An off the beaten path destination in Eastern Europe, Moldova makes an intriguing place to visit. Its isolation between Romania and Ukraine makes it a fascinating place to discover with its Soviet Union roots. It sometimes supersedes the local heritage, especially in the Russian-speaking region of Transdniester, which seeks to separate itself from the main part of the country.
When visiting this small and narrow part of the East, a wide expanse of countryside will greet tourists after going beyond the cities. Vineyards also abound, which produce some of the region's best vintages that tourists will love, apart from their mainstream favourites. Most of all, tourists will appreciate the energetic vibe of Chisinau, with its range of excellent restaurants and bars that can make tourists stay for a while to savour the culinary delights and drinks.
What to see & do
Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, is a vibrant city due to its colourful origins that date back to the 15th century. Most of the city was levelled during World War II, however, while the Russians built utilitarian high-rise buildings that somehow lack visual appeal. The old city trees, however, led a green and serene feel that can make tourists feel like leisurely exploring the streets. Many confine their visit to the centre and visit fine landmarks, such as the National Archaeology and History Museum, which features various artefacts from the region of Orheiul Vechi, Golden Horde coins, Soviet-era weaponry, and an enormous WWII diorama.
The National Art Museum is also a marvel, with its interesting displays of contemporary European artworks, icons, and many others. Most come from Romanian and Moldovan artists, which let tourists view the local arts. Others, on the other hand, set off for the Arc de Triomphe, which dates from the 1840s. It commemorates the victory of the Russian army over the Ottoman Empire and draped with a Moldovan flag in the middle.
From Chisanau, tourists can visit Cricova, a famous vineyard about 15 kilometres north of the city. It is one of Europe's biggest, making it a fascinating area to visit. Tourists will find here a wineglass-shaped cellar of collectible bottles, which include those that once belonged to Nazi leader Hermann Goring as well as some vintages from pre-World War II France. There are also displays of wines and champagnes here, which can excite sommeliers and wine enthusiasts. Advanced reservations, however, are necessary for those who want to visit here, as the place is quite well known.
The self-declared republic of Transdniester, located on the eastern bank of the Dniester River, can be quite an experience in terms of political identity. Although technically a part of Moldova, the region has its own currency, police force, army, and borders. It is Soviet to the bone, with busts of Lenin plainly visible in many of its populated areas. Tiraspol, the so-called capital of the republic, features an eerie quiet and a censorious feel. The Presidential Palace, for instance, forbids loitering and photography. One, however, can enjoy a visit to the Kvint Factory, where one can buy fine brandies. There is also the war memorial to see, which commemorates those who died in the civil war between the region and Moldova.
How to get around
Travellers will find a variety of transport options in Moldova, which include railways, highways, and waterways. Although in poor condition, they are acceptable enough. Trains are your best bet, as they connect the cities to Odessa in Ukraine and Iasi and Galati of Romania. Some of the roads are also in disrepair, but one can get by with a hired car. One might need an international driver's licence though.
How to get there
Those interested in visiting Moldova can look for connecting flights to Chisinau International Airport. Airlines serving here include Aeroflot, airBaltic, Air Moldova, flydubai, Lufthansa Regional, Meridiana, S7 Airlines, TAROM, Turkish Airlines, Ukraine International Airlines, UTair Aviation, and Wizz Air.