Secret Hostels and Border Guard Bribes
Trip Start May 11, 2005
320Trip End Ongoing
From the time I arrived in Chisnau to the time I found the hostel...3 hours had past! I was constantly lost. I followed googlemaps 3 k in the opposite direction to run down building. Normally I don't mind walking but my backpack hip belt broke so the the weight cuts hard into my shoulders. Plus my laptop case is stuffed to the gills with electronics and that cuts into my other shoulder. Simply put, these bags act like to 2 Vulcan nerve pinches. For a seasoned backpacker I'm seriously struggling with elementary issues.
The hostel was in a dark alley in a bleak communist apartment high rise. I was sure I had the wrong place but the address matched. The door looked like every other but I was cold and desperate. A lady answered and ask me if I had a reservation, I said "no" to which she replied,"how did you find this place then?" I was relieved to say the least..... that is until I saw my dorm. The lady had basically take a spare room in her tiny shitty apartment and put 6 beds in it. It was me and 2 Japanese girls that were glued to their computers. I soon found out there was no heat and no hot water. When I went to the bathroom I walked through a minuscule living room that was full of her family. I had to step around father, over Grama (sitting on the floor in her bed) and in front of the wife. Needles to say I changed hostels the next day and even though the next place took me 4 hours to find (it was even more hidden) it was head and shoulders better!
I spent my time in Chisnau wondering around the main sites and checking out the markets. Furry coats, boots and hats seem to dominate the outside market place and it reminded me of Burning Man style or the movie Spies Like Us. I even checked out a shopping mall....you might think that's no big deal right but the mall's names was........wait for it...........wait...........MALL DOVA! ha! That's funny!
Chisnua is quite a nice city and definitely has it's own character. Even though though it's one of the poorest countries in Europe that is not reflected in the prices. I wandered around the markets and discovered that if I wore my hair down with my beanie on I could actually make Moldavians burst out laugh at my appearance. Laughter was my gift to the Moldovan people...even though they were laughing at me.........
My first day in Chisnau I met sweet young lady who wanted to assist me in bantering for oranges. She was happy to help me get a good price and we started to talk. About 5 minutes into the conversation she noticed the ring on my finger and ask me if it was Hebrew. I told her it was an Arabic verse from the Koran. Her smile faded, her face went white and she literally ran from me. WOW! I did not see that one coming. Later that day I noticed a huge crown gathering around some peculiar sounding music. Upon closer inspection I found the South American Pan Pipers! Those dudes are everywhere!!!! They even made it to Moldova! They must have been new to the city because I have never seen a crowd like that for pan-pipers......trust me ....I don't think there is a country in the world where these guys don't play! Later the night I met a couch surfer out for a drink at a German/Moldovan beer hall. This guy was Full Bright recipient and he had a good head on his shoulders. He filled my head full of information about Moldova and I filled my stomach full of local brew.
I ended up eating at the equivalent of Moldovan Dennys. Called La Placinte. The food was decent but the name cracked me up since it is becoming common practice in the U.S. for woman to eat their afterbirth. "Uh yeah...I'll take the placenta platter...medium rare......"
Moldava was an interesting place and I would love to explore it further but I was on a deadline for Ukraine to meet my friends. Because of that I only spent 3 days in Chisnau which in my opinion is not enough. I would love to come back and explore the wineries, monasteries, nightlife as well as the country side. My trip thus far has been hitting the big cities of eastern Europe and it makes me want to come back to explore the more rural side of things.
From Moldova I had to move on to Ukraine but in order to get there I had to cross the self proclaimed Republic of Transdnestr. They have their own borders and money but I don't think they are officially regonized by the world. All the guide books and internet buzz warn travelers about this border. The guards are famous for getting foreigner to pay bribes. I had planned the entire time to heed this warning by taking a longer route to the Ukraine. However...I met a Russian/Canadian guy in my hostel that told me those warnings were old and he had just crossed with no problems. I asked him if that was because he could speak Russian and he defiantly told me I was being paranoid. I believed him because my guide book was 3 years old... surely now the border must be better. NOPE! As the only American on the bus I was told that I did not have the proper stamps and that I must take a taxi back to Moldova and catch the next bus in 6 hours..... I knew exactly what was happening..and had prepared my wallet ahead of time with the equivalent of 10 bucks in small notes. Sure enough (just like the guide book said) I was forced to open my wallet and let the border guards choose the notes they wanted. In the end, they took about 8 bucks...I was prepared for 10 so I came out ahead. I was ready for these type of shinaigans so the whole process was pretty amusing.
Bring on the Ukraine....where the police are even more corrupt!