This short break gives a taste of Moldova, a country that has successfully emerged from behind the Iron Curtain. Along the way, try Moldovan wine, Kvint brandy and traditional hearty cuisine. Tiraspol - Discover the capital of the breakaway territory of Trans-Dniester, which harks back to the days of the USSR Chisinau - Explore Moldova's little known capital with its 1950s Soviet architecture and large parks Orheiul Vechi - See ancient fortresses and unusual rock-carved monasteries overlooking the dramatic Raut River Gorge Festival Departures - Join a departure to visit Tiraspol on Victory Day to see the military parade or on Independence Day to experience the celebrations or be in Chisinau during the Wine Festival
Our trip begins in Chisinau, which is located in the very heart of Moldova and is the country's capital city. Moldova has a chequered history, which includes the nationalist movement and power struggles of the 1990s, which led to its freedom from the Soviet Union. Most of the city was destroyed during World War II and by an earthquake in 1940, so the architecture is mainly in the 1950s striking Soviet style, but there are also two large parks, which give the city a much greener feel. Moldovans are known to be some of the friendliest people in Eastern Europe, and nowhere is that more obvious than in Chisinau. For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Chisinau at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Chisinau International Airport (KIV), which is about 30 minutes' drive from the city centre. Due to a number of flights arriving into Chisinau later in the evening, our welcome meeting will take place on the morning of day two at 8.30am. If you have free time on arrival then the parks are a great place to take a stroll and to relax.
After our Leader does an initial wlecome meeting, we'll explore the city's main sights on foot. We'll see the Orthodox Cathedral of Christ's Nativity, the exterior facade of the Presidential Palace and the Parliament building and the Holy Gates, which is known as Moldova's 'Arc de Triomphe'. There's the chance to haggle in the local food market and bazaar. Join the locals promenading in the park along the Avenue of the Classics of Moldovan Literature, which is lined with statues and busts of Romanian and Moldovan authors and social figures. There's the opportunity to visit the emotive Army Museum in the Centre of Culture and Military History. The exhibits here document Soviet-era repression and the crimes perpetrated by Lenin and Stalin. They tell the story of mass deportation, gulag labour camps, manmade famines and other harrowing tales. After free time for lunch, we will drive to the Cricova or Milestii Mici Wine Cellar, where we will explore their extensive cellars. Moldova is recognised for its good wine and back in the Soviet era the country was known as the 'the vineyard of the USSR'. Cricova and Milestii Mici Wine Cellars make use of tunnels constructed in the building of Chisinau in the 15th century to store their wine. They've been producing wine since the 1950s and have a number that have won prestigious awards. Returning to Chisinau this evening, dinner, coupled with a variety of excellent local wines, will take place in the Carpe Diem Wine Bar.
Leaving Chisinau this morning , we cross the border to experience one of the most unique places in Europe - Tiraspol, the capital of the breakaway state of Trans-Dniester. Unlike the rest of Moldova, Trans-Dniester hadn't wanted to separate from the Soviet Union, so back in 1992 after a short conflict they declared their independence. However, it's not recognised by any of the United Nations as an independent state even though it has its own government, military, postal service, currency, flag and national anthem. Once the border formalities are complete, our next stop will be the 16th century Ottoman fort at Bendery. After some time to look around and take in the views from the turrets, we set off for Tiraspol. We'll explore on foot to view the numerous war memorials including those commemorating the 1992 Civil War and Trans-Dniester War, and the Supreme Court, Statue of Lenin, De Voln Park and Arch of Bendery. After a little free time for lunch, it's time to visit the Kvint Brandy Factory for a tour and tasting. Kvint is considered by the locals to be a national symbol of Trans-Dniester and even appears on one of their banknotes. It was founded in 1897, making it the oldest operating commercial enterprise in the region and as well as brandy, the factory produces wine and vodka. After checking in to the hotel, dinner will be at the home of a local family where there is the opportunity to ask them questions and learn about their lives in this special hidden part of Europe.
Before leaving Tiraspol, we walk to the Central Market and see the cathedral. We depart for Orheiul Vechi in rural Moldova via Dubasari where we visit the Pridnestrovian Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial. We'll also make a stop along the way at a local restaurant to buy lunch. The visit to the Orheiul Vechi Complex is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the trip. This site is of great historical and archaeological importance and is home to one of the most unusual church complexes in Eastern Europe. Set in a ruggedly beautiful valley gorge, shaped by the Raut River, there are several ancient monuments amongst and carved into the huge limestone outcrops that date from 10th century BC up to 14th century AD. The Cave Monastery was dug into the cliff by Orthodox monks. Above ground there's a church dedicated to the Ascension of Saint Mary and a museum providing a further insight into the area. We take an easy graded walk around the site, which takes around two to three hours and covers five to six kilometres. Before returning to Chisinau, we will have a traditional Moldovan dinner such as zeama - a tasty chicken soup and mamaliga - a type of polenta with fried meat and fresh seasonal vegetables washed down with homemade wine. During dinner, there's the chance to see and join in with traditional folk songs and dancing. Please note that if the weather is too poor to do the walk then a visit will be made to the Curchi Monastery instead.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Chisinau. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Chisinau at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Chisinau International Airport (KIV).
4 Break Fast(s) 3 Dinner(s)
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