TWENTY-NINTH MOVEMENT: MOLDOVA
Just after 02:00, the bus stopped at a market and bakery. I had two hot dogs wrapped in dough showered with sesame seeds and some iced tea as a small meal. The bus then departed at 02:41 and I tried to get some more sleep, but it was to no avail. At 03:35 the bus reached the border crossing between Ukraine and Moldova. We stopped and our passports were all collected by the Ukrainian border guards. After 04:00, our passports were handed back to us in stacks, each having received exit stamps for the Ukraine and entry stamps for Moldova.
The bus then drove through the border checkpoint and on in to Moldova at 04:18, passing through Lipcani and some other towns. We drove for some time as dawn broke and ended up at a bus station at 06:34, where we took another break on our journey. The bus then departed the station at 06:47 and we drove on to Chisinau during the early morning light. At 08:10, we stopped at another bus station to drop off passengers and continued on a few minutes later. During this time, I was getting some sleep and it felt great to finally be resting. At 09:10, we entered in to Chisinau, I woke up, and soon we reached the bus station. I grabbed my bags and then hit the roads, following the direction of the heaviest stream of traffic, figuring it must be heading toward the city center. Just after leaving the station, I crossed a canal and then the railroad; I now knew where I was in the city and I followed the snapped map picture on my iPhone – taken from Booking.com – and I found my way to the hostel I wished to stay at. Once at the hostel, I checked in, dropped my bags off, grabbed my camera, and walked outside to start exploring Chisinau. It felt nice to be exploring a new city after staying in Lviv for so long, drinking and wasting the nights and days away (actually, it wasn’t that bad, but it felt like a very unproductive time in my recent life, and this unproductiveness left me feeling empty and dead inside).
I first walked to the Pushkin Museum, which is located around the house that Alexander Pushkin stayed at while in Chisinau from 1820-23 AD. The museum had a number of original documents (many of which had profile sketches of different characters – I’m assuming they were all (or mostly) fictional creations from his stories) and artifacts once owned by Pushkin. Overall, it was a nice museum, but for the English-and-nothing-else speaker, it was difficult to figure out exactly what I was looking at. After touring the museum itself, I was taken outside to the actual house Pushkin had stayed at while in Chisinau and shown the inside (photographs inside cost extra and I didn’t pay, so I have no evidence of this). After taking some more photos outside the dwelling, I exited the museum and walked to the Cathedral of Christ’s Nativity. I entered inside the cathedral and viewed the frescoed walls (no photographs were allowed inside – booo!) and then walked around the gardens surrounding the cathedral, its bell tower, and a triumphal arch (which was built to commemorate the victory of the Russian Empire over the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkish War (1828–29 AD)). The gardens surrounding the cathedral had Easter decorations already erected and other waiting to be erected. Even though the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestants celebrated Easter last Sunday (on April 5, 2015), the Orthodox Christians (which most Moldovans identify with) celebrate Easter the next Sunday (on April 12, 2015); therefore, they were in a state of preparation for the Holy Holidays. Next, I walked to the Stephen the Great Monument (Stephen the Great was Prince of the Principality of Moldavia between 1457 and 1504 AD) and the park that bears his name, before continuing on northward to the Presidential Palace (a tallish, modernish building that looks like it belongs on the Las Vegas Strip circa 1970 – which says a lot about the executive branch in this country *cough* abuse of power! *cough* waste of taxpayer’s money! *cough*cough*). I also walked by Moldova’s Parliament building before turning back toward Stephen the Great Park. Next, I walked to the National Museum of History of Moldova, which exists in a palatial building and had many artifacts from antiquity to today. I toured the entire museum, looking at all the ancient artifacts, religious icons, and medieval weapons. There was also an exhibit that had military weapons, armor, and uniforms from ancient to medieval to modern times – I thought this exhibit was better than the National Military Museum that I visited the following day – at least in terms of pre-twentieth-century AD weaponry). After touring the National Museum of History, I walked to the Chișinău Water Tower, an interesting and unique-looking water tower that was built at the end of the nineteenth-century AD. Then I walked to the National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History, which had a great many folk artifacts (clothing, tools, festive objects, etc.) and many taxidermied animals. I wandered around each of the three levels of this museum, mostly interested in the cultural items on display. There was a taxidermied black sheep with two heads that was rather freakish (part of an exhibit on the harm that pesticides cause) and which caught my attention; it made me imagine a scene where this freakish sheep is amongst a herd of normal sheep and it is acting peaceful and trying to be friendly and kind to the rest, trying to show them how to live their lives, but the other sheep won’t have it since they want to continue living their lives how they please and they mutilate and kill it with strikes and blows from their hooves. After exploring the museum, I walked to Valea Morilor Park, which has a large lake in its center, as well as a long staircase that reminded me of the Potemkin Stairs (very similar style). I walked around the park for a short while, through the woods, before exiting it and returning to the city center. I then walked around until I found a nice place to eat dinner (a pub), where I had a fillet of veal in a spicy wine sauce with avocado slices and rice, a Waldorf salad (made with very thin, long slices of apples and celery – it looked more like coleslaw), and beer. After dinner, I walked to a nearby supermarket and bought a bottle of Moldovan wine, water, and pistachios. I then returned to the hostel and enjoyed the bottle of Moldovan Cabernet Sauvignon I had bought (which tasted plain, flat, and uninteresting with flavors of cherries and blackberries). While I was drinking the bottle of wine I had bought, I talked with a Canadian man staying at the hostel. Later, an Asian woman (an importer of Moldovan wine) who was staying at the hostel, came back with a box of wine bottles (compliments of her business partners) which she then shared with the rest of the hostel guests (hooray!). I finished my poor bottle of wine and proceeded to try a couple of the bottles the Asian importer had given us. The first one I had was a semi-sweet Merlot that tasted of green peppers, strawberries, black cherries, and raspberries (it was alright). Finally, I tried a semisweet red wine made from Isabella and other red grapes, but this one tasted far too sweet for me (more like a sugarplum or pixie sticks than wine – i.e. very poor). After finishing what was left of the candy wine, I then went to sleep, well past midnight.