Mini-Vacation: Orhei Vechi

From Curchi Monastery, we continued on to Orhei Vechi, stopping briefly at a small monastery that was out of the way for a peek.  Then we continued on until we reached a vantage point.  Orhei Vechi is located in a large bowl-like valley, with cliffs on two sides and the river weaving along the edges.  We could see the Orhei Vechi Monastery on the other side of the bowl.

Turkish Baths:

From here, we took a short detour to view the remains of a fortress, as well as some Turkish baths left from one of the various points in history Moldova was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

Caves in Orhei Vechi:

We also hiked up to some caves, which though natural and impressive, have been covered in graffiti and litter.

Orhei Vechi Monastery:

Then we finally arrived at our main destination: Orhei Vechi Monastery.  We looked around the small museum, then walked with a guide up to the cave monastery, located under the bell tower.  Inside, there is a small chapel and a room with a low ceiling carved into the cave.  This is where the monks lived and spent most of their time, laying and sitting on the hard stone floor.  The monastery dates back to the 1400s and also includes a church.

Peasant House:

Our last stop on the tour of Orhei Vechi was a “peasant” house.  This is a preserved old home that shows how Moldovans used to live.  There was the main house, which consisted of a living room to the left (with space above the soba, or stove for about 8 children to sleep), a central hall, and a casa mare to the right.  The casa mare would have only been used for guests or when there were special events and occasions.  In another building, there was a separate room that would have been used in the cooler months for the entire family.  Two small beds would have been for the parents, and a sleeping loft of sorts above the soba would have slept about 10 children.  There was also a beci (pronounced “betch”, underground root and wine cellar) next to this.

This wrapped up our guided tour, and we headed back to Chisnau for the night.

A Mini Vacation: Curchi Monastery

On Sunday morning, we headed towards Orhei Vechi, which is probably the most popular tourist destination in Moldova.  We had hired a guide, and both of us were really happy to ride in a comfortable, air-conditioned car instead of a rutiera! On our way, we stopped at Curchi Monastery.  The monastery was built in the 1700s, though the current churches were built in the late 1800s.  When we arrived in the parking lot, we got out and got our first glimpse of the church, which is situated above a pond.

We walked around the grounds, and even caught part of a church service.  Pictures aren’t allowed inside the churches, but they had been beautifully restored.  In comparison to other churches and monasteries I’ve visited here in Moldova, these were decorated in richer colors.  The entire inside was covered with large murals.  The monastery had been used during Soviet times to store grain, and renovations were completed in 2006.

A Mini Vacation: Chisinau

This weekend is yet another long weekend, thanks to the Moldovan holiday, Victory Day, tomorrow (Tuesday).  Another volunteer and I decided to take advantage of the long weekend to do some travel this weekend and then rest up on Monday and Tuesday back at site.  It was a jam-packed and really fun little break from school and daily life.

We started off with a trip into Chisinau from our sites (me in the south-east and my friend in the north-west).  The rutiera (mini-bus) I intended to take at 6:00 in the morning never showed up, so I ended up waiting until about 8:00 to make my two-hour trip.  While frustrating, it allowed me to get a bit of school-related work done before I headed out.  I hitched a ride to the nearest nearby “town” (here in Moldova, that means a town that has multiple transportation options and stores and such) with the help of my host dad, who flagged down my ride.  From there, I took the nicest rutiera I’ve ever seen to the capital.  There were leather cushy seats, a television, and even seat belts!  I spent some time catching up with a group of other volunteers at Peace Corps and sat outside for a bit enjoying the gorgeous, warm weather.

Victory Memorial and Eternal Flame:

After my friend arrived, we checked into our apartment, which was in a perfect location near the center, then started our walk across town to the Victory Memorial and Eternal Flame.  This small park, monument, and cemetery was built during soviet times to commemorate the victory over the Nazis in World War II.  It is pretty Soviet in style and also very beautiful.  The park wasn’t crowded, and it was peaceful to walk around.  Because Victory Day is tomorrow, a crew of Moldovan soldiers were working to get the park and cemetery nice and neat.  In the center of the large monument, there is the eternal flame.  Flowers had been laid near the flame in memorial of soldiers who had died.

Himalayan Restaurant Opening:

After our jaunt in the park, we headed to celebrate the opening of a new Himalayan restaurant.  One of my fellow volunteers and good friends is Nepali, and she and her husband had invited us to celebrate the opening.  Many other Peace Corps volunteers came as well, and we enjoyed the company and delicious food!

Cathedral Park, Chisinau:

After our trip to Curchi Monastery and Orhei Vechi, we returned to Chisinau and ate a nice meal before walking briefly around Cathedral Park.  It was threatening to rain, making the sky look moody.  Despite this, evidence of spring and the coming summer were all around.  I was happy to see a garden of irises in from of the cathedral.

It was a really wonderful weekend.