Published: July 10th 2012July 9th 2012
We were woken up at half past four by the train conductor, we were approaching the Moldovan border and had to get ready for the border control. It had been really hot in the train, so we had been sleeping with the door open without any blanket, and we had lots of mosquito bites when we woke up. The Swiss guy we were sharing cabin with suspected the mattresses, but we saw some mosquitos so it was probably not bed bugs.
The border control went smoothly, we denied having drugs with us and weren't in need of a doctor, and that was basically all asked. So after two hours the train started to move again and we went back to sleep again for two more hours. At nine we arrived in Chisinau, capital of Moldova, not as tired as we had thought but definitely in need of a shower after 21 hours of traveling.
Moldova is one of the countries with fewest tourists in the world. With about 10000 tourists a year it is not very well prepared for tourist (or, as in our case, explorers), not tourist information, no old ladies at the train station offering rooms, nothing.
We didn't have a room booked, so we started to walking towards the city center and knocking on the doors of the hotels asking for shelter for the night. We ended up in Cosmos, a concrete block quite near the train station where we asked for a standard room but got a suite (they had all standard rooms full).
After a well deserved shower and a much needed tooth brushing we set out to explore the city. We had found a Uzbek restaurant on Tripadvisor so we headed towards it. We were a little bit worried, because it was on Mihai Emenescu street, and there are actually three Mihai Emenescu streets in Chisinau, but we were lucky and went to the correct one at first try. The food was excellent, and with an even better price quality relation than in Romania.
Once we had eaten we had eyes not only for the restaurant signs but also for the city. It was not what we had expected. Founded already in the 15th century we had thought there would be some older buildings, but everything was from the 20th century or newer. We later during the day read that the
city had been completely flattened in an earthquake and the WWII bombings in the forthies. We went to a few of the "sights" mentioned on the map we got from our hotel, but quickly found out why there are no tourists, there is actually nothing to see. The last drop was a lake named as the number one sight on several internet sites, it was just a normal small lake with a small beach on one end and a pedestrian road circuling around it, nothing special there. At this point it felt a bit as we had wasted a day by coming here and we started to consider leaving for Odessa the next morning.
We decided to go for a coffee to think over our plans for the future trip. On our way back we went to a cemetary we passed on our way and directly put it as the number one sight of the day. There were all kind of graves there, everything from simple steel crosses from the thirties with hand written names on them to quite elaborate graves which included a picture of the deceased with a bench and a table in front of it for
the mourners. Over all there were a lot of graves with pictures on them, both the old graves from the 19th century and the very modern graves had them.
When we continued forward we found some interesting market places, and when surprised by a heavy shower we found a small terrace (with roof) where we tried out the local beer and watched people running for shelter from the rain. This was something of a turning point for the day, after this we didn't have any expectations, but could concentrate on just enjoying the city as it is. We found some nice ornamental buildings from the fifties, enjoyed the streets and found a really nice café where we researched the possibilities to go to Transnistria the next day and after that we found a good restaurant where we ate a good dinner.
Chisinau turned out to be a quite nice city to visit. Not for the sights, but it was nice to stroll around in the town, and both eating and drinking are good (and really cheap!). With more time we would have gone to some of the nearby villages to look at one of the biggest wine cellars in the world (120 km of tunnels), maybe some cave monasteries, and the Moldovan countryside. With the tight schedule we have we however decided to head for a new city and almost a new country, tomorrow we are heading across the border to Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, a part of Romania that with the help of Russia declared independence 20 years ago even though no other country has recognised this claim.