For a long time I wanted to make a visit to the neighboring country across the Prut river and now I had the chance to do it. It started out as usual in a discussion after the fourth beer at bar when we got the brilliant idea to go to Chisinau – the capital of Moldavia , and because today we have smart-phones and mobile internet we checked on the spot how to get there by bus and accommodation and on the third morning after we were on the road with one person less who changed his mind at the last minute. From Constanta to Chisinau there are daily bus runs with Wi-Fi and air-condition that leaves Constanta at 21:30 and arrive there at 6:30 and the trip costs 60 RON (18 USD)…. yes, only 60 RON for a trip of 500 km, the same money that we pay for a trip of 225 km on straight highway from Constanta to our capital Bucharest.
All of this is because we are in Romania, where it is “better” and the diesel is more expensive. In Moldova a liter of diesel costs at the present moment 4.3 RON and 4.52 RON regular petrol per liter at Rompetrol gas station, so is basically the same fuel we put in our cars , is not some cheap imported Russians fuel to say they have any better price deal , the difference in price between the two countries is made by our greedy government and state that pushes the price of petrol up through totally unjustified and even ridiculous special taxes (Eco tax , alignment with European prices and other junk), I think I’d rather put this article in the category “Romania – shit country“…
So, let’s get back to the present article , Romanian citizens need a passport to cross the border and a visa is given on the spot without previous preparation, I had no problem passing. However when coming back from Moldova be careful,there is a limit of only two packs of cigarettes, 1 liter of spirits and 10 liters of soft drinks (eg wine), what you take from the duty free shops between borders doesn’t count here, and the border control is quite serious.
Arriving at 6:30 am, still sleepy when I got off the bus I saw a horrible landscape, the first thing you see is the Central Bus Station, which is located right next to the Central Market, two things that like in Romania are very filthy and stinky. The bustle of the market was just beginning, it was still cool outside so we started walking easy easy towards the city center. As we walked , the streets became cleaner, beautiful buildings started to appear , until finally we reached the Boulevard Stefan cel Mare, near the Government House. This avenue as the rest, is clean, has at least a row of trees that provide shade and very generous sidewalks that are filled with stalls, artists and people. Here are the central parks – the Cathedral Park and Stefan cel Mare park , where the statue of king Stefan the Great is. Stephan the Great is the Moldovan national hero, his face is on all banknotes ….. absolutely all of them , there really isn’t any other person of value in the country’s history? The parks , like the streets , are clean, maintained (especially in the center), beautifully landscaped and mostly undefiled by buildings , I rarely saw a terrace Tucked into a secluded corner of the park somewhere. In fact I had the pleasure of not bumping in any terrace tables on the sidewalks , although their width would allow easyly a few tables, I think the only terrace smashed on the sidewalk in a more aggressive way was the one belonging to McDonalds. Do not get me wrong, there are plenty of terraces in town, but located in the courts or specially designated areas of the buildings.
I was talking earlier about parks, the city is full of parks, although the population is less than half than that of Bucharest, I counted on the map at least about 6 huge parks, some are true urban forests, with lakes and trails. Green space is seen also in statistics, Chisinau is one of the greenest cities in Europe with a huge 80 square meters of green space per inhabitant. In comparison : Bucharest with it’s large parks seems to have 23 square meters per capita and Constanta has less than 2 (two) square meters of green space per capita – only Two !!! (1.97 exactly in 2010!) shamefull!! , and the figure tends to zero from year to year. I got to see besides the central parks , Mills Park and Botanic Garden. The Botanical Garden is near the Zoo , and they are located near the city exit at the Communist massive 24-story complex of “City Gates” and access to the park botanical garden is 5 MDL (1.25 RON or 0.36 USD) and for another 30 lei (7 RON) you can rent a bike.
Prices in the city are about same like Romania , the food, and in the bar and in restaurants and in the mall. Price difference is seen at cigarettes: a pack of Kent HD costs 5.3 RON (1.6 USD) and 2.5 RON a Rothmans at promotion; at public transportation where a trolley ride cost 2 MDL or 0.5 RON and 0.75 RON with maxi taxi; at gasoline, and at telecommunications Where we paid for a pre–paid SIM card with 30 minutes from Orange 7 RON , and to enable your mobile internet on a daily 500 MB will cost 2.5 RON , there is also free wi fi throughout the city, operated by Orange and StarNet.
Clubs, although many are closed outside of the academic year I found something out there, most of them don’t charge entry fee and if there is a entry fee you will usualy get a free drink based on the ticket at the bar , and prices vary depending on the place , but generally is much like in Romania , you will pay 10 to 15 RON for a beer or a shot. What I found interesting there, at the entrance of the club you will be searched for weapons, you can smoke and drink only at the bar or near the reserved table, so you are not allowed to smoke and drink on the dance floor . However most people stay before hitting the clubs for cheap drinks besides the many Non–Stop shops , which usually have 2 or 3 tables near. And taxis cost about same like Romania , they do not charge by the number of miles, but depending on the area you are going , but generally any run is about 10-15 lei, depends also how you get along with the driver. In addition to the normal taxi companies you will find normal cars that practice taxi services, you can take them without any problem , here is a legal phenomenon.
Few words about people in the city : Although all posters and all signs are in Romanian language in Latin characters, and almost everyone speaks and understands Romanian , the most frequently heard language is Russian, they rarely talk to each other in Romanian, or just in Romanian, usually I noticed that young people speak a mix of Romanian and Russian, but do not worry, you will do just as well only with English language, especially as they usually have a good impression of foreigners, or at worst they have a neutral opinion. Just do not go to the cinema, because all the movies are dubbed in Russian audio. In the evening the downtown area comes to life , lots of people walking, lots of young people in the city, and tall beautiful Moldovan women are everywhere 🙂 I think I saw in the 3 days in the city only 5 fat girls there. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there are only few smog people there , there are some but in no case at scale of Romanian cities; and another pleasant surprise was the absence of Gypsies in the city, a big plus.
The city is generally safe, do not go by gossips who talk about how it used to be, however do keep in mind the rules of common sense and reason, avoid to go in shady areas at night (like Central Market), especially since there is a problem with public lighting on some streets, avoid and do not answer to verbal challenges, and if you do see any scandal , mind your business and go ahead without looking ostentatious. I don’t think is more dangerous than some areas of Bucharest for example.
I left with a good impression of the capital of Moldova, and I think I’ll make another visit there, but must be during the academic year, when all the students are in the city and all the clubs are open. I’ll let you enjoy the pictures, and if I missed anything please leave a comment.
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