Chisenau, the Capital city of Moldova doesn’t really have many major attractions per-se and I’m afraid that we declined to trudge round any more historical monuments. We had seen plenty through The Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Hungary and just wanted a weekend of chilling out and doing what we would actually be doing at home. Luckily the restaurant and bar scene is buzzing and Moldovan people are stylish, switched on and friendly. We felt completely at ease in the city just wandering around and getting a feel for it. There are some seriously well dressed people in the city.
The style is much more Parisian than the gaudier trends prefered by their neighboring Romanians and Bulgarians and the conservative Germans and Dutch. There is a strong influence from Russia in general ( Its spoken as a 1st or 2nd language by almost everyone) with Russian Vogue and Tatler being available alongside an array of international fashion magazines which may have something to do with the outfit choices. I’m led to understand that Moldovan’s take real pride in their appearance and its clear that being on trend and looking your best is key in this city. The national dress is similar to other european countries. For both women and men ornately embroidered blouses form a central part. Although rarely worn for everyday now, an inspiring selection can be seen at Mirabels near the central market. I purchased a stunning, cheesecloth blouse which is a great coverup and also fab with denim shorts and boots.
Processed food in Moldova is pretty limited. The country generated the vast majority of the food for the USSR during Stalin’s day and has been producing wine since the days of Alexander the Great. Fresh, seasonal produce is the order of the day and there is nowhere better to pick up some delicious food straight from the farmers than the central market. Selling everything you could want from food to wine to electrical to clothes, this is a real insight into the life of ordinary Moldovan’s. We encountered a real cross-section of the population, and bought some of the most delicious tomatoes and dried fruit we have eaten.
See below for a little video of the market:
Despite the lack of fast food, pastries, bread, cheese and cold meats are available at practically every convenience store in town. There are also a fantastic array of restaurants in Chisenau offering international and local cuisine. We can highly recommend the Uzbek restaurant Caravan for a unique and tasty experience, as well as Andy’s Pizza for super quick,delicious snacks.
Whilst we didn’t manage to make it any winaries there was plenty to drink at the bars and restaurants around the city. Delicious and increadibly cheap. If you want to do a tasting check out Carpe Diem however everywhere we went had a compelling selection to choose from.
John and I both adore street art and graffiti and encountered some of the best we have seen since the Berlin Wall and Amsterdam. Check out the underpasses and some of the old tower blocks near bd. Stefan de Mare for some great work.
For some unrivalled people watching visit the park at the weekend. Sprawling family picnics, wedding parties, young couples and stooped and wrinkled OAPs all in their Sunday best. Various food and drink options are available as well as impromptu music and pedalos on the lake.
There are ways to go in terms of provisions for the poor, older people and in rebuilding the infrastructure of the city. For sure, alot of the roads and buildings have seen better days. There are limited services for the destitute. However there is an atmosphere of optimism and a richness to the culture of Moldova that will continue to grow brighter I think.I think with time this city could become very cool. The young people we met and saw were switched on, eager to study and improve themselves. The atmostpherere in the parks, restaurants and on the street was very positive. the only semi bad experience we had was in a realy touristy restaurant recomended to us by the hostel staff where the food was overpricced and bland but hey, the music and wine were amazing so we really can’t complain!
I’m not sure if it would be a good thing for there to be easier ways to access Moldova or not. There is something special about its relative seclusion and epic train journey to reach it that makes it special. Mass tourism can change people when greed and opportunism take over. Moldova doesn’t seem to have that and I hope it stays that way. I would certainly go back to explore more of the country and spend some more time in Chisanau.
We stayed at the Chill Hostel which was cheap, cheerful and very well located.