Travelling in Eastern Europe Summer 2008

Sibiu, Driving to Moldova, and Two Days in Chisinau


We are now in Ukraine again since Saturday morning, and we have seen a lot since I last wrote. When we arrived in Sibiu on Monday night, little more than a week ago, we instantly felt that we wanted to stay for a while. There had been too much driving and too little relaxed tourism. And Sibiu was an amazing town, built in the middle-ages and with a myriad of small streets and allies, and with colourful merchant houses. Since Sibiu was the EU’s Cultural Capital of the East in 2007, the town centre has undergone immense renovations and is now shining colourfully and with newly laid stones on the pedestrian streets and in the squares. There were quite a lot of tourists in Sibiu, but mainly Romanians, and my impression was that there were still mostly locals hanging out on the bars and cafés in the centre in the evenings.


It was already quite late when we arrived on Monday evening and after looking around a bit for somewhere to stay, we ended up getting a room at a luxurious hotel that according to my guidebook dated back to the 1500s. It had now been renovated and probably lost some of its former charm, but there was still a lot of blue, white and gold, and high ceilings, giving it a bit of a royal touch. So it was quite different from our previous, back-packer style lodgings. I felt very posh!


The best about our stay in Sibiu was that we had plenty of time to walk around the town, but also just to sit and read in a park, and to relax and watch people at out-door cafés. I.e. very much vacation. The only thing that disappointed me a bit was that no-one was the slightest impressed with my Romanian. In Chisinau, it is not unusual that people comment on the fact that I speak Romanian (and not Russian) and are happy about the fact that someone has learned their language. But no-one in Romania even seemed to notice – they spoke Romanian with me and English with Jonas. And I was so proud of the fact that I could speak the local language!


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On Wednesday, we started our long drive back to Chisinau. I thought in my ignorance that at least the first part through Romania would be quite smooth, and I mostly feared the border to Moldova and bumpy roads from there to Chisinau. It turned out that I was wrong. Due to road works in Romania, the first 130 km took tree hours. After that, there was less work on the roads, but oh so many villages to drive through! But even if it took time, it was nice to see how the landscape and the villages changed along the way to Moldova. When we drove through the Romanian region Moldavia, the rural areas started looking more like the ones that I have grown accustomed to of in these past two years. And it was interesting to see old Romania meeting new Romania, with all the roads and construction work, and at the same time passing an uncountable number of horses with carriages, transporting hay and agricultural produce.


When we finally arrived at the boarder to Moldova, it was ridiculously empty and we only had a few cars in front of us. After we had crossed the boarder, the road to Chisinau was perfect: newly paved and almost empty. It only took us about an hour to drive from the boarder to Chisinau. Needless to say, Jonas got a very good first impression of Moldova. 


Showing Chisinau to a friend was great. We walked around and looked at the sites around the city: old buildings and parks, communist monuments, the local hang-outs, and even UNIC (or ZOM), the old department store from the USSR. We also ate out a lot, and every time at a different restaurant. In Jonas’ view, Chisinau has by far the best food of all the countries he has visit so far on this trip. I can only agree!


Since we are going by car, I wanted to bring some things back to Sweden and so I started to pack up some of my things. It felt very strange and a little sad. After all, Moldova has been my home for the past two years, and even if I seem to have many new adventures waiting for me, I can’t help feeling a bit sad about leaving this lovely country.


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Sunflower field in Moldova


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