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The Baltic Capitals & St. Petersburg 2014

Trip Extensions

Pre-trip: Chisinau, Moldova

Before you travel to the Baltic capitals, discover the lesser-known inland nation of Moldova. Renowned for its ancient vineyards, wine cellars, and museums, Moldova greets you with the warm welcome of the region’s friendly people. You’ll explore the capital city of Chisinau, sample Moldova’s famed wines, and learn about its culture-within-a-culture in a visit to the history-steeped (and hotly disputed) territory of Transnistria.

It's Included:
Airfare from Chisinau to Vilnius, Lithuania
Accommodations for 4 nights in Chisinau
7 meals—4 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 1 dinner
3 small group activities
Services of an OAT Trip Leader who speaks English and the native language
All transfers
Porterage for 1 bag per traveler
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    After an overnight flight, arrive in Chisinau. An OAT representative will greet you. Once we check into our hotel, we have a brief orientation session and a Welcome Drink. Dinner is on your own tonight.

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    Settled as far back as the Paleolithic era, Moldova is a small country with a big spirit, a place where the heavy weight of the Soviet era never crushed local pride—still visible in the Patrea Mea (“my homeland”) signs all over its capital, Chisinau. The largest and most prosperous city in Moldova, Chisinau offers glimpses of the Soviet past, with massive building complexes, while proudly showing a contemporary face, with sleek glass and steel towers rising in the last decade. But its most dominant architectural feature are the massive “Gates of the City,” which are asymmetrical tiered building complexes that rise in height to peaks framing either side of the main highway entering the town.

    Following breakfast, we discover the history and culture of Chisinau on a guided tour of some of its highlights. We begin at Pushkin Park, where stands of trees, flower beds, stone pathways, and a fountain surround a statue of the Russian author Alexander Pushkin, who wrote The Prisoner of the Caucasus while living in the city. The massive Government House will make an impression before we visit two sobering sites: the World War II Memorial Park and the Monument to the Soldiers of the Afghan War. The Memorial Park includes an eternal flame to commemorate Chisinau’s soldiers who died fighting for the Soviets in World War II. The monument honoring soldiers who served in Afghanistan calls to mind an open-topped bell or a modernist air control tower with its sleek curves (which are illuminated in colored lights at night).

    After lunch on your own, you’ll have leisure time to explore the city on your own. Later, our small group will enjoy a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant where we’ll enjoy folk music while we dine.

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    This morning, we set off for nearby Transnistria, a region which Moldova considers part of the country, but which considers itself a breakaway republic, with its own elected officials. Nestled between Ukraine and the Moldovan border, Transnistria follows the Dniester River. The municipality forming the buffer zone between Transnistria and Moldova proper is Bender, which has been in existence since at least the 14th century, making it one of the oldest towns in the land–and one of the most contested, as it was a prime setting for the late 20th-century Transnistrian War, in which Moldova repelled Russian-backed independence forces to keep its grip on the region.  We’ll learn more about the conflict, the human toll, and the recovery in a visit to the Bender War Museum this morning.

    Before returning to Chisinau, we pause for lunch in Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, and enjoy a guided tour of the city.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    After breakfast, we’ll set out on a trip to the archaeological complex of Orheiul Vechi, or Old Orhei—one of Moldova's most fantastic sights. Here, we'll witness the complex's Cave Monastery. The monastery was carved into a limestone cliff in the 13th century by Orthodox monks, who indulged in its remote location and stunning views of the Raut River. We'll also visit the site's lovely hilltop church, which was built in 1905.

    Before lunch, we visit Cricova Winery, the best known of all Moldova’s winemakers. With its labyrinth of underground tunnels and galleries running for miles with lanes boasting names like Cabernet Street and Pinot Noir Street, Cricova is a massive institution. But we’ll see it on an intimate scale, with an included tour, wine-tasting, and lunch here. Perhaps you’ll savor one of the many sparkling wine varieties for which Cricova is best known.

    We’ll head back to our hotel in Chisinau, where you’ll have some leisure time. Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, depart to the airport for our flight to Vilnius, Lithuania, where we join our fellow travelers to begin our exploration of The Baltic Capitals & St. Petersburg.