Eastern Europe is becoming a more and more popular tourist destination every year. Former communist countries have opened up to visitors, showing their rich nature and cultural heritage to foreigners. But there’s still one country that goes almost unnoticed by the outside world: Moldova.
If Moldova is famous for something, it’s famous for, well, not being famous. Landlocked between Ukraine and Romania, it’s the least visited country in Europe. According to Lonely Planet, Moldova has approximately 12,000 to 20,000 annual visitors. On average, that means only about 30-55 foreigners crossing the border to Moldova every day.
(In comparison: The second least visited country in Europe is the microstate of Liechtenstein, which still gets about 55,000 visitors every year.)
When me and my two Finnish friends decided to visit the country that’s most famous export products are wine and the 2003 hit song Dragostea Din Tei, we didn’t really know what to expect. We also didn’t do much research before our journey. We just arrived to the capital Chișinău at midnight, stayed in the country for two nights and tried to make some sense of everything we were seeing.
Here’s what we noticed.
As we strolled around the city, we started noticing strange details about the center.
It would have been interesting to stay with local people in Moldova for a longer time to get a feel of the local culture. The views from our trains showed vast fields of grapes and crops, while Chișinău offered architecture from the Soviet Union era. Capitalism had made it’s way to the country, but billboards and adverts were almost nonexistent. Even Minsk in Belarus has more public advertising.
Moldovan language is related to Romanian, but many of the locals also understand Russian. I talked to many of the taxi drivers with my basic Russian and noticed that the locals follow more Russian that American culture. Russian music, films and TV-shows are popular in the country that has little entertainment production of its own.
And here’s a video of a hotel lamp I posted in Facebook and Instagram earlier: