Chisinau (kish i now)
Trip Start Aug 27, 2011
98Trip End Jun 01, 2012
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Where I stayed
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Read my review - 5/5 stars
I slept on the train. I slept like a log! It was comfy and it was my first ever sleeper train. I think my dream came from sleeping with the podcasts playing in my ear. Chatting to Daniel and Patrick lasted till 11pm but our animated discussions were keeping others up so we called it a night.
At the border, apparently the train has to change wheels. It was 315am when the Romanian border guy asked for my passport. Ten minutes later a woman woke me and asked to search our bags. Twenty minutes later, passports were returned. I was woken again by the Passport control guy for Moldova. Then tapped awake by another woman wanting to check my bag. Can't a guy get some sleep.
The shirtless train guard walked through the carriage opening doors and waking everyone up at 815am, I really didn't want to get up. We were close to Chisinau. I would have been happy if the train carried onto Moscow, I was enjoying my sleep.
Daniel and I grabbed a coffee in the city before we departed in different directions.
I'm not sure what I was expecting from Chisinau. Moldova is the poorest country in Europe. I was expecting something similar to what I saw in Asuncion, Paraguay. Horse and carts, unclean streets, an empty place, lacking service etc. No, Chisinau is nothing like that. The country of Moldova might be poor, but Chisinau is booming. On my walk to the hostel, I pass a fancy shopping Mall (with even a Debenhams??) and most people drive 4x4's or BMWs. There are trolley buses or for other journeys, mini buses.
The hostel was a good twenty minute walk away, over a bridge. I rested there and took a shower and then Daniel showed up. He was hoping to sleep on someones floor but it didn't work out. He dropped his bags and ran out to see meet his friend, Corey. We arranged to meet later in the city.
Daniel plays the trumpet in a band travelling around Europe. At the moment, they are on a break before heading back to Belgrade for one last gig. Daniel's passion is music. The man lives and breathes music. It is the love of his life. I admire people who have passions like Daniel. When showing his bag to the custom people on the train, he owned maybe a change of clothes and the rest of his bag contained a trumpet and a flute. He doesn't care, he is here to play. He went to Chisinau to try find some musical heroes of his. The first night, we did just that.
I find Daniel in La Taifas restaurant and I met Corey. A percussionist from LA, who grew up in Massachusetts. We chat about the Celtics for a bit before the conversation moved onto music. I had already grabbed a Moldovan hot dog, topped with stringy carrots before I arrived so I just drank some beer. Corey also loves music. They found out that a famous Violinist, Marin Bunea was playing at the restaurant. The band also had a pipe player, a tumbal player and a guy on the accordion. The music was beautiful, uplifting and fun. They played in the middle of the restaurant, Daniel and Corey walked over to stand near by and listen. I stayed at the table. A table of five next to me asked me to take a picture. After a little chat, they offered me a glass of red wine. So kind. Moldova is famous for its wine production, with most of it going to Russia. The red wine tasted like bubblegum.
In between playing, Daniel went and spoke to the musicians, in broken French and Portuguese. I was envy of Daniel and Corey. They were meeting their heroes. They were conversing with musicians that they have listened to, admired and loved for years. The smile on their faces was incredible to see. For me, I don't think it would quite be the same if I met some of my sporting heroes. I thought about this for a while, and for me, I'd prefer to play in a 5 a side game with Roy Keane. I misplace a pass or pass the ball backwards, he then yells at me, screaming at me to play the ball forward. Later, when I kick the ball in the face of Alan Shearer, he pats me on the back. Meeting him in a restaurant would just be dull. I was happy for Daniel and Corey.
Later we move tables and Daniel meets a famous trumpet player, Adam Stinga. Daniel is beside himself. They both are. They can't believe they have met 2 heroes in one night. During the music, Adam Stinga slips a 100 Euro note to the violinist and after more chatting with Adam, he buys the three of us a jug of white wine! Amazing! A great welcome to the Republic of Moldova. We left when the musicians packed up and Adam told Daniel where he would be playing the following night.
The following day I allowed myself to explore the wonders of Chisinau. I'm falling in love with this city and want to see more of it. On my walk along the main street, Stefan cel Mare, a conker lands on my head. I picked it up and kept it. The conker brings back childhood memories of my Grandad. We would often go pick or find conkers, tie a string through them and play 'conkers'. I think of Grandad daily on this trip, as I do all my family. Whatever you need in Chisinau, you will find on Stefan cel Mare. To my surprise, there are boutiques, mobile phone stores on every corner and high end fashion stores.
Through my eyes, Eastern Europe is resembling a playboy mansion. Not that I have ever been to one of those, but the women are stunningly beautiful. They dress to kill and many male jaws are dragging on the ground. The city is cute. Couples walk hand in hand, groups of children play in the park and the only attention I receive is bizarre looks. I am left alone to enjoy the wonders of the city. Every block there is an ice-cream stand and a beer stand. People regularly, in the morning, on their way to work, grab a quick beer! So unusual! But awesome! I think I had two ice creams while I was there.
The city has the main street with streets running off from it in a grid pattern. It is easy to navigate, but deceptively, the blocks are long. The buildings are subject to natural wear and tear and there is little upkeep on them. The city is clean and all the residents are proud of where they live. While wondering through the park, I stumble upon a wedding party. They were taking pictures in the park. This would be one of many wedding events that I saw. As the poorest country in Europe, Chisinau is not depicted as poor. One would not want to ask why the city resembles Monaco, lots of secret dealbut who am I to complain. I am simply here to enjoy the city and leave with amazing memories.
I met up with Daniel and Corey back at the hostel, they kindly shared some cooked meat, bread, cheese and beer with me. We set off to find this hotel where Adam Stinga was playing. When we arrived, it was not what we expected. Adam Stinga was playing at a high profile wedding. A very famous violinist called Marin Stefanet. Daniel spoke to Adam and asked when he was playing. It was during this conversation that we were invited to the wedding! No way! We were all dressed poorly, my hair is a fluff ball and I have not shaved in weeks! We look appalling. Adam did not care. He asked us to wait outside till it was time. Tick tock, tick tock. In the excitement, two hours went by. The band outside were playing Moldovan music but when new guests arrived, played a wedding arrival song. We must have heard it fifty times. Had Adam forgotten about us? Should we go? Wait? Security on the door would make it tough to enter. Three TV crews turned up. Diplomats from Sweden and Holland turned up. The guests are dressed for the Oscars and the red carpet was provided. Meanwhile, three rough looking random Westerners, waited patiently outside.
When we had waited three hours, we were actually getting cold. It was at this point, Corey sneaked in, just to try find Adam. Followed by Daniel and then I walked in, saying hello to the security guard as I entered. Finally we were in. The wedding formalities were still going on. There was music playing, people dancing, and, hold on a minute, a free coffee stand. Cue an espresso. So, you know the noises those machines make to produce an espresso? Plus, grinding up some more coffee beans after. Just as I pressed the button, the place went silent for the father of the bride to say a few words! Typical! But funny.
Adam was unable to find us as he had been on stage for hours. But, finally, Corey and Daniel were able to see him play. It was very impressive, if you want to find out what he sounds like, just go on You Tube. So, Daniel and Corey's love of music meant they were happy, I, on the other hand, noticed tables of uneaten food and drink that were going to waste. It didn't take long before I calmly walked up to a table and made myself a Screwdriver. Then another. And another. I soon followed that up with a plate of food and pretended to be a guest. A guest who had not even combed his hair.
To try and be respectful, we kept to the side of the party and watched the music. A few too many screwdrivers meant I wanted to dance. I also wanted to eat more food. Daniel and Corey prevented me from dancing, and after we had been there a couple of hours, Adam Stinga had finished playing. This meant Daniel was ready to go. After a few pictures with his heroes we walked out. The abuse I dished out for the next ten minutes was not necessary but I was enjoying myself. I kept saying, 'Where are we going? The food is back there! The drink is back there! There are ladies to dance with!'. This was repeated over and over till we found a bar. An empty bar! I was not impressed or happy at all. I drank a beer quickly, but then felt very drunk, so I did my typical jaunt of disappearing and heading for the hostel. I love that feeling, all I want to do is go to sleep and somehow, my body knows the exact direction of the hostel.
So, in essence, we crashed a wedding that we were kind of invited to. An amusing story and a wonderful way to see a Moldovan wedding up close. People in Moldova hold a bunch of flowers with the flowers facing down. I must have seen a hundred examples of this. We were greeted by musicians as like we were long lost friends. Adam told Daniel, he did not care how we were dressed, he wanted to show the three of us how hospitable and how welcoming the people of Moldova are. I could not disagree one bit. So, thank you Adam Stinga. You made my Moldova.
I forget how I got to bed, but I woke at 8am with a sore head and feeling pretty rough. Daniel had made it back, they ended up drinking at the bar another three hours. But in my defense, he never had a drop at the wedding. I spent the next day recovering and getting ready for my next destination.
I left in the evening. A bus was waiting to take me to Lviv, Ukraine. It would not only be Adam Stinga that made my Moldova.
Next stop, Lviv, Ukraine.
My Review Of The Place I Stayed