The night train to Moldova
The journey from Bucharest to the Moldovan capital Chisinau was my first time on a sleeper train! I had read lots of bad reports on this train, from the disgusting toilets to the scary people you might have to share a cabin with. I’m happy to say that my trip was good. The toilets were adequate and scary people were at a minimum.
The train set off at 7pm and we arrived in Chisinau the next morning at 8:30am. There was a 3 hour wait at the border whilst the train was hoisted up and the wheels were changed on all carriages. Apparently Stalin thought it would be a good idea to have a different train gage than the rest of Europe!
I shared my cabin with a Russian guy who didn’t speak any English so we pointed, gestured, smiled and nodded and seemed to understand each other.
I managed to sleep for most of the journey, the customs people woke us up at the border and as soon as I showed my British passport they didn’t want to search my bags or ask me any more questions.
I enjoyed the night train, it was a cool experience!
The capital of Moldova had been described to me as a horrible city, not worth visiting. ‘There’s nothing to see in Chisinau’ was the general comment people made in hostels.
Well they were partly right, in that there isn’t a whole lot to do there but I’ve been to far worse cities! Tirana in Albania!
The hostel was a bit of a dive but there wasn’t much choice. Hostels in Moldova aren’t recognised by or regulated by the government so there’s no standards to adhere to.
This place had an Ants nest in the kitchen!
Moldova was a pretty cheap country to visit, at least for a westerner. A coffee was 50p and a meal in a restaurant about £4. Public transport was also only a few pence per journey.
Chisinau has a huge market, which is open everyday. The people here have a great work ethic, they get up early and start preparing their stalls or laying their wares out on the pavement.
In Moldova I found hardworking people just trying to earn a living to put food on the table. They appreciate what they have and don’t take things for granted. This is a work ethic that the UK doesn’t seem to have anymore. In western society there is an awful sense of entitlement, which is a real shame.
Of course, everything’s not rosie and a great deal of people are unhappy with the government and the level of corruption. The people I spoke to would like to see their country join the EU some days and look forward to that time but it’s a long way off.
I find ex Soviet countries interesting and I enjoyed my few days in Chisinau. So much so that I decided to go and visit the last remaining enclave of the USSR, Transnistria.
Although not technically Moldova, it lies within the Moldovan territory or does it? It’s not recognised by many countries and has been occupied by Russian forces since the breakup of the Soviet Union. They are there in agreement with Moldovan forces in a sort of joint peacekeeping force. Although that might be about to change.
Myself and Philip from the hostel caught a rickety old minibus and we were on our way to the border passports in hand!
At the border we were given a piece of paper and asked how long we would be staying for, 10 hours is the maximum.
We exited the bus and eventually found the right direction to centre of town. We were now in the last part of the USSR. I was expecting to find a run down hell hole but it wasn’t like that at all.
People were friendly and interested to know why we had decided to visit and they seemed happy with the way things were. Maybe they say one thing and think something else privately but the people we spoke to just wanted to get on with their lives.
The UK foreign office advice people not to go to Transnistria, I presume that’s more because they don’t recognise the country’s independence rather than the safely aspects. I didn’t feel unsafe visiting the region.
We spent a few hours in Tiraspol, had coffee, chatted to the locals and explored the centre of town. It was an interesting visit, to go somewhere that’s essentially frozen in time.
Who knows what will happen in the future, there’s been a recent change in government so I hope tensions don’t rise in the region because the local people could do without it.
So my few days in Moldova was over and my next stop was Ukraine! Hold on to your hats!