Officially known as | Republic of Moldova
Capital | Chisinau
Population | 4,320,748 (July 2009 est.)
Area | 33,851 sq km (slightly larger than Maryland)
Official language | Moldovan (extremely similar to Romanian)
Holidays | Independence Day 27 August (1991)
Currency | Moldovan lei (MDL)
Time Zone | UTC+2
Best time to visit | May to August, or whenever you can - Moldova’s Kafkaesque bureaucracy makes obtaining a visa a virtual lottery
Essential Experiences | Strolling along the leafy boulevards of the captial Chisinau, stopping to smell the roses at the 24-hour flower stalls. Finding a taste of the Orient by bargaining your way up and down the exotic central market. Heading underground to the subterranean wine village at Cricove and sampling Moldova’s most successful export: dry white Sauvignons and gaudy sparkling reds. Getting a feel for the austerity of religious life at the magnificent13th-century monastery of Orheiul Vechi carved into a remote cliff face.
Read | Tony Hawkes’ travelogue Playing the Moldovans at Tennis, the unlikely bet involving the football team http; for a deeper cultural perspective read Charles King’s The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture
Watch | The Last Month of Autumn, winner of the Cannes Grand Prix in 1967, a poetic tale of an elderly Moldovan peasant and his family and his family which has come to represent the national spirit.
Eat | mamaliga, a maize porridge served with cheese, cream, and diced fried meat; in Gagauz try the very savory sorpa, a spicy soup made from ram’s meat.
Drink | Sauvignon, Cabernet, and Muscat wines produced in abundance in local vineyards, and be sure to sample local varieties such as Feteasca, Black Rara and Moldova
In a word | La revedere! (goodbye!)
Trademarks | Fine wine; sunflowers; tin-pot republics; oriental carpets; statues and memorials; national pride
Surprises | The separatist republic of Transdniestr created its own state currency by sticking a postage stamp of Suvorov, a local war hero, on onsolete Russian roubles.