Tag Archives: Moldova

Traditions and superstitions, part of our student life

It’s late June and a large number of high school students or university students are taking graduation exams. Most of those students will be aware of some sort of tradition or superstition to follow and respect if they want to graduate.

It was only after my graduation when I have found out about a no no thing 🙂 I took my masters degree in Italy, at Bologna University, and one of the superstitions says that students should not go to the top of one of the leaning towers, otherwise they will never graduate. Another superstition said that you cannot cross on diagonal the Piazza Maggiore or Maggiore Square if you want to graduate and have good marks.

I did know about the second one and I found it funny, but some people were really following the “rule” and not forcing their luck.

One tradition that I find really cute is to have your family and close friends buy a laurel wreath on your graduation day (for university graduates) which the newly graduate will carry it for the whole day. While back in the ancient times the wreath was more of a horseshoe shape, nowadays, it is a complete circle. In Italy each faculty will have a representing colour, therefore, if you have friends or family members studying in Italy, make sure that you also have small accessories such as a handkerchief, the paper around the bouquet of flowers or the crucial ribbon woven into the wreath are of a right colour.

A laurel wreath is a circular wreath made of interlocking branches and leaves of the bay laurel. The tradition is believed to have started at University of Padua or Padova, but the roots of crowning a person with a similar wreath go well back to the ancient Greece when wreaths were awarded to victors in athletic competitions and in poetic meets; and ancient Rome where they were symbols of martial victory.

Remember the often used expression: “resting on one’s laurels” ? 🙂

Going a little back to the Italian tradition and to the main colours representing university faculties, I am listing some of them below:

  • Agriculture – Dark green
  • Architecture – Black
  • Economy – Yellow
  • Education Sciences – Pink
  • Engineering – Black
  • Law – Blue
  • Mathematical, physical, and natural sciences – Green
  • Medicine and Surgery – Red
  • Philosophy and Letters – White
  • Pharmacy – Red grenade
  • Political Science – Lilac
  • Psychology – Grey
  • Sociology – Orange
  • Veterinary – Violet

It is also common that family and friends will prepare in advance a surprise attire which the newly graduate will have to wear. Something similar to stag nights when the groom to be is wearing funny clothes. If you got to Bologna or other major cities with large universities, you will probably have the chance to encounter such parties. They are fun!

Oh, and the last one. It is mandatory to walk behind the newly graduate a song, confirming the status of the subject. Just to understand what I am talking about, I am sharing 2 short films found on Youtube here and here 🙂

When I was student in Romania, there was a whole list of superstitions related to exams and graduation which was circulated among students. These “must do” or “must avoid” activities are shared among students in Russian and Moldovan as well.

One of the most popular superstitious refers to personal hygiene. The student should not take shower or wash their hair on the eve of an exam. The reason for that was that by washing your hair, you could remove the accumulated knowledge. Another one says that you should not have a haircut before the exams, because you risk of loosing everything you learned before.

It was believed and even feared to accidentally drop a book or a course. It was thought to be a sign of bad luck.

On the positive side, if you wanted to have good results on your exam or test, make sure to step out of your house and enter the school/university with the right foot. If possible, sit down on the same place or the same table as the last time you successfully have taken a test. An Use the same pen. And the last one which will probably make you smile is to place the materials, courses and the book (opened) under the pillow before going to  sleep. By magic and during sleep, the knowledge will move slowly in the mind of the sleeping student, giving the opportunity to get a high mark on the subject which is not really liked.

If a student went to an oral exam or viva voce, will have to extract an examination ticket only with the right hand or only the left hand, depending on the preference and past experience.

When coming back from an examination, the student should not place his/her backpack or bag facing the wall or on the floor, otherwise there is a risk of failing the test.

The tradition in Romania, is to wear graduation robes and hats, the same as in the USA and many other countries. You must wear them from the moment you attend the graduation ceremony and keep it on for the most of the day, even when going out to celebrate. It is common that people will stop you on the street to congratulate you 🙂

I must recognize that the “right foot” is something I kind of follow not only for meetings, but whenever I leave my house or enter a new place.

What are the superstitions discussed by students in your country? Do you believe in such things?

Travel safe and wise!

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Mysterious Christmas and New Year’s Eve

Happy snowmen. White snowmen. Fluffy snowmen.

Christmas and New Year, two of my favorite holidays of the year! I guess the cold, Christmas markets and the decorations make December a month full of mystery, hopes and joy.

I remember when I was very young, to have had really white Christmases and winters, We were spending hours splaying with the snow, fighting with snow, building castles, snowmen or sledding. The last activity was the funniest one, simply because I grew up in a monastery and the old nuns weren’t very happy to walk on a very slippery road, that is why they were throwing burnt coal on the ice or snow. This was a quiet war between kids from my neighborhood and the old nuns. At times they were winning, at times we were the ones to succeed…by throwing water on top of those coals.

My childhood winters were cold and white. For some of you, my readers, perhaps unimaginable cold – minus 15, minus 25C.

I still associate Christmas with the smell of oranges, boiled wine and a lot of yummy food – mostly made of meat. We say that Christmas is the satiated (full – in terms of food) and Easter is proud (on Easter we usually cook rabbit or mutton meat – which I don’t like 😀 and many many salads, cookies and all kind of desserts).

Now, that is almost that time of the year and people buy presents for their families and friends, I decided to look a bit at some traditions and myths related to this mesmerizing and holiday.

Christmas

It is believed (in Romania) that it’s bad luck to wear new shoes for Christmas.

A clear sky on Christmas announces a fruitful year, if the wind blows on Christmas, it is belived to bring bad luck. If it snows on Christmas Day, it is believed that on Easter will be fair weather.

It is good to have on Christmas table sprigs of mistletoe, for good luck. If you bathe on Christmas day, you’ll stay fresh all year, and if you eat apples on Christmas Eve, you’ll be healthy all the year around.

One should avoid, between Christmas and New Year, to knit, sew or machine wash.  And parents with children born on Christmas or New Year’s Eve will be very happy to know that those kids will be very lucky!

On Christmas Eve, some people sweep the house threshold, for good luck in the coming year.

Women shall put in the water they use to wash themselves a nut and coins. It is believed that this will keep that woman healthy as a nut, and money, to be rich.

Against evil’s eye and spells, one should put, in the four corners of the table, garlic and poppy seeds.

It is said that Santa Claus is not the only one who “travels” rushed across the sky in this special night of December 24, all witches and demons come out of hiding as well.

Cat by the Fireside (credits: http://www.webdesignmash.com/)
Cat by the Fireside (credits: http://www.webdesignmash.com/)

New Year

The second between the years, is believed to have the most magical power. That’s exactly why many people make a wish in that moment 🙂

Do not clean the house on December 31, otherwise a family member will die in the next year! The only items that you can wash without this adverse consequence are dishes.

The midnight kiss of the year marks not only the feelings that bind us to the people we care the most, but also how our relationship with those people will develop during the year that just started. In other words, it is desirable that at the turn of  the years, loved to be with you.

If you want to be lucky all the year around, wear something red, if you want your partner to find you very attractive, wear red underwear 😀 On January 1 dress with a new coat for the same reason.

At midnight, all the doors should be wide open to let the “old” year leave and welcome the “new” year.

It is said that evil spirits are afraid of noise and bright light. Hence the habit of organizing fireworks and to make, in principle, a lot of noise. For the same reason people rang the bells when there is a religious wedding ceremony.

It is good thing if the New Year finds you with some money in your pocket. The meaning is that you’ll know no shortage of money all year. The amount does not matter, it’s just the idea, so few coins are enough. Therefore, make sure to have some cash in your pockets 😉

Another superstition related to money is to pay back all your debts before New Year’s Eve. If you enter the new year in debts, you won’t get rid of them in the new year. Also, do not to give money on December 31 or January 1, otherwise you will have financial problems and debts all the year.

In fact, it is said that the object you hold in your hands at midnight, or the one that you touch or hold immediately after immediately after midnight, will be the most important plan in the coming year. So, be careful what you touch or hold!

If you have money in your hand, you’ll have good luck with them all the year, if you hold your lover’s hand, your love life will develop into a harmonious relationship, and if you keep a glass/cup in your hand, will have part of a joyful new year.

It is said that the first person who comes to your house after midnight will influence what happens to you in the new year.

Gingerbread cookies Credits: http://www.webdesignmash)
Gingerbread cookies Credits: http://www.webdesignmash)

For a woman, it would be ideal that the first person to step into your house should be a tall man with dark hair. If the guest brings a sprig of mistletoe, bread and salt, there are all chances that the new year will be the best of your life.

It’s bad luck if you hang the new year calendar before the new year begins.

On January 1 do not throw anything from home, even garbage. On the contrary, it is desirable to receive a gift on January 1, no matter how small and insignificant it may be.

Also on January 1, make sure you do something, some small task related to your work. In this way, you will have successes throughout the year. But beware – do not work full time or spend most of your time working on something, because the effect will be exactly the opposite!

Do not cry on January 1 and avoid to break an object.

It brings luck to eat pork or lentils on New Year. The New Year will be bright and good if you leave a lamp or a candle lit until sunrise. On the morning of January 1st place silver coins in water and wash your face with it.

Unmarried women must put in a pot of water a thread of basil, a branch of apple tree and money (coins), in the morning they should dream the one with whom they will marry. 🙂

New Year is greeted by a special custom in Italy, which is to throw out the window antiques, symbols of the past year. Thus, furniture and clothes end up in the street.

Christmas market in Aannaberg, Germany
Christmas market in Aannaberg, Germany

The Spanish are also quite superstitious. On New Year’s Eve they usually eat one grape for each of the 12 beats the clock announcing the turn of the year, these 12 grape berries symbolize desires for each month of the following year.

Portuguese are the same, they replace the grapes with figs.

Greeks dedicate New Year’s Day to St. Basil. Children leave their shoes by the fireplace in the New Year’s Eve, to receive gifts from the good saint. Adults eat something traditional, vassilopitta, a dessert in which a silver or a gold coin is placed. The one who finds the coin will have luck throughout the year. In some parts of Greece people take a pomegranate with them when they visit people on New Year’s Eve and smash it on the threshold, so that the household will have good luck

The Dutch “Oudejaarsdag” or “the last day of the year” (31 December) is celebrated by many with fireworks that start at dawn and hold until late at night. As in other European countries, in the Netherlands, it is believed that the first person to enter your house on New Year’s day will, if he be light haired, bring bad luck to you, if dark haired, good luck. The presence of a pair of storks or swallows is also seen as sign of good luck and friendship. Another old Dutch superstition say that whatever you do on New Year’s Day is what you will be doing rest of the year.

Xmas trees. (From: https://i0.wp.com/ywcabanff.ab.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/new-years.jpg)
Xmas trees. (From: http://ywcabanff.ab.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/new-years.jpg)

According to an old Flemish tradition, one should place a coin under once plate at New Years’ Eve to be lucky for the coming year.

In Denmark, people will save their old and broken dishes throughout the year to be thrown on their friends and families doors on New Year’s Eve. It is considered good luck to find thrown dishes on your doorstep on the next morning.

In Latvia, people believe that if you eat fish on New Year’s Eve and put the fish scales into your wallet, then money will keep flowing into it during the year.

In Scotland, New Year is called “Hogmanay”. In some villages are on rolls of tar are lit up and then let to roll on the streets. It is believed that the old year is burned and the new one is allowed to come. Like the Romans, Scots believe that the first person who will enter the house on the New Year will bring either good luck or bad luck. The year will be lucky if a man with dark hair enters the house.

Chinese New Year is celebrated sometime between January 17 and February 19, during the New Moon, “Yuan Tan”. Chinese people around the world take part in processions on the streets, where thousands of lanterns are lit up. They believe that evil spirits are everywhere at the time, and they use fireworks to chase them away.

An image as reminder of what we have to do on New Year's Eve :)  (From : http://beforeitsnews.com/travel/2013/12/new-years-traditions-and-superstitions-2-2459792.html)
An image as reminder of what we have to do on New Year’s Eve 🙂 (From : http://beforeitsnews.com/travel/2013/12/new-years-traditions-and-superstitions-2-2459792.html)

For Japanese the New Year, “Oshogatsu” is one of the most important holidays. In December, families organize “forget the year party” or “Bonenkai” . With this occasion, people leave behind problems and concerns of the year about to end. At the New Year’s Eve. at midnight, families go to the nearest temple to share sake and to assist to the 108 shots gong announcing the turn of the year.

Travel safe and wise!

Merry Christmas and Happy 2015 Year!!!!

Christmas in one of the most charming countries in the world!

Boat in Ouchy
Boat in Ouchy

Happy New Year, my readers!!!! I hope that 2014 will bring you lots of happiness, great moments, strong health and many dreams come true!

Now, let me ask you: how was your Christmas? Me, my boyfriend and our friends went to Switzerland for 5 days to breathe some mountain fresh air and visit some of the most beautiful places in this country. Our party was mixed as we were : me, from Moldova, two Dutch and another friend that came from the Country of Rising Sun 🙂

It took us almost 8 hours (from Schiedam) to reach Lausanne and during the driving time we had some funny moments, talked about my trip to Japan – recalled some very funny and dear moments to me from that trip. Also, we had enough time to plan our trip to Switzerland and things that we must see while there. On 25th of December the weather wasn’t great, but we decided to have a walk around and see what’s nice in Lausanne. Everybody was ready for the rain …. well, not everybody, one wasn’t – ME! 😀  That’s why the next day the very first thing was to buy a poncho and be happy!

My favorite place in Lausanne, by far, are Ouchy and Lavaux. Ouchy is a fisherman village, just on the Lake Geneva. The view from there over the mountains is spectacular! The water of the lake so clean, that you can see the stones few meters from the shore. One very important remark here: the Olympic museum is OPEN and until 24th of January the entrance is FREE OF CHARGE! The view from the last floor over the lake is magnificent. There, on the last floor is a café and a special place for those who want to leave a message to the Museum administration.

Olympic Museum in Ouchy -Lausanne
Olympic Museum in Ouchy -Lausanne

The museum is very nicely done, has screenings from opening ceremonies to moments during various Olympic Games. You’ll see here all the torches that were been used since the beginning of the Olympic games and also the medals. If your country has a winner at one of the OG, then you should look for his/her signature among the clothes, shoes and other tools that are part of  sportsmen uniform. There are many other interesting things to be seen and read there and I let you to discover them. A couple more things about this museum: one, the Olympic fire – you’ll see it on your right when walking to the entrance (building) and second, on your left you’ll find a sprint line. If you dare to run on it…or walk on it, then on the asphalt will be projected the world records in this sport.

Olympic Fire
Olympic Fire

 What is Lavaux? Lavaux is a region and not a city or locality. At the beginning, we thought that this is a locality, to be honest. Lavaux is famous for its vineyards, that since 2007 became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you want a Swiss good wine, you should go there 😉

UNESCO World Heritage Site - Lavaux
UNESCO World Heritage Site – Lavaux

The terraced vineyards of the Lavaux site unfold above Lake Geneva for 30 kilometers (on 830 hectares) and is just in between Lausanne and Vevey-Montreux. The impressive thing about this place is that it’s composed of 5 villages and some of the houses in these villages are dated from, as far in the past as, 12th Century. According to some sources, the actual vine terraces can be traced back to the 11th century, when Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries controlled the area.

Vineyards in Lavaux
Vineyards in Lavaux

One tip here: if you travel by car or even by train and you want to explore this place on your own and not willing to spend money on guided tours, then you should rent a bike or be ready to walk a lot! Anyway, we drove there and stopped here and there. We saw 3 of the 5 villages and took some nice pictures too. Ah, the tip: if you want to learn more about this place from locals, try to go there between Christmas and New Year – that region is EMPTY, or almost empty as most of the tourists aren’t around there. Find an open wine shop (here these shops are family owned) and then for sure you’ll be taken on a tour around the cellars and some of the wine production processes will be explained to you. If you’re lucky (as we were) then you might taste some of the wine too, and all this FOR FREE! Just keep in mind, the prices here are much lower than in any other store or shop! And Swiss wine is almost 100% consumed by Swiss people, therefore, do not miss the chance to take home such a nice souvenir.

 

Cathedral Notre-Dame,   Lausanne
Cathedral Notre-Dame, Lausanne

Some other places that are worth to see/ visit here are:

  • Notre-Dame Cathedral
  • Swiss Reformed Church of Saint-Laurent
  • Swiss Reformed Church of Saint-François
  • Saint Maire Castle
  • Railway station
  • Beau-Rivage Palace
  • City Hall
  • Hôtel des Poste
  • Beaulieu Castle
  • Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts (MUDAC)

For more information about Lausanne (what to see, what to eat, where to stop and how to travel around) you can go on these pages:

If you’re already decided to make some time and squeeze a trip to Switzerland in your agenda, and most importantly, to go there on the right time, then maybe you’ll need one more piece of information and this info is about events in 2014

Where to eat and not break the bank?

Hard question! The easiest answer will be: HOME! But as long as you’re not visiting friends or family in Switzerland, then you may face the challenge of choosing the right place. At this question, one of the locals said it simple: Turkish (kebab, doner, etc) or Chinese will be the cheapest choices. And rest assured, in Lausanne you’ll see plenty of Chinese-Thai restaurants!

Where to sleep?

Find someone to lend you their sofa, simply said couch surf. If you’re traveling in many or if you want to have the freedom and privacy that a hotel room will provide, then look for something across Accor chain and in particular check the rates from Ibis Hotels (they have family, business and budget! hotels). I have no idea about hostels, as we never stopped in one, but maybe there are plenty and cheaper than a hotel room. If you’re traveling in two or more then maybe you’ll want to compare the rates hostels-hotels before making any booking 😉

My last remark here: fondue?! Would you want to have some? Maybe once , just out of curiosity would be enough, but I did not like it and all my friends as well. And after talking with some locals, it seemed that they also did not enjoy this dish too much. What is the taste, you might want to know. Well, is bitter! It’s melted bitter cheese, if you like bitter foods go for it! And yes, the price may vary from one restaurant to another, but a reference price is 23-24 CHF per person (moitie-moitie – half of your portion will be one type of cheese-half another type) Travel safe and wise!

Limestone cliffs, caves and a carved monastery complex….Are you curious? :)

Orheiul Vechi
Orheiul Vechi

Millions of years ran over a landscape that once was a sea. Hand in hand with the forces of nature and hundreds of years of human presence left their prints on a very unique place. People love to go there in winter, spring, summer or autumn. Some of the most adventurous ones will bring tents, camp there and see the sunrise on the cliff, facing Nistru river and Transnistria.

Where is this place?

At about 45 minutes drive from Chisinau (the capital city of Moldova) is one of the most scenic places in Moldova called Orheiul Vechi (Old Orhei). I have mentioned this place in one of my previous posts “A country that is most likely to become your favourite holiday destination” and in this post I will talk more about it.

The rocks and cliffs across the monastery
The rocks and cliffs across the monastery

The place is interesting from many points of view, and I’m sure that even people with high expectations will love it. There’s something for each and everyone: it offers the peace to clear out your mind, to meditate or simply to admire the beauty of these landscapes. Artists are coming here in search of inspiration or hoping to catch that amazing moment of the massive cliff during a storm, sunrise or sunset. Some may be into exploration and if you consider that the whole complex has a surface of 220 ha, then explorers will be busy for a quite a long time 🙂 and the things you will see represent a high historical and cultural value for the National patrimoine of Moldova. The most important sites are: preserved ruins of many civilizations, such as Dacian fortress (9th century BC. AD), the city Tatar-Mongol Sehr al-Cedid (14th century) and Moldovan town Orhei (15th – 17th centuries).

Clopotnita or the Bell Tower at the Orheiul Vechi monastery
Clopotnita or the Bell Tower at the Orheiul Vechi monastery

Around 14th centry Golden Horde conquered these territories and established here Sehr al-Cedid city with a typical oriental look. Today, you can see the foundations and some parts of the walls that belonged once to the three public baths equipped with radiators and ceramic water pipes.

Another important site comprises the remnants (ruins) of the stone walls of the old Orhei citadel. For a better understanding of the local culture and their day to day activities, you can visit the museum that displays the old objects found in the area (more than 4000 are displayed by this day) are around the complex, as well as one of the oldest monasteries in Moldova (the Monastery Complex is carved into a massive limestone).

Decorating element @OrheiulVechi monastery
Decorating element @OrheiulVechi monastery

For those who are looking for some extreme activities, there’s a special arranged place for climbing. In all, the huge cliff contains six complexes of interlocking caves, most of which are accessible only by experienced rock climbers and therefore off-limits to most tourists.

One piece of advice!

  • As in any of the monasteries, in Moldova, there are some rules or simply said there’s a dress code. It says that shorts, deep cuts, short dresses or skirts, see through clothes are forbidden and women must cover their heads inside the monastery. Most of the times, at the entrance in the monastery, skirts will be provided (for free).
  • When you visit the small carved church, go on the stone terrace. The view from there is nothing less than breath taking.
Bells at Orheiul Vechi (monastery)
Bells at Orheiul Vechi (monastery)

Where to sleep?

Other than sleeping in your own tent, you can choose to go to the Agro Pensiunea Butuceni or B&B Vila Roz. At these locations any tourist will feel a bit of the country life and taste traditional homemade foods. 🙂

Another suggestion! 🙂

Not so many tourists know about the “Magnetic Hill”. Ask your guide or travel agent to point it out when you’re heading back to Chisinau from Orhei 😉 Nazis were reputed to have buried Jews alive here, and strange happenings are alleged to occur in the area. If you position your car just right, in the parking lot of the Safari Cafe across the road, facing the hill, and slip it into neutral, the car will eerily advance, despite the slight uphill incline.

View over the Raut river from the "balcony" linked with the monastery complex, carved into a massive limestone
View over the Raut river from the “balcony” linked with the monastery complex, carved into a massive limestone

There are more things to be told about Orheiul Vechi, but for those who want to know more about this complex, please go on UNESCO web page.

I hope this review was interesting and that you have +1 reason to visit Moldova 😉

Travel safe and wise!

Winter time in Moldova

My and my brother and sister :)Winter usually starts in December, but there are years and years. Some years are milder than others that’s why it’s hard to predict how the winter will be. I remember to have experienced some winters when even in December were positive (above zero) temperatures and some winters where the freezing air was reigning from early November and all shapes and sizes of snowflakes were dancing down the sky ! Therefore, if you travel to Moldova somewhere between late November and late February, be prepared to face some days with very cold days.

But how bad can it be?
Some people are used to think and consider Moldova something similar with Siberia…I guess I have to disappoint those people, Moldova is not something like that. The good, warm and sunny weather starts from mid March until late October, and in Summer time temperatures go up to +35ºC sometimes it’s even hotter!

What about winter? Winter is mild if it’s snowing or if the sky is covered with dense clouds. Clear nights are the worst, but the most beautiful!!! Just try to imagine the white coat of snow and the full moon shining up in the sky, the magic of the sparkling little ice crystals, the heaviness of the snow on trees’ branches and the amazingly rich in stars sky! The light is so strong that you don’t need a torch or a light on such nights!!! You’ll even see your own shadow….how cool is that? 😉

February is known to be the coldest month of the year, but cold arctic air and can reach Moldova earlier…therefore a proper windproof winter jacket / coat is a must! I have to say, that compared with the Netherlands (the country I live in at the moment) or other northern country, in Moldova is not that windy and the air is dry cold, therefore the negative temperatures are not that acute. It starts to be freezing cold at -10ºC and below.

I want to stop a bit here and tell you more about February month. In old times February was called “Blacksmith” or “Wolf month” this because was considered to be a particularly ruthless month, coming up with big frosts and snowstorms. The popular name “Blacksmith” suggests the early preparation for field work and not only, works that villagers had to begin in March when the weather was milder.

When it’s -25ºC and below all the schools and kinder gardens are closed and if you are not attending your courses at university or even not going to work, it’s ok because  it’s considered a good motivation.

Local authorities are trying to keep the roads in a good condition, but sometimes the heavy snow will prove to be a headache even to the experienced drivers and to road sweepers.

I love winter and its magic! Just think about Christmas and the New Year’s Eve ….and in Moldova we celebrate twice each of these winter holidays. One pair 🙂 Xmas and New Year’s Eve is the same as in Western Europe and the other pair is celebrated according the old calendar or else said, we celebrate it together with all Orthodox Christians that follow the old calendar (or Julian calendar. This calendar was created under the reign of Julius Caesar in 45 BC ). You might find interesting to know that there are more countries that celebrate Christmas and the New Year according to the old calendar. Countries that celebrate Christmas on the night from 6th to 7th of January are: Belarus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Russia, and the Ukraine. Countries with big communities of Orthodox Christians that follow the Julian calendar are:  Romania, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. And, according to the same calendar, the New Year’s eve falls on the night from 13th to 14th of January! 🙂

If you happen to be in Moldova during these winter holidays, make sure to find a host in a village, because there is the right place to be and to experience the TRUE SPIRIT of winter holly days!

What is so special about these days, you would ask. I don’t know about other places, but in Moldova traditions are still alive in the villages and if during the Christmas kids will go from house to house to announce the birth of the Jesus then during the next days your backyard wil be visited by many other people! 🙂
On the New Year’s eve from the morning until late in the night young (from afternoon until midnight – older guys and adults) will knock at your gate, they will have costumes and will use bells, different musical instruments (accordion, drums, Jew’s harp, pipe or whistle) and for this small show the host will give them money, sweets and wine 🙂 The next day, again from early in the morning (old people say after the prayer) kids are coming to “sow” the households. These kids are wishing a very prosperous and good new year, to have a healthy family and (especially for farmers and people who own land) a good year with rains and rich crops. They receive for this sweets, fruits, nuts and coins.

When I was kid and even now, when I go home and it’s cold outside, I love to stay close to a the warm wall called ‘ soba or fireplace/ceramic stove. It feels so relaxing 🙂 Women during this time have a lot of free time for crafting things for their house or for sale in spring 🙂

I hope Moldova will look more interesting and worth a visit, now that you little by little are introduced with the culture, weather 😀 and kitchen (I will dedicate a special post about it).

Travel safe and wise!

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Many of tourists are coming to Moldova with 2 things in their mind: wine cellars and Transnistria! Well, this is one of the places to GO! GO! GO!

Soroca FortressI have read some complaints from tourists that went to Soroca fortress and could not read too many things about it on the place. This is why I decided to look for some information and came across a web page that talks about the historical and cultural importance of the fortress.

Soroca and Soroca fortress is at about 2 hours drive from Chisinau and one day trip to there is more than enough. You can combine this trip with another site Orheiul Vechi and later have a dinner at one of the rustic restaurants, on the way back to Chisinau 🙂

Now back to our ship, Soroca is an old locality on the Nistru river. It was attested documentarily for the first time in 1470.
According to some sources it was Stephen the Great who in 1475 had built the fortress the way we know it to be today, some other sources say that Stephen the Great’s fortress was a wooden fortress. And only in 1643, Petru Rares built the stone fortress.

The fortress structure was very well thought. It had to be able to protect the soldiers and people living in it, to be a strong construction and in case of attack to have enough food and water reserves for all the inhabitants. That’s why on inside, it was composed of three wooden storey building. On the ground floor or the first floor were kept the horses and the hay. People lived at the second floor. There were kept all their food reserves as well. On the last floor were placed cannons, soldiers’ weapons and guns as well as their pitch boilers.

The fortress from the beginning had the role of border protection against the Ottoman Empire, who at that time conquered the towns Cetatea Alba, Chilia and Tighina. In these towns were built other three fortresses and they are open to visit. After being taken over by the Ottomans, in 1538, those towns were incorporated in a separate Turkish province.

The stone fortress represents the peak of the development of the Moldavian defense works. In order to make it resistant to the Ottomans attacks, works on it were undertaken from the end of the 14th to the middle of the 16th centuries. The building and the structure of it has the form of a pentagon, the vertices of which are marked by pieces of defense cannon surrounded by a circular wall.
The figure 5, that is present in the structure of the fortress, is also a sacred figure often met in the mythological astrology and cosmology: 5 days were the time during which the ancient Egyptians celebrated the birth of gods, there are 5 essential elements of the world in Buddhism (the earth, the water, the fire, the air, the wind) and there are 5 extremities of the human body (the head, two hands and two legs).
Some historians and architects are saying that Soroca Fortress might be a replica of the famous Appullian castle, adapted for artillery and built when, in Europe, the Renascence architectural models were built on a large scale. The similarities are striking and these are: both defense works have common space forms geometrically defined, the compositions being subordinated to more axes. The Castel del Monte announced the Renascence in the world’s military architecture, and the Soroca Fortress is a genuine Renascence architectural work of art.

Today, in the fortress you can visit a small church. Sometimes, young couples choose to have their religious / christian wedding ceremony or to baptize their children.

If you want to read more about Soroca fortress, the all you have to do it to click here 🙂

One more insight here, on the way back from Soroca to Chisinau, ask your guide to tell you where is the best view over the Nistru river. I forgot the name of that place, but as soon as I find it or remember, I will update this information. The view is spectacular, NOT TO BE MISSED!

Travel safe and wise!

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A country that is most likely to become your favorite holiday destination :)

IMG_2701I was born, grew up and went to high school, made good friends, fell in love and got my first disappointments in this, for most people, unknown country – Republic of Moldova.

Due to historical circumstances, Moldova, has lost most of its cultural and historical sites and heritage. Even so, this country in the South-East of Europe is a place where one can blend with the nature, rich traditions and the welcoming people that are always happy to show, give and make anyone that steps into their home feel as they are part of that family.

If you think or consider traveling to this hidden place, be aware that in the villages, sometimes in the cities and towns people speak only Romanian and Russian. If you don’t posses any of these languages, please do learn some of the basic phrases, because this will make your travel experience easier and more pleasant 🙂

There’s no best time to go in Moldova, whenever you choose to go, you’ll be welcomed, but some of the things you should keep in mind: July-August, winter holidays and Easter are high seasons, therefore, expect high prices for accommodation, tours and flight tickets.

December, January and February there’s a very high chance that you’ll freeze, but walk on the snow 🙂 There are winters that are harsh, and when I say harsh I mean temperatures below 0 (-10C to -35C), so be well prepared.

If you want to taste from our reaaaally delicious fruits and veggies, then your travel time should be somewhere between June and October 🙂 In June there are plenty of cherries of different sorts and colors. Have you heard about sweet sour cherry, white cherry, pink cherry, bitter black cherry or yellow-red cherry? Well if you’re curious about these, you have one option: go there during June month. For the first wine tasting and moooore veggies and fruits, late September – early October is the way to go.

Autumn in Moldova is very rich in events and Festivals. One that started to gain more attention from the media and people is Gustar Festival. It is held on the one of the most scenic places in Moldova – Orheiul Vechi. The very nice part of it is that foreigners will have the chance to meet locals, try traditional food and even buy some handcrafted souvenirs from the people who are making them! Also, if you have a tent, you can sleep in it and save money for accommodation.

The Festival will be held between 24th and 25th of August 2013. For more information please, click here Gustar Festival. The National Day and Language Day – 27th and 31st of August. During these two days in the Chisinau main square will be held concerts, a fair with local products and at the end of the day fireworks! The events are open to the public free of charge and start from 9am until 12am!

In October there are two events: every year on the second Sunday of October is the Celebration of Wine or Wine Festival. During this day many of the local wine producers will have their exhibition places with free wine tasting and with the chance to buy some of the wine they have there. For the wine lovers and collectors that is a real chance to find old wines or high quality wines at reasonable prices. There will be stalls with local food, non alcoholic drinks and even local honey. My boyfriend really loves the honey, he said it’s nicer than the one you can buy in the Netherlands 🙂 14th of October is Chisinau Day! Another day of concerts and free events all over Chisinau. A fireworks show will begin, somewhere between 11pm and 12am, make sure you are in the right spot to see them! The best place to be is the main square 🙂
For events that have the main theme artfoodmusicsportsrural and national holidays, please click on the theme you’re interested the most.

Christmas and New Year’s Eve is celebrated TWICE! Why? In Moldova the main confession is Christian Orthodox, but the church is split: one is following the Gregorian callendar the other one is following the Julian calendar. 🙂

Other holidays are: Easter, 8th of March, 1st and 9th of May.

Some more tips here:

  1. Try to book in advance all your flight tickets and hotels/hostels/ apartments. If you travel in 2 to 4 people then the cheaper accommodation for you will be to rent an apartment for all of you, because the price is per apartment and not per person! Therefore, when you split the cost it comes cheaper! Also, there are some agencies that offer tickets for breakfast, this means by renting a flat with them you have free breakfast included. I would recommend Suisse4rent, CVSRental. If you rent a flat from 4rent then most of the time you’ll have breakfast included and the restaurant offers 3 choices for breakfast (Continental, Russian and American! ) 🙂
  2. Be careful with your belongings. Some people might take the opportunity and try to get your stuff, therefore leave all your expensive things in the locker at your hotel/apartment/hostel, etc.
  3. Keep small money in your exterior pockets and the credit cards and the rest of your money inside your jacket or inside your bag. Never show that you’re in possession of a large amount of money!
  4. Try not to split (if you are in a group) and always stay together. Don’t get distracted by people who are asking you directions, different kind of information, etc!
  5. Travel ONLY with authorized means of transportation. If you need a taxi, call one from your hotel or hire a taxi that has clear logo and phone numbers on it. Just in case, ask driver’s name, take the car’s plate number and the taxi company name. These information will be useful for the unlucky case of leaving something behind/ forgetting something in the car. For a better result and in order to get your things back, you’ll have to call the taxi company within the shortest possible time! This will increase your chance to get your things back. Sometimes drivers get other passengers that can take your stuff without declaring about their finding!
  6. Check in advance if you need a visa or not. For more information about this very IMPORTANT aspect, please go here or check the page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration.
  7. For those who want to buy some souvenirs, Moldova is offering a wide variety of handcrafted items : from paintings to wood and stone carvings and sculptures. Please go here to read more about this and maybe find your unique souvenir.
  8. Wine tours – there are more than one tour agencies that offer such a service. My advise to you is to go on such tour during working days – it’s way cheaper! If you want to know more about these tours, please go here. You can go there by car, by taxi or pay extra to your tour agency.

What is Moldovan cuisine like?

Cuisine of Moldova is based on a variety of fruits, vegetables, grain varieties, cattle breeding and fresh water fish. If you ask me what is your country food like, I will say that the cuisine is very diverse and it took elements, cooking techniques and dishes from Greek, Slavic, Byzantine, Mediterranean and Turkish cuisines.

If you travel to Moldova during late July early August, and stop somewhere in the country side, then you have a high chance to try fresh sweet corn cooked on coals or boiled. It depends on the place you are or the restaurant you go, you can taste fried, baked, filled and served as stand-alone treat or as a side-dish mamaliga/ polenta. We have different types of desserts and pastry made of corn flour. Give them a try! By the way, you’ll be very surprised when you’ll discover the wide range of pastry products that you can find in a big supermarket. The bread has a unique taste here, try the “Borodinski” bread with a cup of warm milk , you’ll be in heaven. 😉

Some of the restaurants and bistros I will recommend you to try, now that I speak about food, are :

  • Galbenus – str.A.Puskin, 22 – the CHEAPEST food!
  • Eli-Pili – St. Bucureşti, 68 (btw St. Puskin & St. Banulescu Bodoni)
  • Robin Pub – St. Alexandru cel Bun, 83 (at St. Alexandru Diordiţă)
  • Str. 513 – Blvd. Ştefan cel Mare, 79 (Entrance from St. Mihai Eminescu)
  • Delice d’Ange – 31 August 1989 str. 117/2
  • Creme de la creme – Strada Alexandru cel Bun 98
  • Caramel – Strada Mitropolit Gavriil Bănulescu-Bodoni 4
  • La Placinte
  • The Flying Pig
  • Gok-Okuz
  • La Taifas
  • MallMoldova 4th floor

I hope this post and the links that you can find in it will offer a wider information about what you can see, where to eat and stop over.

One last suggestion: find local friends and your holiday in Moldova will not be the last one there! 😉

Travel safe and wise!