Last weekend we hitched a ride to almost the northernmost part of Moldova to the City of Soroca to visit a medieval fort. It was built in 1499 by the Moldovan Prince Stephen cel Mare (Stephen the Great, but let's be real, his name is way cooler in Romanian). It was originally a wooden fortress, but was renovated later in stone.
It was just over a 2 hour drive, which might have been pretty tedious with two kids trapped in a car; however, Nikolai made the trip more interesting by being car sick about halfway there. Luckily, I had draped my rain jacket over his chest mere moments before he became sick, or else our driver would have been very upset about the state of his car. I had also conveniently worn a sweater as well, so I only spent the rest of the day a little chilly. A little water and some baby wipes later (and some fresh air for Niko), we piled back into the car and were in Soroca before we knew it.
The castle was large and impressive (and had been fairly recently renovated); this view from the doorway made us very excited about what we'd find inside.
There was a large courtyard with lots of smaller rooms leading off of it, and a small staircase (to be easier to defend, I think) leading to many upper levels.
The kids were adorable little explorers.
It was fun to explain to Nikolai how people lived before cars, electricity, indoor plumbing, and the internet. I think he's a little baffled that people lived before all of that stuff, but he took the information in stride.
It was an interesting structure, in that it was TARDIS like--it looked pretty small from the outside but felt huge inside.
The four towers would have had many floors in them, but were now open several stories up.
We all enjoyed looking out the little windows to see the surrounding city and countryside.
Speaking of the surrounding countryside, from this window you can see the Dniester river, and on the other side of it, Ukraine! This view may or may not have prompted me to make some "I can see Ukraine from my house!" jokes, at which Jesse dutifully grinned. He's a good man.
One of the towers had reconstructed stairs leading up to the top level of the tower (during the climbing of which I became suddenly afraid of heights and had to fight off a panic attack as I climbed to the top. Has anyone else had a strange increase in fear of heights as they've gotten older??), and the view from above was even more impressive:
And now I finally show you how the lower level looks:
The reconstructed wooden towers were really cool, and the biggest one was the coolest. The lighting in there was really lovely (the pigeons apparently thought so too, because they roosted in the rafters).
Oh, proof I was actually there! The problem with being the one that carries the camera around is that there are never photos of me. Ah well!
Here's our chipper boy, enjoying himself thoroughly:
There were some icons in one of the rooms, including one of Stephan cel Mare, who is apparently a saint. Here's an interesting cultural tidbit: it is appropriate for Orthodox Christians here to kiss the glass of icons, so many of these icons will have kiss smudges on the glass (and I assume someone comes through periodically and wipes them off).
After a bit the kids were done with exploring the fort, so we headed outside, where we found this neat sculpture dedicated to Stephen cel Mare.
After our fort visit, we went for a little drive through the town, in part to see the Roma part of the city (Roma people are also commonly known as gypsies). It was an interesting part of town, with lots of really nice houses that weren't finished, or that were constructed in several styles at once. I really wanted to learn more about the Roma people, but Wikipedia had very little information on modern Roma culture, so I'm left not fully understanding the area or the people I saw.
After the drive, we went back down to the river for a little walk before heading back to Chisinau. We had bought some anti-motion sickness medicine for Nikolai, and I worked on getting him to take it while Jesse explored a bit. Trying to get him to take a pill was a pill (Melissa, I even tried to use the "Cousin Norah and cousin Calvin do this all the time!" line, to no avail. What is your secret???), and eventually (after much frustration from all parties) I dissolved the tiny, disgusting tasting half-of-a-pill in a little water and then convinced him to drink it. It was a harrowing experience, but hey, at least we didn't get vomit in the car on the way home!
On Jesse's walk (which he took with another American that was teaching temporarily at TLI), he took this awesome picture of a church:
When he got back, we were basically ready to go, but I let Nikolai take a few pictures with my nice camera first. These next three are his, and I'm actually pretty impressed with them!
Hey, he got one of both Jesse and I, together, in the same spot! (that never happens in photos!)
I think Miriam was dancing here (let's be real, she's always dancing):
It's fun to see things from his point of view, both literally (from his height) and metaphorically.
Overall, (even including the puke and the fight over taking medicine) it was a really good excursion and we were glad to see more of Moldova.