The capital city, Chisinau, is on the banks of the Bac River and is surrounded by the rolling hills of the Kodry Mountains. Like Tighina, Chisinau was almost completely rebuilt after World War II. Fewer than one-third of prewar structures survived, leaving large areas for tree-lined boulevards and pretty parks (and, unfortunately, lots of square, concrete apartment blocks).
Most of the city's attractions can be seen on a stroll down Boulevard Stefan cel Mare. In the city center, see the Victory Arch (it was originally called the Holy Gate, until after World War II). The arch, constructed in 1840, serves as a bell tower for the Cathedral of the Nativity. Immediately behind the arch, you'll find large stones set in a semicircle. Each stone is marked with a date and an explanation of its significance in Moldovan history. The history walk leads into Victory Arch Park.
Another theme walk is at Pushkin Park: Writers' Walk is lined with statues and busts of Romanian and Moldovan authors (although the park is named after Alexander Pushkin, locals favor Mikhail Emenesco). The writer Pushkin was exiled to Chisinau, and his house is now a museum—behind it is the city's Botanical Gardens. Although the museum is not always open, it is worth the visit if you have a chance.
Two other interesting museums are the Museum of History and the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography. See one of several churches of note, possibly the green-roofed Mazarakievskaya Church of the Nativity of the Virgin (1757), Saints Constantine and Helena Church (1777) or the onion-domed Chisinau Cathedral. The so-called Greek church is actually a wine-tasting hall. The Hotel Codru has a restaurant that serves inexpensive and filling food, and the Hotel National has a bar popular with resident foreigners. Try to get tickets for either the Mihai Eminescu Theater (small classical concerts) or the National Theater (traditional and classical concerts and dance performances). If you are planning on traveling around the country, stop by your country's embassy, the U.N. office or the U.S. Peace Corps office and ask for help hiring a car and driver.
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