Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Wines from the Shabo region of southern Ukraine often combine typical Black Sea region grapes (such as Saperavi) with grape types well known in western Europe. No surprise, perhaps, as it was Swiss vintners who helped found the wine industry in this area which was historically part of Bessarabia.

article summary —

A number of pretty lanes contour through the vineyards around the village of Chexbres. From these little roads there are on good days fine views across Lake Geneva to the Mont Blanc massif. This is a blessed corner of Switzerland — so blessed in fact that it seems inconceivable that anyone with a good living here would ever consider moving elsewhere. But over ten days in early November, the community of Chexbres recalls a curious episode in the history of the Lavaux Vineyard region when a number of families did indeed leave.

For a few days, there will be a touch of the East in Chexbres with Orthodox choirs, the sound of the balalaika and Russian dancers. Banners and posters will proclaim Du Léman à la mer Noire (from Lake Geneva to the Black Sea), a reminder that this affluent wine region on the north shore of Lake Geneva has a historic link with Bessarabia.

Travelling through Bessarabia this spring, we visited the area where the Swiss settlers from Lake Geneva made their new homes. The small town of Shabo (Шабо) is in a region of Bessarabia known as the Budjak. This is the only part of the territory of modern Ukraine which lies west of the River Dniester, and communication links between this fragment of the country and Ukraine proper are not good.


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About the authors

hidden europe

and Susanne Kries manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.

This article was published in hidden europe 50.