Car rental allows us to continue some of our exploration
27.06.2011 - 27.06.2011 17 °C
Theoretically, today was to have been our last day in Moldova. The overnight train was to have taken us to Moscow that evening. However, with flights on the new One World airline S7 readily available, cheaply, we had decided to fly the following day.
Yet, this unplanned extra day in Chişinău brought little relief from the incessant rain. Completely against the ‘norm’ for this time of year, when temperatures typically reach a warm and sunny 35c drastic measures were called for. With a branch of Hertz located close to our new hotel (for we had to move out of the apartment) we rented a small but trusty Chevrolet, something or other. A horrible car to drive and ride in but one that would allow us to explore the country in luxurious dryness!
On the outskirts of Chişinău a sign reads ‘Welcome to Chişinău. The home of Europe’s worst roads’. This was by no means any exaggeration. Even within the capital undulations, potholes, dirt and flooding were the ‘normal’ road hazards. Yet, with Trey as my trusty navigator and a variety of tourist maps (some of which almost agreed on the capital’s road layouts) we headed out of the city and towards the main tourist sight of Moldova – the Orheiul Vechi Monastery Complex.
Some 25 miles north of Chişinău on a wild and rocky limestone cliff lay this remote place of worship. Beneath the Orthodox domed church, overlooking the gently meandering Răut river, lies the Cave Monastery. The complex was dug by Orthodox monks in the 13th-century and remained inhabited until the 18th-century. In 1996, a handful of monks returned to this secluded place of worship. It was a lone monk that we could see trudging from the road, along the crest of the cliff, as rain and wind lashed into his face. With no desire to follow this journey we admired the monastery and caves from the sanctuary of our little rental car. Whilst we were not able to explore the Caves, we had at least avoided the crowds. Apart from the monk we were the only souls making this popular journey today.
Returning to Chişinău a brief car tour around the city allowed us to at least view the Arc de Triomphe, Orthodox cathedral and Parliament House. However, with no appetite for a soaking walking tour of the capital we return to our hotel, hoping for a break in the weather.
Whilst evening did not bring a significant break in the weather, a slowing of the rain and our trusty pink and blue umbrellas did allow us to venture out to a downtown restaurant. Walking the tree lined boulevard of Ştefan cel Mare the city felt very French in style and character. The local language had a certain similarity to French, whilst the architectural styles reminded one of a provisional French town.
With soaking rain for essentially the entirety of our stay in Moldova we did not feel that our limited exploring had done justice to the country. However, we had still enjoyed our stay. Whilst the high price of accommodation and food, in what purports to be, the poorest country in Europe was an anathema to us the sobriquet of unhappiest country did not ring true. Those locals we had met seemed positive in their outlook. Often concerned about the standard of their English it was certainly much better than our Russian, which as our next destination, will hopefully improve!