Moldova: The Orhei National Park – from neglect to World Heritage recognition
20 October 2016. Not long ago, the Republic of Moldova – lacking both mountains and coastlines - was considered to be bereft of tourist attractions. Even its own people did not really realize that there is an exceptional cultural-natural treasury right in the middle of the country, just 50 km from the capital city.
The Orhei zone was perceived to be typical in its riversides, old villages, and forests. Its inhabitants were not aware of what they had: thus architectural monuments were abandoned and degrading, and forests were cut and used inappropriately. As Elisabeta Țurcanu, 56, put it: “When I moved here 30 years ago, the forests here were very rich, full of berries and mushrooms. Now nothing can be found in them”
Only in 2002 were the first rural tourist services launched. Then, in 2008, the Ministry of Environment - in partnership with UNDP Moldova and with the financial support of the Global Environment Facility - initiated the procedure for establishing the country's National Park, within the framework of “improving coverage and management effectiveness of the protected area system in Moldova”. In 2013 Parliament decided to establish the Orhei National Park.
Attractive for its biological, cultural, and architectural diversity, and easily accessible to tourists, the National Park was established to preserve biodiversity, stop the degradation of forestry ecosystems, restore sustainable management of forests and pastures, preserve cultural and architectural-historical heritage, and promote environmentally-friendly farming and eco-tourism.
With the UNDP/GEF project support, studies were carried out to identify tourist attractions, tourist maps were created, tourist routes were marked, information boards were installed, important areas were reforested, and local people were trained in the importance of conserving biodiversity all so as sustainably develop rural tourism in Moldova.
Important values of rural civilization and national culture are concentrated in Orhei, within an attractive and picturesque frame. Many centuries-old traditions have been preserved here, with an original combination of habits, rituals, folklore, etc.
The Orhei National Park is an important tourist attraction, as are the Trebujeni and Ţiganesti landscape reserves, Churchi forest, dozens of archeological sites, a city from the time of the Golden Horde, an enhanced medieval Moldovan city, 5 monasteries, 4 boyar aristocratic manors, and much else. And it is also liked by lovers of transcendental practices, who consider it to be an especially energetic centre.
The Orhei National Park is now an area of national importance, protected by law. Part of the national park – cultural-natural reserve “Old Orhei” is in the process of being included in UNESCO's World Heritage List.