Flag of Moldova
The best way to describe the Eastern European country of Moldova would be to say it's the land that tourism forgot. For anyone looking to get away from the "been there, done that" European tour, Moldova makes the best choice.
The Huns and Magyars (the folks that settled Hungary), Romans, Mongols, and Russians have also laid claim to the place, each putting their own stamp and flair to it.
Moldova's snowy winters didn't stop them from coming. But, perhaps they fell more in love with the crisp Autumn days, and warm summers. It might've been the landscape that was great for growing wine grapes, too.
You'll find vineyards all over the place, making a hundred different varieties of vino; including the favorites like Riesling, Merlot, and Moldovan Cabarnet.
Many of Moldova's wines pair nicely with much of its cuisine, inlcuding mititeyi (a grilled sausage with peppers and onions), and tocana (pork stew served with apples). For dessert try Nistru, a brandy that's great for after dinner.
It's a good call to bring home a few bottles of the stuff, but don't forget to pick up some embroidered items and wood-carved bric-a-brac.
In order to eat the local food, drink the local wines, and shop for locally made goods--you got to get here. A simple passport is required for everyone, and no visa is needed for most visitors. To save yourself a headache later on, check with the consulate before leaving to double-check if one is needed.
No trip to Moldova is ever complete without a stop in the capital city of Chisinau, once called Kishinev. Whatever name it goes by, the city is a cultural gem. The Pushkin House details the life of the Russian poet's exile; and the city is filled with Opera Houses, Concert Halls, and Theaters.
Chisinau's Choral Synagogue is now the Chekhov Drama Theater. That's killing two sightseeing birds with one stone. Other cultural pursuits in the city include Puppet Theater, the Symphony Orchestra, and litte cafes and restaurants.
People watching and eating is a cultural activity, in case you were wondering.
A country this old is bound to have a number of historical sites to see. Benderi is one of the oldest villages in the country, and you should see its 17th century fortress.
The History & Regional Lore Museum (in Chisinau) is a fun (and educational) way of learning about the place, too.
Moldova's landscape is as extraordinary as its history, the Emil Racovita is a gypsum cave complex going in some 291,000 feet (with underground lakes, no less), spread out over different levels with names like Cinderella's Hall.
You can visit most parts of the cave, so long as you've got an experienced guide with you.
No guides necessary to hit up the thermal spas in towns like Cahul--total relaxation all by yourself.
You'll need to relax if you're trying to drive your way around the country. Roads outside the capital are in pretty bad shape, but the train connects to most towns, making it a much better choice. Within the city itself, buses and trolleys are cheap, but tend to get crowded. With locals, of course, since Moldova's the forgotten land of tourism.
Isn't nice to have the place to yourself?