Having a bad reputation of the poorest country in Europe, Moldova is slowly being discovered by tourists. It fully deserves the attention, treating visitors with magnificent views and calming silence of the fields.
Moldova is not only a country of vines, but also an attractive tourist destination, despite the poverty. The landscape consists of vineyards, acres of fields gently stretching to the horizon and colorfully decorated wells standing at the roadsides. Driving from Ukraine towards Romania, we can stop for a while in a few places worth exploring.
Symbol of Moldova
One of the most visited cities in Moldova is Soroca. Dniester, flowing on the eastern side, looks exceptionally beautiful, and just across the river extend the lands of Ukraine. The city is an extremely important center for all citizens, while its most valuable monument is a stone fortress being a symbol of the country. You can find it on Moldovan identity cards.
The fortress is inextricably linked with the silhouette of Nicolae Bulat, who has tended the monument for decades. He’s a tour guide, he also conducts researches and archaeological excavations. Visitors from Poland have the opportunity to listen to a sort of a lecture on Polish-Moldovan history and can learn many interesting things about John III Sobieski, Wladyslaw Jagiello and John Olbrachcie. Getting to know the opinion of the custodian about the creators of the fortress – according to Bulat it was built by Moldovans, not by Genoese people, which doesn’t correspond with the official history.
If anyone gets hungry during sightseeing, can visit restaurant located near the building. The menu includes, among others, chicken soup on a natural sourdough and sarmale (stuffed cabbage).
Soroca is home to the largest percentage of Moldovan Roma. One of the main attractions of the city, the gypsy district, enjoys a huge interest among tourists. You will easily understand that, when you look at the wealthy villas, standing behind the equally rich fences, scattered along the winding street leading uphill. The higher, the more developed and decorated houses. Actually, they aren’t homes but residences, consisting of 3 or 4 floors. Some of them resemble castles - they have pyramidal outhouses, large balconies and fanciful towers. Not everyone will enjoy this abundant construction, but it’s obvious that it’s a very blunt combination (not to say confusion) of architectural styles. The district is located on a hill above the city.
It’s worth mentioning that Soroca is home of Artur Cherar, a gypsy king with the title of baron. As a representative of the Moldovan Roma he often participates in various types of conferences. In his garden stands a very old vehicle – a limousine from one of the leaders of USSR, Yuri Andropov.
Leaving the city known as the capital of the Moldavian Roma, we head to the west. Approximately 80 km from Soroca, there’s Balti, a small town in which (apart the Romanian language) you can often hear Russian and Polish – here lives quite numerous Polish diaspora. Balti has two faces: one typical, post-Soviet, gray and weary, and the second, filled with old houses with gardens and climatic narrow streets.
According to legends, the city was founded by the Princess Ryngalla, who settled here after the expulsion from Poland for the love to the bishop. The oldest building in Balti is Nikolajevska Church, dating back to the eighteen century. You should also see the Armenian Church of St. Gregory, the Orthodox Cathedral of Constantine and Helen and Polish House on Paci Street 31.
Approximately 35 km from Balti is the famous "little Warsaw". It’s Stricea, the most Polish of all villages in Moldova. Near you can find a great tourist attraction - Butesti gorge, carved in the coral reef, which is a trace of the former Sarmatian Sea.
We move further towards Romania, passing through more vineyards and vast fields. We leave thecountry of vine to visit its western neighbor.