We were on the road by 8:30, our earliest start yet in order to avoid another border nightmare. Our destination was Chisinau, the capitol of Moldova, which would be hosting celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the nation’s seccession from the Soviet Union. It was a beautiful day, just like every other since Chase arrived.
Alas, just as we were leaving the last Romanian town before the border, a policeman raised his hand for us to stop the car. It turned out I had been going 68 km/hr in a 50km/hr zone, although I didn’t think I was going faster than any other car. I was asked to step out and join him at his vehicle to watch a replay of my traffic infraction, and then I waited in our car as he wrote up a ticket. I was terrified that the encounter would entirely thwart our plan to arrive in Chisinau at a decent hour. It turned out that I simply owed 125 Romanian Leu that I could pay on spot- just over 31USD. Unfortunately, I didn’t have 125 Leu. The policeman directed me down the road to an ATM. I’m not sure exactly how much of it he pocketed, but I was just thrilled to get back on the road. The entire encounter took less than 30 minutes.
We reached the border just after 10:00, and to our amazement, we were back in Moldova in no more than 25 minutes.
After a short drive in Moldova we reached our hostel, which was located just off the city center.
Tourists and locals alike filled the city center, which had been transformed into a market of food and folk art.
On the main road stood a massive stage where Moldovan performers shared their craft.
We grabbed a quick bite, and by 2:00 we were back at the hostel where we met Mariana Harjevschi. Mariana is the director of the municipal library, which is coincidentally located in the same building as our hostel. Mariana is a friend of my boss/mentor at the Library of Congress, who graciously put us in touch. Mariana not only arranged for us a tour the ‘Cricova Winery’, but also a van to take us there.
Cricova was located just a few kilometers outside the city. Our driver was Victor, who had worked at the Library for 20 years.
Our tour was in English, about 25 of us in total. We boarded a tram and headed immediately underground. We were advised to bring jackets as it was significantly colder in the winery.
Cricova is one of the largest underground wineries in the world. Moldova is renowned for it’s wine, and Cricova is the gem of the industry. Tourists and dignitaries from around the globe visit each year to taste Moldova’s historic wine and experience the luxury of Cricova.
The winery has been called an ‘underground city’, boasting over 100 kilometers of winding roads. Streets are named after the particular wine housed there, for instance, ‘Champagne Boulevard’.
It was difficult to refrain from laughing at the ridiculous film that they shared with us, which posed such rhetorical questions as ‘wine- the meaning of life?’
We were given a presentation of their intricate preparation methods.
The tour ended with a tasting, and after only four glasses I was relatively intoxicated.
Victor drove us back to the Library, where we inundated Mariana with questions about her country and the political problems that plague it.
We walked aimlessly around the city for a couple more hours, stumbling upon magnificent federal and municipal buildings along the way.
Around 9:00 we met up again with Mariana, who took us to a traditional Moldovan eatery. We talked at length about a variety of topics, including our connections in the States and the emerging national identity of Moldova.
After parting ways, Chase and I headed back towards the celebrations. We picked up a couple brews and enjoyed the sounds of Moldovan rock- ‘Zdob si Zdub’.
With that, we went to sleep.