So here I am, returning to Soroca fortress eleven years after my first visit. I have a vague image in my head, and am curious to see if that image comes close to reality. That first time, I had taken public transport from Chisinau after the bus from Orhei didn't open its doors for me. It was late October, and a crisp cold laid a fine white layer of frost over the Moldovan landscapes. This time around, we are driving, making the trip so much easier but less adventurous. Moreover, it is summer: the fields are covered in thousands of sunflowers. When I see the fortress rise up in the distance, I instantly recognise it. The circular towers and the circular shape make the structure look well-balanced and well-thought. We park the car, and try to get in. A women tries to make us enter, asking for a donation, but we decide to go for an official ticket. After buying it, we enter.
Originally, Soroca fortress was a wooden structure, and built by Stephan the Great, the national hero of Moldova, at the end of the 15th century. It stands close to the river banks of the Dniester, thus giving it a strategic position. It was part of a long line of forts along the Dniester river. It was therefore rebuilt in stone in the mid 16th century. The structure is perfectly circular, and the four bastions surrounding it are circular as well. Only the entrance gate at the east side of the fortress is rectangular. This fortress was besieged by the Ottomans, and was later sacked in the Russo-Turkish war. To better protect the building against projectiles, the walls are curved rather than straight. The same goes for the towers that rise high above us. While the walls are all made of thick stone, the roofs are made of wood.
Once we're inside, we find the surprisingly small courtyard. It is all but empty, contrary to my previous visit when there were more visitors and even a wedding party going on. This is undoubtedly because of the travel restrictions in place for the pandemic. We walk around the ground floor, and then head straight to the top floor of the fort. All the towers can be visited, and while they are all rather empty inside, it is clear how good a view the defenders had here in times of attacks. We walk along the entire length of the crenellated wall, enjoying views of the city of Soroca, the hill on the south side of town, and the Dniester river and the Ukrainian landscape on the other side. On our way down, we pay a visit to the small chapel in the rectangular tower. It is less opulent than the orthodox chapels that can be found elsewhere. More impressive is a copy of a long sword once used by Stefan cel Mare, or Stefan the Great.
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