Moldova is probably not a country you would consider for your holidays... And yet, it's an amazing country, here's why...
Normally I would never write an article about a country in general due to a variety of reasons. First of all, there is a redundant abundance of online articles about most countries. Secondly, by addressing a whole country, it’s not really feasible to provide as many details as one normally would about an activity or a specific place related to that land. However for Moldova I needed an introductory article. Actually the first time that I met Denis and he told me that he is from Moldova, I pretended to know where that was but I had no clue. I didn’t even know that it is a country!
Some historical tidbits to understand Moldova
It must be known that this country is young, less than 26 years old. And that it is relatively small (however still bigger than Belgium), landlocked between two large countries – Ukraine and Romania. This little piece of territory that is Moldova is divided into 2 or 3 regions.
The Transnistria is one of them, bordering Ukraine about 70km away from the capital Chisinau. Transnistria is a self-proclaimed state, with its own borders protected by the Russian army. This country is recognized only by Russia and it has its own currency (not exchangeable outside its borders). Denis was born in Transnistria and lived there a part of his childhood. The reasons that have pushed this region to declare itself independent and to impose its own borders and government, are mainly linked to the fall of USSR. Russian speakers, the Transnistrians, didn’t identify as neither Moldovan nor Ukrainian and wanted to protect the soviet industry present in their land.
The second region that views itself as autonomous but doesn’t have borders or its own currency, is the Gagauzia region in the South of the country. This region is mostly populated with Gagauzians (in principle Turks) and their official language is Russian. Finally, the last region and the largest is Moldova where the official language is Romanian and it is the country .
Moldova is a fascinating land, entirely shaped by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the nationalistic views born from it. The Ukrainian culture is just as strong as the Romanian one in Moldova. It’s an incredible multi-ethnicity for such a small country.
Delicious food and award-winning wines!
There are so many things to see and do in this country despite the fact that it doesn’t seem it would be the case; the food is fabulous with influences from all sides, the people are just as warm as they are cold upon meeting them for the first time. The Slavic culture is very strong, yet well balanced by the Latin influence of the Romanian culture. It must be known that before USSR, Moldova was a region pertaining to Romania, having an extremely rich agriculture and very fertile soils. The USSR has used Moldova extensively in order to produce its wine, and if you were not aware, Moldova has the largest wine cellar in the world!
It is amazing that this country is so little known when its cultural richness is so obvious. Numerous churches and cathedrals are to be found in Moldova and the city of Chisinau has very beautiful ethnological, historical and natural sciences museums. It is true that the English language is not Moldovans’ strong point and the majority of touristic infrastructures are weak and sometimes nonexistent. But you must also know that it is the poorest country in Europe. Moldova is known by winemakers for its wine and by the followers of religious tourism for its authentic churches and cathedrals, such as the one in Orhei, situated in an incredible spot where the sea used to be millions of years ago.
100% organic !
Moreover, the majority of products sold in supermarkets is produced locally or in the nearby country and 90% of the fruits and vegetables in the markets are organic. Agriculture is indeed seasonal in Moldova, meaning that during summertime you will find lots of seasonal fruits such as melons, watermelons and peaches; during autumn, grapes and during spring, cherries. The agriculture is organic and for the most part non industrial. On the side of the road you will often see small fruit & vegetable merchants selling you the watermelons coming from the field behind them. Moldova is the 125th carbon emitter in the world, placing itself well behind other European countries and almost at the same level as Nepal…
The least expensive country in Europe?
Well yes, on top of being one of the poorest countries in Europe, Moldova is also one of the cheapest! 22 Lei account for 1 Euro or 24 Lei for 1 USD. You could make a very tasty and copious meal for 3 Euros including a good pint of local beer. In the market for 1 Euro you could buy 2 watermelons of 13 KG or 3 KG of peaches. The local beer pint costs approximately 1 Euro.
The ecological and environmental resources in Moldova
In Moldova, everything is relatively local and very little industrialized. This developing nation has numerous ecological resources, and a rich soil for agriculture. Countless forests and parks make this country very agreeable, green and a great potential candidate for the development of ecotourism and green tourism.
Tourism in general is underdeveloped in Moldova, you should see the faces of the customs officers when they see my French passport, it’s as if they had never seen anything else but Ukrainians and Romanians in their whole entire lives. But Moldova is on the path of self-development. It is the perfect spot for people looking more and more for authenticity and having a different kind of adventure. As tourism develops, there is of course the risk that it is not done under appropriate supervision and that it is actually detrimental to the country’s environmental wealth.
You must know that Moldova can offer so many things to experience to both culture and nature lovers. Rural, adventure, nature or culture oriented tourism could be developed in Moldova. The modest size of urban areas could allow for these different tourism types to emerge and to give the country a push to develop an overall more responsible tourism. It must also be noted that there are few tourist agents in Moldova and most of them deal with sending the Moldovan tourists abroad. We were not even able to find a tourist office in Chisinau!
The green and responsible tourism would be an ideal opportunity to develop Moldova
Unfortunately, there is a big knowledge gap on the topic, no organization from the Moldovan government and no labeled eco infrastructures. The majority of protected areas have free entrance which demonstrates the insignificant care and consideration that the Moldovan government gives to natural resources simply because it doesn’t see the potential. We were shocked to see absolutely magnificent spots completely abandoned, filled with waste, simply because there is no maintenance whatsoever. If tourism develops and especially the responsible kind, there is a chance of seeing the improved management of these areas. So travel to Moldova!!!
When I fell in love with Denis, I didn’t know that I would also fall in love with Moldova and Ukraine (which will be addressed separately). These countries are largely unknown and neglected in favor of more “exotic” destinations such as Latin America or Asia. But how could you not say that it is indeed exotic when you find yourself in a local “bazar” where a little old lady will make you taste her best “branza” and the fresh morning “smantana”.
How not to be astonished when you witnesses the sunrise with a red blazing sun in a countryside filled with rich fruits trees, so rich that they end up rotting on the road? How not to be amazed by the white landscapes in cold winters that give this country the allure of little Siberia? Finally, how not to feel completely perplexed when a border control officer looks at your passport up and down, stares at you and then shows your ID to his colleagues?
We have been to Mexico, Vietnam, Thailand, Spain, Italy, Iceland, Malaysia and in some of the most isolated and far away spots as we crave and love authenticity, yet Moldova remains the only country that we have visited that seems truly untouched, utterly authentic.
Translation & Copy Editing by Liana Marinoiu