September 10th – Wednesday – Chisinau, Moldova
I had an 0855 flight from Istanbul to Chisinau meaning an 0600 wake-up to get to the airport in time. While in Istanbul I had trouble connecting my laptop to the internet and had neglected to confirm my arrival with my guide/driver, Valery Bradu (0 794 62986), before I arrived in Moldova.
Understandably, he was not there to meet me and so I took a taxi to my downtown hotel. I was tired from the short night of sleep and not prepared to negotiate with the taxi drivers. As a result, Valery later confirmed that I paid about 3 times the going rate.
Per my request he had booked in a three star hotel that was just a shade over $50/night. It was an older hotel, a bit musty but clean and well located. I called Valery from the hotel and he rearranged his schedule so that he could spend most of the two following days with me saying that he had given up on me when I didn’t reconfirm prior to my arrival.
Having the remainder of this first day on my own, I first unpacked and took a nap before taking a 5 hour walk around the city. When I had my room door open while I was unpacking, I noticed that it created a nice breeze through the room. However, the breeze kept blowing the door shut. When I retired for my nap, I put the Moldova national phone book in the doorway to keep the breeze circulating as the midday sun was heating up the room.
I had a pleasant nap and returned the phone book to the drawer when I left for my walk. When I returned from my walk, I was pleased and surprised to find that the maids had provided a very nice adjustable height, multi-speed electrical fan for my room, plugged it in and had the room quite comfortable for the evening.
This is the type of thing you would expect at a Marriot or a Hilton but it is great when it happens in a place where you aren’t paying top dollar. I left a couple of dollars for them the next morning and was treated like a king the remainder of my stay.
A long walk throught the center of Chisinau confirmed the guidebook’s warning that the city had been leveled during WWII and that there wasn’t much to see. The charms of Moldova lie in its countryside, not in the capital.
The post war refurbishment of Chisinau oozes with the typical embellishments of Soviet city planners. The central park has a couple of nice fountains and the Orthodox Cathedral dominates the center. A few blocks away, the National Legislature and the Presidential Palace compete with one another in the gaudiness category with the latter claiming the prize.
I had dinner in the center at a place somewhat modeled on an English pub. I ate on the outdoor sidewalk section but even there, smoke from other tables was constantly floating by in every direction. The meal though, was tasty.
I returned to the hotel and one of the security guards followed me onto the elevator. In broken English, he offered to arrange for the services of a woman who would satisfy my every fantasy. It sounded too good to be true. Discretion prevailed and moments later, I entered my room to find the floor fan which had comfortably cooled the room.