Another trip, another travel blog. This time, I flew to Romania, then took the train to meet up with a Russian friend in Moldova. As before, this blog has been produced by copying my travel diary verbatim, editing for spelling/grammar and adding photos.
Day 1 (June 12)
Nap on train to Luton which takes longer than expected. Bag searched at LTN. Last minute call to alert bank of card use abroad. Decent flight. Land in light rain and a sepia sunset. Quickest border control ever (<1s). Picked up by driver. Dog tries to bite me on way to car “he’s just a little hungry”. Driver points out landmarks, recommends food and reiterates the difference between Romanians and Roma. Hostel is nice but room is hot. Head out for a drink with Niko and have extensive chat about meditation.
Wake at 8:30. Breakfast with Niko. Start walking tour at 10:30. Meet Mexicana, Argentina Celeste and Dutch during tour and have lunch at Kara cu Bere. Head back to hostel with Celeste then head off again to buy train ticket for tomorrow. Metro to Gare du Nord and after 2 wrong windows I buy my ticket to Chișinău. Metro back then chilling out with Celeste for a bit before heading out for drinks with Celeste and Izabella. Spend the next few hours speaking Spanish before heading back. Chat with Mexicano, Texan Rich (who also speaks Spanish and looks exactly like Jayne Cobb) and Columbiana Izabella. Joined by some ICL students and we drink and chat until 2am when the hostel terrace is closed.
Wake slowly at 9. Slow breakfast with Rich and Celeste. Shower, goodbyes and checkout. Wander towards the parliament building and bump into Izabella again before heading north to nice park which I explore before sitting down for a bit in the shade. Head east towards museum of arts. Spend an hour in the museum, then accidentally wander into a medical conference. Take some food that I can’t eat and wander north to find a restaurant. Give food to tramp and sit down for some polenta. Walk east towards military hospital, through street smelling strongly of sewerage. Valentin points me towards another hospital. Metro there via Gare Due Nord. Sit in waiting room a bit. Admittedly quite stressed. In the waiting room, rain starts. No injection needed. Outside, the street has flooded. Run back to metro and Gare Du Nord. Have food then board train. Just like old times. Numbers don’t match on berths, but I take a place as we pull out. Watch the scenery then read The Things They Carried for a while as the light fades. Sunset behind distant hills. A radar array blinks in the distance. Reading until 23:00, then light sleep.
Woken by occasional stops and a group thinking they were supposed to be in my cabin (still just me). Woken by проводится at 03:45 “багаж, паспорт” to prepare for border crossing at 04:00. Quick passport and baggage check, then roll over the border as dawn breaks for another check. Questions about Russian visa, but otherwise fine. Back to a light sleep until 07:30. Arrive in Chișinău at 09:00. Sleepy and warm place. Wander through market a little. Everything is on sale. Cross to find apartment. Connect to WiFi and find booking has been canceled. Find new place and wait for Asiya. Get a text saying new place has canceled as well. Move to cafe Blinoff for a while. Бабушка spits at a group in the restaurant as I read and drink tea. Asiya joins at 13:30 and we head inside to have soup. We chat and eat while planning for tomorrow, then I head to the central station and badly translate some bus timetables. Head back to Asiya, then back to station to talk about destinations for tomorrow. Hop on the trolley a few stops to find apartment, then shower, change and head out into the park to eat cherries. Find opera rehearsals and go into a church to see a rare hat. Grab excellent seats at the outside opera. A drone flies overhead. Get in the sea. Birds swoop past as crescendos are reached. Birds now seem to appreciate the music. Birds leave as the kids start singing. Take pictures with Eugen at the end then have excellent traditional Moldovan meal. Pick up breakfast and water then head home
Water in the bathroom is brown at first. Get prepared then wake Asiya and prepare for the day. Trolley to central market, buy lunch then find a маршрута to Orheiul Vechi Monastery. After a short nap we are dropped off at the bottom. On the walk up we meet Tanya and Igor before heading through the caves then down to the river with Igor. Rest after scrambling up the limestone escarpment then back up to the top to meet Tanya and have a great meal of борщ, wrapped rice and homemade juice/wine. Rush down to the bottom and a sweaty маршруту and detour to Cricova. Winery is closed but we four the underground restaurant and have wine and cheese and chat about travel. Bus back to town, Asiya searches for strawberries and we head back. Shower then chat on balcony while eating cherries. Grab a snack then sleep.
Slow morning as everyone is tired. Check the airport bus timetable, read and plan until 12. Walk to bus station and then on to Cricova. Decent meal, then walk to winery and underground tour. Cold underground, which is a nice change. There is a small English speaking group we join. Tunnels evoke Black Mesa. Tasting session in Yuri’s room, then taxi back with Ukrainian Yuri and father. Humid upon exiting caves and heavy rain on drive back. Asiya gets strawberries at market then back home. Eat strawberries and pontificate about languages, the off to La Placinte for dinner. Bump into Asiya’s Russian friends and chat for ages. Dessert arrives in minutes, but main is an hour late. Home, then champagne and cherries on the balcony.
Alarm wakes me too early. Out of bed at 7. Goodbye to Asiya at 8:10, then trolleybus and sweaty 165 маршрута to airport. Tiny departure lounge. Plane has 2x2 seats and is very comfortable. Free food (can’t eat) and drink. Leave and arrive on time. Beautiful overcast skies on return.