It’s been 7 months since I have set foot in a new country. No wonder I am getting itchy feet. And with 2018 nearly upon me, it is time to get back on the road and clear that travel drought.
So what are my plans?
This week I am returning from Luxembourg where I have spent 5 days seeing this small European country which is bordered by Belgium, Germany and France. Luxembourg is a multicultural city and it’s actually nice to have some down time and just browse the Christmas markets.
I wasn’t solo for this trip as I was travelling with a friend but after doing so many trips solo sometimes it’s good to have a travel buddy.
Then it’s back on the road for a proper solo adventure – Moldova and Ukraine until 10th December.
Ukraine made headlines in March 2014 when Russia invaded the Crimea. Since then it has been reported that more than 1.7 million people have been displaced. The east of the country is still occupied but the areas that I am traveling to remain unaffected by the war. I’ll be learning more about the political situation in the country during my visit.
Across the border, Moldova is known for its wine and has both the biggest wine collection in the world (at Milestii Mici), and the largest underground wine city in the world (at Cricova winery). I’ll be visiting the underground caves at Cricova.
But Moldova is also the poorest country in Europe. Unfortunately this also means that Moldova is a prime source for victims of human trafficking. Wanting to understand more about this, I will be visiting the La Strada project. This amazing project works with human trafficking victims, including the sexual exploitation of children. I am really honoured that they have allowed me to visit them to learn more about the problems that women and children face in Moldova.
So my itinerary will look like this:
Three nights in Chișinău, the capital of Moldova exploring the city and visiting La Strada.
A visit to Cricova winery to sample Moldova’s best wines (of course!)
A trip to Old Orhei, a cave monastery and open-air archaeological complex 60km northeast of the capital. A trip to Soroca, the country’s gypsy capital plus a craft centre to watch local women weave traditional carpets.
Then it’s off to Tiraspol, in Transnistria. This part of Moldova appears to be its own state and is a country which doesn’t exist. Transnistria is an unrecognised nation between Moldova and Ukraine which is an open-air soviet museum. Even entering from Moldova you have to go through a border crossing and register that you are here.
With things to do here listed as; tank show and army show, this is definitely going to be an experience. Deciding to stay with an expat for this part of the trip who suggests drinking the locally-made brandy with the locals, I have absolutely no idea what will happen in Tiraspol, especially as my local tour guide is former special forces. At least I’ll be safe!
From here it’s across the border by bus to Odessa, Ukraine’s third most populous city, located on the Black Sea. No stranger to the Black Sea, I spent a few days in Bulgaria in the nightlife capital of Sunny Beach. After experiencing endless nightlife, tacky neon lights and shot-drinking Brits, it will be interesting to experience Ukraine’s touristy side.
Then it’s an overnight train up to the capital. With temperatures dropping to below freezing, this could be a bad move but definitely an adventure.
Always one for walking tours, I’ll be taking two walking tours to explore the ancient Kiev, and the Soviet Kiev to learn more about the history of the Ukrainian capital.
Then I’ll be experiencing the deepest metro station in the world on my way to Kiev Pechersk, the most beautiful cathedral in Ukraine and known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves (it looks beautiful!) As well as taking an Ancient Kiev tour and Soviet Kiev tour.
Last but not least, I’ll be taking a tour of Chernobyl. In 1986 a catastrophic nuclear disaster took place at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near Pripyat in northern Ukraine. As a 10 year old girl I remember watching news reports of what they were describing as the world’s worst nuclear disaster (at the time).
I’ll be visiting Chernobyl and reactor no 4, the cause of the disaster which according to List 25 released at least 100 times more radiation than the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I’ll also be visiting the ‘dead-town’ of Pripyat where its 50,000 inhabitants fled within 24 hours.
There is so much you can do in Ukraine, from driving a tank (and yes that is now on my bucket list), to shooting rifles, to exploring the underground tunnels. Twelve days in both countries just isn’t going to be enough. Wish me luck!
N.b. Part of this trip is complimentary but as always each opinion is my own and I won’t recommend any accommodation, tour or activity unless it is solo-female friendly.