A quick bit of context, blundering uncomfortably through geo-political sensitivities. Moldova is a country of around 3 million people that was part of Romania until being annexed by Stalin in 1940. It declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. A year previously the Moldovan region of Transnistria declared its own independence, since recognised only by Russia and two other disputed territories.
We crossed the border by minibus from Iaşi, an affluent university city in eastern Romania that was quite different to anywhere we saw in Moldova. The border crossing itself took half an hour.
There followed lightly trafficked roads, passing through a largely rural landscape. The pace of life picked up in the capital, Chişinău, a city of 600,000 people that is laid out on a grid system.
It is a fascinating mixture of sights with the Soviet influence easy to see. Huge tower blocks loom over attractive parks and unfinished buildings lie close to ornate churches.
Not out on review
The keen tourist spends time in the many extravagantly beautiful churches and monasteries.
The even keener tourist takes a trolley bus (frequent, efficient and costing 2 lei, the equivalent of 10p) out to a brewery tap.
Run by an American couple, it had several interesting beers on, including a tasty Amber Ale, an unusual beer made with polenta and a one off raspberry beer sold in plastic bottles. Despite the sympathetic climate there are no hops grown commercially in the country though there are plenty of vineyards. Moldova is not in the EU so the owners explained that the cost of importing them is challenging. Rogue wild hops spring up on buildings and street corners.
With us at the bar was Christian, a Norwegian whose blog is https://www.unusualtraveler.com/ He was full of tales of chasing craft beer in Iraq and India.
We took in a top division football match at FC Codru, attended by about 150 with free admission. Apparently wrestling is the national sport.
A bus back into town passed a large shopping centre called, wait for it….
Presumably the country’s highest peak is Ben Dova.
And we ended up in two pubs that share the same ownership. The Smokehouse, which has food, and Taproom 27: A Hoppy Place (great name). All the taps featured Moldovan beers from six breweries and over a two night stay we tried most of them. Some were very good indeed, in particular the Pales on this board.
Lumen Brewery is beside the airport so the trip home was enlivened by their bar inside the terminal, and a lemony 6% Brut IPA that was as dry and effervescent as the style suggests.
We were told our airline, Fly One, is known as Fly Once in Moldova because you won’t use them again. They moved our flight to an hour later, charged us €65 for marginally oversized hand luggage, and landed another hour late, so we missed our connection and had to spend a night in Dublin. Admittedly no great hardship despite the expense.
Nothing though, could take the edge off an exciting trip. Some of the Romanian highlights, where beer is serious business, coming soon.