The New York Post recently published an article sharing that Moldova is finally catching the attention of international travelers when it comes to “out-of-the-box” travel destinations. Citing its untouched natural beauty and its general lack of tourists, the article suggests Moldova as a cheap vacation spot for travelers tired of fighting typical tourist crowds and outrageously expensive tourist traps. It also touches on another aspect of Moldova that I have come to learn is one of the most defining attributes of its culture: wine.
Every year in early October, people all across the country begin the wine-making process with the grapes that they grow in their own gardens. Both red and white grapes are harvested, crushed, and left to ferment in a process special to each individual family within the country. The beginning of October also holds one of the most interesting festivals that Moldova hosts: National Wine Day. Since wine is such an important part of Moldovan culture and economy, several major organizations, such as Moldova Agroindbank and USAID, partner together to sponsor a festival that takes place in the center of the capital city. This festival celebrates Moldovan wine culture by bringing together wineries from across the country to share their products and compete for top prizes.
This festival is also extremely affordable in regards to tourists. For 100 lei (about $5 USD), a simple plastic wine glass can be purchased and taken around to the different booths for sampling purposes (5 lei, or 25 cents, a sample). The more expensive option is to purchase an acrylic wine glass for 200 lei ($10 USD) that comes with a coupon book. This coupon book is filled with 20 vouchers entitling the user to free pours from 20 different winery stands. Also included are coupons for discounts on local winery tours and transportation to those tours. Since Moldovan wine is considered some of the best wine in the world, these prices truly cannot be beaten and the atmosphere of this festival is so much fun.
In addition to the winery stands, there are also local artisans set up around the grand meeting square selling everything from locally made honey to traditional Moldovan clothing to handmade crafts. Food vendors surround the square, offering festival-goers a variety of eats, such as sașlik (barbecued meat), placintă (pronounced “pluh-chin-tuh” – a pastry filled with a variety of fillings, such as potato, cabbage, cheese, etc.), grilled vegetables, and other traditional Moldovan favorites. National Wine Day gives a unique insight into a most beloved part of life in Moldova. Whenever you enter into a Moldovan’s home, they will greet you with a smile, a table full of food, and a glass of their homemade wine. Their wine is just as defining to them as their name and heritage – it is a point of pride and, when they share their wine with you, they are truly sharing a part of their soul.
So, next time you are considering an affordable “out-of-the-box” vacation, come experience Moldova and allow them to share the beauty and goodness of their souls with you.