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Moldova

Moldova is an Eastern European country between Romania and the Ukraine. Romanian is the official language, but Russian, Ukrainian, and Gagauz (a Turkic language and people) are recognized regional tongues. Some documents and politicians state that the name of the national language is Moldovan. Regardless of the naming, scholars tend to agree that Romanian and Moldovan are the same. Moldova has been independent from the former Soviet Union since 1991, for better or for worse. It ranks as Europe's poorest country. The economy relies most on the service sector, and less now on industry and agriculture. Romania has seemed interested in having Moldova reunite with them, but in 1994 Moldova drafted its own constitution, which indicated they were more inclined to stay independent. Moldova is a largely hilly country between two rivers. It also has plains, plateaus, and parts of the Eurasian Steppe. There is a mostly sunny climate, what with its proximity to the Black Sea. The beech marten, Bechstein's bat, and the gray dwarf hamster are all animal species that live in Moldova. While in the country, check out Old Orhei, a scenic place with an open-air archaeological site and museum known for its caves and cave monasteries. Vineyards, like the one in Cricova, offer an excellent opportunity to taste local wines and foods together. It has the largest wine cellar in Europe. How cool is that? You can also visit the Pushkin Museum in Chişinău, where the author did some jail time and writing. Grains and a cornmeal mush called mămăligă are common foods. Vegetables like tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, and cabbage are prepared in numerous ways. Beef and pork are especially popular meats, and if you're carnivorous you're golden here. You can eat chicken soup with red meat, which is readily available, and known as ciorbă. Would you believe that Chişinău is a bit vegan-friendly? Yes, you can eat vegan Moldovan specialties in a restaurant or buy soy-based products here. Ukrainians, mostly in the East, make dishes like beet borscht. A version of their varenyky are colţunaşi, filled with fresh white cheese (colţunaşi cu brînză), meat (pelmeni or colţunaşi cu carne), and cherries. Mmm! Like Nigella Lawson says, mixing savory and sweet can be a guilty pleasure. Sparkling wines are typical of Moldovan viticulture, and they're made from a wide variety of European wine grapes such as pinot noir and sauvignon. Now that's something to feel festive about!

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