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“Along lesser traveled roads”- trip to Moldova, Fortress Soroca, part two

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Darius Roby is a travel writer, translator, and an editor for Cluj.com, a city portal with information pertaining to life and tourism in Cluj-Napoca. He can be reached at [email protected]

He shared with us his journal of the trip to Moldova. This is the part where Darius tells about his stay in Soroca. 

I have a thing for castles and fortresses. They are some of the coolest things a nerd such as myself can explore on the European continent. They are symbols from a period when power was projected through great architectural marvels such as castles and cathedrals. Today, this still holds true, but the symbols have become the great skyscrapers where banks operate. Being an avid lover of medieval history, my travels have taken me around some interesting fortresses in the territory of the former principality of Moldova: Suceava, Neamț, and Khotyn. Recently, I found myself visiting another one of Ștefan cel Mare’s defensive wonders – Cetatea Soroca.

Soroca lies in northern Moldova, on the right bank of the Dniester River. It is about 160 kilometers north of the capital, Chisinau, and can be reached in a little over a couple of hours from the capital. It is home to approximately 40,000 people – Moldovans forming the majority as well as sizeable Ukrainian, Russian, and Gypsy populations. The people are for the most part bilingual – speaking Romanian and Russian.  One is just as likely to hear Russian spoken as one would hear Romanian. Being a foreigner, I was more often than not greeted and spoken to in Russian, similar to how people in Romania tend to speak English to foreigners. As is the case throughout the rest of the country, the people are Orthodox Christians.

The city is picturesque in its own right. The steppes and rolling valleys that make up Moldova surprisingly become rocky hills and cliffs as one begins to approach the Dniester. It is upon one of these hills where one can find the Lumânarea Recunoştinţei, the Thanksgiving Candle, a very beautiful and tall chapel that was built in the shape of a candle. At night it creates an impressive sight and I have been told that on a clear night, its light can be seen from as far away as Otaci, 50 kilometers to the north. From the chapel, one can enjoy a lovely panorama of Soroca, the Dniester, as well as Tsekynivka, a village on the left bank of the river in Ukraine. Also, there is a small cave to be found on an inaccessible face of the cliff.

Should one follow the river in the direction of the city, one will encounter a great monument. Written in both Russian and Romanian (with Cyrillic characters) it is dedicated to the Moldo-Russian alliance that was created in 1711 between Peter the Great and Dimitrie Cantemir. It marks the location where Russian soldiers crossed the Dniester and entered Moldova in order to make war on the Ottoman Porte. To me the monument has an ominous feel, celebrating a military relationship that would one day become both political and cultural, one that continues to manifest itself onto this present day.

Walking further along the banks of the river, one encounters Cetatea Soroca, proudly standing guard over the river crossing. There is disagreement over whether the stone fortress was built by Ștefan cel Mare or by his son Petru Rareș. In any regard, the fortress is far older, previously being a wooden Genoese trading post, and probably even a stronghold of the Bolokhoveni before the Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus. There are five defensive towers forming a perfect circle from which archers would have operated. The three meters thick walls are curved and the stonework is in excellent condition, with over 75% of the original structure still standing. This is something that I find surprising because by the time the fortress was completed during the 16th century, its late medieval innovations were already obsolete in the face of gunpowder. Normally in such a situation, the rulers would have converted such a fortress into a Renaissance style palace. My only hypothesis is that the stone fortress (as well as those at Khotyn and Tighina) proved itself as an effective detriment to the cavalry based hordes of the Crimean Khanate. Over the past two years the fortress has undergone renovation, so that locals and tourists will be able to enjoy it for years to come.

The fortress is cared for by Nicolae Bulat, a man who needs no introduction. He is a writer, historian, and the director of the local museum. He is one of those rare people who does his work out of love and is always happy to meet people at the fortress in order to discuss the great events that have taken place there throughout the ages. He speaks great English and no matter if one is a small school child or a wandering American traveler, he has a talent for immersing one into the history of Moldova. His knowledge of American literature impressed me and these days I find myself reading a book of his, Jupânița cea Frumoasă, which translates to something like “The beautiful young boyaress.” One of my favorite things about traveling is to discover the local literature which often proves itself to be among the most beautiful souvenirs and a great educational experience.

As previously mentioned, Soroca is quite hilly, and upon one of these hills lives a community of Gypsies. This community is quite famous in Moldova and they are surprisingly wealthy compared to the rest of the city. They live in big, elaborate houses, which can be better described as palaces. It is possible to find Gypsies who live in (or are busy constructing) similar houses in Romania and they are architectural wonders in their own right.

I am not very aware of hotel availability in Soroca. I have visited the city twice and each time I stayed in a different hotel. I once stayed at the Vila de Nord, which is conveniently located next to the bus station and the bazaar, and for this trip I stayed in the Hotel Centrala which is conveniently located in the center of the city. Both are fine choices depending on the preferred location, reasonably priced, and are within walking distance of the city’s touristic sites. There are reasonably priced food options all over the city, whether one desires the elaborate dishes from traditional Moldovan cuisine or to lazily sit next to the river while enjoying a freshly baked pie.

Overall, Soroca makes for a fine weekend excursion. It is home to what is arguably the most famous medieval monument in the country, is great for walking, and offers great panoramas for photography lovers. It is simply one of the numerous places along lesser traveled roads that welcomes the weary traveler and reminds him how even some of the smallest places are packed with historical and cultural significance. Even those who are simply passing through can find Soroca an interesting stop due to it’s small town charm and relaxing atmosphere – especially on a warm summer day.

Correspondent reporter of Moldova.org Focus: Transnistrian conflict settlement, Eastern Partnership. Inquiries at [email protected]

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Tourism

Air Moldova has demonstrated compliance with EU requirements

Air Moldova is the only company in the Republic of Moldova to have an Operational Safety Audit Security Certificate issued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), following a two-year audit.

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Moreover, Air Moldova is one of the aviation companies around the world where the European Union trusts. The European Aeronautical Safety Agency certified Air Moldova as complying with its standards, which allows it to smoothly carry out air transport operations in the European space.

The authorization issued by EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) once again demonstrates that Air Moldova is a reliable operator and meets all the standards of quality and safety, says Iulian Scorpan, general manager of the company:

“We will continue to work to provide our passengers with the best conditions, pricing and destinations that will ensure their comfort,” says Air Moldova director Iulian Scorpan.

The European Authority’s certificate confirms that Air Moldova offers safe, quality services at EU standards, which are among the highest in the world. Thus, Air Moldova is part of an elite club of airlines that can fly over the EU airspace and can provide services within the European Union.

On the other hand, 120 companies from all over the world, including 9 from the Republic of Moldova, were banned in the community airspace.

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Culture

An English vlogger in Chisinau: “If I were a politician in Moldova, I’d be ashamed to show my face”

A British YouTube vlogger has published a video about of first impressions in Chisinau. Thrilled by the way the center of the capital looks, the conditions in the underground, the quality of the roads, etc., the vlogger will spend a month in the Republic of Moldova, promising to publish more stories.

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I would be ashamed! If I’d ripped off my nation as these motherf#ckers have ripped of Moldova, I’d be ashamed to show my face.”

The vlogger told his subscribers about the “billion dollar bill theft” and criticizes politicians who “have done nothing in their 30 years of independence.”

He pointed out that after the collapse of the USSR, the citizens of the Republic of Moldova hoped that a better life awaits them.I

“In Soviet times, Moldova was a well-run, efficient republic. Soviets used to come from all over the SU here. It was warm, there was good wine here, […]. But then independence came, and people wished for something better. But what did they receive instead? They’ve received nothing but Governments that ripped them off, embezzled cash, escaped the country with stolen billions, and the people are left here to pick up the pieces,” he concluded.

Watch episode 2 here:

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Tourism

From now on, Moldovan citizens can travel to Turkey with identity cards

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From today on, citizens of the Republic of Moldova can travel to Turkey based on identity cards with the format of ID1 ID2, ID2 (TD-1, TD-2, according to ICAO standards), including valid biometric passports, the Foreign Ministry announced.

According to the Protocol amending the Intergovernmental Agreement on the reciprocal abolition of visas with the Republic of Turkey (concluded on 17 October 2018), the holders of the documents mentioned above are exempt from the visa requirement for entry, exit, transit and temporary stay in the territory of the Republic of Turkey up to 90 days during any 180 calendar day period, which implies taking into account the last 180 days preceding each day of stay.

The Ministry points out that citizens of the Republic of Moldova who will travel to third countries using Turkey’s territory as a transit country will be informed about the travel regime applicable to Moldovan citizens for the final destination country and will have the necessary documents for crossing border control.

The first passengers have already used this opportunity today by arriving at the Chisinau International Airport with Istanbul-Chisinau’s first Turkish Airlines route.

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