Găgăuzia – autonomous area

Găgăuzia is an autonomous region of Moldova, but unlike Transnistria, there are no borders and own currency here. Ethnically Găgăuzians are Turkic in origin, with their ancestors coming all the way from Altai region. Later on they migrated from Bulgaria together with ethnic Bulgarians and settled in Bessarabia (Moldova) between 1812 and 1846. Nowadays the region is comprised of one city, two towns, twenty villages and three communities. The most interesting fact is despite their turkic roots, they are affiliated with the Eastern Orthodox Church.

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They have their own language which is taught in 55 schools, although Găgăuz is still not used as the language of instruction in educational institutions. Russian and Romanian are the official languages in Găgăuzia, and the majority of the population prefers to speak the Russian language.

If Găgăuzia is of any of interested to you or on your list to visit, then here are a few suggestions for what is there to see or experience.

In Comrat you can spend a few hours with a visit included at the National History and Etnographic Museum (entrance 10 lei) which has a collection of historical, cultural and even botanical exhibits. Nearby you will find monuments for the fallen soldiers in Afghanistan and the tankists, Comrat Art Gallery which showcases local găgăuzian art, the cathedral, turkish library Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and ofcourse Victory Square which has a statue of Lenin in front of their administrative building. Also in the city you can find the Comrat Winery which is their main wine producer.

Heading more south, the next stop is Beșalma village for the Ethnographic Museum which contains all the history of the găgăuz nation in a wonderful collection. The local guide does the tour only in russian, so if you wish to visit this museum, try to have a translator with you. If booked upfront, they can organise a little concert also with their national music, traditional clothing and dances.

If anyone is interested in postcards and pretty much soviet style, the post office across the street from the museum will be by your liking. A room where you can send mail, pay bills but also buy things from the counter just like in soviet times it is still very well alive. The villagers are very friendly and will be more than happy to try to converse with you even with the language barrier. A few metres through the village and you can see the Beșalma windmill, the one of last ones in Moldova.

Other things that are worthy to visit, specifically for discovering the food, is the Gagauz Sofrasi in Congaz (biggest and most condensed village in Europe). This is a traditional găgăuz style house which offers local food, lodging, but also experiences such as witnessing a traditional wedding, milking the sheep, wine tasting and even trying out therapeutic sheep wool beds. Keep in mind that they cater for groups of a minimum of 4 people only and require a +24 hours booking upfront.

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And last but not least, deep in the south of Moldova (about 3 hours drive from Chișinău) is the KaraGani winery . Not only they provide wine with găgăuzian accent, but also traditional food cooked by the owner and which has been recognised internationally and included in books about moldovan cuisine. Besides this, they have built their own little museum about găgăuzian culture with objects gathered by their family throughout the generations.

Despite being a less traveled destination and not as many amenities in the region, it is still a day trip that easily could be enjoyed.

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