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July 26th 2015
Published: July 29th 2015
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Sunday July 26, 2015 – The train arrived in Chisinau, the capital city of Moldova, at 9am rather than at 8:30am. I started to think that my plan for getting to the monastery today might really not work out, as the bus left at 10:20 and I still had to check in to my room. I got some money from an ATM, my fifth currency of the trip, and went to buy my ticket to Romania for my final overnight train ride of the trip for Tuesday night. The woman there convinced me to wait until Tuesday to buy the ticket, as it would be cheaper. I listened, but will be very disappointed if it is somehow sold out and I waited to save the equivalent of 5 euros.

Now I headed outside to find trolleybus 22, but couldn’t find it. It was unclear in which direction I should even take it, but since 22 never came my way, it didn’t matter. I eventually asked for help from a woman who didn’t speak English, but showed her the map and where I was going. She had me get on the #4 with her, and asked someone about it. She seemed satisfied and then when she got off, she made sure the ticket-taker and bus driver knew that I didn’t speak any useful language and to tell me when to get off. I started to follow where we were on the map when I could, and saw that we were already too far. I figured the bus would turn somewhere but it didn’t. I asked and they conferred and told me to stay on until they went back. But when they finally did have me get off the bus, we were on my street but a 25 minute walk from the house. I should have gotten off earlier, but now had to walk there in 95 degree heat. Nice. At least the bus was only 10 cents.

The room I rented is in large family house, but sectioned off so it is just for renters. No one was renting the other room, so I had a room, bathroom, terrace and kitchen to myself, essentially. I rang the bell and a huge dog started to bark at the gate. Someone had to put the dog in a separate, smaller gated area and then let me in. This would happen each time I came back, as the old dog would probably eat me for breakfast. The garden was really well landscaped and had another small dog, a cat, rabbits and birds, as well as fruit trees. Really pretty. Turns out the guy is a landscaper. A good one, it seems. He showed me around and even had milk and eggs for me in the fridge. By then I had already missed my bus to the monastery, and decided to just make peace with it and spend the day at some museums in town, as they would be closed tomorrow. Igor, the landscaper, was really nice but did not have much info on bus schedules or getting to these places, so that was not much help. I got myself together and headed out for the town.

Chisinau is more of a small town than a city, and as the capital city, I find that interesting. Interesting also is that Moldova is a country in Europe, and many will have never heard of it before. It is known as being the poorest country in Europe overall, but that is not noticeable in Chisinau, where people with more money live. It is very green here, with several parks. I made it to three museums. First up was the National Ethnographic and Nature museum. I found combining those things odd, especially after stepping inside and seeing the two – dead things and clothes – right next to each other in many cases. Strange mix. But they had some cool displays as well. Next was the National Archaeology and History museum. Finally was the National Museum of Fine Arts, which had an interesting Japanese exhibit. All of the museums were free for some reason, though I paid a little to take pictures in the first two. Afterwards I was quite hungry and went to Andy’s pizza, my first non-local food of the trip. I ended up with lasagna, and was not super impressed. But what can you do? It was filling and that was a good. A quick trip to the supermarket and I was done for the day.

Side note – The official language here is Romanian, and a lot of people speak Russian, as it was a Soviet country. I didn’t realize until I got here that Romanian is 1. Written in Latin letters, so I can read it and 2. A romance language, so I can understand a decent amount of what I am reading! What an unexpected surprise.

Monday July 27, 2015 – Today I took it easy, which is not actually easy for me. I am not a good relaxer. A lot of people can sit at cafes and hang out and relax, but I just feel like that is a waste of time and why do it in another country? I am lacking some sort of peacefulness gene. But I had to make peace with the fact that I would not be able to make it to my chosen destinations, and that all museums are closed on Mondays here, so there was not too much else to do today but relax. After breakfast I walked to the cemetery, a few blocks from the house. It was a sunny day and still cool with a breeze in the morning, so it was quite pleasant. I took my time and strolled around, though I did get a lot of stares from the locals in the cemetery. It’s not quite the tourist destination that the one is Lviv legitimately is. Actually, the whole of Moldova is not much of a tourist
I always come across women posing in weird placesI always come across women posing in weird placesI always come across women posing in weird places

Here, they were checking the results of their photos
destination. But I took some pictures and then walked to the other side of the cemetery, which is a memorial to WWII vets. I walked around there, where they have an eternal flame guarded by two soldiers. I made my way out of the cemetery and walked towards the center of town. I went first to Cathedral park, one of the two large city parks. There is an Orthodox cathedral there and when I was looking inside, a woman kept asking me for money, so I eventually left. I sat on a bench and just tried to enjoy the shade. But then it was time for lunch, so I looked for a cafeteria (my new favorite way to eat) that my book mentioned. It moved a few stores down but I found it, so that was good. And the food was yummy too. I had soup, dumplings and a stuffed pepper. From there I headed to the city park diagonally across from the first one. This one had even more benches, so I sat in the shade, enjoyed the breeze, wrote in my journal and read my book. All of the things I normally do after I am done doing things. It was good but weird. From there I headed back to the house at 4pm. I researched and planned the rest of my trip accommodation-wise and made scrambled eggs for dinner.

Tuesday July 28, 2015 – Today has been another relaxing day. Igor drove me to the train station this morning so I could buy my ticket to Bucharest, and it went easily. I was so happy there were still tickets available! Came back to the house and eventually made my way to the Army museum, just because. Nothing was in English, but that was ok. Ate some lunch at the cafeteria I liked yesterday and then stopped to change money back to euros. I had exactly enough for 50 euros, which was slightly more than half of the money I withdrew three days ago. Crazy how little I spent, considering it included my train ticket (but not accommodation). I came back to shower and repack and watch Jon Stewart before leaving. Next week is his last week. Such an awful thing to contemplate. My train leaves at 4:30pm and will arrive in Bucharest at 6:15am. So early. I’m hoping we get to the border before middle of the night passport checks are required. This will be my last overnight train of the trip, which is ok with me. I’m over it. Would be much easier going if the train did not pass between countries and require border control. Boiled some eggs to take with me for dinner and headed off to the train station looking forward to just sitting there and relaxing. Igor drove me back again, which was really nice.

I got on the train quite early, around 3:45pm. Finally I was the first person on! The next person on was the woman sharing a compartment with me. As soon as she saw one of the guys who worked there, she asked if she could move to one of the empty compartment. Excellent - we each got our own space. I made up my bed (sheets were still slightly damp, a trend on these trains), did some planning for my time in Romania, wrote in my journal, read my book, ate my eggs and pretzels. It was slightly boring. But only until the border control started at 6:45pm. It started early, which meant that I would not have to be woken up in the middle of the night this time. The Moldovan woman came in, took my passport, looked at the picture, looked at me, looked at the picture, looked at me, flipped through every single page, clearly not finding the entry stamp, but not speaking English. She took my passport away and eventually returned, with another passenger to translate. She asked where I had come from, if I had washed my passport, etc. She then said there was no entry stamp. Luckily I was able to show her exactly where it was. For some reason the woman who stamped me in made sure I saw where she stamped it. I’m so glad she did, because the passport is full now, and hard to find anything in. But I was able to point it out and then she seemed ok with it. She took the passport away again. Later, she came back and looked at me and at the picture again. Seriously, I must not be aging well if I look THAT different from myself. At least when I get back to Switzerland I have a new passport waiting for me, and since this is a picture from a couple months ago, it should go easier. Anyway, she eventually gave the thing back to me but made me sign a paper saying that I had had this secondary check. So strange. When it was time for Romania to stamp me in, it was quite easy going and quick. They also asked if I wanted to take part in a trial that the EU is doing to ease entry and exit, so I said yes. He took a picture of my retinas and my face to see how long it takes to capture the data, and then he deleted it. So all good. The customs guy came through to ask me if I had any drugs. I laughed and said no and he took a quick look but believed me. Seriously, no one else would be less likely to have drugs. It took about three hours for all of this to go down, and they also did some work on the train at that time. Eventually we got moving again, I read a little and then slept. The sleeping was ok, but I woke up around 3am and had trouble sleeping much after that. But it was not too bad.

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