Even the day I was heading there, I had never heard of Butuceni. That’s I had never heard of it. Now, having spent a day in this tiny farming village in rural Moldova, I will never forget it and I loved it. I’d already booked to stay overnight in Chisinau in the Tapok Hostel, but if I hadn’t I’d actually spend a night in Butuceni, rather than just come here on a day trip as I did. It was one hell of an adventure my friends and here’s a report on it.
OK so I got a bus from Chisinau to Orheiul Vechi with the intention of visiting the cave monastery there and then getting the next bus I could back to Chisinau. As the only backpacker on this dreamy journey, I got more than I bargained for and ended up loving this day out. It was just one of those inspiring days of travel as my backpack and weary soul hit up unknown Butuceni. I’ve already written about the journey to get to Butuceni and the Monastery Tour of Orheiul Vechi.
So basically after touring the Monastery and Church at Orheiul Vechi, I knew the only way to get back to Chisinau was the once a day late bus, which leaves at 4.05 pm from the hill near the bridge at the entrance to the monastery and the village of Butuceni. I had finished seeing Orheiul Vechi by 12.30 pm so I had 3 and a half hours to kill. I hadn’t brought my laptop, so even if I did find somewhere to sit down, I couldn’t do any offline work. What happened was even better than I could have imagined.
After seeing Orheiul Vechi, I walked down the path to the village of Butuceni ( a tiny settlement that is at the bottom of the hill) and seriously it was just a street with some cool looking houses and farms on it, with hardly a soul in sight. There is one touristy sign on the walk down to Butuceni.
There must be something I can do here, I thought. So walking towards me comes a young girl. I stop and ask her where I can get a coffee. Obviously in this rural farming village in deep Moldovan countryside, not much English will be spoken, nor would I want it to be. But symbolising the need for a coffee is a universal action and this girl leads me up to what is known as Butuceni Eco Resort. Amazing!
Here in this tranquil farming village, a local entrepreneur called Anatolie has opened up a fantastic hotel complex which serves as the only decent public cafe, bar and restaurant in the village.
It’s a cold day and I sit down beside a hot fire, am given some biscuits and coffee and I get out my travel books and start making notes.
Then Anatolie comes out and introduces himself – he speaks decent English and we chat at length. He tells me all about this business he has here and I’m just so impressed that I’ve stumbled upon this place and to meet this smart man at the foot of one of the coolest monasteries in the world!
There are staff working here for Anatolie – they are mostly farming girls and guys. Anatolie tells me that Angela and Zina will give me a guided tour of the farm so they do.
I get to see cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, goats, horses. It’s fascinating. It’s also really off the wall – how many places can you go and just get a guided tour of a farm, up close, touching animals etc.? It reminded me of the lonely village of Xinaliq in Azerbaijan from the previous year. I meet Tudor the farmer who lets me take photos and make videos of their farm. This is why I love travel.
Then Zina takes me down the main street in Butuceni and gives me a tour of the hotel complex and I am just amazed. It seems to spring itself up out of nowhere.
From a quiet lane through this tranquil village, you wouldn’t quite believe that a full on health spa exists here – in pristine condition and just a perfect tonic for what I needed. Your body gets travel weary and apart from my Spa night in Caldea Andorra, I haven’t really chilled out much the last few years.
So my day was all made up already. It was a case of see the church, cave monastery and views then stumble into Butuceni to tour the farms, have some coffee, relax in a spa, meet some really cool local Moldovans and then have a dinner in the wee restaurant before the girls agreed to walk me down to where I could easily get the last bus back to Chisinau. As travel days go, this was just pure off the wall spontaneous bliss.
The spa complex is sublime – pools, jacuzzis and baths. Plus the relaxation of those hot tiled stones that you lie on. Zina puts the fire in and I relax for about 45 minutes here on my own, just loving it. Yes I was the only tourist there and the only person to use the spa. Zina was the only other person who came into the spa the whole time.
Then all freshened up, I head back into the restaurant and order my dinner. I go for Zeama which is a local chicken soup. Being in Moldova, famous for wine, I decide to have my first glass of Moldovan wine here and opt for a Chardonnay. It’s served to perfection in a pot and I’m still just amazed by the day I’m having!
Then Anatolie comes up to ask if everything was good and I tell him how cool a place he has here that not many foreign tourists know about and will rarely hear about it or visit. I tell him about this website, Don’t Stop Living, my online travel writing career and the companies I’ve worked for to promote travel the last few years. He loves the idea that I’ll be able to write something about my day out, help promote him and this place Butuceni Eco Resort will have some internet publicity, to remain online for others to see!
I’m excited too. Then the highlight, as Anatolie takes me down into his wine cellar to get some samples. This is just pure travel class.
Just the two of us sipping Moldovan wines and chatting about travel in this cellar. It’s been raining down outside all day (as it did in my entire 5 day stint in Moldova and Transnistria!) but that hasn’t dulled the day.
As we say our goodbyes, In between times I get my photo with Zina and Olesea the lady working there.
After finishing my dinner, wine and coffee (and getting a free fresh bit of bread to take away), Zina takes me down to the bus “stop.” and gets me on the correct bus at the correct time, along with 2 of her friends.
The bus takes me back through the darkening drizzle to the capital city, Chisinau, back to where all this madness began.
This was one inspiring day out, and it didn’t end there as I had a crazy night in Chisinau too, where I ate more local food, met a guy from Northern Ireland in my hostel, the gang of backpackers from Young Pioneer Tours and ended up in a karaoke bar singing Common People by Pulp!
Truly amazing, and so here it is for you – if you ever want to visit Orheiul Vechi and Butuceni – please send Anatolie an email and he’ll sort you out. I’d recommend spending a night here and if my backpack drifts me into Moldova again, for sure I will.
So in short, the top 9 things to see in do in Butuceni would actually be:
1. Orheiul Vechi Church
2. Orheiul Vechi Cave Monastery
3. Orheiul Vechi Bell Tower
4. Countryside Views from Orheiul Vechi and Butuceni
5. War Memorial in Butuceni
6. Farm tour in Butuceni
7. Spa visit in Butuceni
8. Local meal in Butuceni
9. Wine sampling in Butuceni
Here are some of my videos from an utterly magnificent day out in Butuceni, backpacking in Moldova was just full of surprises: