Chisinau (Moldova), 05.11.2013
Before leaving for a short drive into Moldova today, I went to see Odessa. This town had been associated to all kinds of dark prejudices, for reasons I cannot recall, since my childhood when I read about the port town, the Potemkin uprising and Eisenstein’s black and white film, jewish emigrants and bitter poverty. So the discovery of a pretty well kept old city center with baroque and neoclassical buildings came as a pleasant surprise.
Touring the center in the early morning, most shops were closed. I passed the Catherine the Great statue, the Opera and Ballet Theater, Primorsky bulevar and the Potemkin steps, all renovated and in new splendour. A long breakfast in a café woke me up and I got into the car soon after and drove out of town. In less then an hour over hills and fields I suddenly found myself at a small border post with Ukrainian officers checking my passport and car. They wished me “good luck” when I told them I wanted to go to Moldova. I had no idea what they meant.
A bit further down the road divided, straight on to Ukraine’s western Black Sea coast, and to the right into Moldova, where I went. The officers were really friendly, one even spoke some Italian, and I chatted with them about my journey. The customs guy asked me about many countries I had visited. I changed my Ukrainian Hryvnas into Moldovan Leu, and left the border station, entering Moldova. This country had been a blank spot on my mental Eastern Europe map, I had no idea about it. I had recently learned that it attracts particularly clever italian entrepreneurs (video in Italian only), its women attract/distract italian captains that sink large cruise ships, and it seemed to have a healthy wine industry, including the largest and second largest cellar in the world. So I got curious. The road from the southern border at Palanca to the the capital, Chisinau, was a lovely countryside road, with bad tar, plenty of tree lines on its sides, some of them still green and with leaves floating in the wind. At 20 degrees and bright sunshine the cold of Siberia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan seemed a remote memory, and I asked myself why I had put winter tyres with spikes on the car. At lunchtime I stopped for a roadside picnic, and enjoyed the wind and the sun, nothing like November weather at all.
In the afternoon I reached Chisinau, and drove right into the center to the hotel I had booked, giving me a chance to see a bit of the city in daylight. In the evening I tried to find two restaurants I had researched online, but couldn’t spot them at the indicated address. I had passed a popular pizza restaurant close to Stefan cel Mare park, and there I went to eat ultimately. But before going to sleep I tried some delicious red wines at the Carpe Diem wine bar, a small but cosy and well equipped boutique a couple of blocks from my hotel. The merlot and cabernet sauvignon were so good that I added a box of bottles to my souvenir collection in the car.
– Km driven: 209
– Hrs on the road: 5h
– Diesel l/100km: 8,3