This August Intrepid Travel commissioned me to work on an assignment on their trip to Moldova. I was caught by surprise and have honestly said that Moldova has never been on top of my travel list. You'll love the experience, they replied. And I did. Here's why.
Moldova is a small post-Soviet country land-locked between Romania and Ukraine - hence you might have never heard of it. In Soviet times, it used to be, together with Georgia, one of the leaders in wine production. I can see your interest is raising, right?
Moldova is currently rediscovering its winemaking past. In addition to old wineries, new ones, using modern technologies, start opening up - and that makes Moldova a great place to visit for all wine lovers. Did I mention it's super cheap too?
Et Cetera winery is one of the modern wineries located in the south-eastern part of Moldova. I loved the design of the space and all the home-made food that accompanied our wine tasting. That chair made of an old carped caught my attention too.
Visiting Mitestii Mici is a completely different experience. This state owned winery was registered in the Guinness World Records as the biggest wine collection in the world holding nearly 2 million bottles! The cellars extend for 120 miles, of which 34 miles are currently in use. The cellar network is so extensive that it can be driven by car and the underground streets bear wine related names - like a Cabernet street.
Moldova's capital Chisinau was almost completely destroyed during the World War II. The city was later rebuilt in a Stalinist style.
For a real local experience in Chisinau head to the main market. It's great for people watchig too!
Don't miss Moldova's Orthodox monastery and archaeological complex Orchei Vechi. The cave monastery was built by the monks in the 13th century and remained inhabited until the 18th century. Later in the 1990-es a handful of monks restored it to its current state. You can also visit traditional Moldovan houses.
This trip was my first experience with Intrepid travel. I loved their commitment to support the local communities by hiring local guides and experts, like the homestay lunch with a traditional pastry cooking workshop pictured below.
A visit to Moldova couldn't be complete without a day in Transnistria, a country within a country that has its own currency and government, but is not recognised by any United Nations member state. If you would like to know how it feels to live in the USSR - Transnistria is a place to visit. Its capital Tiraspol is not particularly beautiful but you go there for an experience and not to admire the beauty.
I visited Moldova as part of Intrepid Travel Moldova, Ukraine & Romania Explorer 13 days trip - more information can be found here.