When planning my trip to Moldova last year, I really did not have a good idea of what there was to see or do. I went with the recommendations proposed by a person I hired to show me around. I wrote about the very unique wineries I explored, about the churches and monasteries I visited, and about the country’s capital, Chisinau. What I have not written about yet is the trip to the northeast corner of the country to visit Soroca, a town on the border with the Ukraine with less than 30,000 inhabitants but lots of history.
The history of the town seems to go to the Middle Ages (it was Genoese post – who knew those Genoese got that far!) and it has been at the crossroads of many military campaigns. It also has a large gypsy (Romani) population and it is known as the capital of the Romani in Moldova (more on them later).
I really enjoyed my visit to this town for three reasons:
1. The old fort
2. The houses on the hill overlooking the town
3. Viewing Moldova and the Ukraine with the Dniester in between.
Off-the-beaten path twice over (Moldova by itself is already off-the-beaten path and within it, this town is off-the-beaten path even for Moldova!), this town is well worth checking out.
The old fort (or is it a fortress?)
As far as forts go, this one is not monumental but I enjoyed the views from it and, even more, seeing its construction which seemed semi-rustic (which makes sense considering its age). Seeing the details of the stonework, clearly no one needed all the stones to be perfectly aligned or anything like that. The details on the windows and the stones on the inner walls all show really interesting detail of how it was built.
You can go up and see the city, or the houses on the hills of Soroca, or look at the fields of rural Ukraine across the Dniester but more on the latter later (ooh, that just came out like that – he he).
The houses on the hills
The town is known as the Romani capital of Moldova for a reason. The hills overlooking the town are home to most of them. And boy, do they live it up up there! Their houses are small mansions, most of them seem to be a never-ending work-in-progress. The guy showing me around Moldova wondered out loud: how could they afford building these houses since most of them did not work. I am not sure what he was implying or had in mind but can only guess. All I can say is that the houses were some of the best I saw in Moldova in terms of “solidity” and the architectural grandeur they seem to aim for.
A river and two countries
There was something interesting about being in Soroca, a town on the Moldovan side of the river, and then pastoral-looking Ukraine on the opposite bank of the river. I was tempted to ask for a little boat to the make the crossing but there was no time. Plus no telling what sort of border problems I would find – if there was any border police to begin with. I always have wondered who minds every meter of a border… But I digress. In any case, before reaching Soroca we went to a lookout with a tall religious tower atop it. It is when I first saw the Ukraine and where the final two photos were taken.
Soroca was the sort of unexpected that I so enjoy in my travels, be it to a new part of my own hometown, or halfway around the world!