Landlocked and bounded by Romania and Ukraine, with the ethnic divisions to prove it, Moldova has come a long way in a short time and is arguably more advanced than EU-friendly Romania in many respects. The tourism focus is indisputably the country’s wine industry, which produces staggeringly superb varietals and offers winery tours that will vanquish the stoutest of constitutions – try Cricova, not far from Chişinău. Less celebrated are the attractions between the vineyards:
Romania and Ukraine, Moldova is as ‘off the beaten track’ as you can get in Europe. Attracting just a fraction of the number of visitors of neighbouring countries (12,000 to 20,000 annually in recent years), it’s a natural destination for travellers who like to plant the flag and visit lands few others have gone to.
But Moldova’s charms run deeper than being merely remote. The country’s wines are some of the best in Europe and a fledgling wine-tourism industry, where you can tour wineries and taste the grape, has taken root. The countryside is delightfully unspoiled and the hospitality of villagers is authentic. The capital, Chişinău, is surprisingly lively, with excellent restaurants and bars. Across the Dniestr River lies the separatist Russian-speaking region of Transdniestr. It’s a time-warp place, where the Soviet Union still reigns supreme and busts of Lenin line the main boulevards.
sunflower fields, enormous watermelons, bucolic pastoral lands and the amazingly friendly people. Soberer diversions include remote monasteries cut into limestone cliffs and a rural backdrop inhabited by welcoming villagers. But it goes deeper. What could have been a fascinating ethnic mix went horribly wrong in the early 1990s. The Turkic Gagauzia and the Soviet-bent Transdniestr areas recognised the opportunity and declared their respective independences almost simultaneously, which culminated in a bloody civil war. Today, Gagauz maintains a calm truce with Moldova, while the alluringly bizarre Transdniestr region is on the brink of reopening old wounds.
While still in contention for the title of Poorest Country in Europe, Moldova’s prices (particularly for accommodation) are unexpectedly high. Coming from Romania, expect to pay about the same for almost everything.
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