Moldova, a small country in Eastern Europe is not a place most commonly visited by bunches of tourists. Few years ago visiting Moldova for the first time we thought that most of visitors arrive there looking only for cheap dental care. Now we noticed much more tourists in the country. There are even some tourist information centers, however they still sell maps and travel guides instead of giving them for free and direct tourists to most important places. But all that is yet to come to Moldova. Accomodation offer is still not developed, transport is poor, crossing the boarders complicated but despite all that in our opinion Moldova is worth visiting. Check below in details why we think so.
When you write Moldova, you mean wine. This liquor accompanies Moldavians from birth until death. In the times of happiness and sadness. It is present at breakfast, lunch and dinner, you will find it everywhere, sold from the barrel, bottled or simply by glasses. What is more in every house there is a cellar where the host keeps at least few hundred liters of own production. After many years of being a part of USSR, which pressed only for quantity, Moldovan wine is getting better and better, suffice to say that Buckingham Palace buys their wines. And Negru de Purcari is supposedly Quinn Elizabeth’s favourite one.
When you get bored by wine, remember that Moldova has also valued brandy!
Moldova has plenty of vineyards, 20% of their GDP is made by this brunch of industry. Here are located world’s largest wine cellars. Milesti Mici stores almost 2 milion bottles underground where corridors are at least 200 kilometers long. Such numbers have to impress. The other winery, smaller one, Cricova, is also impresive in terms of quantity of wine and holds an underground production of sparkling wines. Mazes of corridors in both places are so big that you visit them by car or an electric train. Far smaller but the oldest in Moldova Purkari Winery, producing the most famous Negru de Purcari, is also worth paying a visit.
If you get bored with big wineries get off the main trail and look for some local ones!
3. Cultural and political melting pot
It seems that such a small country as Moldova would not be able to hold many nationalities and autonomic areas within its borders. Meanwhile Moldovan left-bank of Dniester, with its Russian and Ukrainian inhabitants is in fact a sovereign country of Transnistria and southers areas of the country are the home of Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia where over 80% of people are Turkish-speaking Orthodox Christians – Gagauz. It is even more sophisticated in terms of languages: the official one in the country is Moldavian but in practice most of citizens do not use it and the main way of communication is Russian language, which also is an official one in Gagauzia and Transnistria.
If you will still be looking for more diversity you can visit Stircea called “Little Warsaw”, a capital of Polish emigrants in Moldova.
4. Landscapes, water wells and altars
Moldova is the least urbanized area in Europe, even its capital, Chisinau, except couple of places resembles a bigger village. Nowhere in Europe you will find so much space unspoiled by industry. Traveling through Bessarabia you will pass endless vineyards, fields of sunflowers and orchards, all that intervowen by little villages with so characteristic for Moldovan landscape, amazingly decorated water wells and roadside altars. Land is so beautifut at every time of the year, in summer it is incredibly green, in fall yellow-orange, in winter sometimes white from snow which after only few weeks melts and lets everything bloom again.
When you get bored by flat topography of the country you can try to climb the highest peak of Moldova, 430-meter-high Dealul Bălănești.
5. Idyllic life
As we mentioned before, an integral part of this country are village landscapes. Old Moldovan saying tells that every man in his life needs to have a son, build a house, plant a tree and build a water well. Those typical for this areas numerous water wells and altars together with modest but very often decorated with local patterns houses create wonderful and unique landscapes. What is interesting in many villages there is sewage systems but using water supply is expensive and people stick to water form their own wells. Although the villages are not rich the people are friendly and kind.
If you get bored with this quiet rural life we advise to visit Soroca, world capital of Roma people with all that Byzantine splendor.
6. Good Bye, Lenin
Do you know the movie in which the son of communist activist after the fall of Berlin Wall for the sake of mother’s health creates for her an illusion of the old world? If they were to shoot it in Moldova they wouldn’t have to worry about the sceneries. Statues of Wladimir Iljitsh Lenin stilll decorate main squares of Tiraspol and Comrat. Here and there you can come accross the other types of monuments such as udarniks or tanks. Only entering the capital city of Chisinau you will see the gate to the city created by two huge buildings on both sides of the street. They reach up to several floors and the farther from the street, the lower buildings are and the whole thing looks like huge open doors to the time machine. But do not expect to move in time that far, in both cities modern capitalism is growing rappidly disorting by far coherent architecture with buildings of dubious beauty.
If you get overwhelmed by the grey socialist neighborhoods you can visit the iconic for capitalism McDonald’s restaurant in Chisinau which apart from free WIFI offers also beer!
7. Stork and wine or Moldovan fortresses
One of Moldovan legends tells the story of the siege of one of local fortresses. During a long time blockade, when closed inside the stronghold people already ran out of food and water, unexpectedly flew some storks holding in their beaks bunches of grapes. They dropped them to the courtyard giving people food and faith in victory. Stork holding a bunch of grapes became a symbol of Moldovan wine-making connecting fortresses with this liquor. Today the most famous fortress is the one located in Soroca, built in 15th century to protect the country from invasions of Tatars. It is also worth to visit the fortress in Bender, which construction started in the times of Stefan III the Great, and final shape was given during Ottoman era. Today those strongholds became important elements of Moldovan identity reminding citizens the golden ages of country’s history. Moldovans are so proud of them that they depict it on coins, official documents and even ID cards.
And if you still do not have enough, visit located not so far in Ukraine fortres of Akerman in Bilhorod Dnistrovskij.
8. Churches and monasteries
At the time when God was giving people their lands Moldovans were gone. One version of the legend says that they simply overslept but the other one blames the amount of consumed wine. Few days after when they came to God he had no more land to give them. As he didn’t want to take it from other nations said “Ok, come and live with me in paradise”. And that’s how the country was founded. Now you know why Moldovans are so greatful and thank God for this gift every day. The center of Moldovan Orthodox is a monastery complex Orheiul Vechi with the church carved in the rock and monastery caves from 12th century and centrally located the Cathedral of Christ’s Nativity in Chisinau. Moldovan Orthodox churches do not always make stunning impression from outside but inside they usually are amazing. To feel local Orthodox spirit except those most popular ones visit also some smaller churches, they sometimes are way more inspiring.
Fed up with Orthodox? Try to find the Snagogue in Chisinau and one of the biggest Jewish cemeteries in Europe.
9. Travel by marshrutka
Although Moldova is a very little country travel accross it takes quite a lot of time. Railway transport does not really exist, trains and railways are in poor condition. The same situation is with roads but the main way of transports are still marshrutkas – old, overloaded buses, journey by which is kind of an adventure itself. The worst thing about them is definitely temperature. When the tourists sweating like pigs dream about opening the window Moldovans do not even think about it. The reason for it might be either being used to such heat or strong belief that good spirits fly through open windows. Interesting is the fact that you can face the same heat also in winter, when car heating is always turned to maximum. When ill-mannered tourist wants to undress from the last layer of his clothes Moldovans just start taking off their fur hats. Real Tashkent.
If you run out of patience to travel by marshrutkas you can always hitchhike. Not only passenger car but also other vehicles drivers willingly stop to give others a ride. Do not despise anything, your best adventure might wait for you even in an old wagon.
10. Kvas for hangover
Combinig beautiful nature, Moldovan wines, cuisine and fine company one can fear for difficult mornings. If you are not brave enough to, as old saying tells, cure yourself with the poison, try some kvas. Nowhere in the world you will find better one.