Landlocked and bounded by Romania and the Ukraine in southeastern Europe, Moldova is a former Soviet Union territory vaguely recognized in Europe and unknown to the rest of the world. Moldova’s wine industry is the centerpiece of its tourism industry. Amid fields of sunflowers, a bucolic countryside and remote monasteries carved into limestone cliffs, the country’s vineyards are set up along wooded slopes and fertile pastures. The cultivation of the vine is a century old tradition among the Moldovan people.
The wine routes, the best way to experience this form of agri-tourism, branch out from the capital, Chisinau. Visitors can tour the cellars and enjoy tastings of such Moldovan varietals as Feteasca, Black Rara and Plavai, offering various bouquets of flavors and colors. Touted as the largest wine cellar in the world, Cricova has 62 miles of underground “streets” containing 30 million bottles. When you’ve had your fill of the drink, you can retire to a nearby pension.
Chisinau, bisected by the Bic and Isnovat rivers, is a cultural treasure trove, with cathedrals, monuments and institutions that survived WWII bombings, including the house where the great Russian poet Pushkin spent his days in exile and began writing his epic work, Eugene Onegin. Take in a show at the former Chisinau Choral Synagogue that today houses the Chekhov Drama Theater.
Museums include the History and Regional Lore Museum in a Turkish-style complex and the Fine Arts Museum, exhibiting Russian, western European and Moldovan paintings and sculptures. There are limited hotels in Chisinau near the railway station and in the city center; goods and services you may have come to expect in more developed countries are not yet available.