21 February 2011

Castle Hunting: Soroca

Sometimes, this is what castle hunting is. We drove three hours north of Chisinau and found an old cement-block hotel to stay the night in. The woman who ran the hotel walked us (in her slippers, through the falling snow) to a "cafenea" nearby for dinner - the waitress made us "pelmini" dumplings and cabbage salad, which seemed to be the only things she had in the kitchen. We woke up to heavier snow, grey skies - and a castle that is closed until May.
Soroca is a border town, sitting on the edge of the Dnistr across the water from Ukraine. The castle sits right on the water, and is hemmed in by trees and buildings, making it very difficult to photograph. We considered crossing the border to shoot from the opposite bank, but thought better of it. It isn't all that spectacular, though we've heard that the interior is worth seeing. The walls form a perfect circle, which is unusual, and are bolstered by five bastions. It was rebuilt in stone during the same period as Khotyn, which is not that far to the west, during the expansion of medieval Moldova's fortification system.
Today, the town of Soroca is a little run down. The park around the fortress was littered with garbage. Stray dogs prowled around and fought with one another. Nearby, the main street was crowded with maxi-taxi's (private minibuses) and sunday pedestrians. We had coffee and a slice of cake - the only option in this particular cafe, it seemed - nearby, before getting back in our car and heading south.
I wish I had been able to take a few good pictures here, but it didn't seem possible. It's sad because this isn't a country with a multitude of castle options. This little fortress is one of their primary landmarks - it even appears on the back of the 20 Lei bill. Driving back towards the capital - through bleak, wintery vineyards - it was hard not to feel a twinge of guilt, as though I was doing the country a disservice.

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