Chisinau (Kishinev) and Orheiul Vechi
“You will come as a guest and you will leave as a friend.”- Hotel Cosmos.
Nonsense! I found my visit of Hotel Cosmos left me wondering just what service did they provide..
However, if the quote was applied to Chisinau it might be true.
Firstly, about my journey to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova..
I arrived via Bucharest and had a fairly easy journey in. On the train in the middle of the night Moldova custom officers come on the train (shortly after their Romanian counterparts).
“Any drugs, weapons?”
And that was it! Apart from the passport check of course. Romanian passport officers on the other hand both in my entry to Bucharest and also going to Moldova were a bit more strict. To be fair my hairstyle was quite different from my photo but I wouldn’t understand them caring so much about going from Romania to Moldova. I mean an illegal immigrant wouldn’t want to leave the EU to a non-EU country that is also the poorest in Europe. It doesn’t make sense.
Anyway it was a straightforward process.. On the train I met a friendly Finish traveller, a football fanatic (in the good sense), and on the way to Moscow but staying in Kishinev for two days.
It was nice talking with him and we both stayed in Hotel Cosmos, both had to put up with its room delays (despite I had explicitly requested and had confirmation of early check-in it somehow didn’t get on their system..) although my delay was thankfully shorter. I had booked a standard not economy renovated room. Considerable more expensive than the economy, renovated and wireless so said the description. The reality is if it was renovated I would hate to see the non renovated rooms, wireless?..no that is just some of the rooms! I complained about this as the advertisements said the rooms had wireless and I was promised a move but I didn’t get in the end. The room did have a balcony with a great view.
Wireless was available in the lobby but the lobby is smoking, and like much of Eastern Europe there is a lot of smoking. I used my laptop there but sometimes felt sick from it.
The hotel was not particularly useful for helping me plan my trip well it was sometimes.. who was at reception could mean a different level of service. The wireless in the lobby is not working. Receptionist just shrugs her shoulders, “sometimes it works.. sometimes not..” Friendly service indeed.. Cosmos fulfils all the western stereotype of soviet customer service unfortunately.
The location itself however is OK.
On my first day I went out to walk to the centre but never made it. Instead I visited two churches, I found a deacon who spoke English and decided to attend the Divine Liturgy. So I dropped my camera at my hotel and went back out to attend. Whether the liturgy was in Moldovan or Slavonic I wouldn’t be able to tell but I guess the former. At least I didn’t stand out despite the only visible non Moldovan. My plans to stand (in Orthodox services we stand) at the back were scuppered when I was encouraged to stand closer to the altar. The Divine Liturgy is always beautiful for me and of course I went not as a tourist. Afterwards I came across an old lady who was enjoyed by my presence, clasping my hand and saying something I guess in Moldovan..
It was then 8pm and I made my way back. I then had dinner with my Finnish friend who had wanted to attend a local match but mistimed the distance.
We went to the London steakhouse. A restaurant with photos of London, and decor. Well I wouldn’t say it was an English restaurant or steakhouse but the food I ordered was nice enough.
The next morning I went to Tiraspol to meet my friend Anna and returned to Chisinau the night after.
Chisinau is a pleasant city, best in April, so I have been informed by a friend. With its parks and wide streets this makes sense.
However parks aside Chisinau has enough for about 1/2 a day. It is very small but just to spend a day or two would be a mistake. No rather than regretting the 4 nights I stayed here I wish I had spent weeks here and in the rest of Moldova. Once you have seen the sites (which are a few churches and museums) and just stroll the parks and streets, you will be really able to enjoy Chisinau and come across friendly people as I did when I met three kind Moldovans. Two who had wanted to take a picture with me. I sat down with them at an outside cafe and spoke to them for a while.
I came across a few other friendly people too.. although some could only speak French, a language I can’t speak.
I met a new and kind friend from interpals Sveta and Lera. Both were really kind and great to spend time with. They showed me the Pushkin museum and also impressively translated the enthusiastic guides Russian or Moldovan into English. I was really impressed. We walked along some streets also to the cathedral I guess Chisinau’s most impressive architectural highlight.
The Monastery is perhaps Moldova’s most famous destination. Very close to Chisinau however quite awkward to reach by public transport. There is both a cave monastery and a church build much later (in 1906) which was shut by the church loving Soviets (sarcasm) but now operational again.
To get there involved taking a bus directly from the central station to the monastery at 10:20 and catching (kind of like hitching) the only bus back (sometime around 3:30 if I remember) from intersection to the monastery complex.
There is a small but not particularly interesting museum where you buy the ticket where you can see and learn of some of the excavations found at the site. And then there is the road which leads to the main church (with a route for the caves). There were not many tourists around when I went midweek and I was joined by a companion for the short walk. A dog which decided to follow me up, even stopping when I decided to stop! I thought it might actually try to enter the monastery with me fortunately it didn’t but it followed me up to the gates. The gleaming dome of the church is a nice site throughout all Orthodox sites and I entered the complex which seemed like some other Orthodox churches in Moldova a little bit Roman Catholic to me. What I mean by that is the presence of statues of Christ and the Theotokos in the grounds. The church itself was beautifully decorated inside with frescos and icons and the monk was really friendly.
He also gave me a poster which perhaps every visitor gets. I am not sure but it details the road to heaven and the many ways to hell. Interesting is the illustrations showing those that go to hell including a priest, some people illustrated with heavy metal. As well as an illustration of a demon outreaching its hand to grab a group of people watching TV non-stop. TV lovers (of which I am not one) but not addicts will be glad to know the TV illustration said TV non-stop
I purchased some icons and spoke a little to the monk in English who could speak some English.
If going by public transport like myself you may be spending a lot of time here whether you like it or not. The limited schedule of public transport makes sure that and the Monastery is in the middle of nowhere. It is worth taking up the best part of a day to visit though.