Destination of the Month: Moldova

March 2020

Moldova is a small, hilly nation nestled between Romania and Ukraine, and is known for its agriculture and wine. With vast expanses that hold a bounty of grapes, it is home to Milestii Mici, the largest wine cellar on Earth. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, that it is the second highest country in the world for wine consumption, with the average adult drinking 16.8 litres per year. The Moldovan love of wine is both obvious and infectious, and coupled with their famous hospitality and warm nature, a trip here will certainly be memorable.


1. The name ‘Moldova’ dates back to the 1350s. Legend has it that the Transylvanian ruler Dragoş was hunting a wild ox on the banks of what is now known as the River Moldova when he decided to stay in this foreign land. It is likely that the name derives from the German word ‘mulde’ which means ‘a deep river valley with high banks’.

2. At the time of Moldovan independence, Transnistria, which had a Russian-speaking majority, decided to break away from Moldova, declaring its own independence. A four-month long war followed, with the ceasefire continuing today. Despite Transnistria acting as an independent country, it is globally unrecognised, making it a mysterious and tempting location to visit.

3. The auroch, a now extinct bovine species, is the national animal and can be seen on the Moldovan flag.

4. National wine day is actually two days, on October 3-4. Moldovans celebrate with cheap wine tastings and free shuttle bus services between wineries.

5. ​The Russian folk legend ‘Father Frost’ was quickly banned after Moldova gained independence. Because of this, presents are instead delivered by ‘Mos Craciun’, who looks remarkably similar to Santa Claus.

Some Practical Info

– The official languages of Moldova are Moldovan (Romanian) and Russian.
– More than 90% of Moldovans are Eastern Orthodox Christians, divided between the Russian and Romanian autocephalous churches.
– A visa is not required to visit Moldova if you are staying under 90 days.
– It is considered rude to keep footwear on when entering a home.

Lying on the border of Moldova and Ukraine is a slice of land recognised as independent only by three Caucasus' "nations" that are, at best, only partially recognised themselves: South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Abkhazia. In Transnistria's capital, Tiraspol, you can find an "embassy" representing all three. Quotation marks are a must when speaking of Transnistria!

To Moldova and the rest of the world, the state of Transnistria is as Moldovan as the rest of the country, albeit with a slight Soviet twist. The state, heavily populated by Russians, refused to follow the rest of Moldova as it broke away from the Soviet Union in 1990, and is now a place settled in its USSR past, complete with its own currency, flag, government, and more. Though despite its dedication to remain a Soviet state, it is not recognised by Russia as an independent country.

The country is dotted with monasteries, symbolic evidence of the high percentage of Orthodox Christians in Moldova. Each one is filled with their own legends, spirituality, and remains of their difficult past under the Soviets.

Potentially the most important historical and archaological site in Moldova is Orheiul Vechi, which a complex that includes an exhibition centre, an Orthodoc church, and 2000-year-old ruins from the origins of the Dacian tribes. However, the Cave Monastery is the most impressive site Orheiul Vechi. It was created almost 1000 years ago, and was continuously inhabited until the 18th century. This intricately carved religious masterpiece towers high above the Raut River, and will be sure to leave you in awe of the courageous and devoted souls who constructed it.

Whether you’re looking for a charming wine tour, a historically-stimulating trip, or just for somewhere off-the-beaten-track, Moldova is the perfect destination for your next travel adventure.

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