Unravelling the mystery behind this landlocked corner of Europe

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March 30th 2013
Published: April 16th 2018
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Off-beat travel destinations tend to have enough in the way of plus points to warrant a visit, and the landlocked nation of Moldova slots firmly into this category. While it might still be disputed as to whether this small nation does actually qualify as the poorest in Europe, the challenge in this case was to determine whether this country had enough substance to make a European city break seem like a wholly viable option. Upon arrival in the Moldovan capital city of Chisinau, it appeared, at first glance, that the urban fabric would make for interesting exploration, and as the 'Chisinau in a day' venture developed, it seemed reasonable to deem this more of a city of experiences rather than individual tourist sights. This was no negative reflection on the whole package, and the prospect of breezing through the streets from one point of interest to the next was a welcome one, simply because the curiosity factor was heightened at each fresh juncture. One noteworthy piece of curiosity in question is the open-air museum of military history, which showcases a variety of tanks, guns and military vehicles in its outdoor courtyard, and in some ways, this display alludes at the hard times which the Moldovans may have had to endure in order to reach their present stature. Western-style malls are starting to make their appearance within the city confines, and for solid evidence, check out the pun-related shopping complex that is Mall-Dova, surely a contender for the world's most aptly-named shopping mall. For my money though, the city's greatest retail therapy option happens to be the central market, a sizeable expanse of stalls both indoor and out, which represents a good bargain hunting ground as well as an absorbing travel experience to boot, through sheer dint of the buzz which the places gives rise to. As with almost all European capital cities, a memorable half-day excursion is within easy reach, and my top pick for this category is the winery complex at Cricova, which is basically an underground maze of corridors, mostly lined with vats and bottles of Moldova's top drops. Aside from the decor being striking and artistic, the tour itself is an informative and insightful experience which emphasizes the importance of present-day Moldova in the realm of alcohol production in the whole of the former Soviet Union. A wine-tasting session could well round off the proceedings perfectly, and even perhaps encourage a purchase or 4 either on site or at any one of the number of outlets within Chisinau city proper which stock the Cricova classics. Nightlife appears to cover a lot of ground in Chisinau too, which serves to suggest that the Moldovans are more than keen to shake off the darker aspects of their past in favour of what really does count in the modern day - having a fun-filled time. On the brink of a 1-day departure to places located outside of greater Chisinau, the Moldovan capital city's experience had just about whet my appetite for whatever areas of the rest of Moldova would have in store.

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