The Moldovan capital of Chisinau (formerly Kishinev) stands on the banks of the small River Byk. The city was founded around 1470 and the history and life of Moldova through the centuries is best presented in the History and Regional Lore Museum, a beautiful Turkish-style complex. The Fine Arts Museum houses good examples of Russian, West European and Moldovan paintings, sculpture and applied arts. The Pushkin House is the place where the great Russian poet spent his days in exile between 1820-23. The museum is famous as the place where Pushkin began working on his epic poem Eugene Onegin. There are also two old cemeteries in Chisinau, the Armenian Cemetery and the Jewish Cemetery. The latter is famous as the burial place for the victims of the Chisinau Pogrom in 1903; in the 1960s, the lower part of the cemetery was deliberately razed by the authorities. Owing to massive Jewish emigration from Moldova during the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, the state of the cemetery has significantly deteriorated. The only working synagogue in Chisinau is situated not far from the city center, on Habad-Liubavici str. The former Chisinau Choral Synagogue today houses the Chekhov Drama Theater. The Monument of Stefan cel Mare (Stefan the Great) is situated at the entrance to the well-tended Pushkin Park. He was Moldova’s Gospodar (ruler) between 1457-1504 during a time of brief independence, thus securing him a special place in Moldova’s history. The monument by the sculptor Plamadeala was unveiled in 1927. In 1990-91, the monument was the focal point of meetings and violent clashes between Moldova’s Nationalists and pro-Soviet supporters. Just outside the park is an impressive building housing the largest cinema, Patria (Fatherland), which was built in 1947 by German POWs.
Picturesque bathing beaches line the manmade Chisinau Lake (formerly Komsomol Lake). Boats can also be hired. There are two parts to the complex: the Exhibition of Achievements and the open-air Green Theater with a seating capacity of 7000.
Situated 70km (44 miles) from Chisinau is Tiraspol, founded in 1792 on the then Russian border. It now has a population of 200,000 and is one of the main industrial centers of the country. It is also the capital of the self-proclaimed Republic of Transdniestria and travelers are advised to avoid it owing to the unstable political situation.
Benderi (Tighina) is one of the oldest towns in Moldova. Its beautiful 17th-century fortress, as well as the town itself, were seriously damaged during the recent fighting.
Bãlti, 150km (94 miles) north of the capital is a major industrial center. The main products from this area are sugar, vegetable oils and fur coats.
Approximately 160km (100 miles) south of Chisinau is Cahul. The town is famous for its thermal spas and mud treatments and there is a small hotel in the town. There is also a good local theater. Hirjauca is a renowned spa in the area.
Moldova is a wine-growing country and the vineyards and wine cellars of Mileshti and Krikova-Veki are famous throughout the region.