One of the most popular places of interest in Moldova is a touristic zone called Old Orhei (Orheiul Vechi), which is situated on the Raut River (Răut Rău). It is a nation’s patrimony, which is located about 60 km away from the capital city Chisinau, among three villages: Butuceni, Morovaia and Trebujeni. Orhei Vechi is an archaeological and historical complex, which consists of two moderate but very old museums, ancient rocky church and also several private old-fashioned hotels in a very traditional style, located in villages Butucheni and Trebujeni. Old Orhei is an exceptionally quiet and delightful place with impressive landscapes and huge historical background which bring the tourists to discover Moldova's ancient roots.
History of Old Orhei comprehends three main epochs - the Paleolithic, Eneolithic, and Iron Age. The archaeologists have excavated here the earthen and wooden remnants of the Geto-Dacian fortresses of 6th -1st centuries B.C. During the 14th century, also known as the Golden Horde, the city was renamed into Shehr al-Jedid. At that time, Orhei was reconstructed in accordance with the eastern habitudes with two caravanserais in the center, public baths and other constructions. It is unbelievable and explodes your mind when you see the fundaments that are preserved till nowadays. Orhei Vechi became one of the most important national defense centers under the governance of voivode Stephen the Great in the 15th century. Later on, it has been changed to a typical Moldavian fortification with the churches, residential building and manufactures. Thus, the place was named Orhei, which had quite direct and clear meaning - the fortification.
Some of the most impressive parts of the Old Orhei are marvelous monasteries in the caves, which were cut down inside of the rocks on the bank of the Raut River. Can you imagine that all that constructions from the 15th-18th centuries were made by people without any appropriate equipment inside of the huge and strong rocks? The oldest Orthodox monastery is “Peshtere” with a white bell tower, which is located at a height of 60 m over the river.
It consists of a church with the altar, groups of cells and tunnels, a corridor with steps conducting to the Raut River. Once you get there, you will be impressed with how small and uncomfortable were monks prayers. These cells in the rocks have a very low ceiling, approximately a half of an average human’s height, which made the monks constantly keep the praying pose. You may visit that place without any guide as soon as the landscape is pretty plain, and you can always find some vergers in the Peshtere cave who can help you to discover the most interesting directions and hidden places.
Butuceni is a very small and quite long village that is situated along the rocks, and it is also a part of the Old Orhei complex. Out of three villages, the Butuceni village is the closest one to the Old Orhei. That is why it is the most visited today.
This village attracts tourists as it keeps the old-fashioned Moldavian traditions with its colorful houses, narrow streets and amazing nature. Almost every single house has the agricultural and livestock courtyards. I had a great experience with the Butuceni restaurant-houses with amazing meals and hospitality. They look very charming from the outside because they remind you of your grandmother’s house, where you can relax after the walking tour around all the cave monasteries. You will be pleased by the taste of traditional Moldavian zama soup, mamaliga with fried fish or meat and a glass of cold white wine. Once you try homemade bakery, you will definitely fall in love with it. You will be surprised by the price of lunch made up of several courses. It will be more than acceptable for the upper mentioned dishes. Catch up a new experience and spend several days in the village. You may book the ethnical hotels, that may even have some technical innovations like Wi Fi or TV.
In the Old Orhei, you feel isolated from the outer world. Staying in the middle of monumental stone construction, cave monasteries and all other archaeological reservations, will carry you over the centuries to Moldova's ancient roots. Visit Orheiul Vechi and discover its incredible history.
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