Driving in from the airport, the Gates to the City and botanic park are visitors' first look at Chisinau, Moldova's thriving capital.
Surrounded by Romania to the southwest, and Ukraine to the northeast, Moldova has emerged from the conflicts of the 1990's to advance itself as a member of the EU.
Although still struggling with economic issues and ethnic divisions, Moldova holds out a warm welcome for travelers - drawn here to a bucolic landscape and an ancient wine tradition - mixed with the hubbub of urban pleasures found in major cities like Chisinau, the capital.
A walk around Chisinau
While the rest of the country remains economically challenged, visitors would never know it in Chisinau, where everyday folk brush shoulders with the rich and well-to-do at every turn.
In the city's physical layout, as well, Soviet-style squares and gray concrete buildings contrast with pretty parks or neighborhoods filled with inviting shops, cafes and restaurants. For party-goers, Chisinau's legendary nightlife also features a host of bars and nightclubs
that rock the neighborhood well into the wee hours.
Romanian travel phrases:
- Salut (sah-LOOT)
PLEASE - va rog (vuh ROHG)
THANK YOU - multumesc (mool-tzoo-MESK)
YES - da (DAH)
NO - nu (NOO)
EXCUSE ME - pardon (pahr-DOHN)
GOODBYE - la revedere (lah reh-veh-DEH-reh)
DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH? vorbiti engleza? (vor-BEETZ eng-LEH-zuh)
As in the rest of Moldova, the language heard in the capital most often is Romanian, along with a smattering of Russian, and English - sometimes spoken by hotel staff and a few taxi drivers, but more
often by younger Moldovans and college students.
While in the
capital, major must-see attractions include walks along the city's main drag, Stefan cel Mare Boulevard with a stop at the urban oasis Stefan cel Mare park.
Also don't miss a traditional "photo-op" beside the statue of Moldova's famous military hero, Stefan the Great.
For sheer relaxation, also taken in anyone of Chisinau's beautiful public
green spaces including Rose Valley, Rishkani Park, and the breathtakingly awesome Botanic Park, situated near the Gates of the City.
A Taste of Moldova
Milestii Mici winery, home to
Moldova's largest wine cellar.
Farther afield from the capital (although not very far) lies the major focus of tourism for world wine lovers, Moldovan wineries.
Indeed, Moldovan wine culture may date back to prehistoric times, when grapes were said to have grown wild throughout the Moldovian countryside.
Today, an organized taste of the grape can be had via tours of such internationally famous wineries as Purcari, Cricova (near the capital), Ciumai, Romanesti, Cojusna and Milestii Mici (home to Moldova's biggest wine cellar).
Non-drinkers, as well, might also enjoy the trip out into wine country, for stunningly scenic views of ancient farmland dotted by historic churches and monasteries.
No longer a best kept secret, a taste of Moldovan beer should also be on any visitor's to-do list including a sample of "Bere Chisinau", which beat out even German beermasters for the gold medal at the Nuremberg beer competition in 2007.
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