Have you ever wanted to go on a culture-wine-food tour? In California? France? Italy? Please, have some imagination! Be a little adventurous and go on one in Romania and Moldova.
It was my good luck to participate in a tour organized by Ways Travel, during which i checked out the many wonders of Romania and Moldova.
Our group on the bus was an international gang of nine – a Belgian, a German, a Norwegian, an Australian, a few Americans of interesting ethnic alloys and me, dual Dutch and American citizen. What can I say, it was an experience just sitting on a bus with these people and hear their war stories and get initiated into the workings of the behind-the-scenes travel industry.
Leader of our tribe was the fabulous tour guide Victoria, who speaks four languages, English, German, Russian, Romanian, one of those people who makes a simple bilingual person such as myself feel humble and uneducated.
The trip was a symphony of history, food, drink, music and dance. Dancing with the Gypsies no less. I tell you, it was fabulous, it was intoxicating. We got history – a dizzying whirl of wars and battles and bloody strife. Of conquests and annexations, of armies rampaging through the countryside, raping, pillaging and impaling. We heard colorful tales about Dacian tribes, the Roman Empire, the Red Horde, the Saxons, the Ottoman Empire, the communist era under Ceausescu. And let’s not forget to mention good old Count Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, who hailed from Transylvania. Really, we deserved every drop of hootch we got along the way to recover from all the tragedies we vicariously suffered through.
In Romania we loved the beautiful towns of Sibiu and Sighisoara. In Sighisoara we missed seeing the house where Dracula was born because a movie was being filmed and they’d closed it off for visitors. Fortunately, we had a liqueur and brandy tasting to cheer us up. We hadn’t had lunch yet and our stomachs were empty, which helped raise the mood quickly.
A highlight was our visit to the home of a Roma family in Transylvania and learning more about their culture and lifestyle. (You can read a story about this on my blog here.) Not all Gypsies are beggars living in the streets of large cities. It’s always a good thing to be disabused of your prejudices and preconceived notions.
We stayed in excellent hotels and lodges, as well as in a humble hostel run by a monastery. We ate fancy restaurant food as well as simple village fare. We saw exquisite as well as cheery architecture, visited opulent cathedrals as well as the modest underground monastery chapel in Orhei Vechi, not far from Chisinau. The vino flowing across the miles was a charming mix of the good, the bad and the holy. The holy being the wine we tasted in a monastery, blessed by the priests. Unfortunately, the blessing did not transform it into nectar of the gods, but the dinner there was quite gourmet, all prepared from food grown by the monks without chemical assistance.
We also visited Transnistria, which is a rather unique place, as most of you will already know. It is also home to the famous Kvint brandy factory and would you believe, we went there for a brandy dégustation – seven varieties of brandy. It was very informative, interesting and intoxicating. It was also lunch time, but fortunately there was food. We eventually struggled out of there, back on the bus, across the border that is not a border, and traveled down to the Purcari wineries in the south of Moldova where we were treated to . . . you guessed it . . . a wine tasting. Of ten types of wine. Not just any old village plonk, either. No, we got to sip the wine of kings, queens and tsars. Our livers got a workout that day.
I’m going to stop here. There was more, much more, but I don’t want to give away everything, because what you should do, really, is check out Ways Travel’s website at www.ways.md .
Wendela Kilmer, Netherlands
Natalia is an excellent guide, full of interesting information about the places we went, recommended a very good hotel, a good van and driver. She is everything else you want/expect from a tour guide, and she was also a hard-working, intelligent and caring member of our team. Without her skills, flexibility and perseverance, our trip would not have been as successful as it was. She really cares about her clients, and has the willingness and ability to make whatever needs to happen, happen. She was great!
Dear Victoria, I personally want to thank you for such a great trip through these beautiful places. I enjoyed seeing the changes and modernization of Romania but I found that Moldova has a special charm and I enjoyed the atmosphere and the people. I was very happy with the way you introduced the tour to us and everything was wonderful the food, wine, accommodation. Thanks again for everything you did to make our trip so nice.
Jacqueline Pradel, USA
Dear Sirs! Upon a recent visit to Chisinau in Moldova, i required the assistance of a local guide, as my knowledge of the country was very limited. My guide was a young lady by the name of Ms. Natalia Cojuhari, i wish to place on record that her skills as a guide were quite unparalleled.
The qualities that i look for in a guide, local knowledge, helpfulness, and a person’s overall ability to ensure the group they are responsible for, find out as much about the area they are visiting as possible. I believe that Ms. Cojuhari fulfilled all these requirements, along with her overall friendly demeanor, i believe makes her a first class tour guide.
Natalia, a very knowledgeable guide, has beaten my expectations by far!!! I am a frequent traveller, always trying to find good guides. But up till now Natalia is my absolute favorite. It's the information she gave us in between you never can expect from a normal tour guide. Everything was well organized. One can feel that she loves her job. She has wide-ranging skills. Thank you!
Hi, Natalia. This weekend I made some order in my holyday pictures. There I found your card, and therefore I hereby sent you the best greetings from Greenland with mz thanks for Your guidance during my stay in Moldova late September. It was a great experience for me to visit your country, of which I got a good impression even if I only had a few days there.
Carl Johan C.
Natalia – is not just the best guide, but a reliable person with whom you never worry about the tour. When we need an English-speaking guide for the program, we never think whom to call. For us the most important thing is to know whether Natalia has possibility for that period.
Only working with her we are sure that the work will be perfectly done. She knows a lot, the tourists are always.
Hi, Natalia! I contact you in order to thank you for your help, guidance & company while i was in your country. I will have to say, i did particularly love being with you, on those 2 trips i made. If you don’t mind me saying so, i think you are a lovely & charming person, and it was a great pleasure for me to meet you.
Dear Natalia, we want to thank you sincerely for your expert and skillful guiding during our trip to Moldova. Our experience in Dumbraveni – as we told you – will prove unforgettable for us always. You have a wonderful way with people which will take you far.