Traveling to the Struve Geodetic Arc in Moldova
The Struve Geodetic Arc is one of the most intriguing UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Spanning ten countries, it looks like it should be easy to check off the list. However, it ended up being one of my weirdest and most difficult to reach sites to date. Seven hours after leaving my hotel, standing in the middle of an apple field while my driver took my photo standing next to the marker, I was elated. But really, should a place clearly marked with handy GPS coordinates, a place that is the country’s sole UNESCO site, be so hard to find?
My visit started off with the simple request that my hotel arrange for their driver to take me to it, using the specific GPS coordinates of the point. The receptionist hadn’t heard of the Struve Arc at all and neither had my driver. But we had GPS coordinates and Google Maps, how lost could we get?
My driver, who is the same one who took me to Transnistria the next day, spoke no English. This didn’t seem to be a problem, as he would just call the hotel and hand me to phone to speak. This trick has worked in more countries than I can count, so I still wasn’t worried.
When we pulled up to Rudi Monastery and he gestured that we were at the place, well, that is when I started to worry.
By now you know me well enough to know that if presented with the opportunity to visit an old monastery, I will take it. I’ll tell the story of this monastery in a separate post, but for now, I’ll just say it was amazing. But it was also not where I needed to go.
Leaving the monastery, my driver called the hotel, handed me the phone, and the receptionist asked me if I was ready to go back to Chisinau.
“Actually, we still need to go to the arc.”
Thus began forty or so minutes of trying to figure out where it was. My driver went back to the monastery, but they’d never heard of it. No one at the hotel could help. The GPS coordinates didn’t work (although I think they just didn’t understand what I was saying). We started driving around in circles, trying to see if we could see a trace of what we were looking for.
Finally, my driver asked a farmer walking down the side of the road, and he knew what I was talking about. Not only that, but he also knew exactly how we could get there!
It’s not that Moldova doesn’t have the arc marked on the road, it’s that the sign is hard to see from the highway. But once we knew what we were looking for, we felt silly that it had been so difficult to find.
Walking up to the arc, I could tell my driver thought I was a fool. All this fuss for a statue in the middle of an apple field? But for me, this moment was the entire reason I’d added Moldova to my itinerary. Victory was mine.
What is the Struve Geodetic Arc?
According to the UNESCO website, the Struve Geodetic Arc is:
…a chain of survey triangulations stretching from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea, through 10 countries and over 2,820 km. These are points of a survey, carried out between 1816 and 1855 by the astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve, which represented the first accurate measuring of a long segment of a meridian. This helped to establish the exact size and shape of the planet and marked an important step in the development of earth sciences and topographic mapping. It is an extraordinary example of scientific collaboration among scientists from different countries, and of collaboration between monarchs for a scientific cause.
Bet that didn’t make it into your high school history text, huh?
The UNESCO site lists thirty-four of the original 265 stations, with more being worked on to be added to the list in the future. It runs through Belarus, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Moldova, Russia, Sweden, and Ukraine. Different countries have different monuments to the arc, and some have observatories and other related buildings.
Like any other list, once it’s out there, someone will want to finish it. I’m not sure if I’m committing to seeing each of these serial points (though it’s tempting), but I know I’ll seek out at least a few more.
How to Get to the Struve Geodetic Arc in Rudi, Moldova
Ah, well, I’m glad you asked. Because no one seemed to know. And I can’t tell you precisely either, but I’ll give it a shot.
It’s near the town of Rudi, which any driver should be able to get you. I spent fifty euros to be driven from Chisinau to Rudi, visiting both the monastery and the arc. These fifty euros covered seven hours, and I tipped another five. The driver acted like this was a bit overpriced (I’d negotiated with the hotel), so you could probably get it down a little less if you negotiate.
My best approximation of directions: Head to Rudi. The arc is right off the highway. There is a sign on the highway, but you have to drive slowly to see it. You turn off the highway at the sign, and there’s also a small Orthodox shrine nearby on the highway. Park near the abandoned building, and walk down the brick path across the street.
If you’re driving (the roads in Moldova were very easy), you can put the coordinates in your GPS yourself. That would be the easiest way. Otherwise, know that if you ask enough people in Rudi how to get there, someone will be able to tell you eventually. Don’t give up.
Public transit: I have no idea. I’m sure it’s possible since it’s on the highway, but the language barrier might get in the way.
- Once you’re at the arc, you need fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on how serious of a photographer you are. There’s not much to see or do once you’re there.
- There are other points in Moldova that aren’t part of the UNESCO site yet, but you can look for those, too.
- The gas stations on the highway between Chisinau and Rudi are very modern, so you can stock up on whatever road trip snacks you need.
- I would suggest a stop at the Rudi Monastery as well. It’s the major tourist attraction in the area (though I was the only tourist there during my visit).
- The roads are great, so renting a car is also a great option.
You May Also Like
- The UNESCO World Heritage Site List – what it is and why it’s a great list to travel
- The time I visited a Serbian UNESCO Site in Kosovo guarded by American troops at the Medieval Monuments in Kosovo
- My UNESCO World Heritage Site Bucket List