Just follow the golden arches...

Trip Start Dec 30, 2006
Trip End Jul 27, 2007

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Flag of Moldova  ,
Thursday, March 29, 2007

Although not originally in my plans to visit I decided to go to Moldova after deciding to go to Romania since it is on my way and it is a state that has recently brought back into power the communist party. Also, since they just lifted visa requirements as of Feb. 1st, 2007 for Canadians I knew it would be easy to get into at the last minute.  To top it off, a couple people from the hostel in L'viv had recommended a visit.

There isnīt a huge tourism market for Moldova yet...much less than in Ukraine even.  No hostels and only a handful of hotels. Instead, lots of people rent out space in their apartments and that was my plan for accommodation. I got a website for Svetlana who rents out for $10 a space in her flat she shares with her family.

Twenty hours later via train - yes - thatīs 20 hours...in a sleeper berth all to myself for about $30 - I got into Moldova and rang her up. Unfortunately her mother answered and she knew very little English. Since I knew very little Russian we had a couple of awkward conversations...but I got the drift I was to call back at 1:30am to speak with Svetlana when she got back. Not wanting to sit in the train station, by myself, for five hours, I instead found a guy who took me to an apartment building that rented me a fully furnished apartment for $40. A little pricey but it was nice...very very nice by Moldova standards.

I had read some warnings about going out at night in Moldova but I felt very safe walking the streets at night. I walked around the center but the only place I could find open for food at that time was a small market open until midnight...everything else was closed up tight, even the lone McDonald's, the only American brand I saw in Moldova, right next to the government building.

The couple bars I had noticed when I walked to the center where closed by the time I walked back towards the apartment. Not much nightlife going on here that I could see...maybe a side street I didnīt see was where all the action was at. If only I knew where Svetlana was partying until 1:30 in the morning...

My apartment had a TV and I was able to find NHL coverage when I got back. I saw Atlanta lose to Florida in a shootout, although not live as I figured it to be about 2pm in North America at that time. The game was a bit hard to follow though as the original English commentary was dubbed over in Russian...but you could hear both at the same time. It was a rather odd experience.

I walked around the city the next day...not many tourists in the city. In fact, I donīt think I saw any at all during my stay. I was greeted with mild amusement by most who saw me. Found an art market with lots of soviet paraphernalia for sale and I spent a lot of time in two very large parks that mark the center of town right near the government building...and the McDonald's. If you are looking for the center of any town in the world, it seems, you should look for the golden arches. Their signage is often better than any put up by the city or tourism boards.

There is only one bus a day to Brasov from Chisinau at night so eventually I grabbed a taxi to take me to the south bus depot...my driver has a cousin who lives in Toronto so he was very excited that I was Canadian...it gave him a chance to practice his English which he told me he doesnīt use very often. He believes strongly that a man should live where he is born, explaining why he has stayed in Moldova while others have left after the collapse of the soviet empire. His real hobby is flying and he has piloted a few different aircraft including the MIG-21 fighter plane.  Amazing.

He was adamant that I visit the cultural capitals of the world...Leningrad, Minsk, St. Petersburg, Moscow and Kiev. Maybe one day, when the visa process is easier for Russia and Belarus.

The fare for my ten hour bus ride to Brasov, Romania worked out to just over $13 - I counted about six people on the bus so Iīm not sure how they even covered the cost of gas on this trip. At least it wasnīt another mini-bus like in Ukraine...my knees wouldnīt have been able to take that.  Thank god for immodium. Theyīre small, so take a mouthful!
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