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Moldovan wanderings

We recently took advantage of a friend’s impromptu visit to Chisinau to see a few corners of Moldova we had yet to visit.

Arlana

Our first stop was Chateau Cojusna, one of Moldova’s medium-size wineries. In an attempt to capitalize on the country’s famed limestone wine tunnels, the owners of Cojusna built their facilities underground, even though there was no clear reason to do so.

cellar entrance2

The wine was middle of the road — eminently drinkable, but far from the best that Moldova has to offer. Two big things Cojusna has going in its favor is that it is a mere half-hour drive from Chisinau and that the 8-wine tasting has something for pretty much everyone. Our friend has a bit of a sweet tooth and was impressed with the 10-year aged muscat.

Soroca

Early the following morning we headed to Soroca, which is cradled in a bend of the Nistru River on Moldova’s northern border with Ukraine.

Nistru River

Soroca’s main draw is the newly reopened fortress, which dates back to the 16th century. Truth be told, the fort itself is not overly impressive, and wouldn’t be worth the 2-hour drive if the drive itself had not been so pleasant.

Soroca fortress

The road north from Chisinau slices through some of Moldova’s prettiest pastoral landscapes — gently rolling hills of fertile farmland everywhere the eye can see. It also helps that the road is easily the best in Moldova, just having been repaved and expanded thanks to U.S. development funding.

Nistru River crossing2

The fort sits right on the riverbank. Ukraine is literally a stone’s throw away. In the absence of bridges, a small ferry transports passengers between the two countries, cars and all.

2015.06.13 the gatekeeper of Soroca

It’s fair to say that of the four of us, Munchkin enjoyed Soroca most of all. He grew a bit antsy in the car towards the end of the drive, but we clearly made up for his discomfort by taking him to this ancient fort. Doors are kind of a big deal with him right now, and he would have happily spent the entire day opening and closing the massive ones he found in Soroca.

placinta seller

Soroca has a sizable portion of Moldova’s Roma community, leading some to refer to the city as the gypsy capital of the country. Coming into the city, the main road descends  a hillside that is lined with ostentatious mansions that are about as out of place as anything we have seen in Moldova. The source of the obscene wealth these houses, which belong to the Roma, represent has long been a topic of hot debate.

gypsy mansion

On the way back from Soroca we stopped at Cricova, Moldova’s state-run winery. S had already visited twice, but D somehow had never been, and visiting Cricova was the one thing our friend insisted we do during her visit.

moldy bottles

Although Mileștii Mici holds the Guinness records for largest underground winery with the most extensive wine collection in the world, Cricova is definitely the classier operation.

wine street

It even has a little train that takes guests through the miles of underground wine tunnels. And the wine tasting is definitely a step above what Mileștii Mici offers.

wine art

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