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Published: September 30th 2017
Looks Like a Fancy Cake ...
... this intricate building holds, of all things, a jewellery shop!
Geo: 47.1333, 28.8667
Never heard of Svenborgia? Well, that's because it's a secret country that only rich people know about! So how did I manage to find out about this exclusive country reserved only for the most elite of the elitist elite? By accident, while watching an episode of 30 Rock - it's apparently where Alec Baldwin's character takes his holidays, but isn't quite good enough for Jerry Seinfeld, who vacations somewhere even better.
Unfortunately, I don't have the swag required to buy my way into Svenborgia, so I had to settle for Moldova, instead. A giant safe full of gold bullion isn't a prerequisite for entrance to Moldova, nor is it really a secret country - but it's definitely obscure, and many people have never even heard of it, let alone be able to pinpoint it on a map. So it might as well be a secret country like Svenborgia!
I really have no reason for visiting Moldova, other than to get that all-important passport stamp and to be able to say that I've traveled to this country. It's a relatively-new nation, having emerged as an independent republic when the USSR collapsed in the early 90s, and is somewhat lacking an identity
- it seems to be part Romanian, part Russian, and part Soviet, all rolled up into one.
It was once part of Romania but then annexed by the USSR, resulting in a very odd split of the country. Apparently, some Moldovans want to re-unite with Romania, while others are happy to continue going it alone. Then you have the small breakaway republic of Transnistria, which is a throwback to the Soviet days, and is perhaps the last remaining vestiges of the former Soviet Union anywhere in the World - they would rather join back with Russia, than remain independent.
Sometimes these obscure little places end up being a complete waste of time, but sometimes they turn out to be little gems that end up being the highlight of your trip. The jury is still out, but for now I'm leaning towards calling it a waste of time - having arrived here yesterday in the early evening, Chisinau had fallen dark by the time I had made my way to the hostel from the airport, checked in, and managed to find an ATM that worked with my bank card. Obviously, that wasn't enough for me to finalize a firm opinion on
The Closest I Could Get to Cricova Today ...
... was at Cricova's wine shop in central Chisinau. Of course, by the time I got there it was closed for the day! Perhaps if I had made a non-existent reservation to visit the shop ...
Today's experiences provided a little more food for thought - while certainly not the prettiest city in the World, Chisinau does have its moments, and some of its cafes and coffee shops are unexpectedly cosmopolitan. What I would've expected to turn the opinion into a positive one was a visit to Cricova, one of the largest wine cellars in the World. There are something like 120 km of underground tunnels beneath the Cricova Winery, the first of which were built in the 15th century.
Outside of Moldova, it's a little-known fact that wine has been produced here for over 4,000 years, and that this country of under 4 million people was once the 7th-largest exporter of wine in the World. I have a friend that visited the even larger network of tunnels beneath the Millesti Mici Winery, and he raved about the experience - the tour I had booked at Cricova today was going to be epic!
Unfortunately, the stories I've heard firsthand about the level of service and apathy in some of these former Soviet Republics turned out to be true today, and the tour fell through. Apparently, the hostel had booked me the tour for 6 PM, but
after I had taken a taxi the 20-odd km to Cricova, was interrogated "Who told you we have a tour today? There are none at 6 PM on Saturday!" I was given the option of joining a tour tomorrow, but they were only available in Romanian and Russian - no matter, I still was going to do it!
However, I was then told that the tourist electric train for the tour was completely full, but that I could still tour through the tunnels with my own car ... sigh ... this was getting ridiculous, and it hardly seemed worth the effort to either reserve a car and drive there myself, or book a taxi for something like three to four hours tomorrow. Cricova was not going to happen, no matter how much I wanted it to. Luckily for me, Cricova has a restaurant where I could still sample some wines and enjoy a nice dinner - if it wasn't booked for a wedding tonight ... sigh ...
It's impossible to know if it was the hostel or Cricova that had screwed up the reservation, or perhaps it was even a combination of both, but it hardly mattered. Silly things like this
St. Teodora de la Sihla Church ...
... hard to see from so far out because I was trying to capture the colourful benches, but the church's domes were quite cool, looking like giant blue spiky orbs of sugar that belong more on a birthday cake, than they do on a church.
never get rectified in a place like this, and you simply have to let it go and move on. When visiting off-the-beaten-path countries such as Moldova, you can't expect things to work like they do at home, and on some level, you don't want them to. You're here to experience something different, after all.
So after two nights in Moldova, the jury is still out, though I do know which way my decision is heading - there's still one more night for Moldova to show me something to change my mind ... hopefully it finds a way ...
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