Is there more to Moldova than just the wine?

Pies and wine at Milestii Mici, Moldova

There certainly is.


A year ago I was heading back to Moldova with Alexandra and Marcel. Our first trip had been in 2012. Cătă was the new addition to the team, celebrating his 5-year wedding anniversary with Alexandra that very weekend.


Our getaway may have been fuelled by the wine, but I had returned with the same desire to spot martens. J I had read somewhere, many years ago, that Moldova had a large population of martens. I had tried to do some animal watching during our first time in Moldova; the second time around was more successful – even though I did mistake 2 cats for martens. They’re pretty elusive. And the cats were really fluffy.


…back to our trip!

Friendship is another key ingredient when travelling through Moldova. We were warmly welcomed and hugged by my dear Eugenia and her daughter Sara. Wildflowers were involved and a big bag of pears. ♥


It was our first stop after paying a visit to Gagauzia – final destination: Beşalma. Gagauz people live in southern Moldova and southwestern Ukraine and are of Turkic origin, which reflects in their traditions. It is very surprising that most of them are Orthodox – the staple in all the countries of the region. While trying to find the entrance to Muzeul Naţional Găgăuz [National Gagauz Museum], a beautiful blue-eyed blonde little girl answered ‘It’s there’ in Russian [I know a few words] and gave us a wide smile. We realised that the museum was closed, but the entire area around the village reminded me of Central Asia and enchanted me!

National Gagauz Museum in Besalma, Moldova

How I love discovering new places that I end up loving! (Historical places abound in Moldova and they love their storks and legends! The first time around we had spent a couple of days hanging around Chişinău, then dived into the mellow vibes of Orheiul Vechi, drove all the way up to Soroca Fortress, and headed to Lalova to explore the rock monasteries of Ţipova and the fantastic views over Dniester River.)

We had actually met Eugenia during our first trip to Moldova and had kept in touch over the years. She had been the one to ignite my love story with the Tucano Coffee chain, after our first visit to the first café of its kind in Chişinău. Naturally, I asked her ‘What’s new? Where should we go?’… We ended up in a fusion café called ‘Sincer’ (again in Chişinău) and I had a very interesting coconut soufflé there.


Moldovan food can make you heavier. Why? Because it’s delicious!! My favourite items on the menu? Plăcinte(eeee)… That is… pies. Savoury and sweet. With cabbage or mushrooms and sour cream or sour cherries… Mind-blowing. Alexandra found us a place to have dinner – Roata Vremii – and they serve some mean pies!    


What to take as souvenirs? Chocolates and candies anyone? If you walk down Ştefan cel Mare şi Sfânt Boulevard in Chişinău and head to ‘Bucuria’ store, make sure you have about half an hour to stare, drool, and taste.   

For bakers, there are quality ingredients to take home and use in scrumptious cakes. Condensed milk is a delight.  


Should we go back to the wine?

We added one more spot to our list – the Guinness World Record holder (the largest wine collection in the world) Mileştii Mici. It was very easy to book our spots online (booking ahead is always recommended). We could pay by credit card upon arrival; the price per person was MDL 450 (weekend rate) for a tour of the winery and a ‘DeliCarne’ Menu (which included three types of wines, pies – which I could eat, too, as an ovolactovegetarian –, and some cold meats). I believe that the menus and offers keep changing, but there is something for everyone. Very importantly, the tour is conducted in the visitors’ own cars.

Cata, Alex, Petra & Marcel at Milestii Mici, Moldova
Milestii Mici Winery, Moldova

Tip: Do visit the winery’s store. I like fortified wine and Mărgăritar became my favourite.      


On our last day, we went back to Cricova. How I missed those underground streets! Alexandra, Marcel, and I were familiar with the tour (MDL 450/pp.; MDL 550/pp. –3-wine tasting included –), but it was Cătă’s first time there. Some things had changed, many were modernised. I loved the cosy cinema and the sparkling wine experience!

The underground streets of Cricova Winery, Moldova

Sparkling wine at Cricova, Moldova

Tip: Book by e-mail and arrive 30 minutes earlier to pay for the tours (possible by credit card) and get ready to be picked up. Bring a jacket even in summer. It is, after all, the largest underground wine cellar in the world, with streets stretching on more than 70km – there will be fast driving (but you’ll love the vehicles!) and some walking.    


There were more places that we wanted to see, more things that we wanted to do. We were, however, grateful for what we did manage to cover. And uncover.  


P.S. Some technicalities to note about our Moldovan trip:  

  • We stayed in Râşcova, in a country house, and paid MDL 2190/2 nights/4 persons;
  • Walks to the nearby lake and treks to Ivancea Lake are recommended;
    Alex and I around Rascova, Moldova

  • The vignette is mandatory in Moldova and can be purchased online; at that time, the minimum period was 1 week and it cost us MDL 77.60.    
  • Get the latest travel and health-related info before you go /or don't; trust your heart, be present, and bring cash; author's note, 14.11.2023/.  

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