This is not a tale of a thousand crazy adventures, but a relatively thorough account of the things that I saw and thought in my trip to Moldova. If you’re expecting an action-packed best-seller kind of article, stop reading. In fact, if you don’t know me personally, you may fall asleep three lines later. You have been warned.
Two and a half months ago, I would have never considered going to Moldova. I mean, why Moldova? It’s small and there’s not anything especially beautiful to see, is there? But when my good friend Javi suggested me to go there in Easter, I didn’t hesitate. We became good friends last year; now he’s working in Ukraine, I’m working in Poland and we really wanted to travel together and meet again. Also, I have always travelled inside my rich countries bubble and I wanted to get out of it, while he has experienced with more unusual trips and he knows how to plan them.
Speaking of my rich countries bubble, when I write about Moldova I may use adjectives such as, let’s say, “poor”. First of all, just in case, I am aware that I may sound snobbish at times, but I don’t mean to be offensive. It’s just my very own point of view taken from my very own personal experiences; if my experiences had been different, my point of view would be different as well.
Back to the trip: Javi went to Chisinau, the capital, on the 23rd of March, while I arrived one day later. It was a bit colder than in Poland and I hurriedly got some lei, the local currency, before taking a taxi to the hostel. The taxi driver was nice and we spoke in a mixture of Russian, of which I know ten words or so; Italian, which I can understand-ish and French, which I more or less speak. Fun start.
Once we were in town, I felt as if I had gone back in time. The grey sky certainly suited the post-communist atmosphere. I’ve never seen so many wires when looking up: Chisinau is full of trolleybuses. I got down from the taxi, paid the equivalent of five euro (later I would find out that a taxi to the airport can be even cheaper) and hugged Javi as I had a look at the hostel. Lev Tolstoi street is next to Stefan cel Mare, the main street, and yet it rather looked like the working class suburb of a forgotten town.
The hostel was small and clean and staff was very nice. After taking a short nap (what can I say, we’re Spanish) we went for a walk and pretty much everything there is to see in town in one hour. We basically walked along Stefan cel Mare and saw the Parliament, the Presidential House and a few other similar buildings.
Nothing was particularly beautiful. Actually, nothing was beautiful, but it was so different that it was really interesting. I was surprised by the bad state of the pavement: if that was the main street, how would the suburbs look? We were actually planning to check that out a couple of days later, but our hangover didn’t let us. Oh well. The lack of rubbish bins was surprising also, and quite annoying as well. Next to some Government building there were a few tents: apparently there had been some political protests going on for a while.
Finally, while we were walking around there was a young girl of about eight who asked us for money. Javi speaks very decent Russian so he could understand her, although what she wanted was pretty obvious. It was the only time such thing happened to us during the trip, but it made quite an impression on me.
Before meeting me, Javi had randomly met a local girl at a park. They had talked for quite a while and they had agreed to meet later, once I was in town. Alina turned out to be a delightful young lady who met us in the evening as well and took us to an alternative bar where we witnessed a rather unusual show. While a guitar and a keyboard were used to create a pinkfloydesque atmosphere, a young man, friend of Alina, recited poetry in Romanian for about two hours, with a short break at some point. Javi and me didn’t understand a word of it (no, wait, we did understand “football”, “television” and “porn”), but the whole thing was original and the cup of Moldovan wine we drank was really good, so I’m not complaining.
After that, we had dinner in a bar with Alina, Terente (the psychedelic poet) and two of his friends, who paid for another bottle of very nice wine. I couldn’t help but realize how one of them was sporting what I’d call the classical soviet hairstyle. I don’t mean to make fun of it, but it’s really funny how trends change and how something that is forbidden by non-written laws in some countries is very common in others.
We went back to the hostel at approximately 1am, after convincing Alina to come to Transnistria with us the following morning. Transistria is a country de facto, but not de iure, meaning it’s not officially a country by international standards, but it does function as one, with its own government, currency and so on. It looked interesting, and it certainly was, although you’ll have to wait a bit to read about it.