After Tokyo I managed to fit in a personal trip to Moldova. If you find yourself scratching your head, it’s between Romania and The Ukraine in eastern Europe and was part of the Soviet Union until 1989. “Why Moldova?” You might ask. Well I got myself involved with a Moldovan beauty and I had to go see if all the stories were true. It’s a very interesting and beautiful place that finds itself stuck between Russia and it’s soviet past and Romania and the promise of the EU and the west. You can see that dichotomy everywhere in the crumbling remains of soviet era big public buildings mixed with new privately funded businesses like stores, restaurants and gas stations, all brand new.
After arriving we spent a day in the capital Chisinau which is remarkable in that all the streets are tree lined with huge old trees on both sides which makes the city feel almost like a neighborhood although there are big government buildings and the usual things you would find in a capital city. The next day we headed out 2.5 hours north by car on some pretty rough roads to Soroca, where Olga is from. I felt very privileged to be there. Everyone I met had never met an Americanski before and were all very friendly and curious about me. The town is on the banks of the Dniester river which is the border with Ukraine. On the hill above the town is where the gypsies live. Now it’s probably not what you think. The gypsies live in the Moldovan equivalent of McMansions with gold domes and lions out front and they drive $100K Mercedes SUVs. Quite fascinating. We ended up sharing some wine with a few gypsy women in a cemetery. They were very friendly and the whole thing was an exercise in breaking stereotypes.
It was a great trip to a very interesting and unique place. There are a lot of stories too long to go into here, including a trip to Grandma’s an hour outside of town in a truly wonderful place. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea but you really do need to go experience it for yourself.