Off the Beaten Track – Moldova

Honestly I thought that Moldova was a made up country, because I had mistakenly confused it with Molvania – the subject of a spoof guidebook….., so was happy to realise my mistake
Moldova is lovely.  A small and perfectly formed ex Soviet Republic with a few nice things to see, friendly people, and everything is within easy reach of the capital Chisinau (pronounced Kishi -now).
Wander around Chisinau
The town is small, really small, everything is within walking distance.  My favourite building was the bright blue St Tiron Cathedral.  Other things worth wandering past are the small Orthodox cathedral in the cathedral park.  Wander to the other side of the street from the cathedral and stroll through the other park – Stefan cel Mar.   There is also a fine arts museum if you are so inclined and some large and pretty ugly government buildings.  The lonely planet aptly describes Chisinau in lacking any ‘pulse quickening
must-sees’ and that is right, but it is pleasant enough.

St Tiron towers
St Tiron towers

St Tiron Gatehouse
St Tiron Gatehouse

Get a car and driver and head to Orheuil Vecchi
This is definitely the best thing to see in Moldova – a complex of cave monasteries carved into a massive limestone cliff.  Monks still live in the complex today and it is an active monastery so dress appropriately.  There is a lot to see, but my favourite part of this place were the other ‘tourists’, most of whom were local and quite religious.  It was fascinating to see their reverance for the monks and the monastery.
We had lunch in a local restaurant next to the monastery.  The food was astoundingly good – and included a cherry pie thing and some Mamaliga which is a bit like cornbread – delicious with sour cream and meat.  The place didn’t have a name, none of them do…. but if you have a guide am sure they will take you somewhere decent
You can get buses from Chisinau, but they are infrequent.  I rented a car and driver so I could see a bit more of the area

Caves at Orheil Vecchi
Caves at Orheil Vecchi

New Monastery at Orheil Vecchi
New Monastery at Orheil Vecchi

Visit the Monastery at Curchi
I had a lovely wander around Curchi. There wasn’t much going on until we hit one of the back churches and we stumbled on an orthodox christening.  They didn’t seem to mind an audience, I got lots of smiles.   They do take religion very seriously, and that means a serious amount of make up and some seriously high heels. (side note –  I am always feel as if I am letting kiwi girls down as I slob around the world with no make up and my flip flops but I don’t seem to care enough to dress better)
Curchi
Curchi
Additional tips
  • I was working hard and earning money when I went to Moldova so I splashed out and stayed at the Nobil Luxury Boutique Hotel.  I even got my hair cut at the salon in the hotel – that is when you know you are living dangerously when your hairdresser doesn’t share any common language with you.
  • I was really surprised at how good looking the monks were in Moldova. Really!
  • I am not much of a drinker but Moldova apparently have very good very cheap wine!  there is an enormous winery at Milestii Mici which has 200km of underground wine storage tunnels if you are thirsty
  • The food is surprisingly good, I particularly liked the Branza – which is local cheese.
  • If you fancy you can head to Transdniestr, but there is a possibility that you will get detained and hit up for bribes.  I wasn’t in the mood that day 😃
  • If you want to make friends, listen to the  Zdob și Zdub and talk about them enthusiastically when you arrive.  They were Moldova’s highest ever entry in Eurovision, and I had my ears blasted in the car with their beats wherever we went

Visited May 2014

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