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Moldova – a hidden treasure

Lut 03

Have you ever heard of this small country located between Ukraine and Romania? Moldova is the least touristy country in the world. It’s a country with many fascinating spots not discovered by the crowds yet. Here are a few interesting facts about the Republic of Moldova.

Moldovan language

The Moldovans used to call their language “Moldovan”, but in fact it’s a regional version of Romanian, and in 2013 Romanian was officially appointed the official language of Moldova. Due to its Soviet history and geographical proximity, most of the population speaks Russian better than Romanian. Most public writing, for example on menus, leaflets, signs, etc., are translated into both languages. Translation agencies must have their hands full! 😉  Older and educated people tend to speak Russian more, but it’s not recognized as an official language. Not all Moldavans can speak “Moldovan” (Romanian).:-)

Romanian in Romania and in Moldova are almost the same, there are just a few regional vocabulary differences. Both of them use the Latin script. Don’t confuse “Moldova” with “Moldavia”, which is the name of the historical region between the Dniester River and the Eastern Carpathians. Nowadays, this region is a part of 3 countries: Romania, Moldova and Ukraine.

Wine

Moldova’s top export product is wine. Many Moldovan people work in the industry and Moldova is among the world’s top 10 wine exporters. Wine cellars are a must-see. For example, you can go to Cricova, located only 15 km from the capital of Chisinau. The cellars in total are around 120 kilometers long. During your visit you will be shown around only a selected part of it. The guide will take you on drive to the most beautiful places, as the total distances are enormously far. The cellar is located in limestone rock formations meaning that the temperature remains around 12°C and the humidity level is stable, making it the perfect spot for wine production, especially for sparkling wines. You can see how the wine is made and visit the underground city and charming conference rooms. A must-do is a tasting of award-winning Moldovan wines. Interestingly, many famous politicians have their own wine shelf here, you can see wine belonging to Donald Tusk and Angela Merkel. Book your tour a few days in advance, but don’t be afraid of crowds – Moldova is the spot least overrun by tourists in all of Europe. People still don’t know about its amazing charm.

Chisinau

Chisinau looks like a typical Soviet city at first glance, but you can see many beautiful old Orthodox monasteries there. One of the most beautiful of these is the Ciuflea Monastery. This Orthodox temple looks gorgeous, the building is blue and white and the roofs are blue or gold. The most popular spot in the city is the Triumphal Arch situated in the center close to the Cathedral of the Nativity and opposite Government House.

Chisinau Bus Station

If you need to take a bus to other towns or countries from there, for example to Transnistria, you need to go to the most exotic place in the capital, the Main Bus Station. Don’t look for any bus schedules or destination names at the bus stops. The ticket office does not provide any information except ticket prices. If you want to find where the starting point of your marszrutka mini bus is, you need to ask local drivers taking rest there or simply walk along shouting your destination name, for example “Tiraspol, Tiraspol” and wait till bus driver waves to you. 🙂

Agriculture in the city center

Chisinau is a capital city, but it’s not overcrowded (actually it’s empty:-)). There are many beautiful parks and a mere 15 minutes’ walk from the center, the area looks like a village and you can have your own garden and buy fresh eggs or home-made wine from your neighbor.

Transnistria

Transnistria is a part of Moldova which calls itself a separate country. If you go there from Chisinau for example, you need to pass border control. Transnistria, with its capital in Tiraspol, is not an officially recognized country and is treated as an autonomous region of Moldova in the international arena. Transnistria was created in 1990, when local authorities decided to stay in the Soviet Union and Moldova decided to leave it. The military conflict took many victims. Tiraspol is heavily supported by the Russian Federation nowadays, and you can see the Russian flag near all state buildings together with Transnistrian symbols. Most of the region’s inhabitants are under a greater cultural and linguistic influence from Russia than the rest of Moldova. When you visit this city, you will feel like you are in the Soviet Union and having a short trip to the past. Tiraspol is a true museum of communism. What is interesting is that people from Chisinau often go to Transnistria to buy the best quality Russian … bed sheets. 🙂

Moldova and the EU

Moldova is not a part of the European Union, but has signed an association pact with the EU. The EU is providing Moldova with some necessary financial help and EU citizens can travel there without a visa. A possible future accession to the European Union is very uncertain. The main issues include Transnistria, which is not in fact controlled by Moldavian government. Joining the EU would require Moldova to solve the conflict or accept Transnistria’s independence, which is of course not acceptable for Chisinau. Another issue is the attitude towards independence of the public, some of whom would like to make one country with Romania while others would prefer to remain independent, while still others would like to join forces with Russia. The country has numerous problems like corruption, poverty and a growing depopulation caused by the substantial emigration of young people to the West. We will see what happens, but definitely visit this country before the tourist industry discovers it. 🙂

(M.K)

Bibliography:

‘Romania and Moldova. Mosaic in vibrant colors’, Bezdroża Helion, 2015.

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