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Published: October 7th 2009
Yesterday, we took a bus from Odessa, Ukraine to Chisinau, the capital of the poorest country in Europe. Moldova is in SE Europe between Romania and Ukraine. It is a scenic country full of green rolling hills and river valleys. The earth is so dark that it looks black. Moldova is known for its wonderful wine. This weekend, there is a wine festival in Chisinau. We passed many vineyards on the side of the highway. They are also known for their excellent cognac and beer. In 2007, the Bere Chisinau was awarded the number 1 Gold Metal at the Nuremberg beer competition. Beer is very cheap here - around $1 US. Children are given wine at a very young age. Until they are young adults, it is mixed with water. We saw many community wells that are shared by several families. The water is of very poor quality. When Moldova was part of the Soviet Union, natural gas was run to many of the villages. Not everyone can afford to hook up to it, but the gas is available.
All along the roadside and beside houses, you see many walnut trees. Kruschev encouraged the people to plant the trees.
Only 6-7% of the soil in the world is good for walnut trees. In Moldova, 70% of the soil is productive for the trees. Everytime a child is born here, the family plants a tree in honor of the child. When a couple gets married, baskets of walnuts are given to them as a symbol of prosperity. They put walnuts in jam, soup, salad, meat dishes, desserts, etc.
Teachers and doctors make lower salaries than many occupations. Health care is not very good here. If you go to the hospital for an operation, you are never given more than a 50% chance to survive. An American doctor who volunteered at a Moldovian hospital said that it is chancing suicide to be operated on here.
The Confederation of former Soviet States is having a meeting here tomorrow. The heads of these states starting arriving today. Police line the streets. It is probably a very safe time for us to visit. They consider October to be the best month for tourists because of the weather.
We were told an interesting story today. In 1913, a 14 year old boy visited a candy store that was run by a Jewish man. The child
went missing and was later found dead in the woods. The child's family and friends thought the storekeeper had killed the boy. They revolted and started killing Jews. Many were killed before it was discovered that the boy's uncle had killed him. The uncle didn't want the child to receive a certain inheritance. After this happened many Jewish people left and went to the U.S.
Moldova still has a Soviet feel to it. We are staying in a hotel that is owned by the State. It is like stepping back in time. The fixtures, plumbing, and wiring are all old and exposed. A lady sits in the center of our hall all day just monitoring guests and employees' activities. We paid for two hotels last night. The first one was completely unacceptable. There are very few hotels in this city.
Today, we hired a driver and a guide to take us to Transdniestria. This is a small piece of land that is one of the last places in the world to practice a pure Stalinistic form of government. Their government is only recognized by Russia. The country's ruler is Igor Smirnov. The President and members of Moldova's Parliament are not
allowed into Transdniestria. It was an interesting experience to go. I think it would have been impossible to do this trip without a guide. We were stopped numerous times upon entering and leaving. Our guide took care of everything. She told us when we could take photos and when we couldn't. If you take a photo in an area that is off limits, they will take you to jail. They sometimes ask for bribes but not normally if you have a guide. We saw many statues of Lenin. They have a high school that is run by Russia. The principal is a man that is wanted by Interpol. The capital of this country is Tiraspol. It was a small town but very clean. You can only stay in the town for 10 hours. Believe me, I was ready to go earlier than that.
Under Soviet rule in Moldova, a couple was awarded an apartment when they got married. Our guide, Natasha, said that her mother was a Communist and an important person in Chisinau politics. She got to pick her apt. building. Natasha will inherit this apt. from her parents.
You can buy a pack of cigarettes here for 20
cents. They encourage young people to smoke. There are 9 tobacco manufacturing plants here. Boys and girls start smoking around the age of 11.
Even though Moldova is poor, the streets are clean. People here seem more like us than in Ukraine. We have found fish dishes to be better than other meat dishes.
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