Calendar Home
Previous Day

September 11, 2002

Next Day
Lonely Planet says hitchhiking 'isn't done' in Moldavia, but we say it is. We left Chisinau on a mini-bus towards Orhei Vechi, a small town with a famous monastery. The bus dropped us off next to a sign, Orhei Vechi, yet no town or monastery in sight. We started walking down a dirt road. After 2 kilometers, we stopped in a village with no name. We asked a lady, "Orhei Vechi?" She stopped, smiled, asked if we were American, and started naming various cities where her relatives lived. Eventually she said, "Orhei Vechi, diset kilometre." Ten kilometers. No buses. At this point we tried hitching, and lucky for us Lonely Planet is wrong. The second car stopped and drove us to our monastery. We witnessed an Orthodox ceremony, and then hitched our way back to Chisinau on several different cars. Most times we gave our drivers 10-20 lei ($1-$1.50), and once we bought our drivers some beer at a roadside café. Back in Chisinau we had a lively debate with a museum guide who was a strong Moldovian nationalist. He held one-sided views about America: materialistic people, shallow relationships, a culture without values, etc. We defended our country but he clung to his prejudices and believed most Europeans agreed with him. Depressingly, this man was an intellectual who had spent several years in America. Most interesting was his view of the Soviet world, which he claimed promoted better social values. He thinks the Communists were more idealistic, after loftier goals, and he says that most people want a system that provides a Soviet culture with a better economic policy. When we pointed out that Stalin and the Soviets killed millions of their own citizens, he answered, "A small percentage of the population, and certainly overstated by Western propaganda."
Dropped off here, on the road to nowhere, through villages without names. Our advice: don't get off the bus!
Hitching a ride did the trick. We found the Orhei Vechi Monastery, built by monks in the 13th century overlooking the Raut River.
The monks dug passages and caves into the cliff (as if they needed to hide from anybody in this remote place).
Orthodox ceremonies still take place inside the Cave Monastery.
Afterwards, we kept our dinner date with a Moldovian couple who offered to help us visit Transdniestr. This is a breakaway province within Moldavia that likes to keep foreigners out. This couple tried to talk us out of going, but since we were determined, they gave us contacts of relatives across the 'border.'