Ungheni is a town from the Republic of Moldova, located in the close vicinity of the European Union, on the bank of the Prut river. The town stretches on a length of 9 kilometers along the border with Romania.
Ungheni is an important railway junction and a customs border point, called “the Western Gate of the Republic of Moldova”.
It is the residence centre of Ungheni district. With about 39 thousand inhabitans, Ungheni is one of the 4 middle-sized towns of the country. Over the last years, Ungheni has become an important industrial and cultural centre.
The first documentary attestation of Ungheni dates back to august 20, 1462, during the ruling of Stephen the Great. The initial name of the settlement was Unghiul (en. Angle), perhaps due to the perfect angle formed here by the Prut river. With ist present name – Ungheni, the settlement is registered in documents in the XVII century.
Throughout the history, Ungheni has developed and extended thanks to its geographical position – at the crossroad of trade routes. Ungheni is located at a distance of 105 km from Chisinau, the capital of the Republic of Moldova, and 21 km from Iasi, an important industrial, cultural and academic centre in Romania.
The construction of the Chisinau-Ungheni-Iasi railway during 1871-1875 had a decisive role in the development of the town. The existing railway department of Bessarabia decided to build a railway bridge over the Prut river. The famous French engineer – Gustave Eiffel – was invited to design a bridge that will be resistant to the overflows of Prut.
Gustave Eiffel was 44 years when he arrived to Bessarabia and had been already appreciated for his engineering achievements. The Eiffel Bridge from Ungheni was built in less than a year and in the spring of 1877 it was opened in a festive atmosphere.
For more than a century, this bridge of 355 tons survived several floods, wars and bombings, and did not require any repairs, even if the trains circulated on it without any interruption.
In 1990, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Romanians from both banks of the river met on this bridge, participating in the Bridge of Flowers. Nowadays the Ungheni railway station is an international railway junction biggest in the Western part of the country.
The Bucharest-Chisinau train enters the station. While it stays in the station for the custom procedures, let’s look through some history pages.
In 1944 Ungheni was given the status of town. Being one of the few border crossing points between USSR and Romania, this settlement developed quickly. Ungheni used to be transited by cargo and passengers trains traveling from Sophia or Bucharest to such destinations as Chisinau, Kiev or Moscow and other important cities from USSR.
The main delight for tourists was, and still is, the changing of train wheels in Ungheni station. Such a unique procedure can be seen only in a few post-soviet localities, including the station of Ungheni. It lasts for several hours: the wagons are lifted up together with all passengers, wheels are replaced and then the train is reassembled.
This is needed due to the broader gauge of the soviet rail network designed and built in such a manner after 1945 for strategic reasons. This gauge is 89 mm wider than the one used in most of the countries around the world.
Another remnant of the soviet period is this small portion of barbed wire, kept as remembrance when the entire throny fence was removed in 2011, after staying for 60 years along the border on the Prut river.
After the Declaration of the Independence by the Republic of Moldova Ungheni was first town in the country that had a new General Urban Plan developed on the basis of an agreement between Moldovan and Romanian governments in September 1996. According to this plan, the town is devided in residential, industrial, and recreational areas, parks, etc.
The industrial area of Ungheni holds several factories and enterprises from various economic sectors, which have deep roots in the local traditions and practicies.
“Covoare-Ungheni”, the carpet manufacturer of Ungheni, is the biggest in Moldova and one of the largest 50 carpet manufacturers in the world. The products of this factory are exported to almost 30 countries from the European Union, CIS, America and Asia. Local and international customers appreciate the carpets from Ungheni for their beauty and quality.
In Ungheni the tradition of ceramics comes from ancient times. Archeological digs undertaken here have discovered many samples of the Cucuteni-Tripolie culture, dated back to the V-VI century B.C. Thus, “Ungheni-Ceramics” factory continue the pottery tradition from this region. It was established in 1957, producing a variety of ceramics hardware and decorative objects, which are sold both on national and international markets. The products reach countries like Bulgaria, Romania, Germany, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Syria, Switzerland, France, USA, etc.
If you visit these places it is a pity to leave without a bottle of balsam or brandy of the “Ungheni-Vin” brand. The winery of Ungheni is specialized in the production of brandy and wines for the local and foreign markets. Produced from the selected varieties of grapes, following recipes improved along the time, the brandy from here are highly praised by the consumers, and also by subject-matter specialists.
In 2002 was established “Ungheni-Business” Free Economic Zone. The geographically strategic location of the Free Economic Zone attracts local and foreign investments. “Ungheni-Business” Free Economic Zone houses 39 resident companies, including joint ventures, from various economic sectors. It has the entire infrastructure for business development: water pipes, telecommunication system and heating, gas, electricity systems, warehouses, access to transit and customs routes to Central Europe, as well as to the nothern, center, and southern routes of Moldova.
Ungheni is one of the greenest and cleanest towns of Moldova. It is famous for its alley of chestnuts on the main street, of 3 km in length one of the largest chestnut alley in Europe.
Besides, Ungheni is the town of parks, beautifully decorated with works of Moldovan and foreign sculptors, who participate periodically in the artistic camps organized by the town hall.
The tourist who come to Ungheni can enjoy the beauty of nature, folkloric traditions and local customs, traditional food that can be tasted at different restaurants.
Hotel accomodation does not represent a difficulty. In Ungheni there are comfortable and well decorated hotels, terraces and restaurants.
One of the touristic sites is the church of “St. Alexander Nevski”, historical architectural monument of national importance, which is not only spiritual center of the town, but also its symbol. Designed by the well known architect Alexander Bernardazzi at the beginning of the last century, this church is a jewel of the Russian acclesiastical architecture. During the soviet period it was transformed into a museum. In 1989 it was restored and reopened as a holly church, recently becoming Episcopal Cathedral.
Another historical relic is the church “St. Hierarch Nicolas”, the oldest church from from Ungheni. The church was built at the end of the 19th century by Prince Constantin Moruzi, descendant of an influential Phanariot dynasty that rests in peace in a marble burial chamber. Hedecided to build the church on the highest place in Ungheni, so that it could be seen by all town inhabitants and the city of Iasi could be seen from the top of the bell tower. The architecture of the church in form of a cross with 9 spires of different dimensions impresses even today. Since 1961 the church had been abandoned for several decades. It was reopened in early 1990s.
Spring and summer are the busiest seasons in the town’s cultural agenda. During the period are organized Folk fairs, International Dance and Music Festival “Hora de la Prut”, international sculpture camp and the town days of Ungheni.
Ungheni is proud to be the home of several famous artistic groups, known nationally and internationally: the folcloric dance group “Struguras”, sports dance group “Nostalgie”, youth group “X-band”.
Ungheni is also an educational center with several secondary and higher educational institutions. In 2011 the town was declared the Capital of Youth.
Ungheni is a town with great development perspectives, and its most important advantage is its openness towards new projects, investments and ideas.
Ungheni is a friendly town. It has currently 6 twin towns across Europe and in the USA. Its welcoming and kind inhabitants are happy to receive visitors and make them fall in love with their small town with a big heart.