From our idyllic setting of Kamyanets-Podilsky we took a rather bumpy 8 hour bus journey to a new country. Welcome to the home of some of the cheapest and tastiest wine in Europe. No, not France. Don’t be silly. Moldova, of course!
Moldova is one of Europe’s forgotten, even unknown, states. It was part of the former Soviet Union until its dissolution in the early 1990s. A civil war consequently broke out, though this was overshadowed somewhat by events in the nearby Balkans. I will talk about the civil war, and its ramifications on current Moldova, in the next blog.
Our journey in a cramped, sweltering minibus was not aided by the fact that we didn’t have any local currency to hand. As a result, we were unable to go to the toilet (aside from one nice woman, seeing concern etched on my face, slyly giving me the keys to the outdoor loo just after the border) until we had reached our hostel in the capital, Chisinau. It’s pronounced ki-shi-ne-oo, by the way, if you ever venture into this relatively remote European backwater.
Like in many Eastern European countries, the capital city is the dominant and driving force in Moldova. It can be argued that there isn’t too much to see in Chisinau, but that would not be playing to her strength. Chisinau’s charm is in walking down the main boulevard of Stefan cel Mare and people watching in the park of the same name. It is sipping a coffee in a restaurant as you gaze in wonder at how buses, trolleys and maxitaxis don’t crash into each other with fatal regularity.
What Chisinau did have whilst we were there was blazing sunshine and temperatures approaching 35’C. This meant that our days were frequently spent either lying in the sun or scampering for shade when we felt that the weather was defeating us. It also led to some balmy nights, when hundreds of people would congregate underneath two giant screens near the Moldovan parliament. Football is very popular here, too.
Another popular Moldovan pastime is wine. We were told that many families have vats of homemade wine that are stored under the houses, and are so big that they can be passed on to the next generation of the family. Though we didn’t experience this ourselves, we drank enough of the stuff to become acquainted with its velvety taste. It is said that Moldovan wine was the best in the former Soviet Union. I prefer Georgian wine, but I can understand why wine from the Milestii Mici and Cricova wineries is so popular.
The food – always an important topic – is similar to what we could get in Ukraine. The one dish we found that was potentially unique to Moldova is called zaema, which is a broth with chicken in it. It is similar to one that we had in Georgia, and probably better in the winter. Eating in a traditional Moldovan restaurant, complete with folk band, was a fun and very filling experience.
Chisianu is a nice, quiet place. I have been surprised how green and colourful each city has ben thus far. It was a pleasant place to stay for a few days, without seeming to have too many more reasons to keep us there. Unless you spend all of your time drinking some of the cheapest wine in Europe…
Love you all