Moldova day tour from Romania

By David De Mille
This item appears on page 17 of the September 2016 issue.

The Republic of Moldova is a place I long wanted to visit, as it’s near my usual destination of Romania. On a solo trip, May 3-15, 2016, I began in Bucharest, Romania, where I had the pleasure of staying at the Grand Boutique Hotel (Negustori 1B, Bucharest 2, Romania; phone +40 31 425 62 30, http://grandboutique
), located behind the National Theatre Bucharest on a lovely residential street.

The hotel, a restored private villa, hadn’t been open long. It had 19 beautiful guest rooms and the air of an opulent European luxury inn. I paid $110 per night, which included a lavish buffet breakfast. Dinner was served nightly in a lovely dining room and lounge. 

Nearby were two fine restaurants. Peter’s Kitchen Bistro (Str. Sperantei, Nr.6, Sector 2, Bucharest, Romania; phone +40 021 312 0242,, located in another old villa, was wonderful. I paid $9 for fish-and-chips and a beer. They were great!

The other restaurant, where I ate many times, was Rossetya (Str. Dimitrie Bolintineanu, Nr. 9, District 2, Bucharest 021061, Romania; phone +40 748 220 220,, also in a lovely, old, restored villa. The food was wonderful. For about $12, I had roast pork with potatoes, vegetables, cucumber salad and wine. The staff was wonderful too.

A month in advance, I had made arrangements for a one-day tour of Moldova, which would start in Ias¸i in northeastern Romania. To reach Ias¸i, I also reserved a rental car, booking it from Cars4Rent (1D Drumul Odaii St., Otopeni 075100, Romania; phone +40 372 999 999,, whom I would recommend.

Cars4Rent had automatics available, which was what I wanted. I got an Opel Astra for about $235 for five days, with unlimited mileage.

The drive from Bucharest to Ias¸i takes five to six hours and is on a good road. There were many gas stations and places to stop, but I had to watch my speed, since radar was everywhere!

I had booked my private tour of Moldova with Larisa Zavloschi at Rolandia Travel (76 Eternity St., Axa Business Center, Ias¸i, Romania; phone +40 31 7800 236, Larisa was wonderful. The cost of $244 included a car, a guide and a wine tour.

My approximately 13-hour tour was conducted by Mihai Bulai, who picked me up at my hotel in Ias¸i early in the morning, bringing snacks and refreshments to eat along the way.

We had a brief but wonderful tour of Ias¸i, a fantastic city of about 300,000 residents. The architecture was fantastic, but the prize of the city was the Palace of Culture, whose architecture had been inspired by the Hôtel de Ville in Paris. Built in 1925, the Palace of Culture has been completely restored to its former glory.

We drove on to the Republic of Moldova. The border crossing took a while, but we entered with no problem.

Chis¸ina˘u, the capital, is a lovely city with beautiful parks. The people appeared to be very prosperous. We took a walking tour; it was nice seeing all the sights on foot, but there was a lot of traffic. 

In a nice, shady park, artists were selling their merchandise. I saw antiques, low-priced nesting dolls, artwork ranging from pottery to wall plaques, and wonderful hand sketches of Chis¸ina˘u monuments.

We ate lunch at the charming Eli Pili (Str. Bucuresti 68, Chis¸ina˘u; phone +373 22 222 457). I had fresh carp and a salad for about $10. The restaurant was great, but we did have to deal with some cigarette smoke.

The highlight of the tour was a visit to the underground winery of Cricova (Petru Ungureanu Str. 1;, near Chis¸ina˘u. (To take the 2½-hour tour, a reservation is needed.) I was most interested in this event, as I like Cricova wines a lot.

The tour was unbelievable. Outside of the winery, along with other English-speaking guests, my guide and I boarded a train that took us to a depth of 50 to 80 meters underground. (I’d advise taking a jacket on this tour, as it was quite cold.) There we saw the private wine collections, in beautiful compartments, of people like Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel and Joe Biden.

Then we entered a beautiful tasting room that was breathtaking! We were served snacks and sampled various wines as the winery tour guide described them. A gift shop sold wines, crystal wine glasses and Moldova pottery.

Our return drive to Ias¸i through Moldova was magnificent. The green countryside was filled with vineyards as far as you could see, and there were interesting monasteries along the road as well as picturesque isolated villages. Moldova is a country I’d like to visit again to explore on my own.

Including the border crossings, it was a long day, but it was well worth it.


Wenham, MA