In the morning we went by coach with our Moldovan guide, Natalia, to Orhei Vechi . First we visited a small museum with various archaeological finds. Following this we walked up to a very small monastery church carved into the rock. As we weren't going to be having lunch until mid afternoon I bought a pretzel from a girl selling them part way up the hill to the monastery. It didn't taste as good as I thought as it took all the moisture away from my mouth!
The monastery church was very atmospheric. In the corridor, leading down to the church, was what I presumed to be the monk reading aloud. The church was filled with the smell of incense and the flickering of candles, including people crossing themselves in front of the various icons. This was additon to the large amount of Moldovian tourists trying to get in and out. At the back of the church was an opening into a stone ledge, which looked out across the very picturesque valley. I don't think health and safety is such a high priority here as there was no handrail in place, but there was enough room to stand there comfortably.
After the monastery we visited a more modern church, where a marriage service was due to take place. Finally, we visited the recreation of a typical peasants house, dating from the 19th century. I originally thought we were to visit the home of a villager and wasn't sure how kindly they would take in being referred to a peasant. One the way back to the bus walked through a small 'eco village' passing many wells, since there is still no mains water.
After we arrived back into Chisinau I accompanied Dylan, Gabby and another one of his Moldovan friends, Dima, to a residential garage in the suburbs. The main reason for visiting was to drink home made wine and it was an experience that I'll never forget! The garage is in the middle of a high complex of residential garages, at the back of a large group of flats, and is owned by a surgeon. The garage is fairly large with a cellar, ground floor and and first floor. It seems that local men use the excuse of visiting their garages to then go drinking with their friends! The wine was kept in a large vat in the basement and going down there was quite a surreal experience. The red wine we drank there was one of the best wines I have ever tasted, even better than the wines we had in Cricova. I would quite happily be the lead importer of this wine into the UK!
Food was laid out for us, including cheese, tomatoes and spring onions. A barbecue made out of medical parts was set up in the 'street' outside the garage to cook sausages. Once it was lit, an artificial respirator was used to fan the flames! A few other Moldovans popped in. One chap was drinking home made spirits and then was seen later driving away, looking a little worse of wear. I'm not sure what the drink drive laws are in Moldova! The surgeon also owned another garage, a few doors down, and which included a drum kit. He played the drums extremely well, accompanied by Gabby on the guitar, who also played really well. Dylan and I were given a tambourine and a maracas and so joined in with the music making. I tried on, what I think was a USSR army helmet, but it was a little too big for my head! There was even a picture of Lenin on the wall, looking a little out of place in addition to other items, including a set of traffic lights! Visiting these garages is not something I was expecting and was made even more special because of it.
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