Name: 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.
Population: 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.
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).