Ross is a presenter, content creator and passionate traveling bagpiper. His goal? To bagpipe in every country on the planet. With more than 100 countries ticked off his list, he is still roaming around the world and diving into each place’s culture and history. 

3 countries that deserve your attention. Here’s why.

If you’ve been on the lookout for travel inspiration on our Instagram page, you may have seen content from Lindsay, Eric, and Kirsten, travelers who have been roaming Eastern Europe in search of hidden gems and undiscovered marvels. Lindsay and Eric explored this region’s unrivaled nature, and Kirsten visited cities with a youthful and creative current running through them. Today, we’re happy to present Ross, our fourth traveler whose focus was history. Where did he go? Moldova, Serbia, Romania, and Hungary. What did he experience? We’ll let him tell you in his own words.  

Chisinau, Moldova 

I reached Chisinau, Moldova’s capital, at night. We had a full moon, and everything was lit up in this gorgeous 15th-century city, which has seen many iterations and wears its history proudly on each building, street, and monument. One reason I was drawn to Chisinau is the fact that it played a vital role in the national awakening of Moldova. It was an epicenter of culture, politics, and art, all in service to Moldovan nationhood. On my first morning, I drove an hour outside of the capital to Arta Rustica, a cultural complex where I learned about the history of local weaving. The carpets and clothes were absolutely stunning, with intricate designs and motifs from around the region. One type of motif was the basil flower, which makes appearances on many traditional woven cloths. My favorite part? Hearing my host sing a beautiful ode to the basil flower!  

On day two, I kicked things off with a walking tour. I’m always a big fan of this sort of exploration because it puts you in touch with history in a tangible way. While wandering around, I was introduced to one of the country’s main heroes, a statue of Ștefan the Great, a 16th-century national hero and defender of the faith who protected Moldova from the Ottoman marauders. Another must-see locale is the serene Stefan cel Mare Central Park, which has one of the most beautiful fountains I’ve ever seen. 

Before the day came to an end, I dropped into the National Museum of Moldova, the country’s most comprehensive museum and an ideal place to get a full understanding of the local cultural heritage. It houses a vast array of artifacts going back centuries as well as ethnographic exhibits and fine arts. One thing I learned from walking its halls: Moldova has always been a very diverse country, and these varied influences have shaped it into what it is today.  

My final experience in Moldova was a viticultural one. Moldovans love wine. And what’s more, they produce some of the best wine I’ve ever tasted. Before moving on, I visited the Milesti Mici winery, which stands just 30 minutes outside of the city. I got to experience grape stomping (the traditional method!) and pulled out my bagpipes to add another country to my list. There was no better way to end my time here than with a glass of pleasant local wine, grape fragments between my toes, and the lingering sound of bagpipes in the air! 

Belgrade, Serbia 

When I entered Belgrade, what struck me most was that this city is teeming with history. In fact, Belgrade has been populated in one way or another for more than seven thousand years! Its earliest roots are Celtic in the 3rd century BCE, and since then, the Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, and Austrians, among others, have left their mark on this exceptional place. 

On my first day, I set out on foot to get a sense of the place. I loved seeing the Victor Monument, which goes back to 1928 and honors the city’s liberation after World War I. With energy (and good walking shoes) I joined a walking tour, which took me to the Belgrade Fortress. I’ve seen a fortress or two in my life, but this one was special. Its roots stretch back two thousand years and to the Celtic and Roman period. In more recent decades, it was a strategic point for the Byzantine and Ottoman rulers. During the 19th century, it was also crucial during the Serbian uprisings and the country’s ultimate independence.  

On my last day, I got to try some local delicacies. Since Belgrade has a history that goes back many centuries, and since so many cultures have been mixed into this place, the food is diverse and phenomenal. A few dishes I recommend: sarma (stuffed cabbage with minced meat and seasoning floating in rich tomato sauce), prebranac (a white bean dish with paprika, onions and garlic), and karađorđeva šnicla (a breaded, fried veal or pork cutlet). Given the cool weather we have now, these are the warm-you-up, stick-to-your-ribs meals that you will crave.  

Of course, I couldn’t leave a new country without a bagpipe performance! In Belgrade, I chose Republic Square to share a tune or two. Its majestic architecture made for a perfect spot.  

Timișoara, Romania 

As with Belgrade, Timișoara has existed for a very, very long time. Its roots stretch back over a millennium, which means there’s a great deal to explore for anyone interested in history. One fact that I really loved was that the city played a pivotal role in the 1848 revolution and then again more than a century later during Romania’s fight against dictatorship in the 1980s. 

Timișoara really surprised me, in part because it is the 2023 European Capital of Culture. What does that mean? There are plays, performances, and other cultural events on nearly every square meter of the city. I watched outdoor acting. I listened to lovely music. I built a truly meaningful connection to this place. As always, I explored on foot. A few places I recommend if you love history include the Memorial Museum of the 1989 Revolution, the Huniade Castle, and the “Three Hierarchs” Metropolitan Cathedral. 

Aside from playing my bagpipes, which is always a thrilling experience, one memory that’ll stay with me is the Orthodox wedding I stumbled upon. How did it happen? I entered a Romanian Orthodox cathedral and totally by chance encountered a wedding ceremony. Between music, ritual, and the beautiful setting, it was pretty cool to witness. 

Budapest, Hungary 

After exploring Moldova, Serbia, and Romania, I arrived in the beautiful city of Budapest where I got to meet my fellow travelers, Lindsay, Eric, and Kirsten. It was a blast to share stories and exchange tips with three people who have the same wanderlust as I do (especially three who had just traveled through  Eastern Europe!). Here are some of the experiences I had in Budapest: I soaked in hoppy water in a beer spa (yes, you sip a sudsy drink as you relax in the hot water), I heard live piano music in the main train station, and I witnessed a spectacular aria at the Hungarian State Opera House. One great tip for you! Get a Budapest card for free access to public transport and dozens of cultural institutions. And you guessed it, before I left, I had to break out the bagpipes to serenade the Danube! 

Highlights and Insider tips: 

  • Moldova: Head out to the Hill and Valley farm on the outskirts of Chisinau for a great setting and some grape stomping. 
  • Serbia: Grab dinner at Belgrade’s Little Bay restaurant for an interesting musical evening. 
  • Romania: Do a walking tour with a local guide to get a true sense of this historical city. Don’t miss all the outlines of Timisoara’s Ottoman-era mosques! 
  • Hungary: See how many mini statues you can find across Budapest. Mihály Kolodko’s Mini Statues are dotted across Budapest in some interesting and unusual spots. Search the name of the artist and take yourself on a walking tour! 

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