*Disclaimer* There is a small paragraph in this post that is not intended for children so if you have kids looking over your shoulder or are reading it to them, I have indicated the non-child friendly section just before the paragraph comes up. Otherwise, the post is entirely family friendly.

So we all know I went drinking, partying and met lots of random people from Europe and America. But what did I intend on doing that never  eventuated for various reasons?

I am just going to put it out there that it was INSANELY hot, even for me. I live for days when the temperature is 30-35 degrees Celcius. Once it hits about 35 though, it’s a bit warm even for me. I can deal with it for a while until it hits about 40. It was well around and above the 40 mark during the day and the 35 mark at night. There was also not a breeze to be had. I had originally planned to go to Orheiul Vechi (still can’t pronounce it even after I was told how) and a small monastery near the area. If you are not familiar with the transport system in Moldova (which you very likely aren’t) it makes the Sydney train system look easy and uncomplicated. Finding a mashrutka to anywhere is a task that is not for the faint of heart. If you ask a local where the bus station is, not a single one of them can tell you.

I digress. So a guy staying at my hostel apparently went to Orheiul Vechi and it took ages to get there and ages to get back and was really just a wretch in general to visit in the heat. I could have taken a tour through my hostel but it was 45 euro, which is insanely expensive, even outside of Moldova. I read the same thing on a couple of blogs as well so made the executive decision not to go. Orheiul Vechi, for those of you who are interested is an ‘open air museum’ with a cave monastery that was occupied by monks for some 500 years I think until about the 1800’s when it was abandoned. About 20 years ago some monks moved in and began to restore the place. I would have loved to go if it hadn’t been SO RIDICULOUSLY HOT, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Next time I am in Moldova I will make the trip, though I will probably rent a car to do it to make things easier for myself.

I also fully intended on going to TransD. However, the first day we were going to go we couldn’t find the guy we were going with because I got us lost (how I got so lost in a city as small as Chişinau is beyond me). From what I hear about TransD I personally did not miss out on much as I have been to Belarus and it appears to be a more noticeably poor version of Belarus. I actually got this impression as the train was going through it, but it was confirmed by the people who went. On top of that, they have a currency that can be used and exchanged nowhere but TransD, to send mail you have to use TransD stamps and it is not uncommon for solo travellers who don’t speak Russian to be hassled by ‘border patrol’ to pay ridiculous and made up fines. No one in the world recognises TransD as anything other than a break away territory except for Russia who for some stupid reason recognises them as a country. I don’t get it, but whatever.

That night was when I met my new Romanian friends, Andrei, Clara and Adina. I am still unclear as to the reason they were in Moldova, but I gathered after chatting with them that they were going to a punk concert that evening with one of the employees from the hostel. We all decided to make it a group trip after a few rounds of drinking game Jenga, in which I refused to take shots, (see Mum and Dad, your daughter isn’t the partier that you think she is) so was told by Andrei that he was betting I would be the first one home. Turns out I was the last, but that’s beside the point. Their plan was to go to a winery the next day (the second largest in Moldova I think) so I was going to join them, but last minute they changed their mind and decided to go to TransD instead so the entire hostel decided to go as a group trip. I ended up missing out on this due to not waking up on time (I was out until 4-5 in the morning dancing after all). We never did make it to a winery.

So we go to this underground (literally) club that is apparently playing punk music and the band on stage was actually doing wonderful renditions of old 60’s music that I grew up on. After paying a whopping 40 lei cover charge (less than $4) and buying numerous drinks (I thought I’d spent a fortune that night, when I ended up working it out I’d spent a total of about $10) the main act came on and started playing Black Eyed Peas “Let’s Get It Started”. Bit of an odd choice for a punk band, but okay. I turned around to the other American who was with me to comment on it and that’s when I saw the confederate flag hanging from the ceiling. As I said in a previous post, really shouldn’t have surprised me. Eastern Europe is full of racism and in general most of the countries are extremely homogenous. Now that I’m in Spain I’ve had to get used to seeing a lot of diversity and anti-Nazi signs and stickers everywhere (including seeing same-sex couples open in public). In Australia or the US, seeing someone of a different race or a same sex couple holding hands doesn’t make you bat an eye, but after 4 months in Eastern Europe you think to yourself “Well, I’m definitely back in the west.”

This was confirmed by a girl I met in Barcelona who was learning Spanish at the same school I was going to. She’s a black American girl from Virginia and she said she was travelling around and she kept going East, but the further East she went the weirder it got because she kept getting hassled by people. She ended up going back to Western Europe after trying Romania. I told her it’s because she’s black and she just looked at me funny. Fact of the matter is that it’s true. The further East you go the more likely you are to be hassled if you don’t look like everyone else in their society. Issues with the gypsy’s, who are generally much darker than the rest of the population does not help matters any and it’s not uncommon for the police to hassle darker skinned foreigners which means they have to keep their documents on them at all times.

Anyway, at this bar we met 2 guys from Vienna who were visiting for the weekend (for no particular reason other than they hadn’t been to Moldova before I think) and just happened to end up at the same bar as ourselves. Eventually we decided to hit up a different club and after driving around the city in circles and discovering the club that they wanted to go to was either non-existent or defunct we ended up going to one of the more ‘upscale and popular’ clubs in Moldova. The entry fee, was a ridiculous 60 lei, which to you and I is about $5, but to a Moldovan is half their daily wage! That’s like going to a club in Sydney and paying $50-80 entry into a club! It was actually a really nice venue for a club with a large bar, lots of dance space, a stage and lots of dark corners for canoodling (or passing out if you’ve had too much to drink). I think the club was called “Time” but I can’t quite recall. Anyway, there is a marked difference between clubs in Moldova and clubs everywhere else. First of all, despite the exorbitant prices at this club (which my dance companion for the evening was kind enough to pay for cover and my drinks, such a gentleman J) the female toilets were squat toilets. SQUAT TOILETS! I hate squat toilets and I have decided that there should be a class in school teaching you how to use them correctly without worrying about losing your balance for people who want to travel. Lucky for me I was wearing flats, but squat toilets are disgusting and I find it difficult to balance while worrying about falling onto someone’s excrement at the best of times so I have no idea how these girls manage in the 4-5 inch heels they were wearing after drinking. Talk about impressive.

Squat Toilet in Moldova

*Following paragraph is parental guidance required, skip if you have children looking over your shoulder*

On top of all this, dancing on the stage were women (and the occasional man) who were nearly naked. I have been to strip clubs where the dancers wear more than what those girls were wearing. Granted, most of the women in the club weren’t wearing much more than the dancers and I felt extremely out of place in my boardies, singlet and flats, but dancing the night away you tend to forget about it at the time. All in all the night was great fun. I’d do it all over again.

*Back to family friendly writing*

So I mentioned wineries as something you can do in Moldova. Moldova has excellent wines. They have some of the largest wineries in Europe, if not the world and the wine is both cheap and delicious. I have no idea why they don’t export it more, but my first taste of Moldovan wine was in Belarus (shocking considering their ties to Russia) for a grand total of $2.50 for a bottle and it was actually a very delicious bottle of wine. Definitely better than most $15 bottles you can get in Australia.

Their most famous and largest winery is Milestii Mici. There are over 200 km worth of roads (complete with street names) in the underground cellars and at last report by lonely planet over 1.5 million bottles. I wouldn’t doubt that by now they have hit the 2 million mark. It is not uncommon for Eastern European leaders and diplomants to visit and celebrate milestones at Milestii Mici. You can pay (very expensive prices for Moldova) for varying levels of wine tours, some are just a basic cellar door, short tour and tasting, others are a longer tour complete with tasting and lunch in their underground cellar restaurant. Next time I’m in Romania (and a heat wave isn’t on and I have more money) I will definitely be back to Moldova and visiting the wineries. Preferably with someone who appreciates wineries as much as I do *cough* Ivo, Shaun, Mum, Dad *cough*. There are 2 other wineries that are not quite as famous (but still very large) and one of them is apparently only about 15 kilometres out of Chişinau. You can arrange tours directly with the wineries or you can also probably arrange them with the hostel or hotel you are staying at. Our hostel arranges tours with Cricova winery, including transportation (at a very hefty price) for guests which would have been very convenient had we ended up going on the wine tour.

A couple last notes about Moldova and the hostel. The staff at the hostel were great. They were wonderful and amazing and fun people and I thought the staff there was exceptional. The owner of the hostel while we were there was in America for some reason or other so her mother was managing the affairs while she was away and she was a horrible, horrible woman. Moldovans speak a dialect of Romanian (similar to the differences between American English and British English) so the Romanians could understand everything she was saying. Even though I don’t understand the language, I still got the gist of it. She was insulting to the staff, she was rude and she treated the employees like crap. While I would prefer not to support this woman and I don’t know what her daughter is like, I would stay at the hostel again in order to support the excellent staff that they keep on the books.

Moldova is a country that obviously has a lot of problems. It’s very poor, there are not natural resources and the people appear to be pretty defeated in general. However, it is a country that I would go back to in a heartbeat. It’s cheap, the food is excellent, the wine is excellent and I still want to go to those wineries. You really don’t need more than 4 or 5 days (if even) in Moldova to see the country but don’t be stingy with your money while you are there. You could go out for every meal and go out drinking every night and if you stay in a hostel you won’t pay more than $30 a day. Even a luxury 2 bedroom apartment will only set you back about $55. As I said in a previous post, if you feel like donating to a cause that doesn’t involve Africa or your home country, please consider donating to the charity mentioned in my previous post about Moldova, a charity to help orphaned or abandoned Moldovan children.

What I’m reading now: Baby Proof by Emily Giffin. This is an excellent book that I can very much relate to. I have no desire to have kids, never really have and that desire is unlikely to change at any point in my life. The main character also has no desire to have children and at many points in the book it gives many different reasons as to why. I don’t expect people who love their kids, or want kids to understand it, but I can relate to it so it’s a refreshing read for myself.

What I’m listening to now: No Angle and White Flag by Dido

Pictures of Moldova can be seen here.