May 21, 2016: Moldova

We were up shortly after five this morning to prepare for our arrival in Iasi, Romania, in the province of Moldovia, on the eastern border right against Moldova.  It was a great train ride last night and other than our night being too short, most of us were feeling pretty good this morning.

We got off of the train into the nice, large Iasi train station and went up to buy our tickets for the train going on to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.  We have read about this transfer quite a bit and know that there is a daily train that comes from Bucharest, through Iasi and on to Chisinau every day.  When we got to the window to get our train tickets, they told us that there was no train today and that we would have to wait until tomorrow!  This is a bit of a problem as we have no accommodations in Iasi for tonight but do have them in Chisinau waiting for us.

We were told that we could take a local bus on to Chisinau, so we got some information about that and set off to see if we could find the bus station.

We ended up walking nearly two kilometres on a very hot day with all of our luggage to get to the nearest bus station that we could fine.  Once there, pretty much no one spoke English, but they found someone to help us and he explained where the correct bus station was: back across the street from the train station!  We had gone out the wrong door and missed it.  Argh.

Here we grabbed a taxi since we were at a bus station and taxis were coming in from time to time.  It was way too much for us to try walking all of the way back again.  None of us were going to be happy doing that.

The taxi got us back in just a few minutes and cost almost nothing.  Once at the “real” bus station there was a coordinator who spoke English well enough to deal with us tourist types and immediately got us to the right bus, although he was pretty surprised that we wanted that bus, and coordinated getting our bags on and our payment.  It turned out that the cost of going from Iasi, Romania to Chisinau, Moldova was only $9 per person!  The trip is not that different from going from Rochester, NY to Toronto, Ontario!

We were there at least an hour before our bus was going to leave so I got us some coffee and everyone used the bathroom while we were there.  We met some of the other people getting onto the bus with us.  Mostly it was a band that was travelling to Moldova to play a concert.

We were under way around nine thirty.  The bus was full and we were most definitely the only tourists on the bus.  And everyone from the band to the other people on the bus to the bus driver were pretty surprised that we were going to Moldova just to “see it.”  Getting tourists, especially non-Romanian tourists, going to Moldova is as unheard of as we have heard that it is.

The bus ride was pretty comfortable.  It was way too warm, but that was about it.  The girls played on their Kindle Fires the whole way.  Dominica is the only one that had a hard time.  Warm buses or aeroplanes really take a toll on her.

The first leg was quick and easy, under and hour and we were at the border.  The crossing was packed with cars that were backed up very far but we were waived through as a bus and probably completed the entire Romanian exit and Moldovan entrance in under and hour.  Considering that we are a bus and that Moldova is a non-EU country and a former Soviet Republic this was pretty good time.  We had no issues going through the border, it was all organized and nice.

Once onto the Moldovan side it was pretty apparent that we were into a much poorer country and the bus started routinely picking up hitch-hikers as we went.  The roads were mostly terrible and in some cases it was hard to tell that we were even on roads.  I was very thankful that we had not tried some scheme by which I was stuck driving around Moldova.  I am sure that it would have been fine but I would not have been happy at all.

One of the upsides to taking a bus like we did is that it just dropped us off right in front of our apartment building.  We did not get a hotel room as they are very hard to get in Chisinau and we rented an apartment instead.  Dominica had found this really nice penthouse that looked incredibly interesting so we had decided to stay longer in Chisinau than we had originally intended so that we could enjoy it for longer.

We had no problem finding the apartment but we had an issue getting into it when we first arrived.  We took the girls to our private playground and let them play for about an hour or so while we waiting for the apartment people to respond to us.  Dominica had been talking to them all morning but once we arrived they acted all surprised that we were showing up when we did and they just stopped responding for a while.

Eventually they let us in to the apartment, it was around one in the afternoon by this point, but it was not our apartment but another one that was not the penthouse.  There was some confusion at this point, possibly brought on by the language barrier, and we cannot tell if they were trying to bait and switch us or if they were just trying to offer us this apartment instead of the penthouse.  The one that they put us into was on the fifth floor, instead of the thirteenth, but was larger than our penthouse and all on a single floor instead of being a two floor unit.  It was very nice and spacious and would have been fine but we were specifically staying longer in Chisinau because we really liked the apartment that we had chosen.  Suddenly instead of being ready for us at two in the afternoon, the originally intended arrival time, it was not going to be ready for us until nine at night!  At least we had a place to drop off our bags so that we could do things while we were waiting for the apartment to be readied.

Our first order of business was getting cash as we had no Moldovan money whatsoever.  So I left everyone at the apartment and went out for a walk looking for a bank.  I did pretty well and had an ATM in no time, not more than two blocks away.  I got money and returned to the apartment and let Dominica know about a good looking restaurant that I had found on my walk.

We were all getting hungry so we decided to just go to the place that I had found and see what they would have.  It was a very short walk and very easy to find.  The place was called Bouchee and they ended up having just amazing sandwiches and lots of stuff that we did not get a chance to try to night that we hope that we might get to try again.  So far, Chisinau food is impressive.

Liesl did not like anything on the menu, in particular, and so since she really wanted pancakes and I had seen a creperia not far away I agreed to go there as well for her to get the food that she would want there.   It was a short walk, but we had to wait on our apartment to be ready anyway so there was really no reason not to go to two restaurants as it would make everyone happy.

The crepes were very good although the service was very slow and several tables that came quite a bit after us not only got their orders taken but were actually getting food before we even got acknowledged.  But things were good once they started taking care of us.  The girls both had crepes and were very happy.

After we were done eating we returned to the apartment getting back around six thirty.  We did not know when they might be ready for us to move up to the penthouse so we wanted to be in the apartment and ready even though we had not anticipated that they would have it ready until around eight this evening.

This gave us a chance to do some catch up.  I had my laptop set up.  The girls had their Kindle Fires and were in their own world.

It was well after nine, maybe after nine thirty, after we started hounding the apartment to let them know that we were just sitting around waiting to get into our own place that they finally “got it ready” and let us in.  The penthouse was pretty awesome and the girls, having liked the other apartment and being sure that they were not going to like this one, were suitably impressed.  The views are fantastic.  Overall it is not a kid friendly apartment, the renters were correct about that.  But our girls are good and safe and this would be fine for us.  It was a bit smaller and only one bedroom instead of two, but the girls were going to be happy on the pull out couch in the living room (they had tried to tell us that there wasn’t a pull out couch to convince us to take the lesser apartment downstairs earlier!)

We were in the penthouse for maybe an hour at most, getting it all set up, when, of course, the kids were hungry.  There were not too many options and we did not know the area but I had seen an Andy’s Pizza not far away so I offered to walk down there and see what I could get.

Andy’s Pizza turned out to be way, way more than a pizza place.  This is the big Moldovan chain and is more like a TGI Friday’s, Applebee’s, pizza place and Red Lobster combined.  They had several menus, all of which were large, and a bar and a massive amount of seating.  It was all very impressive.

I ordered two pizzas and sat down at the bar for my first glass of Moldovan wine while in Moldova.  Moldova is world famous for their excellent wine and massive wine production so I had to get some here.  It was very good and I had twenty minutes sitting at the bar to talk to my dad on Telegram on my phone.

On the walk back to the apartment I had to pass through the flower sellers’ district which, oddly, was all completely open and busy as we approached midnight.  I got roped into one place and ended up buying roses for the girls.  They have never gotten flowers before so this is a great time to get them for them.

When I got back to the penthouse, Luciana was already very much asleep.  Liesl was still up and ate her pizza, as did Dominica and me, and Liesl loved the flowers, as well.  The pizza was pretty good.

Liesl and Luciana slept tonight down on the pull out couch in the living room with the balcony windows wide open as it was super hot in the penthouse.  Dominica and I slept upstairs in the master bedroom which was way too warm.