Journal № 2 (10) 2020 Geographical history

*** Moldova... It is almost never what it seems, but almost always what it wants to be. And in this she is ahead of any other country – even in such a “mystical” region as the Balkans. Moldova is like a landscape along a road that nobody notices while rushing to an unknown place... But you should stop or at least slow down... And it starts!

In Moldova, one will not meet a set of clearly “typologized” attractions, which are familiar to all advertisements, magazines and booklets of tourist companies: azure seaside with palm trees, spires of mountains hiding in clouds, gorges, canyons, raging mountain rivers, virgin forests, volcanoes and geysers, cyclopean monumental architecture and other things that speak for itself and easily “consumed” – without any effort.

Here, in Moldova, there are at least four natural zones – the seaside, foothills, forest and hospitality, all of them sharply crossing into each other at the same time. But in spite of the widespread metaphor, where Moldova is compared with the “corridor” between the Carpathians and the Black Sea, along which people moved from east to west and often not at all peacefully from east to east, and even from north to south, it is not a “corridor” or even a “transition”, it is what is left and right of it... The history and culture of Moldova are inextricably linked to the whole Eurasia, and a few strokes, as well as a look into the past will allow you to feel it very quickly.

About the people who lived and live on this land
In the 1st millennium B.C. the Scythians and Thracians (Geths) lived here, who were visited by such “celebrities” of antiquity as the Persian “king of kings” Darius I – in 512 B.C., Alexander the Great – in 335 B.C. with no friendly “visits”, Zopirion, commander of Alexander the Great, viceroy of Thrace and Pontus (Scythia) – in 331 BC, Lissimah, companion (dyadoch) of Alexander the Great, ruler of Thrace, king of Macedonia and Asia Minor, including Phrygia – in 291 BC. Of the last two, the first died here with the whole army, while the second was taken prisoner and released by the Geths after promising not to come again in this way.

From III to I century BC bastards lived on the territory of present Moldova. Then, in the I–IV centuries already AD – Sarmatians, with whom in the III– IV centuries neighboring Goths (they are Visigoths) – the ancestors of the present Germanic peoples. They came here from far away, from Skanza itself (now Scandinavia), named their new homeland “Oium” (Goths “Aujom”) and left behind about 1500 archaeological sites of the Chernyakhov culture, as well as religious and literary heritage of the Bishop of Goths Ulphilas – the creator of the famous Gothic Bible (second half of IV century), one copy of which is kept in the library of Uppsala University in Sweden.

It is Wolfila’s legacy that allows the hospitable and friendly people of Moldova “not to be embarrassed” when mentioning Alaric, the first king of the Visigoths, who was born and grew up in the second half of the IV century AD in the extreme south of present Moldova, in the vicinity of the Danube international port of Giurgiulesti. It so happened that this Moldavian “countryman”, whose behavior fully corresponded to the turbulent time in which he lived, in 410 A.D. for the first time after the Gallic invasion (IV century BC) captured and plundered Rome, which even Hannibal failed after the legendary Battle of Cannes in 216 A.D. But a few months after the conquest of Rome, Alaric I suddenly died. Isn’t it fate?

In V–VI centuries Slavs from Polesie (present territory of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia) began to penetrate here. At the end of VII century in the south of present Moldova, on Danube, khan Asparuh laid the foundations of the first Bulgarian kingdom.

In the second half of the XIV century on the territory of the present Republic of Moldova located the capital of the Golden Horde Yangi-Shehr or Shehr Al-Jedid (nowadays Old Orhei, 60 km from Chisinau) – the bet of a descendant of Genghis Khan Abdullah, who had a dungeon Mamai – the ancestor of two future imperial dynasties: the Romanovs in Russia and Qing in China. The city was destroyed at the end of the XIV century by the troops of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Shortly before the last events, at the turn of the XIII–XIV centuries, the Dniester River was reached by vlachs, who called themselves “Moldovans” – a mountain people who lived by distant pastoralism. Vlachas were descendants of the Wolves, Romanized Celts, who lived in the territory of present-day France, Italy and Switzerland and approximately in V century began their resettlement to the east – through the mountains across Europe. Curiously, the word Welschland in Old German was called Italy and France, and in modern German the French-speaking part of Switzerland is so called. In Polish, Italy is called Włochy even today, and Italians are called włosi. And the Hungarians still call Italy Olaszország, i.e. the Country of the Vlach.

Except actually Romania and Moldova, descendants of Vlach live in Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, in the west and south of Ukraine, in Russia.

In the second half of XIV century the considerable part of territory of present Moldova gets under the authority of the Moldavian princedom.

Then the suzerain was the Ottoman Empire. For a long time – until the beginning of the XIX century. It is interesting that for some time the Kingdom of Sweden was ruled from the Principality of Moldova. So, it was here – fifty kilometers from Chisinau, in Bender – under the protection of Sultan Ahmed III after his defeat at Poltava, Swedish King Charles XII spent four years (1709–1713).

Then there was the Bessarabian Province of the Russian Empire and the policy of “showcase” for the Balkans and all Europe. Thanks to the abolition of serfdom, tax breaks and exemption from recruitment kits, Bessarabia became one of the most dynamically developing regions, and at the end of the XIX century, then Chisinau, only in the XVIII century, several times burned to the ground, became the fourth city of royal Russia in terms of growth.

By the way, something similar happened during the Soviet period. Solar (as it was called then) Moldavia was a “blossoming garden” of the country and a “showcase of socialism”. Here developed not only one of the most advanced agricultural production on the planet, but also the most modern processing. Moreover, during the Soviet epoch the most powerful complex of the most advanced industrial enterprises and scientific and production associations serving the Soviet cosmonautics as well as one of the best educational systems in the USSR and a very powerful academy of sciences were built.

It is people who make Moldova special! In any part of the country guests are welcomed with open people. Once in a Moldovan village, for example, you won’t even notice how you find yourself at the table, and the owner of the house is already serving spicy wine.

The national Moldovan cuisine amazes with its natural simplicity and unexpected variety. Aromatic soup-zama cooked with homemade noodles and mamaliga is a hard porridge made of corn flour, which is cut with a thread. Served with Moldavian cheese (Vlach cheese), sour cream and tokana. Placards are made of thin dough with various fillings: cabbage, cottage cheese, apple, pumpkin and cherry. Yes, the warm and hospitable land of the Moldovan people will not leave anyone indifferent to the national cuisine!

And the wine? Here’s another pride of Moldova! Every year in October the whole country celebrates Wine Day. The best winemakers welcome guests to please and surprise them with their products. The festivity is amazing in scale, and dances, communication and national cuisine create a special atmosphere.

Each corner of Moldova has incomparable flavor! In the south of the country live Gagauzians and Bulgarians – two brotherly Moldovans of the Balkan people, with their culture, history, traditions, and, of course, cuisine. It’s only an hour away – and now it’s a very different atmosphere, very different national features.

On the left bank of the Dniester River there is Transnistria, a region over which time is not overwhelming and which you can visit as if to return to the past – to the USSR.

To visit the unique historical complex Old Orhei, to see cave monasteries and ancient sketes – it is necessary! No tourist has left Moldova without visiting this picturesque valley.

And if there is a willingness and desire to get acquainted with the Roma ethnic group, then the way should be to the north of Moldova – to the city of Soroca. The surroundings of this city may cause ambiguous sensations, but this colorful trip and acquaintance with this special people will be remembered repeatedly.

Active recreation
The nature of Moldova inspires to have an active rest. The guests of the country have an opportunity to raft down the river, go climbing or biking. Fans of hiking will be interested in the unique relict forest of Codra and one of the longest caves in the world – “Emil Rakovice”. For those who travel by car, the most picturesque places in Moldova are equipped with camping sites. To get acquainted closer with the traditions of Moldovans and folklore, special tours are organized, where you can engage in local handicrafts and immerse yourself in the peculiarities of village life.

Travelling around the country does not require much time for travel, and everyone can fully enjoy the process of active recreation.

And many other things...
The Ethno Jazz festival in Chisinau and other Moldovan cities, the DescOpera open-air festival in Old Orhei, the Color Festival in the international exhibition complex “Moldexpo” in Chisinau, Underland Fest, as well as marathons organized in the wine cellars in Cricova will leave bright memories during the visit to Moldova.

And to keep abreast of the events and plan a trip to any of them, you can subscribe to the mailing list of the most significant and interesting events in Moldova.

Tourists can combine excursions with visits to unique festivals. For example:
-January – Cricova Wine Run, Cricova;
-February – Underland Wine&Music Fest, Cricova;
-March – Martisor, Chisinau;
-April – Vernissage of wine, Chisinau;
-May – First spring picnic, village Puhoi, Ialoveni district (50 km from Chisinau).

Regardless of the time of day, everyone can safely go for a walk or an excursion to a favorite city or make a trip to the countryside – because Moldova is one of the safest countries in Europe.
Moreover, on the whole territory of Moldova is available inexpensive mobile Internet, the speed of which makes the country one of the ten world leaders. In city parks, cafes and even trolleybuses you can connect to free Wi-Fi. And all this means that guests will always be in touch with their relatives and will be able to share their impressions about Moldova.

Moldova is a nontrivial place
Moldova is a picturesque country in Southeast Europe. It is not difficult to find a small and hospitable country on the map. The territory of Moldova on the map reminds a bunch of ripe grapes. And if there is a desire to bring unforgettable impressions and unique stories for friends, and not just magnets, Moldova can deeply surprise and overflow with emotions. After all, this is exactly what everyone is looking for in a new journey.

All roads to this hospitable country are open. You can get to the Republic by plane, having arrived at the international airport of the capital of Moldova – Chisinau. This is the same one described by the great Russian writer Lev N. Tolstoy during his two-month stay there in 1854 as a beautiful city, where life “runs smoothly, in pleasures...”. Since then, neither Chisinau nor the whole Moldova has changed itself in any way in the sense of “cultural peculiarity” fixed by Count Tolstoy. One can also get to Moldova by car and even by ferry – arriving at the southern port of Giurgiulesti on the Danube.

Modern Moldova is sovereign and young again, as it has happened many times in the history of the region. And its people, as in the famous poem by Peter Vyazemsky (a close friend of the great Alexander Pushkin, who lived in Chisinau in 1820–1823) “have experienced a lot, and many” – and still a lot of work, looking for themselves, learning, constantly thinking about the future and always finds time and place for rest and dreams!

I think that after all this we can agree that Moldova is a very non-trivial place for holidays.

Moldova is waiting – welcome!