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Published: February 23rd 2020
1st Jan: The journey from Bender to Chișinău didn't take took long, only a hour or two if I remember correctly. The journey was pretty smooth sailing even the 'border' between Transnistria and Moldova proper was quick and straight forward. There wasn't much to see on the journey as it was dark outside. When we reached our hotel, it felt like I was back in the real world. Our hotel felt like a palace compared to the place we had stayed in Transnistria, in reality it probably wasn't that nice, but it was a definite step up. After checking in and chilling for a bit, we decided to head out for some dinner. Since it was New Year's Day, not too many places were open. We had really wanted to try Andy's Pizza as it is a local institution, the one closest to us was closed so we ended up taking an uber to a more central one that was open. Andy's Pizza was originally in Transnistria, but got too big, so the owner was sent to jail. Once he got out, he started over in Chișinău, and history repeated itself. I'm not sure where he is now, but probably starting
his pizza empire again from scratch in another country in Eastern Europe. The restaurant was heaving when we turned up, but we managed to get a table quickly. Since I'd just had pizza the night before, I didn't really fancy another one. The menu had quite a few different choices on it, so I opted for a chicken gyros. While waiting for the food, which took a while, we enjoyed some beers. My chicken gyros was edible but definitely not the best I'd ever had. The chicken had a bit of a funky taste and just prayed that it was the herbs used to season it rather than something more sinister.
While we had been eating we'd got talking to another foreigner that was in there, and he recommend a bar to visit. It was about a fifteen minute walk away, so we headed there. We walked down some rather run down looking streets, I think that they looked less dodgy as they were deserted. The bar turned out to be shut when we got there, so we wandered the streets for a bit. We came across a Christmas market that was open and had a bit of life
to it. There were a couple of food and drink stalls and we manages to get some mulled wine at one of them. It wasn't too cold out, so it was nice to chill with our drinks for a bit. Since not too much was open, we decided to head back to the hotel bar for a few drinks. The bar stocked some delicious locally produced red wine, which was ridiculously cheap so the rest of the evening was spent quaffing that.
2nd Jan: I had expected to be a bit hung over after all the wine the previous evening, but I soon pulled myself together. The breakfast room was a bit ghetto, but there was plenty of food and hot drinks on offer. I loaded up a plate from the buffet and enjoyed it. It wasn't anything fancy, but good enough. We met in the reception an after storing our stuff in the baggage room headed out to do a city tour. I was now getting to see Chișinău in the day time. What a difference good weather makes. Although it was cold, it was a beautifully sunny day with a bright blue sky. I think the crappy
weather we'd had in Transnistria had added to the old school Soviet atmosphere there. The sunshine and brightness helped to make Chișinău feel more modern. We walked along Constantin Negruzzi Boulevard passing the Chișinău Hotel which looked quite nice and past the National Hotel, which was now just a shell. it would have been cool to do some urban exploring in there. We continued on until we came to Ciuflea Monastery. This was a gorgeous light blue building. I like these beautifully painted buildings, they make a change from the stone churches that I am used to seeing at home. The monastery is part of the Moldovan Orthodoxy. It was consecrated in 1858. The grounds were immaculately kept and the inside of the church of the monastery was beautifully ornate. I really liked it in there.
We headed over to the Memorial Park, which is dedicated to the Soviet soldiers that died fighting against the German-Romanian troops in World War II. There is an Eternity Monument in the centre of the park and it was created in 1975 and was known as the Victory Monument during Soviet times. The central monument is made of pyramid of rifles. These are
painted red and pink. It is quite an unusual looking monument, but I liked it as it was rather striking, especially in contrast to the blue sky. Maybe I wouldn't be so enamoured with it on a cloudy, rainy day. I also really liked the stone carved pictures that dotted the edges of the park. I could have spent hours looking at them. Out the back of the Memorial Park was the Central Cemetery. I quite an enjoy having a bit walk around a cemetery when travelling. I feel it can be quite telling about the citizens and their thoughts on death. The cemetery reminded me a bit of those I'd seen in New Orleans. The graves here were very elaborate and there were quite a few that had pictures of the deceased on them. It is an interesting type of sightseeing that might not be the norm but is enjoyable.
We continued walking the streets of Chișinău, this part of town was quite quiet. We passed the Stadionul Republican. This was a multi purpose stadium that was mainly used for football matches, but now sits abandoned. It definitely looks rather decayed and is a complete contrast to Sheriff's
stadium that we saw in Transnistria. I really wish that we'd had time to explore this abandoned space. Our walk took us to the Military Museum. We spent a while walking around the Military Museum checking out the exhibits. It was interesting to compare what they said in comparison to the museum we visited in Transnistria. We headed further into the centre of Chişinău. The streets were a lot busier here. An interesting titbit that our guide told us was that people used ambulances as taxis. He said that before you could walk around Chişinău and rarely see or hear an ambulance, but now they are quite commonplace. He continued that the rich and powerful use them to beat the traffic. Whether it is true or just a rumour, I will probably never know, but it is an interesting idea.
Our last stop before lunch was the Chișinău Souvenir Bazaar. This is an outdoor market selling a mixtures of paintings, Soviet era relics, and mass produced souvenirs. It wasn't too busy and although I am not a fan of shopping I enjoyed having a look around the little stalls. If I'd had more room in my backpack, I would
have maybe bought some stuff. We headed over to the restaurant where we would be having lunch. This place was called 'Galbenus' and served traditional Moldovan cuisine. It was a cafeteria/buffet style place. All the food was on display and you had to point to what you want. It was a bit of a pain as each thing you added had to be individually weighed as everything seemed to have different prices. I ended up with a plate filled with food and it was only a few quid. I had quite a few different Eastern European style salads. I love their liberal use of mayonnaise. I also got a small chicken schnitzel and meatballs. We still had some time after lunch so we went for a bit of a walk around. We walked to a nice park called Cathedral Park. There were quite a few people out enjoying the sunny winter's day. In the centre of the park, there was the Metropolitan Cathedral Nativity of the Lord, which looked really beautiful.
We took an uber back to the hotel and headed straight to the supermarket to pick up some supplies for our overnight train trip. We went a bit
mad getting lots of stuff to make sandwiches, crisps, chocolate, water and booze. Laden down with shopping, we headed back to the hotel and grabbed our backpacks. The train station was only about a ten minute walk away. The area was really quiet and so was the train station. Everything was pretty uneventful getting on the train and we found our berth easily. The train was super soviet style, apparently there is old DDR insignia on the train, some of the others went to try and find it, but I just wanted to chill. After getting settled, we cracked open some of the booze and had dinner. The journey passed fairly quickly and the border formalities at the Moldovan border and the Romanian border were trouble free. The customs/immigration lady on the Romanian side was super sweet and friendly. I had hoped to sleep on the train, but that didn't happen for two reasons. The first, the train was bloody freezing, I was not expecting that. The second reason was that I couldn't relax because there was no rail on the top bunk and since I toss and turn a lot in the night I had a real fear that
I may end up on the floor. Bucharest couldn't come soon enough.
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