Two of Moldova’s most popular tourist attractions, though as one of the least visited countries in Europe they were pretty quiet in early September.
Wine is one of Moldova’s main exports so it is fitting that they have the largest winery in the world. Milestii Mici has more than 200km of underground tunnels, with 55km of them lined with around 2 million bottles of wine. Many of these tunnels are large enough to drive buses around, taking tourists around before the obligatory wine tasting.
The tunnels were built after WW2 when limestone was excavated to rebuild Chisinau, Moldova’s capital which was mostly destroyed in the war. In the 1960s they realised that the constant 14C temperature and 85% humidity would be perfect for wine storage.
They also offer private storage though I understand that it is more popular in Crivoca. This is a very similar winery with tunnels, but older (15th century), closer to Chisinau (15km away) and better quality (half privately owned compared with the government owned Milestii Mici). Putin had his 50th birthday party there…
Orheiul Vechi has a number of sites of interest, monasteries, cemeteries, the village, and the setting in a huge horseshoe valley.
The Cave Monastery was dug in the 13th century but abandoned in the 18th century. Since 1996 monks have returned to this atmospheric spot overlooking the valley.
On top of the ridge is a more recent early 20th monastery with a well tended garden, and no photos allowed inside the church.
There were also a couple of typical Moldovan cemeteries on the side of the ridge.
An example traditional house demonstrated the thick walls required to cope with the extremes of temperature in Moldova, from -15C in winter to 45C in summer, and some of the embroidery that all women would be expected to stitch, while men would be expected to be able to make wine.
To finish with a few photos from walking through the village.