Wine, culture, food, religion, wine… I’ll be honest. It was wine that brought us to Moldova, and wine that kept us keen. Every year, during the first weekend of October, this eastern European country hosts a wine festival to promote its (very tasty) wine.
This year, protests forced a change in proceedings, and instead of setting up stalls in the main square, the organisers transported visitors to the wineries themselves, for tours, tastings, and special events.
We based ourselves in the capital city of Chișinău, and did day trips to small towns and wineries throughout the country. While wine logically held pride of place, we also enjoyed our visits to the breakaway republic of Transnistria and the northern town of Soroca, famous for its fortress.
Moldova once formed part of the USSR, and declared independence on its dissolution in 1991. Since then, it has been largely unnoticed by the rest of the world, but that’s starting to change. It signed an Association Agreement with the European Union in 2014 (causing problems with Russia) and is rapidly opening up. Budget flights even fly there now — so you have no excuse not to head there next October to take part in the wine festival.
This protest in the center of Chisinau is the reason the wine festival has been canceled. However, there are still plenty of things going on: when we flew in this morning a folk band was playing music to welcome passengers and we were given a mini bottle of wine to try. In other news WE ARE IN MOLDOVA. I don't know if I've ever been quite as excited about visiting a country, I've been looking forward to this for so long.
Yesterday, after visiting the mini wine festival at Butuceni, we wandered up to the monastery at Orheiul Vechi. There's a little hermitage cave in the rock that we visited, and then we went to the main building on the top of the cliff. The view was great and the building gorgeous, but the smell of incense and the sound of the monks singing was amazing.