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.

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

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.

2019-08-24 02.54.34 1.jpg

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.

2019-08-01-10.21.50-1.jpg

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.

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

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!

DSC02056

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.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

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 😉