Sophia's Travel an award winning travel agency proudly presents 25th Anniversary Tour to Moldova Visiting Moldova, Romania and Transnistria

                                                                              25th Anniversary Tour to Moldova

                                                                     Visiting Moldova, Romania and Transnistria

to experience the historical, cultural, culinary, and political connections between the three Romanian-speaking regions of Eastern Europe, while celebrating Moldova's 25 years of Independence from the former Soviet Union     

The momentous Independence Day will be commemorated with an open-air festival, including fireworks, traditional dress, music, dance, foodand handicrafts demonstrated and for sale. At the same time, the by-gone, former Soviet way of life can almost be experienced in Transnistria, connecting Moldova with its past as the people move toward the future. This is a fascinating look at a part of the Europe with tremendous culture that most Americans do not normally consider or even know about, to be experiences NOW at a turning point in its history.

                                                                 Customizable, Private Tour based on four persons


August  19 – September 1, 2016

Including the 25th Anniversary Celebration of Moldova’s Independence, August 27, 2016, 15 Days.

Romania

August 19, 2016, Day 1

Day 1 – Arrival Airport in Bucharest

 Welcome to Bucharest! Known for its wide, tree-lined boulevards, glorious Belle Époque buildings and a reputation for the high life (which in the 1900s earned its nickname of "Little Paris"), Bucharest, Romania's largest city and capital, is today a bustling metropolis. 

Romanian legend has it that the city of Bucharest was founded on the banks of  the Dambovita River by a shepherd named Bucur, whose name literarily means "joy."  His flute playing reportedly dazzled the people and his hearty wine from nearby vineyards endeared him to the local traders, who gave his name to the place

An orientation tour of the town will be done on the way to the hotel.

Visit to a museum such as The Village Museum - an
open-air museum exhibiting houses from all over Romania. If it rains, we will visit the “Romanian Peasant Museum”, situated near the Village Museum in a building constructed in 1924 specially to be a museum of Romanian countryside life.

Dinner at “Caru cu Bere”   characteristic Romanian restaurant dated from 1879 (not included)

Accommodation 5* hotel: Epoque or similar.

Meals included: D

August 20, Day 2 – Bucharest 

Breakfast at hotel.

Visit to the Romanian Parliament (if an international meeting or other event hinders or makes the visit impossible, then it will be substituted with a visit to the National Gallery).

Lunch will served at a restaurant in the old town  followed by a walk in the area of the “Old Princes Court” and a visit to the National History Museum – free time.

Visit Casa Scanteii (from outside)– the replica of Moscow Lomonosov University representing typical Stalin architecture.

Dinner at a restaurant Museum in the old residential district of Bucharest or garden restaurant if weather permits  (possibility for some wine tasting).

Accommodation 5* hotel: La Belle Epoque or similar.

Meals included: B, L, D

Overnight Bucharest.

August 21, Day 3, Bucharest – Sinaia –Brasov

Breakfast at hotel.

We drive toward the Carpathian Mountains and the first stop will be in Sinaia, to visit Peles Castle, the summer/winter residence of the Romanian Royal Family, built in the second half of the 19th century.

Continue to Brasov (aka Kronstadt – one of the “siebenburgen”). Here, we will have an orientation tour of the historic center, including a walk in the pedestrian street and the visit of the Black Church and the first Romanian School in Transylvania.

Suggestion for lunch: Cerbul Carpatin restaurant, in the center of the town or Keller (excellent T-bone with shrimps or Chateau Birint with Bereze sauce).  

In the afternoon, we will travel to Poiana Brasov – one of the best Romanian mountain resorts

Free time in the evening for dinner: The town has many characteristic restaurants. The guide will suggest some.

Dinner at Sura Darciol or similar  

Overnight Poiana Brasov. H Sport 4* hotel (best available).

Meals included: B, L, D

August 22, Day 4 – Poiana Brasov

Breakfast at hotel.

Morning departure for Sibiu (aka Hermannstadt): Crossing the mountains from Poiana Brasov resort, we will stop at Bran Castle (aka Dracula’s Castle). Built in the 13th century, it was given as a present to Queen Mary of Romania (Niece of Queen Victoria of Great Britain) – an interesting construction on a solitary rock, a place of legends.

Lunch in Fagaras plus bonus visit of Fagaras Citadel.

On the way to Sibiu, we will have the opportunity to see some of the villages of Transylvania. Once in Sibiu we will get the accommodation at a 4* hotel and then we’ll will go for a guided walk to visit the Big Ring and the Small Ring inside the medieval hills of Hermannstadt citadel.

Dinner will be arranged in farmers house in the village of Sibiel.

Overnight in Sibiu 4* Ramada (best available)

Meals included: B, L, D

August 23, Day 5: Sibiu – Transylvania.

Breakfast at hotel.

The first venue of the day will be Sighisoara (aka Schäßburg), the place where Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula) was born. The visit will include the Clock Tower, the Covered Flight of Stairs, the Church on the Hill.

An early lunch will be served within the walls of the medieval citadel.

The next stop, for a cup of tea or coffee, will be in
Targu Mures – a town with a large Hungarian speaking population. On the way to the our overnight accommodation, we will cross the town of Bistrita, the place where John Harper got the letter from Dracula:

 “My friend,

Welcome to the Carpathians. I am anxiously expecting you. Sleep well tonight. At three tomorrow the diligence will start for Bukovina; a place on it is kept for you. At Borgo Pass my carriage will wait for you and will bring you to me. I trust that your journey from London has been a happy one, and that you will enjoy your stay in my beautiful land.

Your friend,

Dracula”

We will overnight in Borgo Pass (Tihuta Pass – 1200 m altitude) at Hotel Castle Dracula (best in the area – as there are no other hotels) and dinner will be served at the hotel restaurant (the only one available; very good cuisine).  

Meals included: B, L, D

August 24, Day 6 – Moldovita

UNESCO – The Painted Monasteries

The first monastery that we will visit is Moldovita, which was originally built by Petru Rares, Prince of Moldavia at the beginning of the 16th century. Next we will stop at Sucevita monastery, built in  1583 by Irimia, Simion and Gheorghe Movila.

After lunch in Moldavian style at Irimia Movila Inn you will have the opportunity to visit a black ceramic work-shop in the village of Marginea

Then we will travel to Gura Humorului or Campulung Moldovenesc for accommodation in a 4* hotel.

Dinner will be served at the hotel restaurant – traditional, locally sourced fare   

Overnight: Hilde Residence characteristic local pension with friendly owners.

Meals included: B, L, D

August 25, Day 7 – Iasi the Town of Seven Hills, once the Capital of Moldavia

Breakfast at hotel

The day will start with a visit to the “Sistine Chapel of Romania”, Voronet Monastery.

It was built at the order of Stefan the Great, Prince of Moldavia, in 1488. 

The church still preserves the original paintings on the walls of the nave, displaying the famed “blue of Voronet” in the main frescoes, which animatedly illustrate scenes from the Bible.

Lunch at restaurant Casa Bilius.

Then we’ll continue to Iasi, former capital of Moldavia,  a town rich with culture and monuments.

After checking into our accommodation, we’ll visit historical center of Iasu.

Our stay in Romania is concluded with dinner in a nice but very old restaurant, Bolta Rece where great Romanian writes, musicians and poets used to meet in the past centuries.

Overnight in Iasu  

Meals included: B, L, D

H. International: 4* hotel (best available)

August 26, Day 8  Iasu - Cross the border to Republic of Moldova- Chisinau

Breakfast at hotel.

In 1939, on the 23rd of August, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a treaty in Moscow and the map of Europe was changed. The consequences can be seen even these days. 

Iasu was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia from 1564 to 1859, then of the United Principalities from 1859 to 1862, and the capital of Romania from 1916 to 1918. It is also called Cultural Capital of Romania.

Iasu is located about 1 hour from border with Moldova. But before leaving Romania, stop in Bucium Winery for wine tasting and lunch. 

After winery visit, cross the border with Republic of Moldova.

Moldova

This small country during the years of it’s existence hosts 5 capitals – current and past 

1.    Iasu was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia from 1564 to 1859, then of the United Principalities from 1859 to 1862, and the capital of Romania from 1916 to 1918.

2.    Chisinau, current capital Republic of Moldova

3.    Soroka – Gypsy capital  The city has a sizable Romani (Gypsy) minority and is popularly known as the "Romani capital of Moldova”

4.    Komrat – capital of Autonomous region Gagausia. The Gagauz people are descendants of Turks which migrated to the Bulgaria  in 13 century and converted to Orthodox Christianity. Eventually they settled in Bessarabia.

5.    Tiraspol – Capital of Transnistria

Border crossing - enter Moldova.

Visit Cipriana Monastery.

The monastery is located about 40 km. from Chisinau and in a spectacular country landscape. It is one of the oldest monasteries in the country, from 15th century. The Cipriana monastery consists of three churches: the Assumption of Madonna – the oldest church, the Saint Nicholas church -- known for its unique frescoes, and the Saint George Church -- built in the late baroque style. (time permitting) .

Continue to Chisinau, arrival, check in.

A short walk around the city, introduction.

Welcome Dinner at Kommunalka Restaurant or similar, reminiscent of Soviet cuisine when people lived in Kommunal apartment with shared kitchen and shared their recipes.

Overnight Chisinau: 5* Savoy Hotel or similar. 

Included: guide, minivan and driver, full day

Meals included: B, L, D, wine tasting

August 27, Day 9 Chisinau – Independence day

Breakfast at hotel

We will be part of the Independence Day celebrations. This day, there are numerous events organized throughout Moldova, with the largest and most important in Chisinau, where the day is celebrated with an open air festival.

The national military orchestra presents a concert and other cultural activities will be taking place: e.g. folk music and dancing with people dressed in national costumes.

We will have lunch in the town, Restaurant La Placinte (or similar), featuring  Moldovan cuisine.

Vendors demonstrate and sell Moldovan handicrafts. In the evening, we’ll listen to celebration concerts performance by top Moldovan and international artists and watch a spectacular firework display.

Dinner on your own, guide will recommend restaurant and make reservations.

Included: guide full day, minivan and driver full day

Overnight Chisinau 5* Savoy Hotel or similar

Meals included: B, L 

August 28, Day 10 Chisinau city tour and Krikova underground wine gallery

Breakfast at hotel

The Moldovan capital was razed to the ground during WWII and the terrible 1940 earthquake. However, the city of Chisinau (Russian version “Kishinev”), never lost its charm or soul -- despite the best efforts of Soviet authorities, who tried to rebuild it as yet another gray, socialist city.

First chronicled in 1420, Chisinau became a hotbed of anti-Semitism, notorious for its pogroms in the early 20th century. During Soviet rule, Chisinau was the headquarters of the

USSR’s southwestern military operations, giving the city a status way beyond its size for decades.

Between 1944 and 1990 the city was called Kishinev, its Russian name, which is still used by many of the Russian-speaking locals. Nowadays, even most Russian speakers use the Romanian pronunciation.

After a panoramic tour of the town, we will be able to see the millenary smile of the nicest mammoth of Moldova. You will find him in the National Ethnography and Natural History Museum, next to famous archaeological treasures, Bessarabia carpets, traditional costumes and other valuable exhibits. From the street, we’ll notice the unusual building that stands out for its architecture, built in 1905 in the oriental style.

Visit Krikova underground wine galleries: We continue our journey by exploring a new city, this time an underground city. Riding a car, we will descend 80 meters deep. Measuring about 200 km, these underground streets make up the largest network of caves ever dug by man.

Lunch included with wine tasting at Krikova or possibly in winery Milestii Mici.

We will see over seventy streets covering an area of nearly 53 hectares, each bearing Bacchic names: Sauvignon, Cabernet, Cahor... There is one story always told in this place about the Russian pilot Yuri Gagarin, who during a visit in 1966, after getting tipsy, got lost and missed the exit. He went out the next day, having spent the night in the tasting room, currently named after him. Here you can also admire the oldest bottle of wine, dating from 1902.

Return to Chisinau, dinner  on your own, guide will recommend and make reservations.

Included: guide full day, minivan and driver full day

Overnight Chisinau 5* Savoy Hotel or similar

Meals included: B, L

August 29,  Day 11 Orhei Vecchi, Curci, Chateaux Vartely

Breakfast at the hotel

Today we’ll set off on a time travel adventure to Orheiul Vechi to witness a 40,000-year-old natural amphitheater!  Caves, ancient fortifications, stone monasteries, monks and hermits ... here we’ll follow the history of this region. Topographically, the landscape was originally carved out by the Raut River, which dug out a canyon in the limestone layers of the former Sarmatia Sea, about 14 million years ago. The Local ground is rich with the remains of ancient civilizations -- stone tools and ruins from a medieval fortress. The scenery is gorgeous.

Visit the Curchi monastery. Surrounded by a high stone wall, with towers
at each corner, it creates the impression of a fortress. Built in 1810, it features monumental forms, with baroque elements, similar to those of St. Andrews cathedral from Kiev, but with traditional Moldovan stylistic elements.

Lunch with traditional Moldovan cuisine will be served in characteristic agrotouristic pension in Agropensiunea Butuceni  , followed by folk program performance with music played with traditional instruments and local songs and dances.

Afternoon you will visit the Chateau Vartely winery, where you will taste award winning wines, and discover how the best-known wine brands in the world are produced, stored and served.

Dinner at Chateau Vartely winery

Return to Chisinau

Included: guide full day, minivan and driver full day

Overnight Chisinau 5* Savoy Hotel or similar

Meals included: B, L , D, wine tasting

August 30, Day 12  Visit Soroca Fortress and Gypsy Hill

Breakfast at hotel.

Leave Chisinau for Soroca.

Soroca fortress is a "pearl of fortification art”. Not everyone knows that it is the most perfect castle in South-eastern Europe. It was built by the Moldavian Prince Stephen the Great in 1499, and during the medieval period, it formed a major part of the country’s defence system.

Soroca is also famous for the largest Gypsy community in Moldova, which has even influenced the city’s architecture. The Gypsy houses are impressive in their variety, diversity and contrast of color, and in their pure luxury. They far surpass the average, local, middle class home.

Possibility to visit “Gypsy Baron” (King) of Moldova  and learn about life and custom of Roma People (subject to confirmation).

Lunch at Beciul Vechi restaurant or similar.

Hike to the "Candle of Gratitude".

This monument was erected on a steep cliff on the bank of the Dniester River. An inscription prior to the ascent reads: "Traveler stop! There is Thanksgiving candle on top. And if you consider thankful to someone in this life – get up, pray and continue your way!”

Return to Chisinau.

Included: guide full day, minivan and driver full day

Dinner on your own, the guide will recommend and make reservation.

Overnight Chisinau: 5* Savoy Hotel or similar

Meals: B, L

August 31, Day 13 Transnistria,  Cognac and Vermouth

Breakfast at hotel.

Depart for Transnistria is one of the few never-solved conflicts with the former Soviet Union. The population here did not want to become part of the independent democratic, Pro-Western Moldova and clings to their Soviet Past. During the conflict of separation, Russian troops went there to help separatists and stayed there as peace-keepers.  It was historically a bastion of Russian military for centuries.

Russia supports Transnistria financially. The Transnistria population is about half-a-million. The official languages are Russian, Ukrainian and Romanian (though Romanian in Cyrillic alphabet, which is an ongoing dispute in Transnistria). Most locals have a                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Soviet mentality. This is a unique piece of land (with border control), which still avails locals and visitors the opportunity to nostalgically travel back to the days of the USSR.

Transnistria’s main city Tiraspol: Here we will have the opportunity to travel back in time back to days of the USSR. We will start by visiting the monument to Vladimir Lenin and tanks left from the Second World War. The city seems to be a ghost of the Soviet past. Nevertheless, you will be amazed by the contrasts, one of which is the football complex Sheriff - a pearl of contemporary architecture.  

Note: Surprisingly, no visa required to enter Transnistria, but we do need to have our passports with us to cross border.

After city tour of Tiraspol, Stop at Kvint Cognac Factory. Harmony, refinement and tradition underlie the oldest and most genuine of spirits – Doina, Surpriznii, Suvorov, and of course the 50-year-old Cneazi Vitghenstein. This is a rare opportunity to be one of the few people who have tasted these cognacs.  You will have lunch in or nearby of Cognac factory.

After you tasted cognac, next will be discovery of Moldovan vermouth from the Dubasari factory. During the Soviet period, Buchetul Moldovei wine (Bouquet of Moldavia) was one of the most popular on the market. This vermouth – a flavored, fortified local wine -- contains infusions of more than 20 varieties of plants.

Return to Chisinau in the evening.

Farewell dinner in Chisinau . 

Overnight: Chisinau 5* Savoy Hotel or similar

Included: guide full day, minivan and driver full day

Overnight Chisinau: 5* Savoy Hotel or similar

Meals: B, L, D, vermouth and cognac tasting

September 1, Day 14  Moldova – departure

Breakfast at hotel.

Transfer to Chisinau airport

Notes:

1.    This is the suggested based itinerary customized for each client.

Depending on client’s interest, the itinerary can be adopted to different themes, for example

·         Food and wine

·         Nature

·         Jewish Heritage

·         History (medieval, 20th century, WWII)

·         Dracula (Transylvania in Romania)

2.    No reservation has been made, this is a proposal only

3.    Once the tour is customized, the itinerary will be adjusted and meals /food additional experiences can be added.

4.    No visa needed for American citizens to travel to Romania and Moldova. Citizens of other countries must inquire re: their visa status.

Price per person double occupancy for 14 nights/15 days tour  $7,300 USD  

Included:

  • ·         Accommodations per itinerary, 5* or best available in the countryside, tax, breakfast included
  • ·         Airport – hotel transfers
  • ·         Transportation per itinerary (separate drivers in each country)
  • ·         Private guides historians in each country        
  •             Most meals included (see per itinerary)
  • ·         Wine, cognac tasting 
  • ·         All entrance fees per itinerary
  • ·         24 hour support in each country

Extra:

·         Airfare

·         Gratuities

Terms, conditions and restrictions apply; pricing, availability, and other details subject to change and/ or apply to US or Canadian residents. Please confirm details and booking information with your travel advisor.