Orheiul Vechi is the most iconic place of Moldova, recently registered on the list of UNESCO due to its historic value. It holds scenic views of the hills and caves, including a monastery in a cave, as well beautiful views over the Butuceni and Trebujeni village. It is considered one of the most powerful energetic places in the country with plenty of space for hiking or connecting with the Earth.
If you wish to discover the roots and culture of Moldova, this place is a MUST to visit, especially as it’s only 45km’s away from the capital!
So what’s the history of this place? Well, Moldova has been conquered for thousands of years by different tribes and empires and this settlement actually contains a lot of the remains of those times. Between the XIII – XIVth century this area was under the control of tatar-mongols during the Golden Hoard period which renamed the city as Shehr al-Jadid. The original settlement was destroyed and rebuilt in oriental style, having a mosque and public baths. Until to this day you can see the bath remains in Old Orhei.
After a while moldovans have gained power and kicked out the Golden Hoard, but later on the tatars came back to reconquer the area. Moldovans have managed to strengthen it with a fortress, plenty of churches, houses and defense structures which helped them stand their ground and become one of the most important defense spots in the country. Defeated, the tatars never came back to reclaim this land.
The Monastery cave which is so famous for it’s placement is as well known for it’s legend. It is said that the ruler of the Golden Hoard hid his golden cart and all of his treasures and gold in the walls of rocks when he found out that they were under attack and going to lose.
Not only a place for hiding gold, but for hiding pilgrims and orthodox christians during the Soviet Union period. As religion was forbidden, many followers and monks used this place as their sacred space. Today it is still a church which is used by locals for praying and a visit point for locals and foreigners. There is a newer church build nearby where all the religious services take place. If you wish to attend the service in the main church, you can do so daily at 7am or from 5pm.
A few steps away from the cave monastery there is a cross with the “Flower of Life” symbol on it which is considered to make your wishes come true just by putting your hand on it!
Down the hill on the right side is the Butuceni village which boasts traditional moldovan style houses and a few restaurants and hotels. There are some museums as well which you can visit to discover how traditional moldovan houses looked inside and what the life in the area was and still is like.
Other things that this place is famous for, is being a spot for paragliding and parachute jumping, as well for hosting music festivals, such as “Gustar” which takes place every year in the month of august and DescOPERA – opera open air.
If you plan to visit Orheiul Vechi, it is advisable to book either a driver or a guided tour as the public transport is limited space and time wise.