Chișinău – stuff to do
See the following post for eating out in Chișinău. Here’s my Google map which has many of the places below indicated.
I worked in Moldova for sixteen days from mid May to early June in 2014. I will admit to being a bit nervous about going there due to the fact that pro- Russian forces had just seized the Crimean peninsula in neighbouring Ukraine, just a couple of centimeters away on the map.
However I was reassured by locals that Moldova had already had its disputes with its Russian citizens some years before, leading to the creation of the breakaway pro-Russian regions of Transnistria (now independent) and Gaugauzia (now autonomous but still in Moldova) in the 90s. Even in Moldova proper you will frequently hear Russian being spoken.
Ethnic Moldovans speak a dialect of Romanian and many of them have family there and carry Romanian passports. People are leaving in droves due to the weak economy so these are all the more useful now as they allow admission to the EU, unlike a Moldovan passport.
Although Romanian is a Romance language, my limited Spanish and Italian were of little use in helping me understand what the locals are saying beyond the odd similar word.
Romanians see Moldova as effectively a region of their country but Moldovans are keen to point out that they had a historically important king, Ștefan cel Mare whose prowess at warcraft kept Moldova independent during his lifetime. His reign is seen as a golden era as he oversaw the rapid cultural development of the country .
For most of the time I was working in the capital Chișinău (pronounced kish-i-now), a city of about half a million located in the geographical centre of the country.
It’s a pleasant enough town with some nice, but occasionally derelict, 19th century architecture and a couple of nice parks. Although very plain on the outside, the Orthodox cathedral in Parcul Catadrelei has a beautiful interior but unfortunately you’re not allowed to take photos inside. These official pictures will give you a good idea of just how stunning it is. Notices require anyone entering to be dressed modestly and local women allcover their hair when they go inside.
I really wanted to go to the Piata Centrala, the outdoor market on Strada Ismail, but I never got the chance due to work getting in the way. Next time.
I stayed at the comfortable Jazz Hotel on Strada Vlaicu Pârcălab 72 www.jazz-hotel.md The hotel has a small gym and the breakfast is very good. All the staff were very helpful.
If you turn left out of the hotel and walk up the hill, there is a small bar on the left which became our after-work drinking hole. It’s run by two brothers, the youngest of whom is a mean chess player! I spent most of my evenings being thrashed by him.
Chess is very popular and you’ll see games on the street everywhere you go. There’s even a life size board and pieces in the Cathedral Park nearby.
Another nice activity would be to go wine-tasting. All the main wineries such as Cricova and Milesti Mici have their own shops in town. I went to a small independent instead; Carpe Diem Wine Shop at Strada Columna 136, www.wineshop.md where I got excellent service in English. You can buy wines here that you won’t find in restaurants.
As Moldova isn’t in the EU, you are only allowed to take one litre of spirits (above 22%) and two litres of fortified wine (below 22%) into the UK, or half a litre of spirits, a litre of fortified wine and four litres of normal still wine.
There’s an excellent deli called Pegas at 20 Strada Pușkin pegas.md. They sell lots of goodies but I particularly recommend the big jars of runny cherry jam (gem de cireșe) made with whole cherries, yum.
There is some culture to be had. The National Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology at 121 Strada 31 August 1989, www.nationalmuseum.md has some beautiful religious artefacts and a few other bits and pieces besides.
Please click on the photos below to go to the full screen slideshow for maximum appreciation.
You can also find out about the history of Bessarabia, the predecessor state to Moldova, and its travails through the first world war and the Russian revolution.