Following the Traces of Trajan’s Wall
“Trajan’s Wall” is the system of Roman linear earthen fortications found across Eastern Europe; Romania, Ukraine and Moldova. Historically the “Moldovan” part of the wall consisted of earthen walls (ramparts), with wooden palisades on top and a ditch on the outer side. This route follows part the Lower Trajan Wall, which runs from the village of Vadul-lui-Isac north to Vulcaneti.
Distance from Chisinau (capital of Moldova): 180 km to the start point.
Diculty: The path can be muddy after rain or snowfall. Possible variations – hiking, bike.
Route Distance: Full circle = 55 km; Linear path with visit to the Fort site = 37 km; Short circular route from Vadul-lui-Isac= 25 km.
Estimated total time for the route: 25 km hike – 6 hours; 37 km bike – 7 hours; 55 km bike – 8.7 hours, including lunch, sightseeing and photography.
Refreshments and water supply: Small private shops (’alimentara’), bars, and cafe are available in Cahul, and at the villages at the end point of the wall. The trail itself is in the arid Bujak steppe of southern Moldova. There are no human settlements, except for few sheep farms with water brought on site in steel tanks, which stays in the sun for weeks. This is a remote area in terms of visitors. In villages it is customary to help yourself to water from the wells, though the water should ideally be boiled before drinking. The route is generally arid in summer but there is one fresh water spring with good quality drinking water at the half way point. There are no restaurants or cafes along the route, so it is best to take a packed lunch and plenty of water (minimum 2 litres per person), in the summer months. In Vulcanesti you can park your car in front of Hotel “Speranta”, but ask permission at reception (contact: (373) 293 2-19-37). Next to the hotel Speranta in Vulcanesti there is a cafe, where you can take refreshment or a‘ warmer’ to start or end your trip. It is worth phoning ahead to arrange a cooked meal (contact: (373) 69021526 or (373) 69009).
Amenities: Toilet facilities can be found in Cahul, Vulcanesti and at the villages near the Prut River. For any toilet stops in natural areas, please move a distance from the pathand 60 m from any streams and lakes. Please ensure that all solid human waste and toilet tissue is buried in a ‘cat hole’ to a minimum depth of 15cm then disguise the hole.
Trajan’s Legions. According to the defensive strategy employed by the Roman Empire, frontier defences were generally built along a natural barrier; where none were available they built a wall, as here. The Wall had several purposes. It was literally ‘massive prestige’, the largest man-made object locals would ever have seen,. Trajan’s ‘wall’ created an excellent boundary delineating the “Great Empire” from “Heathen outlanders,” and it’s a reasonable defense line in itself; Random raiding parties would denitely have been deterred. Against more determined attacks, the wall worked as a speed bump. The troops at the wall fought a delaying action while signaling to the legionary forts. Along this wall the legionary wall forts were evenly positioned. Garrisons of variable quality, usually auxiliary, second-line troops recruited for sentry duty on the walls and to provide fast communication to rear lines (dispatch riders, runners, beacons, smoke signals.) From these front line forts, Roman roads were built connecting to larger regional forts with garrisons made up of professional legionaries. They were very well trained, equipped and disciplined soldiers with good ocers and generally lots of combat experience. Two Roman legion camps (each numbering 5,000 infantry soldiers) were located about 60 km to the south, where the Danube River makes its last big turn.
Outlanders, the tribes beyond the wall:
The Huns (ancestors of today’s Hungarians) precipitated the Great Migrations into the Western Roman Empire in the form they took in the late fourth and fth centuries. The Huns were a confederation of Central Asian tribes, who were spreading out across a large area of Eurasia. Although they had established control over a large area of Eastern Europe under Attila’s rule (434-453), they had never settled in large numbers within the Roman Empire itself: they preferred to raid and leave its government to others. Instead, they pushed rst the Goths, and then other Germanic peoples, to invade the Roman Empire ahead of their advance. Before the Huns, this area was swept by sizeable numbers of the Vandals, Alans and Sueves, who were displaced by Huns from the Caucasus, they travelled down the north bank of the Danube to escape them.
The Ostrogoths were a second wave of Goths from around the Crimea, they had been a subject part of Attila’s kingdom, until they rebelled in the early 450s.
Directions. The route starts in the city of Vulcanesti, 180 kilometers south from Chisinau.
Cycling version. From the Hotel “Speranta”you take the direction uphill to the east until you reach a 22 meter high white stone tower monument on your right. This monument is remembering the Battle of Cahul of 1770 in which the Russian empire, with a much smaller army, defeated the Ottoman Empire. At the monument you take the road to the left. This road will intersect with the Trajan’s Wall 3.5 km after the starting point at the hotel. Here you go left again and follow the map.17.5 km from the start, Trajan’s Wall is very clearly dened. The dierence between the highest point of the rampart and the lowest point of the ditch is about 10 meters. Nearby is a forest, which provides a nice place for a picnic. Before entering Vadul-lui-Isac village we recommend taking a short detour to your left to follow a branch of the wall leading to the site of the frontier fort, on a ridge east from the village of Colibasi, in the area known locally as “Frunzari”. Continue following the route marked on the map. When you meet the Colibasi-Vulcanesti road again, turn left. It is a further18 km to Vulcanesti, there are no other villages along this stretch of road. The road is full of holes and bumps, an excuse to stop frequently and admire the landscape. When you reach themain road in the outskirts of Vulcanesti, you go turn left to return to the centre of the city, and the start point.
For a hiking version we recommend to start in v.Vadul-lui-Isac, south of the town of Cahul, follow about half of the trail towards the east, visit the frontier Fort site andreturn to Vadul-lui-Isac.