lived and worked.
After climbing back up the hill to the church on top, we headed back towards home. After a difficult day of hiking and climbing, we were all very tired and hungry. According to Orthodox faith, you aren’t supposed to eat before you visit a monastery, so our first meal of the day occurred an hour later when we stopped by the side of the road around 3:30 in the afternoon and had a large picnic.
Each of the teachers had brought boiled eggs, placinta, bread, sarmale, and other foods. Of course, there was also plenty of house wine! There were also some of the first cherries of the season! Once we had finished eating, we drove the final two plus hours home, getting back around 6:30. It was a very exhausting day, but it was fun! I especially loved Ţîpova and would recommend going there if you’re ever in Moldova.