Moldova is a country in Eastern Europe, and it is one of the hidden gems in terms of wine growing and pure natural beauty. It is also formerly part of the Soviet Union. It’s capital is Chișinău, which has a lot of Soviet-style architecture within the city. Let’s explore a bit of what to do in Moldova.
In fact, in Codru you will find some of the largest wine cellars (measured by the number of bottles, Milestii Mici is the largest
anywhere in the world). Also, Nistreana is the Purcari Wine Region which is known for its red wines such as Roşu de Purcari and Negru de Purcari. This region resides along the Western Dniester coast.
A Little Background on the Area
The country has a diverse terrain which includes vineyards, rocky hills, and forests. It has a lot of history which is reflected in its architecture, such as the Old Orhei Monastery which has been around for two thousand (2,000) years. The mansions of Gypsy Hill are quite spectacular adding to the local ambiance.
Every October in the capital city of Chișinău there is a wine festival for an entire weekend which promotes its ever expanding list of wines.
Officially this country is called the Republic of Moldova. This territory dates back to the fourteenth (14) century where the majority of it was part of the Principality of Moldavia until 1812. At that point in time the Ottoman Empire relinquished it to the Russian Empire. It was then called Bessarabia.
Then in 1856 southern Bessarabia was brought back to Moldavia. Romania was formed three (3) years later when Moldavia joined Wallachia. In 1878 Russian rule returned to the whole region. Romania yielded Bessarabia to the Soviet Union in 1949, which formed the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (MASSR).
After the break up of the Soviet Union the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (MASSR) declared its independence on April 27, 1991, and chose the name Moldova. In 1994, it adopted its constitution. After gaining independence the economy declined which produced many trade obstacles, energy shortages, and a lot of uncertainty in the political realm.
After forming agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank the economy picked up in the late 1990s. The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has increased on a steady basis since 1999. Even with a significant decrease in poverty over the past several years, Moldova still remains one of the poorest countries in Europe.
The country’s wine industry is well-established with the majority of its production destined for export. Many grape varieties and recipes have been passed down within families for many generations. Milestii Mici, the world’s largest wine cellar, holds nearly two million (2,000,000) bottles of wine.
Since ancient times, Moldova has been one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world due to its rich soil and a temperate continental climate, which has mild winters and warm summers. Products include grains, wine, fruits, grapes, and vegetables, as they are one of the main suppliers of agricultural products in southeastern Europe.
The cuisine is influenced greatly by neighboring Romania, but it is also impacted by Ukrainian, Turkish, and Russian dishes. There are a variety of cereals as well as cabbage, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, milk products, beef, and pork among the food choices. Some of the most well-known dishes are Branza, Borscht, Ghiveci, Mamaliga, Sarma, and Ciorba. The beverage of choice is “dvin”, a Moldovan brandy, but there is also plenty of beer and local wine.
Here is a short video which will give you a good idea of what Moldova is all about:
Now for a Few Facts
- Moldova is a parliamentary republic where the Prime Minister (Ion Chicu) heads up the government while the President (Igor Dodon) is the head of state
- In per capita terms this is the poorest country in Europe
- It is also the least visited European country
- Over sixty (60%) percent of the nation’s GDP is from the service sector
- The name of the country, Moldova, was gleaned from the Moldova River
- The capital, Chișinău, is the largest city in the country with a population of approximately 635,994 people
- The population of Moldova is about 4,033,963
- The currency is the Moldovan Leu (MDL)
- Although close to the Black Sea the country is landlocked with the largest part between the Prut and Dniester rivers
- The highest elevation is one thousand four hundred and eleven (1,411) feet (430 meters) which is Balanesti Hill
- The climate is moderately continental being cool in the spring and summer [20 °C (68 °F)] and colder in the autumn and winter [−4 °C (25 °F)]. These are average temperatures. On January 20,1963, they experienced their lowest temperature ever at −35.5 °C (−31.9 °F), while on July 21, 2007 the highest temperature was recorded at 41.5 °C (106.7 °F).
- The airport is Chișinău International Airport
- Railroads and highways are the main forms of transportation in the country
- This was the first country in the world to have HD Voice (high definition voice services) for mobile devices as well as the first European country to launch 14.4 Mbit/s mobile broadband nationally.
- Seventy-five (75%) of the population is comprised of Moldovans (or Moldavians)
- The official language is Romanian while the national language is Moldovan. Also, spoken are Ukrainian, Russian and Gagauz (Turkish dialect). Although many of the younger generation and those in the tourism industry speak English, it is not common for the older generation.
- The National Library of Moldova was created in 1832
- There are fifteen (15) private and sixteen (16) public institutions’ of higher education
- In 1946 the two main scientific institutions came into being: the Academy of Sciences of Moldova and Moldova State University
- The literacy rate is approximately ninety-nine (99%) percent
- The cultural traditional has its roots in Romanian origins
- In the musical realm the leading composers are Eugen Doga, Stefan Neaga, and Gavriil Musicescu. In the pop music area O-Zone was popular in 2003, while Carla’s Dreams came to the forefront in 2015. Pianist, Mark Zelster, and Marie Biesu, a world-leading soprano, are the most prominent in the classical music area.
- The national sport of Moldova is a form of wrestling called Trinta. Football and rugby are also popular.
- The Strong Drinks Museum, which is located in Tirnauca, is the largest building in the world shaped like a bottle
What is There to Do in this Part of the World?
Right between Ukraine to the east and Romania to the west, you will find a mix of these cultures as well as some aspects of Russia as well. But on its own right, you will find much of Moldova to appreciate. Since it is rarely visited and so remote, you can enjoy exploring this area of the world without a lot of crowds and tourists.
Also, a large part of the people who do visit are knowledgeable about wine, and they realize that Moldova produces some of the best wines anywhere in Europe. In addition to this, the hospitality of these people is authentic, and there are many local traditions of which to learn.
* Monasteries and Churches — there are many beautiful churches and monasteries throughout the country to visit. For example, the Voronet church is known as the “Sixtine Chapel of the East” and dates back to 1488 with its unique Moldavian architecture. It was built by Stefan the Great, the ruler there at the time. Căpriana monastery is one of the oldest monasteries of Moldova, and it is located in the town of Căpriana. One of the most beautiful monasteries in the country is Manastirea Curchi. On its grounds many churches have been constructed over the years (about 6). Presently today, there are five (5) churches, an outer wall, entrance tower, abbeys, reflectory, and cells. The largest and most imposing church on the grounds is the Mother of God which was built some time between 1866 and 1872. One of the most fantastic sights is the Orheiul Vechi Monastery Complex as it is situated on a huge limestone cliff in a very remote area of the country. People from all over the world come there just to see this area of the country. On the western banks of the Dniestr River, dug out of the rocks, is the Tipova Monastery, which has three (3) main complexes. One of them, the Church of St. Nicholas dates back to the fourteenth (14th) century. There are many panoramic waterfalls on the Tipova River.
* The National Museum of History of Moldova — dating back to the Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron ages, you will find twenty-two thousand two hundred and nine-two (22,292) specimens and objects unearthed from archaeological finds, donations, and other finds.
* Alexander Pushkin House and Museum — this is a very interesting place. It is a cottage where Russian poet, Alexandr Pushkin, resided between 1820 and 1823 while he was in exile. This is where he wrote a number of his poems, including the world-famous “Eugeny Onegin”. There are only two (2) Pushkin houses remaining in the world. The other being located in St. Petersburg, Russia.
* National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History — there are one hundred and thirty-five thousand (135,000) pieces of natural history housed here on the Republic of Moldova. It is the oldest museum in the country.
* The Wine Country — this is a great place to taste some of the best wines in the world. Since it is off the beaten track, you can enjoy a leisurely time without the crowds and hectic activity which is common in most well-known wine areas. This country has the highest production of wine in the world per capita. It ranks twelfth (12th) in the world among wine exporters. “Château Vartely” has some great wines as well as a hotel and restaurant. You may also want to check out Pucari Vineyards as well. The Cricova Winery is about a thirty (30) minute drive from Chisinau, and is the world’s second (2nd) largest underground winery (tastings and tours are available).
* Touring the Country — one of the best ways to see the area is to take a train ride. You will see a lot of beautiful scenery. The route between Chisinau on they way to Bucharest is especially stunning. It is about a fifteen (15) hour trip.
* Visit Saharna — this is a small village which is located approximately sixty-eight (68) miles (110 km) from the capital city of Chisinau. It has one of the most gorgeous waterfalls which creates a deep cove which is called “Gipsy Hole”. It is situated close to the well-known Holy Trinity Monastery. The landscapes and overall natural sites of this area are simply breathtaking. There are twenty-two (22) waterfalls along the River Sharna.
* Chisinau — the capital city offers modern conveniences within a historical setting but you still get the feel of nature here with plenty of parks and open green areas. Memorial Park has a World War II memorial orange pyramid. You can also check out Pushkin Park, St. Theodor Tiron Church, the Nativity Cathedral, and take a walk under the Triumphal Arch. You can also find some talented folks within the Art Market. Last but not least, there are plenty of spas, art galleries, casinos, nightclubs, bars, and restaurants within the city limits.
So Why Visit Moldova?
Well one reason is the lack of crowds since it only averages around twelve thousand (12,000) visitors per year, making it the least visited country in Europe. In addition to that, there is so much stunning natural beauty for you to take in and enjoy and in very relazing fashion. In fact, Chisinau is a very charming city due to its beautiful countryside, parks, and natural setting.
The people are friendly and genuinely appreciate people visiting their country. Unlike some former Soviet countries, the people share their feelings freely about what it was like to be under Communist control, both pros and cons. There is an excitement in the air now that they have gained their independence, which is exemplified in their attitude and current projects.
Since they are a very poor nation, it is not an expensive place to visit compared to other parts of the world. You can definitely have a very nice time on a modest budget. For example, you can get a very good meal for about three ($3 USD) dollars. As far as lodging is concerned you have a few choices. On the low end there is the Chisinau Chill Hostel for about six ($6 USD) in a dorm setting, the Bazar Motel which is more mid range at twenty-nine ($29 USD) dollars for a double, and on the higher side there is the City Park Hotel which will cost about ninety-four ($94 USD) dollars per night.
If you are into wine at all this is the place to be. Some of their very own grape varietals produce some extremely delicious whites and reds. Castel Mimi is a must for a tour and tasting. In addition, you can also get some very good cognac, called divin, here. Check out the Kvint Distillery in Tiraspol.
The food is delicious and you can get some of the best tasting vegetables and fruits here. In the Central Market or Piata Centrala you can find household supplies, clothing, and produce.
This is most definitely Europe’s little secret hangout for those in the know. Even though there are more glamorous places to visit, this is one place you may want to consider.
Happy and Safe Travels to You,