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Monasteries, wine in Moldova; and random Middletown thoughts: Ed O'Connor

Posted 10/2/19

Just like the Willie Nelson song, we’re “On The Road Again.”

We took two more day trips. The first was by bus with three destinations: an old, historic town, monasteries and …

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Monasteries, wine in Moldova; and random Middletown thoughts: Ed O'Connor


Just like the Willie Nelson song, we’re “On The Road Again.”

We took two more day trips. The first was by bus with three destinations: an old, historic town, monasteries and a winery. All were very engaging.

The initial one was the village of Old Orhei, home to two monasteries: a cave monastery built into the side of a mountain and one perched above an expansive valley with the snake-like River Raut flowing through it. From the summit there are stunning, panoramic views that go on forever.

Ruins and traces of civilizations dating as far back as the 6th century B.C. can be found here. It is a pending UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our next stop was the Curchi Monastery. At 187 feet, it is the tallest in Moldova. Built in 1775, its beautiful grounds and buildings were used as a mental institution and allowed to decay during the Soviet period. After years of disrepair, it was finally restored to its former glory in 2015.

Our guide told us that there were 44 monasteries or churches built by the Moldavian national hero, Stephen cel Mare (Stephen the Great). It is said that he built a church or monastery for every battle he won. His record was 44-1.

How much of this tale is true? I’m not sure. But it is an interesting anecdote.

Our final target, the Chateau Vertely Winery, was gorgeous and the tour was informative. However, we were disappointed as we were given only two wines to taste.

As mentioned, this trip was by bus. The seats in the coach were, if possible, tighter than on an aircraft. Very confining. We told our guide that we were considering taking a five-day bus tour, but if the bus were like this one, we were not interested.

She assured us that buses that went internationally had extra room and were more comfortable.

We got a late start returning to Chisinau from the winery, which angered the bus driver. So, to “punish” us, he would not turn on the air conditioner. It was 95 degrees and humid outside. The windows could not be opened.

Have you ever seen a World War II movie in which the Japanese placed POWs in sweatboxes? I now have an inkling of what they experienced.

For the second trip we booked a private car, driver and English-speaking guide.

We journeyed to the city of Comrat, in the southern Moldovan area of Gagauzia. It is a unique place — another throwback to the Soviet era, complete with Lenin statues. Russian is spoken.

Although part of Moldova, Gagauzia is an autonomous region with its own governor. But unlike Transnistria (see last month’s column), there was no civil war.

In a rare turn of events, without conflict, independent status was granted to Gagauzia by Moldova after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

The really unusual thing is that the area is mainly populated by Orthodox Christian Turks.

So, in a country the size of Maryland with a population of less than 4 million, Moldova has three distinct regions.

On the way to Gagauzia we passed through many small Moldavian villages and stopped at a museum dedicated to its history. 

Then off we went to the large Comrat Winery. Here we got to sample seven wines. We bought three — $3.40 per bottle. After the winery, we toured the city on foot and had lunch at a local restaurant.

The performance arts season reopens this month. We purchased tickets for and look forward to the opera “Rigoletto,” the ballet Don Quixote and the symphony.

We booked a five-day bus tour of three European capitals — Budapest, Hungary; Bratislava, Slovakia; and Vienna, Austria. I’ll let you know about that trip in a future column.

Chisinau celebrated Liberation Day on Aug. 24, the 75th anniversary of being freed from the Nazis in 1944 by the communist Red Army. How did that work out?

Three days later, Aug. 27, another holiday commemorated the day when Moldova gained its independence from the Communists in 1991.

But my favorite Moldavian holiday is approaching. The first weekend in October is the National Wine Festival. The city’s main six lane boulevard and square will become one big wine-tasting event. All the wineries in Moldova will have booths showcasing their products.

Of course, food, food and more food will be available to pair with the wines. Displays by artisans, plus musicians, dance troupes and more will be performing during the fete.

Random thoughts

• Do you remember years back when the Press & Journal had a “Sound Off” column? Do you miss it? Did you know you can still sound off? Come closer, I’ll let you in on a little secret.

All you have to do is subscribe to the P&J online e-edition. At the end of the articles and columns there is an area in which you can comment.

One caveat — you must be able to write. No anonymous rantings on the telephone. You can “sound off” to your heart’s content.

• On another note: C. No, not a musical note or misprint. I was people watching last week. The large letter “C” came to mind as I noted the posture of the rabble walking with backpacks and texting. So much future work for chiropractors.

• Disbanding the Middletown gendarmes? Oh, my! Tell me it ain’t so, Little Ralphie! Who will be the ones to hang outside the bars and clubs surreptitiously looking for patrons exiting these adult beverage establishments?

Now there is a new occupation for the unionists from Three Mile Island when it closes ... or a part-time summer gig for the unionists from the Public Indoctrination Centers, (schools). They all can be your replacement alcohol Nazis.

• Why not also consider eliminating the MEM, Middletown Electric Monopoly? Then you would have freedom of choice in your electric provider. That would certainly be progress in the People’s Republic of Middletown.

• I told Olga I was looking at big boobs on the computer, but not to worry. It wasn’t a pornographic site — it was Feel the Bern, Sanders, Pocahontas Warren, Dopey Biden and the rest of the socialist anti-American nitwits.

From your jolly jaunter ... Eddy O

Ed O’Connor, a former resident of Middletown and Lower Swatara Township, is an expatriate living in Chisinau, Moldova.