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Moldova through the eyes of the world’s travel bloggers

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It seems to be a “terra incognita” for most travellers in the world. Republic of Moldova is never put in the top of the dream travel destinations bucket list. Very often, it is overlooked or ignored by tourists. Basically, it’s called the least popular European destination. But, is the situation really a hard row to hoe and Moldova doesn’t possess any touristic charm? Or maybe we are talking about a not well-known country that hasn’t developed yet its entire potential? We could figure it out by checking out the travel posts of some popular bloggers that managed to visit Moldova.

First, any travel itinerary that includes Moldova mentions several important stops: Chișinău – the capital of the country, Orheiul Vechi – the most popular destination of Moldova where every tourist is driven to, and the famous wineries – the treasure of the country each and every citizen is proud of. Certainly, every traveller that was in Moldova has seen all these places. Still, perhaps they discovered something more and went beyond the conventional touristic brochures’ recommendations.

“I’m going to make an embarrassing confession. Until recently I couldn’t point to Moldova on a map”

Kristin Amico is a travel blogger from Boston, US that, together with a team of curious fellows, strolled around the cities and villages, danced and tasted local food, learned about the complicated history and made new friends during her visit in Republic of Moldova in 2017. “It may take a little effort before locals warm to you, but they will. A conversation over a cup of strong coffee or a shot of local brandy and you’ll have a friend for life.” mentions Kristin in her article.

Kristin with her fellows while travelling to Moldova| Photo source: intrepidtravel.com

Among the Kristin’s favourite experiences were the lunch at the home of the most popular percussion-playing grandmother in Moldova, Lidia Bejenaru, the shopping at “Piața Centrală”, the city’s main outdoor market, and the tortuous guided tour in the Mileștii Mici huge cellars. She was surprised by the taste of the home-made snacks with sunflower seeds and nuts available at roadside stops, and enjoyed the local “Plăcintă”, a savory pastry filled with salty cheese or meat.

“There aren’t a lot of visitors to Chișinău, or Moldova, but perhaps that’s exactly why you should visit.”

Richard Collett is a traveller and freelance writer from the UK. He writes travel blogs with a dash of journalism and takes photographs along the way, as he mentions on his website called “Travel Tramp”.

Richard crossing the border from Abkhazia to Georgia| Photo source: travel-tramp.com

In 2016, he visited Chișinău, “the inelegant, yet chaotically transfixing capital of a small state at the edge of Europe”, as he described it. Richard didn’t see any other tourists around, but this fact didn’t upset him at all. He is a travelling hippie, searching for places that usual tourists don’t visit, abandoned places and countries that don’t exist.

A photo taken by Richard in Transnistria| Photo source: travel-trump.com

In Moldova, he discovered the Stalin’s paranoiac reminiscence of running trains on a separate gauge to the entire central and western Europe, took a tour to the monumental socialist statues in the capital while enjoying the tiny fares for public transportation, and had the chance to glance at the “last surviving haven of the Soviet Union” – Transnistria. “This is one of those regions the Foreign Office advises against all travel to. Moldova doesn’t want anyone going there. There are no embassies, there’s no outside help if anything goes wrong. Entire armies are lined up on every side of the river, just waiting for something to kick off. This is the darkest of political black holes, a place accused of gun running and drug smuggling. And I didn’t even speak a single word of Russian.” At the end of the day, crossing the Transnistria’s border turned out to be a shockingly easy process. Roaming on the streets, he couldn’t miss the tanks and armoured vehicles at every check point ready to follow orders, the proud and nostalgic display of Lenin’s bust, and the strong taste of the 10 years local cognac. “For a country that doesn’t exist, they sure know how to make good, strong liquor.”

“It’s not the trip for beautiful places, it’s for the experience!”

Kamila Napora is a Polish solo traveller that adventured to take the road to a lot of countries. She finally made it to Moldova out of the clear blue sky after her flights to Balkans were cancelled.

Kamila in one of her trips| Photo source: mywanderlust.pl

So, she took the chance to feel the vibe of the place and almost sneaked into the abandoned Chișinău circus, had some local-produced kvas and artisan roast coffee, and remembered her childhood while inspecting the socialist architecture. “You will not find beautiful architecture or exciting attractions there, but still I really enjoyed my visit to Chișinău and I think it’s worth to spend at least a day there” she notices in her article about Moldova.

The main railway station seen by Kamila| Photo source: mywanderlust.pl

Of course, her trip wouldn’t have been complete without a short escape to Transnistria.

“The thing about Chișinău is you can’t help but be taken on a completely random journey while you’re there. That’s when you really get under the skin of the place.”

Macca Sherifi, a travel blogger, photographer and presenter that has the travelling in his genes, was born in Jordan and was carted from a young age by his parents to the most exotic countries of the world.

Macca practicing his photography skills| Photo source: anadventurousworld.com

Macca describes on the blog he writes the highlights of his experience. Among his top five things to do in Chișinău, he recommends wandering in the National Museum of History, visiting churches and, especially, doing something really random. “There are a number of random festivals in Chișinău, and if you’re staying for a few days it’s almost guaranteed there will be something on.”

A festival for kids captured by Macca| Photo source: anadventurousworld.com

“It is definitely a different world here.”

Geoff Matthews and his wife Katie are a Canadian couple who can’t stop travelling. They also made a journey to the “tiny landlocked country that seems kind of ‘left behind’ by the rest of the world” – Moldova.

Geoff and Katie| Photo source: wandertooth.com

Just like the other tourists in Moldova they were trying not only to explore the country, but also to feel the atmosphere of the places they went to. Therefore, in order to catch the glimpse of the local culture, the couple decided to head to Trebujeni: “a sort of ‘open air’ museum complex of ruins and ancient monasteries in caves,” as they heard about it. “A little over an hour later we were on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere.

Photo source: wandertooth.com

Outside of the capital city, Moldova really is like stepping back in time.” Certainly, they were astonished, and how could one not be? The Orheiul Vechi area was huge, there were no clear direction signs and the local people proved to still be living in the era when there really was no farm equipment.

“The one thing I never expected was to fall in love with Moldova.”

Leyla Giray Alyanak, a perpetual expat born in France and an inspiring woman, travelled to Moldova in “a bit of funk”. Leyla already heard from the others that it’s boring but was ready to see everything with her own eyes. Just like the majority of the tourists coming to Moldova, she took the train from Romania and, of course, she learned the way the wheels were changed on the train – “This is not a quiet event. The existing wheels are unfastened and rolled away, and new wheels take their place, a sort of Communist industrial dance with geopolitical undertones.”

Leyla and her new met friend from Moldova – Ana| Photo source: women-on-the-road.com

Even though the travel by train was rather exotic than pleasant, it would lead Leyla to some unexpectedly interesting experience. She had a breath of fresh air in the Chișinău’s parks and was really amazed to discover wi-fi and electrical outlets installed in the city centre, walked along the flower market to nose out their perfume, and enjoyed some local food in the restaurants and cafes. Leyla even drove around the countryside and experienced a rudimentary form of agritourism. “If you’d rather drive than take a local bus or taxi, I’d go for it. You can head north to some of the smaller cities, hunt for monasteries, or even travel south to Gagauzia.”

Photo source: women-on-the-road.com

In her article, she touches the main facets of the economic, cultural and social contrasts: “This is a country of extraordinary diversity and just when you think you’ve understood a thing or two, another layer of complexity appears. You’ll find fast cars and snazzy shops in the capital, but in some rural areas the poverty is shocking.” Still, she expressed her willing to come back one day: “Nothing will take away the fact that it is one of the most interesting countries to visit in this region, and certainly one of the most welcoming.”

Conclusion? Well, all these travel bloggers, as most of the tourists coming to Moldova, had lowered expectations before visiting the country. They were told that it’s a poor country with no fascinating natural attractions or sumptuous architecture, with a huge social gap and a couple of shady autonomous regions on its territory. That’s right. Moldova is certainly not a destination were the tourism is flourishing. Yet, all these people expressed a special excitement about several aspects: the assortment of local food and wine, the diversity of local culture and the special aura that covers some post-soviet places. This is what Moldova has now and, maybe, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. With a proper “wrapping”, all these things could make Moldova a unique place for visitors.

Featured image source: wandertooth.com

Society

Lifting coronavirus restrictions in Moldova – risks and future costs

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Another 153 new cases of infection with the novel coronavirus were confirmed today in the Republic of Moldova, informed the Minister of Health, Labour and Social Protection (MHLSP). Altogether, the number of infected persons reached 8 251 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

In the last week, there was a decrease in the number of confirmed cases by 11%, according to the specialists from the National Public Health Agency (NPHA). At the same time, the number of recovered cases increased by 5% as compared to the week before. Still, the cumulative incidence of cases reported in Moldova, when compared to other states, increased to 2 224 cases per one million population (21 out of 46 countries, according to statista.com), while the death rate increased from 67 deaths per one million population to 80 deaths per one million population.

While most of these numbers are interpreted positively by the Moldovan authorities, there are still restrictions on which the pandemic evolution depends. In case they are lifted to soon, the next wave of infection cases could begin. If they are kept for too long, a lot of businesses and family budgets would suffer. Therefore, a lot of future risks and costs depend on the next steps taken by officials.

Unbalanced restrictions’ lifting

The last decision of the National Extraordinary Public Health Commission lifted certain restrictions imposed during the state of emergency in the country. For example, it was decided to open all open-air markets in the country, including the ones from big cities (Chisinau and Balti) starting June 1, relaunch the activity of the shopping centres, except for restaurants and entertainment units located inside – June 8, allow religious ceremonies, including meetings in public places for celebrating important religious holidays – June 5. Starting June 15, gyms and restaurant units will be reopened as well.

On the other hand, the Government of the Republic of Moldova decided to cancel this year high school graduation exams. “Given the exceptional circumstances, it was necessary to adopt some measures aimed at reducing the risk of contagion of middle school and high school graduates and teachers. The organisation of graduation exams involves a series of indoor activities and a large number of persons (high school graduation exams – about 40 000 people, the Baccalaureate exams about 20 000 people), which increases the risk of infection, even though the necessary protection measures would be followed,” said the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research (MECR).

The Parliament approved, on 21 May, a draft law on the cancellation of national graduation exams of the 2020 examination session.

Not everyone agreed with the taken decisions though. “As the markets open, where the congestion is very high, as the supermarkets worked during severe quarantine, in the same way, examinations could have been carried out with all the restrictions imposed to avoid the spread of the new type of coronavirus,” declared former Minister of Education, Corina Fusu, for ZdG.

“Many decisions on restrictions’ lifting have no logic. One of them would be the reopening of gyms with no access to the bathrooms or locker rooms. […] Strategies were lacking in Moldova. Instead, we enjoyed daily statistics, not well-determined actions. We have paid for it, both with the health and lives of people, as well as with a downgraded economy, “ said the WHO expert and former Minister of Health, Ala Nemerenco. The former dignitary argued that Moldova is way behind other European countries when it comes to the pandemic evolution, however the restrictions are lifted at the same time.

“The number of new cases, the serious or critical cases is still very high. At the same time, the number of deaths is high. In other European countries people are more educated in this regard. They know what shift work means and what sanitary hygiene means. Our people still don’t know anything about this. I still argue that the Rahmanish Easter (religious holiday postponed for the beginning of June in Moldova) should be cancelled. I am also against the markets’ reopening,” head of the NPHA, Nicolae Furtuna, claimed for ZdG.

Restrictions are not for everyone

The opposition MP, Sergiu Litvinenco, filed a complaint with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, to fine President Igor Dodon because he didn’t comply with the rules imposed during the pandemic period. First, the president expressed a superficial and uninformed opinion regarding the novel coronavirus, saying it is not more than a flu that affects merely older people.

Moreover, Dodon recently posted several photos and videos on social media where it can be observed that meetings with local public authorities, economic agents, citizens, including older people and children, were conducted without wearing a protective mask and  keeping social distance, especially indoors.

“The law is the same for everyone and must be equally applied. Igor Dodon must be punished for the obvious violation of the mandatory rules on prevention and control measures of epidemic diseases!”

Nevertheless, Minister of Internal Affairs, Pavel Voicu, declared that no deviation from rules were found. “We did not fine him because he has immunity. We have not seen any deviations from the Commission’s provisions so far,” he said.

COVID-19 is still here

Speaker of the Parliament, Zinaida Greceanii, signed a provision regarding self-isolation regime establishment for all members of the Parliament from May 22, as several persons in the legislature, including a MP, were tested positive for coronavirus previously.  All members and staff of the Parliament were tested and were asked to stay at home until the confirmation of negative results for COVID -19, as it was announced in a press release of the Moldovan Parliament.

Meanwhile, 1602 cases of infection (19,41% of total cases) have been confirmed among healthcare system employees, including 380 doctors, 20 pharmacists, 630 nurses, 84 janitors and 488 support staff.

The authorities desire to relaunch the economy of the country is understandable, as well as the opposition and experts’ reluctance regarding the speed and relevancy of restrictions’ lifting. However, taking into consideration the relatively low level of informing the population on how to correctly exit the restrictions’ period and the lack of a consistent strategy of authorities on how and when to reopen various activities, the future costs of the already taken decisions could be really painful.

Photo: Dreamstime.com

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Culture

Generation C – a documentary by Moldova.org about shepherding in Moldova and Georgia // VIDEO

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At the end of January, Moldova.org presented the premiere of the documentary Generation C, a film about an occupation that was passed on from father to son – shepherding.

The documentary tells the story of Vaso and Anatolie – two men, one from the Georgian mountains and another from the south of Moldova – and displays the activity of their lives, that of their fathers, grandparents and great-grandparents. But will it be inherited by their sons as well?

Anatolie Ciobanu (his name is translated as shepherd) lives in Alexandru Ioan Cuza village, Cahul district. He has several hundred sheep and says he may run out of them one day.

Vaso Gulelauri lives in Lalisquri Village, Telavi, Georgia with his family. When he is not taking care of sheep and is not at home, he spends his time in the mountains. He has never been to the sea, because he loves the mountains too much.

In the last 20 years, the number of sheep in the Republic of Moldova has almost halved. The same thing happened in Georgia. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia had about two million sheep. Now, the figure reaches one million only.

The documentary can be watched below:

„Generation C” documentary (english subtitles)

Prieteni, astăzi publicăm documentarul „Generația C” subtitrat în limba engleză! Deci vă invităm să-l distribuiți și să-l arătați prietenilor voștri care nu vorbesc româna sau georgiana și rusa. ^_^Într-o eră a Internetului, vitezei și industrializării, doi ciobani, unul moldovean, altul georgian, ne-au împărtășit istoriile lor și ne-au vorbit despre tradiția transmisă lor de bunicii și tații lor.Pe lângă imaginile pitorești, bucuria celor doi este că încă mai pot împărtăși această cutumă cu fii lor. Dar oare vor fi cei doi oieri și ultima generație de ciobani din familiile lor? Găsiți răspunsul în documentarul nostru, „Generația C”.

Geplaatst door Moldova.org op Maandag 18 mei 2020

This text is a translation. The original article here.

Photos: Moldova.org| Tatiana Beghiu

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Society

The Moldovan Orthodox Church spread dangerous fakes about COVID-19 vaccination, nano-chipping and 5G

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Religion is an essential part of almost every Moldovan citizen’s life. The majority of Moldova’s people describe themselves as being religious – almost 93% of the population. 90% of the total population declared they follow Orthodoxy, governed by the Eastern Orthodox Church, according to the national census conducted in 2014.

Therefore, the Moldovan Orthodox Church (MOC) is the one that introduces and approves the most important religious and everyday life practices for 90% of Moldova’s population, but it is also responsible for a lot of stereotypes, stigmas, myths, beliefs and disbelief spread in the Moldovan society.

This week, two messages of the Moldovan Orthodox Church were addressed to the state authorities. One of them referred to the restrictions imposed on the activity of the churches from Moldova during the Public Health Emergency period. Another urged the government to refrain from compulsory vaccination of the population, when a vaccine against COVID-19 would be made available. What is even worse, the second message included false information about nano-chipping and 5G technology.

First, the MOC representatives didn’t agree with the latest provisions issued by the National Extraordinary Public Health Commission, which established that religious ceremonies will continue to be held in churchyards, keeping social distance, until June 30. “We have been looking forward to lifting more restrictions, and that postponement is outrageous, disgusting and even embarrassing,” is mentioned in the letter of the religious institution.

Earlier, on March 13, the Moldovan authorities announced that all religious ceremonies have to be ceased for a period of 14 days. However, the Moldovan Orthodox Church encouraged the local churches’ representatives from all over the country to continue their activity, defying any rules imposed.

See also: How does coronavirus spread? Churches can easily become a contagion epicentre

“If you like to call yourselves Christians, why didn’t you follow the example of Georgia or Bulgaria, which did not interrupt the religious ceremonies and have a lower mortality rate? When removing the restrictions, why didn’t you follow the example of Spain and other states that were much more affected and, still, allowed 30% entering in churches since last Sunday?”

The letter claimed that a denigration campaign was launched against the Church, by using such expressions as “outbreaks of infection”, “insanitary spaces”, “medieval practices” in the officials’ messages addressed to the population. Also, a request to participate in the decision-making process was made. “We welcome the initiative to invite (to negotiations) the representatives of the Moldovan Orthodox Church and to reformulate the decision in accordance with the norms of Christian morality. Otherwise, we assume the canonical and moral right to exclude you from the remembrance and prayer of the Church,” threatened the members of the Church Synod.

At the same time, the clergy said that the decisions regarding changing or adapting religious practices should be taken only by the Church, not by the state.

The Metropolitan of Chisinau and All Moldova during the state of emergency.

In the second letter, addressed to the Moldovan officials, MOC called on voluntary vaccination of the population against the novel coronavirus. They also demanded the assurance of all fundamental rights of people who would refuse vaccines, but also to implant any chip in their body.

“Public opinion in many European countries is protesting against the mandatory vaccines, especially the vaccine against COVID-19, because it is considered a way of the global Antichrist system to introduce microchips into people’s bodies, with which to control them through 5G technology.”

The hallucinating declarations continued with blaming Bill Gates of creating “the micro-chipping technology through a vaccine that introduces nano-particles (or microchips?) into the body, which react to waves transmitted by 5G technology and allow the system to control humans remotely,” according to the MOC official message.

The evasive accusations are very similar to the discrediting campaigns that, according to the stopfals.md portal, are supported by several media institutions and blogs around the world, usually affiliated with various religious organisations, but also by sites with pro-Kremlin editorial policy.

“It is believed that 5G technology in combination with certain vaccines administered in China and Italy represented the basis for the appearance of this virus that turned the entire planet upside down,” speculated the MOC leaders, citing the declaration of an Italian MP, Sara Cunial, who called Bill Gates a murderer and asked to hand him over to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. Additionally, two more very dubious article published in a media outlet from Romania were used as references.

The MOC messages addressed to Moldovan authorities can be downloaded here.

The national Ombudsman expressed his concern regarding the MOC declarations. “The public launch of messages referring to dangers in the area of conspiracy scenarios is a reckless act that can generate panic and adverse consequences for social order, as well as insecurity and distrust in the country’s medical services, thus thwarting the efforts of the authorities to combat the epidemic,” is mentioned in a press release issued on the official page of the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman called on the leadership of the MOC to withdraw its request to the authorities and to refrain from other messages that could have a detrimental effect on public health, social order and human rights.

Similar positions had the Moldovan officials to whom the MOC messages were addressed, state institutions’ representatives, MPs, members of the Moldovan Academy of Sciences, and even church servants.

“These lies are not just meaningless fantasies, they are extremely dangerous because they fuel people’s scepticism about the efforts of doctors and researchers to get rid of this calamity called COVID-19. And this, dear Church leaders, endangers human lives!” commented the MP Radu Marian.

The Moldovan Orthodox Church consciously spread dangerous myths, while it is considered a credible source of information for a lot of religious people from Moldova. That could have serious consequences, as religious fanatics refusing to be vaccinated, a manipulated public opinion and a population opposing technology development. People should use their critical thinking in discerning information, even when they fully trust the Church, contrary to the frequent habit of believing without questioning.

Photos: Facebook| The Metropolitan of Chisinau and All Moldova

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