Duruitoarea – the treasure of the north

In the north of Moldova, around 212km from Chișinău there is a magical place that has been enchanting everyone that been stepping on that land. A region full of history and beauty, but also great touristic potential for hiking and camping activities. Despite the potential of the region stretches over few villages, in this article we will explore specifically the Duruitoarea Veche village which is famous for it’s cave, cliffs and the beaches at the Costești lake with pristine waters.

The journey in this village starts with the cave called “căsoaia”, meaning “the big house” due to being a shelter for the pre-historic man during the stone age. The grotto is situated 33metres high above the village and it stretches over 49m with 3 big rooms. Archeological searches have found bones of cave bear, bizon, deers, cave hyenas and even rhino besides the paleolithic jewellery, tools and human remains which stretch all the way up to 300.000 years ago.  Due to these important findings, the cave has gained its recognition internationally, currently still being protected by the state since 1962. The most recent discovery in the area happened in 2004, when the skeleton of a female mammoth was uncovered and for those that are curios, it can be seen in the museum of the village Costești.

Following the “defileu” sign next from the cave, you can reach the cliffs which offer a stunning view over the village. It is not a difficult climb, but it is recommended to have hiking shoes as it can get slippery at times, especially after rain. The cliffs are separated by the little spring Duruita from which the village has got it’s name. There are various other little caves in the cliffs, but are much harder to reach. Climbing down you will be impressed by the rich flora and the quiet that surrounds you. Every now and then, you will hear the sound of the shepherd and his herd of sheep making it’s way home.

If you’re seeking to stay overnight, at the bottom of the cliffs there is a camping ground where you can stay with your tent or rent one of the housing options available. Duruita, camping la grote was set up by Adrian Musteață, a doctor which had a passion for the region. Initially he bought the land for his family to use it as a summer house, but due to the increase interest of his friends, he opened it to the public. Nowadays he hosts people from all over the world, also organising various artistic art camps and little festivals to celebrate the local culture.

Staying here it is like traveling back in time, in a place where human and nature were co-existing harmoniously. All the little details are creating a magical atmosphere which remind you of childhood – a place with unlimited creativity and unbound possibilities. Starting from the design of the houses, some still keeping the old traditional style to the art stage where you can create your own stories or concerts. Witnessing Adrian’s canvas in his own creation you understand the love that he has for this place. All the sculptures that are scattered around the territory are made by talented moldovan artists, celebrating our most treasured findings – the Cucuteni civilisation goddess figure, the pendant from Branzeni Noii and the walnut, a symbol of strength and love.

And as you step into this play, you can choose your role. Will you be a passerby, a camper, a guest or an artist that finds it’s muse? And this role you can decide through these options:

The first housing option available is of course camping – with your tent, car or even camper van – although do keep in mind, the ground is not straight so it can be a bit tricky to park your camper van. The price per tent/car/van is 100 lei per night (5 euros).

But if you lack any of these things or the weather turns against your plans, you can stay in the little cabins which can host 2 people in them. Each cabin is accessed with a key from the little box next to the door. You get the code for the little box once you’ve booked your place. The price per night is 500 lei (25 euros).

In the case that Duruita is fully booked, do not despair! You will be given the option to stay in a local’s house from 100 lei (5 euros) per night.

Other two options which will be available soon will be individual houses for rent. One of the houses has space to accommodate one person for those that seek to spend some time alone or work on their writing (or project perhaps), while another one will be fully ensuite and will accommodate 2 to 3 people.

In regards the amenities, everything is set up! There are toilets, showers, electricity and free wi-fi available. The water is heated by solar power, so don’t be surprised if it ain’t hot on a cloudy day. There is also a kitchen area outside for those that wish to cook themselves some food, with a stove, some cooking tools and tables available.

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But if you wish to discover the local cuisine, then have some food prepared by the neighbours Liuba and Gheorghe which will more than gladly assist you. Mămăligă, baked peppers or fish soup will be one of the options you will be given to try out. During the summer season they will spoil you with fresh fruits from their garden. You can arrange the food with them on the spot, but preferably mention it upfront when you’re booking your place.

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And while you wait for the food to be prepared, why not have a swim at the Stânca – Costești lake? Only 5 mins drive. One interesting fact is that this is the biggest lake in Moldova and is actually a protected area due to it’s biodiversity. The water is clean, but do have some swimming shoes with you as the bottom is rather rocky and to avoid the potential of getting hurt. This lake is used a lot for fishing or by locals as a weekend getaway, but during the week is completely empty. One thing to keep in mind is that the lake is bordering with Romania, so if you wish to go on a boat – the frontier has to be announced upfront through a phone call (which the locals can organise for you) or have an ID on you in case you will get approached. No need for special permits.

As for the rest of the time, pour yourself some glass of wine, read a book from the viewpoint hut or just breathe the life that is all around you. Allow it to transform you in ways you cannot imagine. And why not at nighttime warm up by the fire, connect with the stillness of the place just like all the people did through thousands of years in the region. And who knows, maybe you will hear their stories through the songs of the flames, the grasshoppers and the flickering of the stars in the clear sky.

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To book your stay at Duruita, camping la grote check out the following links:

Facebook/ Website/ Airbnb – for booking the cabins

PS: There are no signs in the village for the camping ground, so do set up the directions on your map upfront. 

10 reasons why you should visit Moldova

1- It’s the least visited country in Europe

Yes, it’s true! Statistics say that in the year of 2018 only 20,000 tourists have visited Moldova, which in comparison to other countries it is rather low. But for you this is great news as you will not have to suffer from long queues or bumping into tourists at every corner.  And it is a great benefit because Moldova is somewhat of a mystery to most people as they have never even heard of it, so you’ll come here with no expectations but pure curiosity.  Due to lower number of visitors you can experience the place most authentically and enjoy the hospitality. As most locals are curious about why are you even coming to Moldova, you will experience mostly positive encounters. And hey, who doesn’t like to walk on the less beaten path? You’ll sure make an impression on your friends for having courage to explore such an unknown territory!

2 – Good quality

One thing that impresses most people when visiting is not actually the price, but the quality – of the food, wine and accommodation. Being an agricultural country with a lot of fertile soil such as cernozem, the care that is put into growing food is not just essential, but hereditary. Generations of wine makers and land workers are keeping the tradition alive by growing rich crops and turning them into delicacies. The rapport quality-price is undebatable when compared to the European market and even if there is still some room for the improvement of certain services, many of the hotels and apartments will provide great accommodation options. From big spaces and modern repairs, up to comfort and spa options, if you’re looking to pamper yourself up you will not be disappointed.

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3 – The food

Putting aside the price and quality factor, the local cuisine is also another great reason to visit the country. Historically as the region was mostly romanian, but also under the turkish and the russians, the influence can be felt in the variety of dishes. The most famous traditional dish is Mămăligă, a type of polenta (corn porridge) which is eaten with fresh local cheese and sour cream, but also can be served with scrambled egg or meat. Then the “sarmale” or also named “găluște”, like the turkish dolma are cabbage or grape leaves stuffed with a rice, carrot and meat filling. Stuffed peppers are also easily found, alongside a variety of meat balls “pârjoale” and “cighiri” and vegetable stews “tocană”. And let’s not forget the famous pies “plăcinte” which can be sweet or savoury with pumpkin/ apple/ sour cherries/ potato/ cabbage/ cheese fillings. Diving into soups you can discover “zeamă de pui”, a local chicken soup, but also can easily find the russian borsch, soleanka and okroshka (a cold summer soup). Ukranian dumplings which we call “colțunași” and russian salads such as shuba and olivie are plenty alongside the homemade fruit drink compot . If you wish to try more of the local delicacies, then have a go at the local dishes with rabbit meat or test your test buds with some pickled watermelon.

4 – We have the biggest wine cellars in the world (and also great wine!)

We might not have an Eiffel tower and fame like the french wine, but we have the biggest wine cellars in the world. Yes, that’ s right – Mileștii Mici winery is registered as the biggest in Guinness World Record Book for it’s underground cellars that stretch over 200km’s, but also for having the biggest wine collection. Cricova winery comes in second, with over 60 km’s and over 30.000.000 litres of wine produced. With a strong wine culture, over 140 wineries and 8% of the worldwide wineyards being situated in Moldova, it was bound that we would hold a unique record in regards this. Visiting these two wineries is possible alongside the others by booking a tour with them at least 1 day upfront. But the love of wine does not end just here. Each year on the first weekend of october moldovans celebrate National Wine Day in Chișinău and with a growing wine tourism industry, various other festivals and wine tasting events are popping up across the country. There is no lack of wine on the shelves of the bars, shops or even locals home cellars.

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5 – The soviet vibes

Despite being independent for 28 years, the soviet past can still be felt. It’s influence still vibrates through the socio-economical and political sector as the country is trying to recover and stabilise itself in a healthier manner, but the wound is still fresh. From soviet monuments, mosaics, museums, architecture and cars, the remains of the fallen regime can still be seen when visiting. You can find some Lenin statues, soviet post offices and shops in villages, books and memorabilia at flea markets and also an abandoned soviet bunker besides the brutalist architecture.

6 – We have a country within the country

For those that like to travel to “spicier” places, we’ve got it for you- Transnistria – the country that is not recognised, but has it’s own currency, border, military, government, anthem, bank and phone service. Being a frozen conflict area since the fall of Soviet Union, the territory has become quite a curiosity for most tourists when visiting Moldova, especially that most countries do not advise people to visit it. Enmeshed in a lot of scary stories about Russian military, difficult border crossing and bribery myths, visiting it is actually much simpler than expected. If you do plan on coming here, do your research right and make sure to register at the border!

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7 – No tourist tax

As silly as it may sound, it is a valid reason. There is no tourist tax around due to being a small industry but also due to the low number of tourists . So you won’t be needed to pay extra 3 euros or more just for visiting or staying in a specific area/ hotel. The fewer expenses, the happier the wallet!

8 – It’s the best place for recharging your batteries

Have you seen how green the country is? It’s the perfect place for a relaxing break! Just take a walk through the city’s parks and you will be amazed by the sensation of being out in nature. And with the laid back atmosphere, you will not feel like in a busy and tiring metropolitan city. Seeking a more outdoors getaway? No problem! Plenty of lakes and rives, hills and cliffs for walks, biking, hiking, camping, swimming or fishing. You will find various places across the country where you can relax with a glass of wine, some bbq or just tan under the sun. The natural reservations are easy to visit and if you’re lacking vitamin D, you can fix it here because Moldova was actually the sunniest state from the former Soviet Union countries! We might not have mountains or seaside, but we have a bundle of good energy and the treasure of the piece of land that we’re on – abundance of trees, beautiful landscapes and delicious fruits.

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9 – Internet friendly

Surprisingly to some, Moldova actually ranks in top 10 countries with the fastest and best internet speed in the world. So if you’re a digital nomad or just work remotely for your job, this place should be suitable for you. Not to mention finding easy internet access even on the street or cafes, not having to buy a coffee somewhere just to get the wi-fi password which a lot of us let’s face it, find it very annoying when traveling! And if you’re afraid that you’ll get lonely, not a problem! Across the capital you can easily find co-working spaces or IT hubs which you can join and they are very english friendly. So combining with the other benefits of cheap living expenses and being in between Europe and the Eastern world in case you wish to travel around, I see no reason why you shouldn’t give it a go here!

10 – It’s cheap

One of the greatest benefits of visiting Moldova is that it’s quite cheap. Despite not being everything for 1 euro cheap, there are a few things that are under that price. For example most of the museums in the capital have an entrance fee of 10 lei (50 cents), while public transport 2 lei (10 cents) for a trolleybus ride.  For 1 euro you can have 10 trolley rides in the city! A ride with the bus to the Transnistrian capital Tiraspol is 40 lei ( 2 euros), while to Orheiul Vechi even less. While in most European countries you will pay from 25 euros for a bed in a hostel, for the same amount (or less depending on location) you can rent a room in a hotel or an apartment. Hostels are priced from 5 euros per night, while an average meal out will be between 5 to 10 euros.  And to quench your thirst, a 0.5L water bottle starts from under 50 cents, while a beer one from 60 cents and for 2 litres you’d have to pay 1,50 euros in the shop. Now for wine, vodka, brandy… you got the message I think 😉

Wine bars in Chișinău

Some people unfortunately do not have a lot of time when coming to Moldova, visiting for only 1-2 days. With such a short time span, booking at wineries can be difficult if not done upfront. So what is another option to discover the local wine without stressing yourself?  Of course exploring the local wine bars! Not only are they set up specifically for wine tasting, but also offer you a wide range of wines and gifts up for sale. A majority of them have a sommelier on the spot, but also organised wine tasting events on weekend days. So here’s a list of the wine bars where you can go to tickle your wine taste buds!

 

Invino Enoteca

Invino is the first collection of high quality wines in Moldova chosen by a professional sommelier. They have in their collection over 200 wines, with more than 20 being available for wine tasting by glass. Altogether they store over 10.000 bottles of wine from small boutique and lesser known wineries. They have available an english speaking sommelier.

Website/ Facebook

Address: Bănulescu Bodoni 41, Chișinău

Open: 11:00 – 21:00

 

Vinoteca Wine.md

This isn’t just a wine bar, but a full encyclopedia of wine culture offering organised wine tastings, excursions at wineries, history, notes and expert assessment. The shop has a wide variety of wines with advice on hand for those that get lost in choices.

Website / Facebook

Address: Pușkin 15, Chișinău

Open: 09:00 – 21:00

 

DEN Food & Wine House

The uniqueness of this select wine house is that they concentrate on the small wine producers of Moldova, having over 25 brands in their collection with over 250 various wine labels. To complement the wines they have even reinterpreted the national cuisine in a way to harmonise the tastes together. Currently Den Food & Wine House is the restaurant with the widest variety of wines available for serving the guests, but also open for wine tastings or sale at their wine bar.

Website / Facebook

Address: Mitropolit Gavriil Bănulescu-Bodoni 17A, Chișinău

Open: Daily from 08:00 – 23:00

 

Embargo

A cozy wine bar and shop with a variety of wines to taste which change daily according to availability. The specialisation is in unique and affordable wines. On various occasions they organise wine games and specific wine tastings. Besides the traditional platters of cheese and meat for wine tastings, they also offer oyster.

Facebook

AddressAlexandr Pușkin 56, Chișinău

Open: Mon – Thu 08:00- 21:00, Fri 08:00-22:00, Sat- Sun 10:00- 22:00

 

Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem is the first opened wine collection in Chisinau which nowadays has a selection of over 160 local and international wines. You can taste between 10 to 15 local wines by glass in their bar, but also order online in Moldova the ones you prefer.

Website/ Facebook

Address: Columna 136, 3A, Chișinău

Open: 11:00 – 23:00

 

Barbar

Unlike other wine bars, this one is suitable for nightlife due to it’s opening hours but also the events they organise. Besides a vast choice of wines, they have dj nights on weekends and a summer terrace which is very handy during warmer season.

Facebook

Address: Mihai Eminescu 56, Chișinău

Open: Mon – Thu 11:00- 23:00, Fri 11:00- 05:00, Sat 14:00- 05:00, Sun 14:00- 23:00

 

La Nobiltà del Gusto

A collection of the highest quality wines and hard drinks won at auctions from all other the world. You will find the best wines from Moldova alongside the famous ones of Spain, France, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and Italy. A sommelier will guide you in your choice, while the rest of the shop will inspire you to dip in the delicacies on display.

Facebook

AddressSfatul Țării 59, Chișinău

Open: 10:00 – 20:00

 

Wine Gogh

Branding themselves as a wine restaurant, they provide not only beautiful atmosphere, different kinds of wine but also high quality food which will not disappoint. Every sunday they have an offer of -20% on selected wines and foods.

Facebook

Address: Pușkin 35, Chișinău

Open: 10:00 – 23:00

 

Purcari Wine Bar

Although being mainly a branded wine bar of the local winery Purcari, the selection of wine does not disappoint and limit. Their events host wine tastings with the best wine of Moldova, but also a selection of wines from abroad. The relaxing atmosphere and the gourmet menu guarantees an enjoyable time.

Website/ Facebook

Address: Calea Iesilor 8,  Zity Mall (3rd floor)

Open: Mon – Sun 10:00 – 22:00

 

C51

Not only a wine bar, but also a co-working space and restaurant. Working with specific wine brands, vegetarian menu and a variety of events in a very english friendly atmosphere.

WebsiteFacebook

Address: Columna 51, Chișinău

Open: Tue – Fri 18:00 – 23:00, Sat – Sun 00:00 – 23:00

 

AVA 1727

One of the most exclusivist restaurant and wine bar in Chișinău aimed to create a bohemian experience. Not just a place to taste signature dishes by their chef, but also to relax or have fun on a night out as they organise music nights on weekends.

Website/ Facebook

Address: Vlaicu Pârcălab 43, Chișinău

Open: Mon – Thu 09:00 – 00:00, Fri – Sat 09:00 – 03:00, Sun 11:00 – 00:00

 

Taste of Blu Wine House

A celebration of generations of winemakers in a comfortable atmosphere with a wide range of wine choices and events. Sommelier available on the spot, also english friendly.

Facebook

Address: 77 Mitropolit Varlaam, Chișinău

Open: 10:00 – 22:00

Alternative activities in Moldova

Everybody knows that one of the biggest treasures of Moldova is wine and it’s tourism is based a lot on it. But what about other things to do here besides wine tasting and sightseeing, activities which require more physical movement or a more firey spirit? For those seeking adventures or different ways to discover this country, I’ve compiled a list of alternative activities to do in Moldova. Despite camping being very suitable in the list, it will be written in a separate article with all the details that need to be kept in mind.

Hiking

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If you’re searching for some daily trips out of Chisinau to explore the local nature, then hiking is the best option for you. There are a few people that offer such experiences for a fee in various beautiful points of the country. Despite most of them providing all the information in romanian or russian on their pages, you can contact them and find that they can also provide in english by request. The most local famous hiking trips are organised by Outdoor Moldova and by High and Low Adventures, set up on specific dates. Hiking Moldova are very english friendly and provide fun options, while Alex Hoinaru offers hiking experiences in Pohrebea village and nearby.

Vespa Tours

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One would not expect to find a Vespa in Moldova, but due to the lover of these little gems a unique ideas has popped up – Vespa Tours in Moldova. They organise tours on these beauties in Chisinau but also outside of the city, to Orheiul Vechi or much further in the south or north. Some of these tours can even be customised, including overnight camping stays. Other than tours they also rent their Vespas for photoshoots, videos or just a few hours to discover the city by yourself. To contact, ask questions or check them out you can here.

Kayaking

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For explorers of water, kayaking would be an interesting option. In Moldova there are two main companies that offer this activity organised as tours with guides or self-guided. Kayaking.md are mostly concentrated on russian speakers offering daytrips along Nistru river, but also kayaking trips abroad. Their options are more suitable for groups as they require that they have at least 6 canoes for a trip. The other option which is very english friendly is the Kayakingtours.md, offering a variety of daily guided and self guided tours. They are situated in Vadul Lui Voda and provide experiences in south and north of Moldova on Nistru, Prut and in Danube Delta from 1st of april until the 30th of october. Besides canoes, they also provide bicycles and camping gear. Children get in for free if both of the parents are present and they require at least 2 people per booking. To discover their offers check them out here.

Ural Tours

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For those that are seeking to still experience some of the soviet vibes and impress your friends with crazy ideas, Ural Tours provides a great offer – tours on the legendary russian sidecar motorcycle. Organised for individual or group trips, per hour or daily with a great guide and enthusiasm. Mihai Cecan being an avid lover of motorcycles, will make sure to tell you why the famous Ural motorcycle is so special. To book an Ural tour, you can do it here.

Paragliding

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If you love adrenaline and beautiful views, then paragliding is for you! Costing only 20 euros, a flight lasts 10-15 minutes and it takes place in a variety of beautiful landscapes, such as in Orheiul Vechi, Anenii Noi and Dubasari. There are over 30 professionals around the country that can provide such experiences, but the easiest to reach is Vasile Fornea from Parapanta Moldova or directly at the Paragliding Association in Moldova.

Cycling

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Being widely used abroad, cycling is still trying to make it’s way into mainstream in Moldova. With more and more enthusiasts, it popped up even in the tourism scene, now offering tours in the city, at wineries and even across the country by bicycles. One of the main companies that provides this is Velopoint, which also allows hourly rental of bikes and bike equipment. You can find biking routes and customise your trip by contacting them directly here.

Parachute jumping

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Skydivers do not have to seek far as in Vadul lui Voda is based the most famous point for that. Every weekend they provide these opportunities, with prices starting from 55 euros according to the Parachutism Asociation of Moldova. You have options for jumping by yourself or with an instructor, also a variety of specific techniques and equipment, including such as the wingsuit. The best in this in the country are the guys from Skydive Moldova which attend to foreign tourists also.

Hot Air Balloon Rides

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We may not compete with the stunning sights of Cappadocia in Turkey, but we’ve got our own beauty to be discovered. A ride with the air balloon is easily organised, but a lot depends on the availability of your wallet. A trip with the balloon per person is 99 euros in a mixed group, with the date and time of the flight being set up by the company. If you have a better financial possibility, then the 349 euros package is more suitable, as you decide the date and time of the flight and it requires of a group of maximum 4 people. There are two companies which you can contact to provide this experience for you: Aerobis and Aerolux.

Rock climbing

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Despite not having mountains, we still do have a few places where rock climbing is possible. Butuceni in Orheiul Vechi area is the most common one, with X-Style company organising often such events there. If you’re looking into booking such an experience, check out their events page for the next one or contact them directly here.

Birdwatching

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Not usually the most searched activity, but still available and very off the beaten path. National tourism board has recently opened a trail in Orheiul Vechi for it, but overall Moldova has a variety of birds which can be spotted in specific locations which are known only by those who practice this. To help you organise a birdwatching trip can the local organisation Birdwatching Moldova.

ATU Winery

If you’ve ever wondered if an urban winery exists, well seek no further! ATU Winery is the answer. Situated at the entrance of the city, the first glance over the building indicates that there is something different about this place. A passion for wine, aesthetics and art have created this interesting combination into the brand that seeks to promote artisanal wines with an urban feel.

The history of ATU Winery starts with the founder Victor Vutcarău, who’s family has always been involved in viniculture. From 2001 they started growing a variety of grapes, currently being the best producer of wine plants on the moldovan and eastern european market. With this involvement and the gathered knowledge, the decision to open up a winery came naturally. From 2016 alongside his wife Vlada, the brand came to life under the name “ATU” which is a romanian word signifying “a strong point”. Besides the vast experience with plants, they are also the only winery in Moldova with it’s own wine nursery which they consider to be one of their main strength.

The production of this winery is a selective one, concentrating on dry and semi sweets wines, including the local moldovan Fetească Albă and Fetească Neagră. The main aim being creating high quality wines, they are limited edition with each type coming up in a batch of only 2000 bottles which allows them to give their full attention to every single drop. This is seen also in their production as everything is manually manufactured, from the grape picking all the way up to the bottle labelling. Not to mention the artistic detail that is invested in their brand, a way to promote local talents and urban culture.

Being mostly found on the moldovan market, their wines can also be purchased in a few shops in Austria, Luxembourg, Germany and Romania. But the best way is to visit the winery itself, where Victor or Vlada will take you through the journey of their wine production and the wine tasting experience. They offer 3 options for their visits, packages which give a variety of explorations of their main wines, but also when it’s the season – the young ones. Prices for the tours including wine tasting are in between 10- 18 euros per person. Booking upfront is required, a process easily done through a call, their website or social media. Also you can find them throughout the year at various events and wine exhibitions either in Moldova or in Europe.

To book a visit or find out more about them, check out the following links:

Website/ Facebook/ Instagram

 

LaBREWtory Craft Beer

For those questioning whether local breweries in Moldova exist, the answer is yes! One of them is LaBREWtory, an american style brewing company which is actually co-founded by an interesting mix of people: 2 moldovans and 2 americans. Despite they turned only 1 year in february 2019 since their production began, their story starts way before that.

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In 2011 Bill and his wife DeEva came to Moldova for work, being sent by Bill’s company. After the 4 years the contract was up and they were faced with a choice to make, move back to US or somewhere else. In the end they decided to stay in Moldova and try make his dream come true – owning a brewery. This passion began in the 90’s when he was gifted a home brew kit by DeEva. In 2016 they set up the company along with 2 other moldovan beer craft enthusiasts, but only in winter 2017 they managed to start their beer production.

 

If you’re wondering what makes them special, well they are the first craft brewery to brew the new beer style Brut IPA and also a Cream Ale style in Moldova. Nowadays they produce around 4000 litres of beer a month, with a variety of tastes. Their beer malt is imported from Belgium, while the hops from Europe (such as Slovenia, UK and Germany), also from USA and New Zealand. The beer choice consists of 2 flagship ales, and then the special edition, rotational and seasonal ale depending on the available ingredients. Their rotational beer lasts around every 1-2 weeks (depending on the selling demand) and the seasonal can be somewhat “experimental” for some, such as the Christmas version which contained whole cranberries.

 

The main focus of LaBREWtory is the quality of their beer and the satisfaction of their customers. They do not export abroad, being concentrated just on their main market – Chișinău. Their most popular place is actually at their brewery, where the production takes place. Besides the tanks where all the magic happens, they have also set up an area for entertainment where locals can enjoy their beer. As they believe that beer is for community, they also allow people to bring in their own food and during the warmer seasons to make BBQ’s outside. Buying beer by litres is also possible and for those that fall in love with it, they also have a branded glass for sale as souvenir.

 

Other services they offer are a free tours available in english, romanian and russian language on most of their working days. The tour includes a view of their production, loads of information and a small taster of their beers. Booking upfront is not a pre-requisite, but it is useful to give a call (or a message), especially for bigger groups of people so that they are prepared and have enough time to answer all your questions. For those that like their atmosphere, they also rent the space for various events and parties.

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Visiting the brewery is easy, especially by public transport from the city centre with the trolleybus nr.5 stopping nearby.

For more information, a list of locations where you can find their beer and booking a tour you can make through the following links:

Website / Facebook/ Instagram

KaraGani Winery

Down in the south of Moldova in the city of Vulcănești you can find a treasure. Only 200km’s from Chisinau, near the Ukranian border, the KaraGani Winery has it’s place. A name rather new on the Moldovan wine map, but not one to be missed that’s for sure.

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The tradition of winemaking in the Cerven family comes all the way from their găgăuzian ancestors, an ethnic group with turkic roots that settled in the area. As the craft for wine was passed down over 4 generations, the wife Lora and husband Gheorghe took their passion a few steps further, developing it into a business. Although they started producing their wine for the public only 2 years ago, they have already gained various recognitions and awards at local and international wine contests.

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Each year their produce only 10.000 bottles for public consumption which can be purchased in a few shops across the capital, in Comrat and also directly from them at the winery. The production process can be seen during an excursion as they take you through the whole process and a visit in autumn guarantees you to watch and even participate in their production.

Besides winemaking, they also offer a peek into Găgăuzian traditional life in their own self made museum which consists of objects gathered throughout the years of their families. From pictures of their relatives, to old irons, lamps, Găgăuzian furniture, handmade carpets and a trunk full of grandmother’s wedding dowry will leave you impressed and gasping for more stories.

Winetasting at KaraGani is a must and the basic tasting package comes with 3 wines, including one white, one red and one rosé. While you’re enjoying the wines, Lora or Gheorghe will tell you various stories about each wine and their history. The price for the excursion which includes the wine tasting of 3 wines costs only 150 lei (~7 euros) and it lasts for 1 hour.

For those wishing to immerse themselves deeper into the Găgăuzian culture, Lora offers the option of tasting their national cuisine with delicacies like homemade cheese, gozleme and their famous lamb dishes – kaurma, shurpa, etc. Such experience lasts 3 hours and it costs 25 euros, including the excursion and the wine tasting of 4 wine types. Master classes are also available for those that wish to learn both their cooking and winemaking crafts. Such options need to be discussed and booked upfront at least 1 day before your arrival.

Visiting such a small winery will be something memorable as you get to experience the authentic Moldova – a local family producing wine in their own yard. And how does their wine have a Găgăuzian accent (as they state in their company slogan) will be something that you will have to discover by yourselves.

To book your visit, get in touch with them at least 1 day before your arrival through their KaraGani Winery page or at the number: +373 69124996

 

 

Găgăuzia – autonomous area

Găgăuzia is an autonomous region of Moldova, but unlike Transnistria, there are no borders and own currency here. Ethnically Găgăuzians are Turkic in origin, with their ancestors coming all the way from Altai region. Later on they migrated from Bulgaria together with ethnic Bulgarians and settled in Bessarabia (Moldova) between 1812 and 1846. Nowadays the region is comprised of one city, two towns, twenty villages and three communities. The most interesting fact is despite their turkic roots, they are affiliated with the Eastern Orthodox Church.

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They have their own language which is taught in 55 schools, although Găgăuz is still not used as the language of instruction in educational institutions. Russian and Romanian are the official languages in Găgăuzia, and the majority of the population prefers to speak the Russian language.

If Găgăuzia is of any of interested to you or on your list to visit, then here are a few suggestions for what is there to see or experience.

In Comrat you can spend a few hours with a visit included at the National History and Etnographic Museum (entrance 10 lei) which has a collection of historical, cultural and even botanical exhibits. Nearby you will find monuments for the fallen soldiers in Afghanistan and the tankists, Comrat Art Gallery which showcases local găgăuzian art, the cathedral, turkish library Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and ofcourse Victory Square which has a statue of Lenin in front of their administrative building. Also in the city you can find the Comrat Winery which is their main wine producer.

Heading more south, the next stop is Beșalma village for the Ethnographic Museum which contains all the history of the găgăuz nation in a wonderful collection. The local guide does the tour only in russian, so if you wish to visit this museum, try to have a translator with you. If booked upfront, they can organise a little concert also with their national music, traditional clothing and dances.

If anyone is interested in postcards and pretty much soviet style, the post office across the street from the museum will be by your liking. A room where you can send mail, pay bills but also buy things from the counter just like in soviet times it is still very well alive. The villagers are very friendly and will be more than happy to try to converse with you even with the language barrier. A few metres through the village and you can see the Beșalma windmill, the one of last ones in Moldova.

Other things that are worthy to visit, specifically for discovering the food, is the Gagauz Sofrasi in Congaz (biggest and most condensed village in Europe). This is a traditional găgăuz style house which offers local food, lodging, but also experiences such as witnessing a traditional wedding, milking the sheep, wine tasting and even trying out therapeutic sheep wool beds. Keep in mind that they cater for groups of a minimum of 4 people only and require a +24 hours booking upfront.

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And last but not least, deep in the south of Moldova (about 3 hours drive from Chișinău) is the KaraGani winery . Not only they provide wine with găgăuzian accent, but also traditional food cooked by the owner and which has been recognised internationally and included in books about moldovan cuisine. Besides this, they have built their own little museum about găgăuzian culture with objects gathered by their family throughout the generations.

Despite being a less traveled destination and not as many amenities in the region, it is still a day trip that easily could be enjoyed.

Transnistria

One of the biggest mysteries of Moldova which everyone wishes to see is Transnistria – a piece of territory which has been autonomous since 1992 and is stuck in a frozen conflict. Advertised as a dangerous area, with most embassies not advising to go there, having russian military and the necessary border control, Transnistria has created quite an image for itself. But is it really that scary?

Historically Transnistria became a state of it’s own on 2nd of september 1990 when it was proclaimed “Dnestrian Moldovan Republic” right after the fall of communism. As Moldova gained it’s independence in 1991 and was registered as a member of UN on 2nd of march 1992, it signed a military intervention in the region to get rid of the rebel forces (which were helped by the soviet army) that have been taking over. After a few months of war and deaths, on 21st of july 1992 Moldova signed an agreement of peace with Russia. To this day Russia keeps it’s military and supports this region politically and economically, but it does not recognise it as an independent country.

Nowadays Transnistria has become quite a treasure for tourists. It has uniqueness, it’s own passport and currency. Entering the region one is required to register at the border control which takes a short time without any trouble and no bribery is needed or required whatsoever. Due to the influx of tourists they even speak a bit of english at the border now.

The first city after passing the border is Bender. Here you can visit the “Bender Fortress” which is situated right on the shore of river Nistru (Dniestr). The Military Cemetery and Memorial of Military Glory are both situated in the centre of the city. Please note that Transnistria has it’s own currency, so if you wish to buy your entrance at the fortress, museums or anything else, you need their local roubles.

Despite Bender and Tiraspol are separated by the river, they are united by a bridge and they have the trolleybus 19 that connects both these cities. At the entrance of Tiraspol you will be greeted by the famous Sheriff Stadium.

In Tiraspol itself most of the amenities for visiting are situated along the main road, so getting lost is not much of a possibility. Suvorov’s Statue, The Government building and the Lenin’s statue, House of the Soviets, House of Advisors, Tiraspol’s Museum, The Eternal Flame Memorial and the Tank, The Nistru Bridge, ruins of the fortress Tiraspol, The Cathedral, green market and a ride with the boat are things that you can explore. If you like alcohol then maybe you could book yourself a tour to the Kvint Distillery or Buket Moldavii winery, both of which require booking in advance.

But Transnistria does not end here. Besides Bender and Tiraspol there are other cities too. Nearby Tiraspol you can visit the beautiful Noul Neamt Monastery which is a monk monastery. In village Târnauca you find the “Museum of the bottle” which is a private museum founded in 1988 and hosts around 20.000 bottles from over 170 countries. A fun fact as well is that is the biggest building in the world in the shape of a bottle!

Driving more up north the country you can visit the Grigoriopol, Dubasari or Rabnitsa city which is considered the north Transnistrian “capital”. Beatiful spots of Transnistria can be observed from the shore of Molovata, Saharna, Japca Monastery, Lalova and others. During warmer season boat rides can be booked along the Nistru river which give you the opportunity to see both the shores.

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