Travel in Moldova: Purcari Winery

Purcari Winery is located in the south-eastern part of the country and is the oldest wine estate in Moldova.  Because of it’s proximity to the Black Sea, it has a unique ecosystem ideal for growing the grapes, especially for red wine.  Vineyards in the this area of the country were first planted around the 12th century and primarily cultivated by the monks from a monastery in the area.  In 1827, Emperor Nicholas I of Russia granted Purcari the status of the first specialized winery in Bessarabia.  Purcari won its first gold medal at an international exhibition in 1878 at the Paris World Expo.

After World War II, the winery opened again and continued to produce quality wines.  Today, there is a small hotel and fine restaurant.  We visited with my host sister and did a tour and wine tasting.  When we visited there were only a few other guests and we were able to get a tour in English.  We had contacted them in advance but had not heard back, thankfully it turned out they had received our message.  The grounds were very peaceful and we were given plenty of time to enjoy the wines after the formal tasting with our guide.

Notes and tips about visiting Purcari Winery:

  • While further from Chisinau, the winery is located in a gorgeous part of Moldova (though I may be biased as I live fairly close to here).
  • Compared to some of the other wineries in Moldova, the tour is not quite as interesting (in comparison to Cricova, with it’s huge underground tunnels), but the tasting was good.  We do wish we had ordered dinner to go with our tasting, but didn’t realize it would be prepared while we toured and ready when we arrived in the tasting room.
  • The winery is known for its red wines, though we did also taste one white wine.

Travel in Moldova: My Village

My host family with my parents
My host family, my parents, and me

After flying to Moldova, my parents drove their rented car to my village, where we spent the next three days.  This was one of the best parts of our trip, not because of all the cool sites we saw (although there were visits to our public library, my school, and walks to some sunflower fields) but because my American parents were able to meet and spend time with my Moldovan family and see the place that has been my home for a year.

My dad with one of my host nieces
My mom with another host niece

They got to see what my daily life is like, see firsthand how lucky I was to be placed with my host family, and visit the places in town I see every week.  They got to experience the joy of no running water (I usually do have running water and since living here, my host family has even installed an indoor toilet and shower, but there was a problem with our village’s water system while my parents were visiting, so it was all outhouse and bucket bathing for us!), eat the food my host mom prepares, play with my host nieces, and drink house wine.

Sunflowers on a drive through my village the first day
A dinner toast

Three of my young host nieces (ages 2, 4, and 7) were staying with my host parents when my parents were here, and we spent a lot of time playing with them and coloring.  Each night at dinner, I could barely get a bite to eat because I was so busy translating all of the conversations from English to Romanian and Romanian to English.  There were exchanges of gifts: my host parents gave my actual parents bottles of wine to take home and some little trinkets, my actual parents gave my host mom some oven mitts and an apron and my host dad a multi-tool.

My parents with the librarian and an assistant in the public library
My parents with the public librarian and an assistant, in the Casa de Cultura

We visited the public library, where my parents were treated like honored guests.  The librarian and an assistant presented them with the customary loaf of bread with salt, welcoming them and wishing them health and happiness.  We also toured the entire casa de cultura (cultural house), including the auditorium, music and dance school, and wedding hall, as well as the library.  After, we shared tea and cookies with the library staff.  Later, we visited my school and I got to show them where I spent a large chunk of time each day during the school year.

Our walk to the sunflower fields
Our walk to the sunflower fields
Overlooking my village

We walked through my village, and I showed them where the stores are, as well as the mayor’s office, preschool, sports fields, post office, church, and cemetery.  On our last evening, we walked to some fields at the outskirts of town to see the views of the village and the never-ending fields of sunflowers and wheat.  As we returned, we ran into one of the women who cleans my school and we chatted for a short while.

My mom, host mom, and the girls before saying goodbye

Though it was wonderful to see my parents interact with my host family, it was also a bit bittersweet.  When it was time to say goodbye, there were plenty of teary eyes.  We all knew that this is likely the only time my real parents and my Moldovan parents will ever meet.  I’ve been so incredibly lucky to have a host family that truly treats me as if I am their daughter.  As we said goodbye, my host mother thanked my parents for raising me in the way that they did, and my real parents thanked my host parents for welcoming me into their family and treating me so well.  And then we went on our way.

Once Upon a Time…

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Once upon a time, my parents saved up for the trip that would inspire my love of travelling and kick-start my goal of travelling the world.

In 2008, my family flew across the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in order to visit the beautiful country of Switzerland.  I fell in love with the country, with the food, with the mountains.  It was the first time we had traveled as a family to another country (other than Canada).  It was two blissful weeks, spent hiking the Alps, visiting small, idyllic cities, and spending time with my family.

Many people have asked me (and my parents) about how my parents feel about my decision to become a Peace Corps Volunteer.  In addition, my sister will be leaving in February to study abroad in South Africa.  She won’t return until July, so for a short amount of time, my parents will have their two daughters in opposite corners of the world, very far from the United States.  Many parents have expressed that they’re not sure they would be very excited for their daughters to travel to opposite corners of the world at the same time.  My parents, however, have been nothing but supportive.  Yes, they will miss both of us, but they are very excited for us as we embark on these journeys.  In fact, they are very proud of us for taking this chance.

Both of my parents love to travel.  It’s a love that started early, and it’s a love that they have shared with us our entire lives.  They both grew up in the same small town that they raised us in.  My mom understands the need to get away, even if only temporarily, as does my dad.  My mom went to Montana for college.  My dad lived in Japan for six months shortly after his college graduation, a trip he took on a whim without a ton of planning.  They have encouraged all of us to travel, to get out and see the world while we’re young and able.

My mother recently sent me a picture that had the words “You may feel all grown up and ready to face the world…but this is how your parents see you…and we always will” accompanied by a photo of a little girl.  My mom said this about the picture: “I’m okay with you going around the world – just wish I could follow and still be a part of all of it. Love to you!”  This is the kind of support that has encouraged me to enter the Peace Corps, that has encouraged me to follow my dreams.  So thank you, Mom and Dad, for your unwavering support, encouragement, and belief in my dreams!  I love you both!