I hadn’t heard of this country before I started University to be honest and I know many others who had no idea where it was. Many mistake it for Moldova in Romania, but no. It is its neighbour though, which makes it even more confusing at times.
Moldova neighbours Romania to the west and Ukraine to the… rest, basically. It’s a landlocked country that’s mostly known for its wine but also for being Europe’s poorest country. Not as much fun to be recognised as. It’s also the least visited country in Europe, which we noticed when it was just us and one more guy in the entire hostel. Transnistria in Moldova is an unrecognised state as well and no one knows what the hell is going on there.
Anyway, I traveled there with my friend in 2016 and went first to Chisinau, which is the capital city, all the way south to Crocmaz, where we drove to see a winery. The reason why we decided to go here was because we both lived in Cluj, Romania, and we were looking for something to do basically, outside of Romania. I had been seeing a guy from Moldova as well in Sweden so there was no stopping my curiosity towards this country. It’s also one of those odd destinations which made it even more attractive to me. Hehe.
We took a Blablacar with a Moldovan guy who was going home and I think we paid him like 20€ or something. It was quite cheap for such a long journey. When we finally made it to Moldova, we thought it looked like a poorer version of Romania that’s been stuck-in-time. Chisinau is a bit odd to be honest, but I’d heard so many negative things about the city that I was pleasantly surprised by it. Yes, there’s not THAT much to do like in London for example (far from it), but it’s still a charming city with lots of pretty churches, super interesting history and really nice restaurants and cafés for incredibly prices.
We thought we knew what cheap was when we moved to Romania but it all changed when we got to Moldova. All of a sudden we were rich. We ordered as much food as we could eat and drink, yet the bill didn’t reach up to €5. It’s insane. I didn’t even feel bad when I ordered that extra ice-cream.
There’s some bars and clubs as well but we ended up in this weird birthday party for some rich Moldovan guy and that was definitely not our cup of tea. And some of the people were so fascinated to see an Asian there and one girl even told me “I never thought I’d see an Asian here”. She was so sweet so we just laughed a little, but on the inside I was just thinking of the day when Chinese tourists will find its way here and she’s gonna wish she’d never seen an Asian there.
The highlight of our little Moldova weekend was when we rented a car to go south and visit “Et Cetera” winery. One of the things we promised ourselves that we’d do was to visit a winery, because Moldova is famous for its wine, but the biggest one “Milestii Mici” was fully booked so driving down south it was. It was all good until… We realised how corrupt Moldova really is. We got stopped by a policeman who wanted us to give him money for example. But I’d rather highlight the good parts about this country because Moldova is already receiving too much crap.
The roads aren’t super developed and there’s lots of places where you can see horse and carriages still, but my god the nature there is incredible. Especially the last hour to the winery. There’s so much wild, unspoilt nature there, with no tourists (back then at least) or even people on the roads. When we finally got to the winery, we went on a tour where the owner got us so much wine in so little time that we both got crazy drunk. After the tour he even gave us one bottle to share and some Moldovan snacks. I don’t know if he thought we had strong Moldovan genes who could drink without ever getting drunk, but damn he really did not stop giving us wine. The funny thing is that Et cetera winery is a really sophisticated and elegant place so we tried to hide the fact that we were goners. There were only really rich and posh people there. And then there was us. We laughed all the way home (when we had sobered up).
Although I didn’t get to spend a lot of time in Moldova and I would’ve loved to see Transnistria and the north, I am certain that I’ll go back one day. Not because it’s one of the most beautiful, cool, hip places I’ve ever been to, but because it felt so authentic and real. I liked the food, the wine is some of the best in the world – or THE best in the world -, the nature is so beautiful and except for the few people who tried to take advantage of us, we met some of the most hospitable locals who, although they might’ve not had much, tried to give us as much as they could. And those are the type of people that you’ll always remember and they’re the ones who’ll make you want to go back.