From the railway station to our hotel was a market, which looked more like a car boot sale. The unusual thing was that all the items were laid on the floor. It included old TVs, mobile phones, many clothes and shoes.
We were staying at the Hotel Cosmos which certainly looked very soviet in style. The hotel had 22 floors but I don't think there was anyone staying higher than floors seven or eight. There didn't seem to be many guests, apart from us and the players in a Moldovan football team.
Some of met our Moldovan guide, Natalia, for a short walking tour of Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. I liked Chisinau, and it was certainly not as bad as some of the descriptions I had read about it before the trip. I felt very safe there. It needed some work doing to it, but was definitely no worse than other cities in the former Soviet Union. We saw a chap who was still using a Soviet Union passport, 25 years after the fall of the Soviet Union! Our guide saw him as he was about to enter a bank. Outside the parliament building work was taking place
getting ready for the Victory Day parade on 9th May, the anniversary of the end of the second world war in Europe.
By the mid afternoon I had only eaten snacks since the day before and was looking forward to wine tasting and a meal at the Cricova wine city, the second largest wine cellar in the world. Cricova was a bus ride from the city and our guide gave us a history of Moldova on the way.
We went round Cricova in an electric train with a guide wearing a huge red coat and bow tie! Part of the tour included watching a cheesy video of the history of Cricova, finding out how wine was made using the champagne method and looking at the wine collections of many famous people, including Vladimir Putin. It seemed a shame that the wine in the wine collections was not being drunk, just getting dustier and dustier. I had visions of tripping accidentally and then falling onto some of the wine bottles and smashing them!
I was starving by the time we had the food and wine tasting and so it seemed were some others on the trip too! I
was only expecting a small meal and instead we had loads of food to eat, washed down with a specific wine. We were taught how to savour the wine first, which went something like 'see it, swirl it, sniff it, sip it and savour it'. In our guides accent, swirl it sounded more like squirrel it!
After our visit to Cricova I went to a bar in Chisinau with our British guide, Dylan, and some others in our group. Dylan had arranged to meet some of his Moldovan friends there, including one, Gabby, who had spent time playing in a band in Liverpool. Gabby had a great scouse accent! Some of Dylan's Moldovan friends had previously come to visit Wigan, which is both mine and Dylan's home town. Wigan doesn't get many tourists, especially those from abroad! For some strange reason, which I cannot now remember, I decided to toast others with the Russian word for 'traffic jam' which is Probka!
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