Walking out of the airport in Chisinau was just a tad intimidating. A strange feeling for me, a woman who is somewhat allergic to oestrogen and far more comfortable with manageable doses of testosterone. The flight from Budapest to Chişinău was in one of those planes that have had some longtitudional sectioning – you know – where the seats go A, (skip B and C), D, (skip E), and F. We landed, we cleared passport control (first time in a long time I’ve been asked why I’m visiting a country and first time ever that I’ve had a legitimate business reason that was completely at odds with the rather dishevelled appearance I presented.). Still, they let me in. I sailed through to baggage claim, where my bag was waiting for me. I walked through customs and straight outside to where my taxi was waiting. Clockwork came to mind.
But walking through the front door to be met by a crowd of burly men in black coats was, as I said, just a tad intimidating. I had a flashback to landing in Dubai many years ago but at least these Moldovan men saw me, where as the lads in Dubai tried to walk through me.
I used to drive a 20-year-old Toyota Starlet – and it’s still parked at my parents’ house at home. This taxi was older though – much older. You could have carbon dated it by the smells alone. Somewhat amusingly, the one car broken down on the road into the city, blocking traffic, was a very new looking Toyota Passat. The drive into Chişinău was lined with high-rise panels (tower blocks) and for the first time EVER, I found myself drawing comparisons, not with Ireland, but with Hungary. These panelházok are a little more ornate that what we have (Get that ownership! What’s happening here?) in Budapest and rather than lone tower blocks, they’ve been rather creatively stuck together so that, in fact, they don’t actually look all that bad… at least at night.
We passed what could have passed for a South African township just on the outskirts of the city and it struck me that Moldova ain’t exactly rolling in dough. That said though, every other building lining the main street seems to be either a bank or a jeweller’s. And the one shop I ventured in to would have been at home on Bond Street. (Does that say more about my taste than the economy…I wonder.)
Tonight, in Moldova and Romania, St Nicolae comes and leaves sweets in your shoes if you clean them and leave them outside. Am half-tempted to park my loafers outside my hotel-room door to see what happens!
After wandering the streets for a couple of hours to get my bearings and in a half-hearted attempt to find a restaurant, I opted for the hotel menu. Whatever else about this city, it can’t be done for false advertising. They said that my Mămăligă would consist of 200 grams of pork, 220 grams of cornflour, and 25 grams of cheese and they were right. Mind you, I think the pork was beef and the cornflour was polenta but other than that, it all weighed in and was delicious.
Tomorrow, in daylight, should be interesting.