When we think of Europe as a travel destination, countries like France, Germany, Switzerland and other countries from western Europe generally comes to mind. But there are lesser known, smaller countries as spectacular and beautiful as the often visited European countries.
One such country in the eastern part of Europe is the Republic of Moldova, bordered by Romania and Ukraine. The capital city of Moldova is Chisinau and I had the opportunity to visit this lovely city on a business trip and had the pleasure of meeting many friendly people, taste the local food and visit the famous Cricova winery and cellars.
Moldova is not a typical touristy destination like other European countries. It is quite small, however a very beautiful country and has direct flights from the UK or connecting flights via Vienna or Bucharest to its capital, Chisinau.
Just a note on this post – All the photos on this post were taken using my old iPhone so might lack clarity but these will definitely give you an idea about the wonderful country we generally do not hear about so often or even know much about it. I posted most of the photos I took in this post. As everything around was so beautiful, I felt if I do not share these i would be not be doing justice in spreading the word about the beauty of the place. Hope you all will appreciate this.
Chisinau city is lined with trees and the architecture of buildings and churches bears resemblance to Russian architecture. I had read that one of the famous places to visit while in Chisinau is the Cricova winery and underground cellar, around 15 kms north of the capital Chisinau. When I said about this to my colleagues, they made all the arrangements to visit the winery one afternoon during my stay.
Cricova is second largest underground wine cellar in the world. The Cricova cellars are the result of construction limestone mines. Many buildings from Cricova, Chisinau and other cities in Moldova were built from the limestone that were extracted from here.
The underground cellar maintains a constant temperature of around 12-14 deg C which is ideal to store the wines. It has got around 120 kms of roadways within the cellars, so even cars can be driven through the roads underground. There is also an option to travel by battery operated carts.
The roads are surrounded by huge barrels filled with wine on both or either sides. There are also niches within the underground cellar area where extra barrels of wines are stored.
The underground roads in the Cricova winery are named after the wines they store, like the Strada Dionis or Strada Codru or Strada Chardonnay or Strada Sauvignon and so on. “Dionis” is a red dry wine produced according to a recipe of original unique blending of Cricova winery from the European classic red varieties of Pinot Noir (80%) and Cabernet-Sauvignon (20%).
Within the cellar there is a collection of vintage wines like the Jerusalem of Easter 1902, liquor “Jan Beher” Cehia 1902 and the Canelli Italy 1939. Looking at these, you actually feel you are part of history and heritage of this cellar.
The exhibits also includes around 158 brands from Burgundy, Moselle, Tokaji, Rhine and other regions and these form the precious treasury of the Winery and also of the Republic of Moldova.
Cellar spaces are available for rental and if you zoom in on the photos below you’ll see the wines stored in these cellar spaces by some famous people in the world. There is a small flag of the country whose important people store their wine collection in these cellars.
Cricova also produces sparkling wine in the method used by French monk Dom Perignon. You can see how the bottle of bubblies are stored, packaged and labelled.
The walls within the winery has wonderful wall carvings and mosaics to reflect the winery traditions of Moldova. There is also a museum within the complex and has lots of information on the history of wine production in Moldova.
There are quite a few halls within Cricova within the winery which can rented for meetings, symposiums, parties and these are also used for wine tasting during the winery and cellar tours.
The European Room with stained glass windows shows how a grapevine looks during all the seasons of the year. It also has a glass panel representing the Cricova landscape.
The sea tasting room is decorated like an undersea decor and bluish green hues. The Presidential room holds many high-level meetings with state officials and high-ranking people from Moldova and abroad. The Casa Mare room that bears the name of the most beautiful room of any traditional house from the countryside of Moldova. The lovely interior of the fireplace room creates an amazing impression. Needless to say, the predominant element of this room is the fireplace.
Another important aspect of travelling is to try out the local food. While in Moldova, the must try food is Mamaliga, which is considered as their national dish. It is a polenta based dish served with grated cheese and sour cream. These are also excellent variety of local breads, cheeses and I lovely the aubergine paste (quite similar to moutabel) served with bread. For meat eaters, you’ll be spoilt for choice. There are so many varieties in the local cuisine.
Ii was a short trip for me but I brought back with me lovely memories. I got another chance to visit Chisinau and was quite excited to travel back there and was definitely carrying my camera this time, however, I couldn’t even make it to the airport (that’s a first for me!) and well, that is another story…
Perhaps another opportunity will come in the future and I would be delighted to revisit this country. There are still some currency left with me to go back to Cricova for a bottle or two.
- Air Moldova flies directly to Chisinau from London Stansted airport. Flying time is around 2 hour 50 minutes
- The currency of Moldova is the Moldovan Lei
- Weather in summer months can be quite hot with temperature around 40+ deg C, but evenings are nice and breezy due to all the greenery around.
- If you visit the wine cellars, it can feel quite chilly inside, so better to carry a light jacket and scarf.
- For more info on Cricova, visit https://cricova.md/?lang=en
- If you are interested to know more about Moldova, you might enjoy reading this article 25 quirky facts about Europe’s least touristy country
The featured photo on this post is a hand crafted souvenir from Moldova. This was presented to me by a lovely colleague from Chisinau. It is a treasure for me as it reminds me of this beautiful country and its hospitable people.
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