Published: October 20th 2007October 11th 2007
We had decided to go to the cave monasteries today rather than risk being shot in transdnistr. We got up early with Chris and set off towards the central bus station. Lonely Planet suggested that getting to Orhei cave monasteries would be rather easy, so we left Chisinau with minimal research. It took us a while to find the right minibus to Orhei and when we did, the only three seats were right at the back of the bus. I got stuck next to some sleazy guy who kept on moving over till his hands were all over my legs. During a sharp turn my elbow happened to fall rather heavily into his crotch and from then he was rather better behaved.
Once we got to Orhei we discovered that the 10km to the monastery that Lonely Planet described was actually more like 20km. The three of us approached a taxi and he quoted a price of 250 Lei (£13) one way. After having a bit of a shocked laugh, we walked away to find another taxi. Let’s just say that Orhei was slightly smaller than we had anticipated and there didn't appear to be an abundance of taxis. Anyone
who has traveled Eastern Europe will know that taxi drivers look more like everyday citizens driving battered old cars. We decided to walk down a few roads mentioning loudly to each other that we happened to need a "TAXI!" whenever a man was around. We got plenty of strange looks, but sadly none of the men we accosted were taxi drivers. We became desperate enough for a means of getting to the Monastery that we even ventured into a Western Union and Chris exchanged some money with the hope of finding out from the cashier how to get there. We were pretty desperate so when we came across a shop we went in and asked if they spoke English. To our utter amazement the lady not only spoke a bit of English but she was the nicest person ever. She first rang the taxi company for us and explained the price system for us. Secondly she ordered the taxi for us and told him where to take us etc. Thirdly she rang her daughter who spoke fantastic English and let me speak to her to make sure we had understood everything.
The taxi driver was very quiet but he
did stop and point out the0ked up to the hill at the top of the valley and other than the breathtaking views, there was little else there. We wandered around for a bit trying to find an entrance to the caves. We did find a little cave chapel where a few monks were living, the sleeping quarters seemed horrific. Eventually we spotted a group of kids on some sort of trip climbing up towards us and their teacher came and told us which way to go.
The path we took was more like a sheep track and lead down to the bottom of the valley where we wandered along trying to distinguish the man made caves from the natural cases of erosion. The caves we did find were disused but still rather impressive. Markings, Sculpting and other things gave us an idea of how the caves were used. The views from the caves were phenomenal and you really wouldn't tire of looking at them. Unfortunately the taxi driver was waiting for us so we decided not to go any further round the valley.
We got back to Chisinau safe And sound and we split from Chris to go
and get a nibble to eat. We ate at Autobus again for both the ease of ordering and it was on the way home.
At the hostel everyone was there apart from Scottish Chris who had to return home because of his lack of Cards. We chatted again for quite a while and seeing as though it is Marco's last night as well as ours, we arranged to meet up later on for a drink. Chris took us to the internet Café around the corner and we nipped on to check and book a hostel for Brasov.
Rob and I went to try and find a Lebanese restaurant that was recommended in Lonely Planet however, true to form it had ceased to exist so we had to make a hasty choice. We opted for a French place that was right next to Greenways we ate at yesterday. I asked the waiter who was standing at the door whether they had vegetarian options and he said yes, so we stayed. The place was snooty and the waiters were massively over the top. Ordering a bottle of wine was so bewildering due to the sheer amount on offer. We opted
for a Riesling because it was the only affordable one from Milesti Mici on the list. The vegetarian options were none existent so I asked a really nice waiter if I could have a side dish made into a main, which he agreed to. The waiter who served us told me in a rather condescending manner that I should order a side dish and if I was still hungry to order more once I'd finished.
After the meal we met Chris and Marco in Autobus. There we had a few beers and I had another variety of local brandy. We decided to try again to find the Elephant club that we had all read about in Lonely Planet, however this was an impossible task so we called it a night and went back to the hostel.
There are more photos below