Soroca

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Soroca Fortress

Soroca is the ‘Roma capital’ of Moldova. The large Roma population here, even in Soviet times, were renowned for living at a much higher standard than most Moldovans; which only lent fuel to the fire of the palpable prejudice that exists against them. How this unlikely distribution of wealth occurred is in dispute; some say shrewd entrepreneurial skills others point to drug trafficking. Nevertheless, Roma-owned, stately mansions line both sides of the road on the city’s hilltop, which you pass on your way into town (from the south).

Aside from this, people come to Soroca to see the outstanding Soroca fortress. Medieval times swim through your head while you wander the grounds within the nearly intact walls, giving a great impression of what life must have been like centuries ago. This was just part of a medieval chain of military fortresses built by Moldavian princes between the 14th and 16th centuries to defend Moldavia’s boundaries. Soroca’s fortress was founded by none other than Stefan cel Mare in 1499, rebuilt later by his son Petru Rares between 1543 and 1550. The limestone walls (18m high on the inside, 21m high on the outside) are over 3m thick. Four stout towers plus a rectangular entrance tower are still standing, looking like they could take a good hit from invaders even today. At the time, Soroca’s fortress marked the northeastern tip of Moldavia. The fortress is open from 9am-6pm Wednesday through Sunday, May through October. It’s only open off-season by appointment.

The Soroca Museum of History and Ethnography (same hours as the fortress) is run by the same people. This is a well-designed museum, with 25,000 exhibits covering archaeological finds, weapons and ethnographic displays.

This is likely to be the longest day trip you attempt from Chisinau. If you don’t want to race back, the simple, but clean and bright rooms at the Hotel Central are your best bet in Soroca.

There are 12 daily buses to Soroca from Chisinau’s North Bus Station.

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If you can’t wait to see it, here’s a quick video of my last visit to Soroca’s fortress: