Seeing as we’ve been on the road for a year, I feel it’s time to write about some of the highlights. Some of these were written about when they happened, but some are little things that didn’t necessarily register as worthy of a mention at the time. In no particular order:
Archive for the ‘Moldova’ Category
A year into the trip I’ll share some statistics about what we’ve been spending our money on. Brett, the nerd that he is, has kept track of every yen, somani, kroner, hryvnia and lei that we’ve spent. Not only that but he’s broken down our spending into various categories – accommodation, transport, food, sightseeing, visas, communication and misc. It seems like a lot of work but actually the data he’s put together is really interesting. When we were feeling a little low on cash it was good to know how long we could sustain our lifestyle given the reserves we had left. Besides, it’s just good to know where the money goes. I’ll give a quick summary of costs in this post - I know it’s not for everyone, but if you’re interested read on…
It didn’t stop snowing for about a week - every time we looked out it was white white white. By the time it finally stopped there was about 40cm of snow and cars were spinning their wheels all over the place. It seemed that only minimal work was done while it was still snowing which meant the roads were covered. Weather in Chisinau was cold (around -10oC), mostly grey and windy. On the upside we met a fantastic gal, Kaatya, through couchsurfing and the drabness of the days was balanced by the great nights of conversation and mulled wine that we enjoyed at her place.
We did do some wandering around the city but to be honest there isn’t a lot to be seen. In the centre we visited the Orthodox cathedral, Holy Gates and a lovely park with snow covered benches that looked like they’d be very inviting in summer. It was guarded by a statue of Stefan the Great, a prince of Moldova between 1457 and 1504 who defended his country against the Ottoman Empire. In doing so he stopped the Ottomans from entirely taking over Europe and in 1992 he was made a saint by the Romanian Orthodox Church who sees him as a defender of the faith.
On the 21st we spent a non travelling anniversary enjoying a delicious dinner and some swanky wine at a place Kaatya recommended. After a 32 hour train journey on our 3 month, and a 55 hour minibus from hell on our 6 month, I banned transport on our 9 month anniversary of marriage. We left for Romania the next day and arrived in Brasov 10 hours later (on time). At the border leaving Moldova we were a little nervous as we’d never been stamped in to the country. With all the shenanigans between Transnistria and Moldova we hadn’t passed through an official Moldovan border post but all went well and we were on our way.
I guess it makes sense that a lazy week is followed by a busy one so here we go… The opera we saw at the Odessa Opera and Ballet theatre was Puccini’s La Boheme, a nice induction to the world of opera. The inside of the building was spectacularly stunningly amazingly beautiful and we went back the next night to watch a ballet (and take photos of the building). It was full of red velvet, gold paint, cherubs and renaissance paintings surrounding a massive chandelier in the main theatre room. We felt like real royalty sitting up in our own box (for the bargain price of $10 each).
On our last full day in Odessa we headed to the catacombs. In the 19th century a maze of tunnels were dug to supply limestone for a building boom in the city. There was no centralised plan and no map exists of the whole system, but it’s estimated that there are about 2,000-3,000km of tunnels ranging from 10m to 60m in depth. Apart from their initial use they have served other purposes through history. From 1819 to 1858 Odessa was a duty free port, a policy which made Odessa the third biggest city in Russia at the time. During this era smugglers would use the catacombs to smuggle goods bought at duty free prices out of the city. Later, during the Second World War resistance fighters hid in the catacombs after Odessa was occupied by the Romanian and Germany army following an impressive 73 day siege. After the war most of the entrances were sealed up to help stop crime.
From Odessa we headed to Tiraspol, capital of Transnistria. Though it declared independence from Moldova in 1990 it’s thus far unrecognised internationally except by Abkhazia and South Ossetia (which in turn are only recognised by each other and Transnistria). The reason for the split is a historical division in the country; Transnistria was part of the Russian Empire for much longer than the rest of Moldova and has much less Romanian influence. As the USSR started to crumble, nationalist Romanian oriented sentiment in Moldova soared and in 1989 Moldovan (a dialect of Romanian) was declared the only national language. For the mostly Russian speaking Transnistrians this and the prospect of Moldova reuniting with Romania caused skirmishes that led to an all out war in 1992. Since then a ceasefire and a large Russian presence has restricted the conflict to economic blockades and rhetoric. Transnistria has its own government, military, police, currency, postal system, constitution, flag, national anthem, passports and coat of arms. However, the currency can’t be exchanged anywhere outside Transnistria, the stamps are for domestic use only and citizens who travel abroad use a Moldovan passport.