An often forgotten part of Eastern Europe, I was warned prior to visiting Moldova: there’s nothing to do there and no young people. Apparently, they all leave the country as soon as they can because it’s such a dismal place. I found neither of these things to be true and had a lovely few days in the capital of Chisinau.
The nation of Moldova gets few tourists but I found the Amazing Ionika hostel to be quite enjoyable. Full kitchen, hospitable guests who wanted to interact, curtains over the beds, and a decent location is all I can ask for and this hostel checked those boxes. The food in Moldova is surprisingly decent. For a traditional meal head to Placinte Restaurant, it’s a chain but has some really tasty Moldovan food; try the mamaliga, it’s delicious.
The Largest Wine Cellar and Countries That Don’t Exist
Some things around Moldova that I did not do but in speaking with the locals apparently would have been fun: the town of Old Ohrai has an offshoot of the Dniester River and is supposed to be beautiful. A small town south of Chisinau called Milestii Mici has the world’s largest wine cellar by volume and would be a cool day trip to get drunk. Moldova is a small country so you could drive to all of these places in a couple of hours within the same day.
I’m saving the best for last because the real best thing to do in Chisinau is take a day trip to the country that doesn’t exist, Transnistria. Getting to Tiraspol was simple and cheap: I walked to the Central bus station, which is right in town. I looked at all the minibuses to see which had a sign for Tiraspol. The signs were in Russian, so I had to use my Russian language skills (yes, I have Russian language skills) to discern the letters.
What to Do in Moldova
From there a guy corralled me into his car and I went with him and two others across the makeshift border. The guy who drove me asked for the equivalent of three dollars, which I happily paid. From there my first stop was to exchange my Moldovan ley for Transnistrian rubles, which the Russian lady very tersely took from me. Over the course of the next four hours I wandered the streets, took photos, ate a meal, and saw exactly 0 other tourists. While there, you must go to this restaurant. Its halls were decked with old soviet garb, the televisions played Russian soap operas, and the food was super cheap.
People say that when you’re in Tiraspol, a city of 134,000 people, you feel like you’re back in the 80’s. It does have that feel but it also just feels like a desolate Eastern European town. It has one hostel, I wish I could have had more time to spend the night in. Tourists are only allowed 12 hours to visit Transnistria and apparently it would be a problem if I overstayed that welcome. I also learned that Transnistrian people have Moldovan passports and some have Russian passports as well. The people were kind and helpful and I even bought a set of the old coins at a bank, which were multicolored and plastic.
Nightlife in Moldova
You can book a trip for $100 and the guides will take you into Tiraspol and to some other sites/forts in Transnistria, my hostel even offered one. I am glad that I saved the money though, I visited this nation for $6 total and although their English is limited and I speak really shitty Russian, it made for an adventure.
Moldova, and Ukraine, are famous for having beautiful girls. It was tough to tell because winter was around the corner but I did find that the birds were chirping. I ran into a few at a pub trivia on a weekend at a local brewery. Again, late at night at an underground bar there was a flock of them. I look forward to truly going out there in summer, when the ladies are in sundresses and hear a person speaking English.
"Harvey Falcon" is the the senior adventure corespondant for Ski Bum Van Life. From Europe to Asia to South America and beyond Harvey offers an exciting take on adventure travel. Read all his stories here.
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