Now I’m not saying that a single day is ideal to see anywhere, but while we were in Kyiv it became clear that we were about as close to the tiny little known country on the outskirts of Europe as we would ever be. So we bought an overnight bus ticket to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova for $18 each and at 9:20pm we had a mad scramble in a taxi to the central bus station and we arrived with 4 minutes to spare. It was difficult to find the bus and I was rushing round like a lunatic trying to find someone who knew which platform it was at, but turns out that it hadn’t arrived so we got on as soon as it rolled in and it left really quickly.
The journey was scheduled from 9:45pm – 7:45am but we arrived in Chisinau at 6:50am. It seemed as if we were driving off-road for most of the journey – the bumps in the road were worse than Madagascar! The bus stopped a few times in the night as well as the border crossing but it passed fairly quickly.
Thankfully the pin I had dropped on MAPS.ME was in the right place so we could just get on with walking. On our way to town we walked via a monument honouring those who died under Stalinist Repression.
The city seems interesting; a blend of run down spots and trendy bars which actually clash rather than blend together but it’s pretty charming and not too busy at all compared to the other cities I have been to lately.
There are wide Soviet boulevards, big city parks and lots of monuments, so there is plenty to see. We wandered for a while and then had a coffee while waiting for Tourist Information to open but shortly found out that it is only Monday-Friday. We changed some euros into lei.
Then we walked to the FreeTours meeting point at the statue of Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great) at the edge of one of the parks. I had booked at too short notice (it’s not very common to have to book the free walking tours) so nobody showed up! I’m surprised that no other tourists fancied the walk today but I quickly downloaded a self-guided walk app and we carried on around the city for hours following the pins on my map.
The city is bisected, fairly symmetrically, by Grigore Vieru Boulevard and most of the main attractions are along here, or along another perpendicular major road, Stefan cel Mare Boulevard and so we first headed along one of these long streets
In the centre we passed the Government building, Triumphal Arch and clock tower before we went into the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ, on a Sunday, during a baptismal mass. That was really fascinating and there was a lot of bowing, crossing and kissing of icons. The singing was very beautiful.
From here we found a cafe bar outside the National Ballet called Mojito, ordered fresh lemonades. It’s a nice place with a good atmosphere even on a quiet Sunday.
Then we walked northeast along the boulevard until we came to the imposing old abandoned Soviet circus building across the river.
It was definitely lunch time on the walk back towards to city and we stumbled across Smokehouse who serve brunch on Sundays, with a menu including pancakes, waffles (45 leu, £2) to clay pots filled with BBQ pulled pork, fried egg, cheese and toast (60 leu, £3). The prices are reasonable and the food is great. You can pay 39 leu for a mimosa or 69 buys you bottomless mimosas!
We walked around some more and I found a sticker with the Moldovan flag (but no patch like I usually buy..) and I also found some really old German Reich 2 Pfennig coins, I bought one from 1897 and one from 1876. I bought them for £0.45 which seemed alright inflation over 140 years…
Then I spotted a 2 Reichsmark coin from 1939 complete with the eagle holding a wreath with a swastika inside. It’s not rare but it is in good condition so I bought that too as I have begun to collect coins.
We then checked into our hostel Amazing Ionika Hostel where we paid €17.20 for two beds in a dorm. I put my feet up for 40 minutes (by this point we had walked 27,000 steps according to Adam’s phone) and then we went back out at 4:45pm in time to visit the National History Museum of Moldova.
We each paid 20 leu (£0.90) each to visit both the permanent and temporary exhibitions of the museum and my favourite room was probably the first one of the permanent display. They have dozens of tools and artefacts from early humans, 55 thousand years ago alongside cave bear teeth and a wooly mammoth tooth, which I think was the size of my head! Things like this always remind me of one of my favourite authors of all time; Jean Auel and her fantastic historical fiction series about early humans.
The room also contains Iron and Bronze Age figurines and tools like this impressive sword from 4,000 years ago.
The museum closed and on our walk back we passed the Black Rabbit Gastro Burrow which sounded too intriguing to pass by so we climbed the stairs and found ourselves in an ultra cool bar with live jazz. The cocktails start at 50 leu and go up to 125 but they are excellent quality and the menu has some good stuff on it. Adam had chicken noodle soup and I had eggplant caviar with goats cheese mousse to start with chicken glazed in pomegranate accompanied by grilled vegetables for my main and it was excellent. Including drinks (wine and cocktails) it came to £18 which isn’t cheap for Moldova but it’s totally acceptable given the cool bar.
There was one other bar I really wanted to visit before we left Moldova – a place called Propaganda. It’s another really cool bar near the city centre with a terrace and an inside area. The inside is the best because that’s where all the memorabilia and interesting art is. The food menu also looks good, if a little pricey but the drinks menu is pretty good. I had a glass of Merlot for £2.
Our flight was early so I ordered a taxi at 5am and then went to bed!