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Published: August 15th 2013
I visited Moscow and St Petersburg first in 1991, than came back to Moscow in 1994. That's a long time ago, and since than many new countries have re-gained their independence. Moldova is part of them.
The country is stuck between Romania and Ukraine. Moldovian is the official language, but it's nothing else than Romanian. You will hear everywhere Russian, or it could be Ukrainian, but I still cannot make the difference. So the link to Russia is still pretty strong there.
Once you ask to a Romanian if they have visited Chisinau...general answer was no...and it seems to them, there is actually nothing to see in Chisinau.
Well, I'll come back to this....but before, I had to board my train in Bucharest. Another night train...clean train, way older...and the ventilation didn't work...good news that the temperature is slightly starting to get down. I share my cabin with a Romanian guy on his way to visit his girlfriend in Chisinau...and at the last minute, a nice Peruvian guy living in Geneva joined us. He asked me few minutes later in French if he knew how easy it was to get a visa
for Belarus. I asked him if he had a visa for Moldova...negative answer...as he told me...I live in Schengen area....well....he never made it to Moldova...Was also pretty fun to see that not only do they have immigration officers at the border...but a doctor coming all around the train...and they are asking...anybody needs a doctor...euh, sorry, no, it's 4 am!
At the border, they also lift the train carriages to change the wheels as the distance between the rails is different in both countries....we are after all entering former USSR...took us a little more than an hour at sunrise...and on we were two hours later in Chisinau, a capital of 600,000 inhabitants.
Finding a proper hotel in Chisinau can be tricky...as the international brands are still not interested by this country...and I was not very tempted by an old style Russian hotel. So let's hit the local Best Western, nice basic hotel...and love to see the Bentley parked in front of one of the "best" hotel in town...kind of a joke!
Everything is dirt cheap in Chisinau...it's my 4th country in just over a week, so can be a little confusing for
the exchange rate....but yes, decent pizza less than 3 euros...half liter of beer 1 euro...a nice cocktail, less than 4 euros...Well, to top it up, you wouldn't really plan to visit this place for shopping....it did remind me somehow of Vietnam back in the good times of 1996!
You find ATM and money changers every 50 meters...than every 100 meters...a travel agency....I guess this is for people trying to go out of here....than next to each travel agency...a casino...and next to the casino...a pharmacy...for the alcohol, it's everywhere on the streets....and I'm not kidding!
So I dropped my bag at the hotel. First thing is to ask for a local map...next question, what should I see in Chisinau. Nice and surprising answer in good English from the guy at the reception....Sir, there is nothing to see in Chisinau...we don't have any old buildings. I went...come on, this is your city, you must have something nice to see. Note to point, I had exactly 24 hours plan in the city! Did already bought my train ticket for Odessa in Ukraine for early next morning...and we were a Sunday.
So the receptionist went...well,
there are the two parks...than a church in the middle of that park....and there is the little Arc of Triumph, but that's all. I'm serious...well, he was! So I decided to walk around. Walked around for 3 hours before having to admit...I've seen Chisinau downtown, all of it! The place is mainly old style Communist, but with wide streets and a lot of trees...so actually pretty pleasant. And people do look at you...they truly don't seem to have a lot of visitors.
Not sure they have many expats around here, beside those from Russia. So if you are a diplomat...we could put it like this...if you behave badly, we'll send you to Moldova...this will be a serious punishment and a very specially boring one, specially if you have a wife and kids and are a decent guy.
Now if you are single, young...and an expat here...well, I guess the only activity available are the thousands of gorgeous single women hunting around. Not sure there is anything else to do here...but I can tell you, if I don't hunt, well....they look! I was there on a Sunday...but all these young guys going to stag nights
in Budapest....they should try Chisinau. And no need to send me disrespectful comments about this blog. It's a fact that I have to admit, there is not much to visit in Chisinau, but they have beautiful women.
Early next morning I made my way back to the train station. One way ticket Chisinau-Odessa is 9 euros, and it takes 5 hours. Well...there is only one class...and it's wooden benches....and 5 hours...that's for 157km....with "only" a 30 minutes stop at the border.
It took me the first stop to understand how it works. Train is actually having a decent speed....but they stop at each station for around 20 minutes. People are going for a smoke or a walk at each stop...well...I had time, so who cares. At the border, I never saw the Moldovan immigration...just got my stamp for Ukraine from a nice immigration lady...and you don't even have to get out of the slow train. Nice.
That was it for Moldova...not a lot to see, but nevertheless, a pretty interesting experience...somehow back in time. And yes, they have crappy housing, but these guys love those big german cars....crazy!
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