Bălţi,, which is pronounced [Belts]. There are two Russian names: The older one is Бельцы (Bel'tsy), the newer, and quite often used spelling is Бэлць (Belts'). Other spellings in Latin script include Belzy, Belz', Bel'cy etc. The name might derive from the marshland with the same name near the town. The town is also referred to as the Capital of the North.
Balti lies around 110 km north-west of the capital →Chişinău in the centre of Northern Moldova. It straddles the small river Răut, a tributary of the Dniestr, which is flowing eastwards direction →Orhei. Due to occasional floods, the river was straightened and dams were erected. The town itself occupies a small valley and is surrounded by rolling hills. Around Balti, the very fertile Chernosem ('black soil') allows intensive agriculture. The area around the town is also called Bălţi Steppe.
The town itself has 145,900 inhabitants but there's a drastic decline. In 1989, 160,000 people lived in town. Still, it's the second largest town of the country (actually it's the No 3 - number two is →Tiraspol, but this town is beyond control of the government in Kishinev). The district Judetul Bălţi around the town covers an area of 4,081 km² and is home to around 500,000 people. However, the population of the district is decreasing, too. By the way, the share of Russians in Balti is extraordinarily big.
Bălţi is an industrial town surrounded by huge factories. However, many of the factories seem to have shut down years ago. Next to the industrial complexes there are many rather dull residential areas. Some parts of the suburbs are characterized by very poor-looking tiny huts. The centre itself is quite spacious. The main road is the long Blvd. Ştefan cel Mare. The oldest buildings of the town line up along this road.
Getting there / transportation
The town is connected to the railway network, but the train makes impressive detours, as if the construction workers had been completely drunk. It's much better to go by bus. Most buses departing from the central bus station in →Chişinău run via →Orhei and Sângerei. The whole ride takes around 3 hours. There are several departures a day. The fare is 24 Lei (€ 1.7). There's also one daily departure from Balti to →Suceava in the north-east of →Romania. The bus takes the shortest route via the border crossing Costeşti/Stâtanta and via Botoşani. Although it's only 180 km, the trip takes around 6 hours, which is due to time consuming border procedures (the bus is mainly used by smugglers). Departure time is 13:45, there's no bus on Sundays. The fare is 57 Lei (€ 4).
Bălţi was first mentioned in the year 1421, but at the end of the same century it was destroyed by the Tartars. Not much happened until the 18th century. At that time, the town became one of the major battlefields in the struggle agains the Ottomans. Bălţi and the rest of Moldova was part of Moldovia, which is present-day Eastern Romania with →Iaşi as its capital.
In 1818, Bălţi was granted town rights. Later on, it became the centre of industrialization. In the Soviet Union, the industrialization was pushed ahead. Workers were needed, and so many Russians settled in and around Bălţi. Since almost the entire industry broke down after 1991, Balti started to suffer a severe economic crisis, which explains the dramatic drop in the population.
|The main boulevard and residential area near the bus station|
The main bus station is located at the edge of the town centre. A long, wide boulevard leads straight to the city centre. Trolley bus No 1 runs along the boulevard to the centre of town. Among other things, there's an Armenian church and a large cathedral.
The region west of Balti, between the town and the river Prut, which marks the Romania border, is very beautiful. The closer you get to the river, the more spectacular it gets. Deep valleys, sliding slopes, hidden valleys etc - a scenic area.
We didn't stay in town but moved on to Suceava in Romania. Therefore no recommendation possible. As far as I know, there are two hotels right in the centre of town.
- www.balti.iatp.md Official website of Balti, including a Russian and English version.
- www.beltsy.md Web directory of Balti, but unfortunately in Russian only. The slogan is quite funny: People of Balti all over the world, unite!
Do you have or do you know a good website about Balti? Don't hesitate, let me know! After checking it, I would love to add it to the link list. You can submit a link by using the →contact form. Note that commercial websites will be treated differently.