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Published: October 1st 2019
Objective in Sight
We weren't sure which antenna was the high point. No problemo as it was easy to tag both.
That would be Finland but I've been in Moldova for the past couple of days for the sole purpose of hitting yet another European high point. Moldova formerly had the unfortunate distinction of being ranked the unhappiest country in the world. After 2 days here it's fairly safe to say that the Moldovans have shaken off that reputation and ranking.
I arrived Monday afternoon after an easy marshrutka
ride from Odesa, Ukraine and made my way from one bus station on the edge of the city center (there are 3 stations in the city) to the central market. Using my best Russian at the station there (Russian still a primary language here together with Romanian), I tried to suss out the schedule for the next morning to Bălăneşti, the wine-country village at the base of the hill of the same name. The first direct bus wasn't leaving til 10:30 which I thought would be too late to tag the "peak" and get back to Chişinău the same day without having to shell out for a taxi for the 60 km one way trip. But one of the drivers assured me I could go earlier to Nisporeni and catch another bus
The hostel was a bit of a walk from the market so I first grabbed a cheap meal at the stolovaya
and changed some US$ at surprisingly good rates before heading to the crash pad. I booked a dorm room and met another traveler, Alex from Moscow, whom I convinced to join me for the trip to Bălăneşti in the morning. He had a train departing for Moscow at 21:00 so we'd have to leave pretty early so as not to risk missing the train.
Following morning we were at the central station for the 8:45 marshrutka
to Nisporeni, took ~1½ hours. The bus to Bălăneşti wasn't leaving til 11:10 so we passed the time asking car drivers at the adjacent gas station if they were headed our way. No luck so we wandered the main drag picking up a lot of unshelled walnuts that had fallen off the trees onto the sidewalk. The bus didn't leave til 11:30 and dropped us at the edge of the village 20 minutes later where we could see what looked like a dirt road leading to the summit, presumably to service the antennae located there. We asked a local
Highest Point of Moldova
429m ASL or 1407'. Probably only had to ascend half that vertical gain from where the bus dropped us off.
how to get there and it seemed pretty straightforward until we got to a left turn onto a dirt road where we double checked with another local tending his drinking well. From that point it was basically straight up the dirt road and after ~50 minutes we reached the top.
The way down ended up being slightly different and we ran into another local bringing water back from a different well. Alex asked him if he knew where we could get some homemade wine and he replied, "V magazeen (at the store)." Alex persisted that we had to have homemade wine for the simple reason that I was from America. That seemed to do the trick and Zhora invited us into his yard under the vine-thatched cover where he brought out a pitcher of really sweet but excellent red wine. He explained the 5 different varieties of grapes that he grows and then clipped a few bunches that we ate, along with some plums, while drinking another pitcher of wine.
We had to leave even though we had long missed the 13:00 bus from Bălăneşti direct back to Chişinău. Before departing, Zhora gave us a huge bag of
Zhora, His Son, and Alex
Homemade wine. Early vintage, like within the last few weeks. Still pretty, pretty good.
grapes and plums for the road. We continued our walk down to the main road then caught a lift to the bus stop and, after about 10 minutes, another ride in a truck to Nisporeni where there was conveniently a marshrutka
leaving for Chişinău muy pronto
at 14:30. We got off before the central market as we were passing one of the local stolovaya
chains and we were famished, nevermind all the fruit and wine we had consumed back in the village...
US$ ≈ 17.7 Moldovan lei
Didn't see much of the city aside from the area between the hostel and the central market. It appears to be designed in the classic Soviet style - lots of trees, parks, wide boulevards, and imposing government buildings to give the impression that Big Brother is watching. Accommodation and food
Reserved 2 nights in Hostel City Center, 140 lei/night in a 4 person dorm. Honestly, this is one of the best hostels I've ever stayed in, desperately needed free laundry too, just BYOD. Coffee shops abound, 10 lei or so for an americano. There are several of the local Gălbenuș cafeterias nearby, figure less than 100 lei buys
Zhora, Myself, and the Sweet Wine
"Sladkiy," Russian for sweet. The 4 of us downed about 2 liters in a half hour. Not too shabby...
a very substantial meal, great desserts. Cat Cafe at the hostel has a great 50 lei breakfast deal, fantastic espresso. Transport Marshrutka
178 runs from the northern bus station (arrival point coming from Odesa) to the central market, 3 lei. For Bălăneşti we took the 8:45 departure, arrived Nisporeni 10:20, 34.6 lei... exactly. The bus from Nisporeni to the village runs a few times a day for 10 lei. Same price and duration returning from Nisporeni, last departure 17:00 or 18:00. For complete schedule, autogara.md is very useful but seemingly only for departures from Chişinău, not back to the capital.
Heading to Romania Wednesday there is a night train departing Chişinău 16:56 arriving Bucharest 6:20, 587 lei in second class (4 bed compartment) but only 678 lei in first (2 beds) for which I "splurged" since it was a whopping $5 more.
Tot: 3.033s; Tpl: 0.049s; cc: 15; qc: 83; dbt: 0.0623s; 2; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb