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Expat Vagabonds "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness." Mark Twain


MOLDOVA | Wednesday, 2 November 2011 | Views [1272]

Moldova is not a happy place!

Moldova is not a happy place!

It was a long way to travel for just a stamp on our passports and the trip back from Chisinau took even longer than the ride to Moldova.  But we didn't have to suffer from the young woman with BO!  Still, five bumpy hours is a long time to spend on a mini-bus, the backbone of transportation in Eastern Europe, but we weren’t allowed to drive our rental outside of Romania.  Chisinau, the capital of Moldova (not to be confused with Moldovia) isn’t such a great place to visit, anyhow.  But it is one of the countries in Europe and our goal is to visit them all.

In his book The Geography of Bliss Eric Weiner rated Moldova dead last on the “happiness scale,” so we weren’t expecting much.  Chisinau was a gray city on a gray day, made even more dreary in the late afternoon twilight, when the bus dropped us in the middle of cabbages and potatoes in the Tuesday market.  Moldovans may not be happy but they can be friendly.  Vasili, who works at the nearby Academy of Science, literally took us by the hand and showed us to the Chisinau Hotel, a monument to the Soviet era, and a cold room with lumpy beds and lukewarm showers.

We started planning our getaway as soon as we arrived, so first impressions were all we were to have of Moldova.  I didn't even take any photos!  The roads are terrible, traffic is bad, and the architecture screams “Soviet Union!”  The people seem normal enough; the young women are as fashionable as those we have seen in other countries.

Our bus back this morning was SRO and once again we were seated in the back row with Radu and Stella, Moravian by birth, but now living in Ireland.  He also has a Romanian passport and they were in Moldova to collect paperwork that would allow Stella to apply for hers.  Moldova was part of Romania before WW II and if you can prove document ancestors who were citizens then, Romania will welcome you back as a citizen.  This is a good thing because a Moldovan passport is good only for Ukraine and Russia.

Radu confirmed much of what we read in Bliss and gave us insights that we couldn’t have gotten in a month in Moldova.  Graft and corruption are the two biggest businesses in Moldova.  Radu says that if you are honest, then you are stupid.  And likely poor!  Those who can make some money on the side through bribery – police are notorious – make nice livings.  A thousand euros a month ($16K a year) is considered well-off but many people survive on less than 1000 a year!  Everything is for sale, from driving licenses to university degrees.

People our age fondly reminisce about the good old Soviet days when they had jobs, food and government housing.  Many like Radu and Stella have left for Romania or more distant countries and many have left their kids behind in care of the grandparents.  The kids don’t bother with school and squander the money their folks send home on clothes, clubs and partying.

Part of the reason the trip back to Romania took so long is that Stella, along with the entire bus, was detained at the border when the guards questioned her Irish residency card.  She didn’t even bother showing her nearly worthless Moldovan passport.



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