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5 days trip by car down from the north to the south of Moldova

Stops at Briceni, Calarasheuca monastery, Soroca, Orheiul Vechi, Ivancha, Cricova, Chisinau / Kishinev, Tighina / Bender, Tiraspol, Noul Neamt, Cojusna wine cellar, Capriana monastery

This is an illustration of how a trip by car through these places may look like. This trip was made in 5 winter days, 30 December 2004 - 3 January 2005, when the Catholic Christmas ended and the Orthodox didn't start, by 2 Belgian friends Jan Amadori and Laurent Gheeraert . No particular misadventures to report. This is not a guide but an illustration how an unplanned trip may look like..

Day 1

Thursday, 30 December

8am Left Chisinau to Briceni by bus to meet guys at the border. Took about 7-8 hours to get there with regular bus... Hint: Use minibuses for long distance trips within Moldova - they are faster and more comfortable. Avoid using busses Friday evening, Saturday morning, New-year and Easter eves in particular when people rush at the countryside and busses are full.

Changed the place of meeting 3 times before it happened. Hint: Very important to have connection if you have a meeting like this one. My Voxtel operator covers that far and let us sms each other.

Laurent and Jan crossed Moldovan border at Larga, Briceni custom. Paid 97,47 Lei (about 8 USD) entrance fee for the car. Here you may see how the bill looks like.

3pm About two hours ride by car to Calaraseuca [Caleresheuka] monastery situated on the bank of the Dniestr river near another North town - Otaci [Otachi].
Hint: Make your way towards Calaraseuca village, drive through it and then another 1 km on the country road along the Dniestr (on your left). There is a big cross at the road on the right. Turn right and drive another 400 meters. Monastery is in the forest, at the bottom of the hill
Autos can circulate with the speed of: 60km/h in built-up areas
90 km/h outside built-up areas

Calaraseuca monastery. Arrival.  Gloaming5pm Calaraseuca monastery. Gloaming.

One can come with car and leave it in the yard of the monastery. It is safe.

We asked permission to stay here overnight from the head of the monastery - matusca [matushka] Starita [Staritza]. She was in a hurry to the evening holly service, asked where we came from and why, and let us be the guest of the monastery.

One of the sisters took us to monastic hotel, where guests of it may stay for a night or so. We did just one night as we had to move on further south. To warmer areas of Moldova :)

Monastic hotelThere are 2 big rooms in the hotel - one with 9 beds and the other with 5. There is a piano in one room, but it is padlocked. No kitchen, no toilet, no shower inside. Toilet is outside.

The hotel is heated centralized together with the winter church, but I felt chilly in the evening and during the night in that huge room of the hotel.

7 pm Ate at monastic refectory "trapeznaya". Building is decorated with crosses outside in both corners. It is in the shape of the Eastern Orthodox Cross. With its slanted lower third bar and top horizontal bar built on the foundation of the Latin Cross, it is both intrinsically Russian and evocative of the Russian Orthodox faith.
A popular theory from the eleventh century, is that the slanted lower beam represents a foot-rest. The slant symbolizes a balance scale showing the good thief, St. Dismas, having accepted Christ would ascend to heaven, while the thief who mocked Jesus would descend to hell. In this interpretation, the Cross is a balance-scale of justice.

Of the many theories on the symbolism behind the slanting of the crosswise bar, the most popular, and purported to be most accurate is that it is an incorporation of the cross of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Russia. St. Andrew was a first century Judean, the first apostle, who preached Christianity both before and after the death of Jesus. Condemned to crucifixion for his teachings, St. Andrew was martyred on an X-shaped cross in 60 C.E. in Greece during the reign of Emperor Nero

Budded cross

The Eastern Orthodox Cross

All meals (breakfast, dinner and supper) are taken in "trapeznaya" after daily regular divine services. Our supper was big, but consisting of lenten fare as we came in fast period.

9 pm played Go game in the evening and some of Jan's puzzles. Went to sleep after a long exhausting trip.

Playing go game in the evening Night in monastic hotel
Laurent and me playing Go game. Interrupted to send sms.
Back room of the monastic hotel. May accommodate up to 5 men
Tired traveler sleeping


Day 2

Thursday, 31 December

Priest of the monasteryThe monastery owns 10 hectares of land, some used under constructions and the other for agricultural use. 45 sister-monks and 2 mail-priests live in the monastery - the youngest sister is 15 y.o. and the oldest is 93 y.o. The head of the monastery is matushka Staritza, born in Jora de Jos, Orhei district. During the Soviet regime ('60-'87) she was a sister-monk at a Ukrainian monastery, than the head at Causheni monastery ('87 - '99) and finally matushka at Calarasheuka monastery. Matushka speaks Ukrainian, Russian and Romanian languages. Many Ukrainian speakers here as the monastery is situated at the border with Ukraine. One may see the Ukrainian town Mogilyov Podoliskiy at the opposite side of the river Dniestr from the hill of the monastery.

Wood for the fireSisters respect a strict daily regime at the monastery. Wake up early in the morning, go to the morning service, have breakfast at trapeznaya and receive a list of "what to do"s from matushka. They cook, keep cleanness of the yard, churches and their houses, feed animals and take care of them, do other works in monastery's poultry-yard, farm-yard and in the garden. The other church services are noon and in the evening right before the meal. Food is cooked out of products grown locally.

The farmyard The lakeThe farm yard of the monastery has 6 adult milk cows, pigs and poultry. In the courtyard lake they rear fish and on the plot of land attached to monastery keep bees.


The old churchOld plateThe oldest of the two churches of the monastery the church of Virgin Mary's Assumption was erected in 1782 by a noble man from the neighbor Ukrainian town Mogilyov. His name and the date of the erection is kept on a white plate above the entrance door.

Inside of the churchChurch itself impresses one by its fortress like appearance. It seems to be massive from the outside, but is tiny inside. No magic. Its walls are 6 meters in breadth. It served as a fortress and a place to hide for monks and local people during the Turkish war and the Second World War. Nowadays church is closed all year around except some days in the summer for a special ceremony. It has a bell tower.

The other church - the Saint Mitrofan church - was built in 1853. From the very beginning was the monastery for brother-monks, but in 1916 sister monks from Russian Poland, Viroff are brought here and it is transformed into a women monastery. Transformed into a hospital for tubercular patient and, later on, into a hospital for handicapped children during the Soviet era (from 1961). Restarted its work as a monastery in 1991.

Left the monastery early in the morning and drove to Soroca.

Most of the roads in Moldova are asphalted, but be prepared to drive on a country road far from the towns and cities.

Water is supplied into the houses from the local wells. Two types of well are more often met in Moldova. "Stork" well has a bucket on a long chain hanging down one end of a massive beam on a long stork prop. The other type is more often met in Moldova. The well shaft is under the decorated roof, the full bucket is dragged out with the help of a spit.

Moldova's greatest natural resource is its fertile "chernozem" soils (Russian, "chernaya" = black + "zemlya" soil) which cover nearly 75% of its territory.


We crossed a bridge over a small river on our way and saw many beautiful white geese in the water and on the bank of it. We will meet them later on on our way :)

Read next:

Day 2
~Orheiul Vechi ~Ivancha

Day 3
~Cricova ~Chisinau / Kishinev

Day 4
~Tighina / Bender ~Tiraspol ~Noul Neamt

Day 5
~Cojusna wine cellar ~Capriana monastery

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