Moldova and Romania Trip – MOLDOVA

A trip to Chisinau, Tiraspol and Bucharest.

Moldova and Romania July 2019

MOLDOVA


Day One – Journey to Chisinau
Day Two – Exploring Chisinau
Day Three – Trip to Transnistria – Tiraspol
Day Four – Further exploring of Chisinau
Day Five – Journey to Romania
Day Six, Seven, Eight – Romania

Keith and I had been planning on a trip to Moldova for a few years; finally we decided to book it. I remember Ash once mentioning he’d quite like to visit Romania so we thought why not smash out both countries in one trip.

I originally booked an apartment with Airbnb in Chisinau but the host cancelled without even a message. I then spent ages trying to find somewhere else, we wanted an apartment with a room each. It took me quite a while but I managed to find somewhere that looked pretty good.


Exchange rate at time of visit:

£1 = MDL 22.17 (Moldovan Lei)

£1 = 20.22 ПMP (Transnistrian Ruble) (MDL 1 = 0.88 ПMP)

£1 = RON 5.24 (Romanian Lei)


Day One. Wednesday 10th July 2019

Our Air Moldova flight wasn’t until 2.40pm so we didn’t have to leave at ridiculous o’clock in the morning for once.

Keith arrived at my house shortly before Ash who would be driving us to Stansted.

We checked ourselves and our cases in then preceded to the departure lounge. After lunch at Wetherspoons we were ready for the flight.

We had been allocated seats together and with extra leg room (by an emergency exit).

Before take-off the cabin crew came round offering boiled sweets! Soon we were in the air and the cabin crew were coming round again, this time with food, no veggie options just chicken or beef (to be fair I didn’t actually ask if they had an alternative). I took a chicken meal and ate the bread, salad and cake.

After around 3 hours we landed at Chisinau airport. Once we had had our passports inspected and stamped we collected our cases.

We walked through to the arrival concourse; right in front of us was a stall selling sim cards.

EE wanted £6 a day for 150MB of data a complete rip off.

The Moldcell stall was offering various sim cards all unbelievably good value. We opted for 6GB of data for 60 LEI (£3). The man on the stall spoke English well enough to sort it all out for us, he put the sim card in for me, activated it and changed the language so the messages received by the network were in English.

Unfortunately Keith realised that his phone was locked to his UK network when the sim card wouldn’t work, he’d already paid for it so Ash tried his phone and it worked fine.

This meant Keith was with no internet meaning no Pokémon Go and this meant we had to hotspot him the entire time we were out and about in Moldova!

It wouldn’t have been a big deal but as the trip went on it got really annoying because as soon as we walked away from each other the connection broke and every time we were near again we had to physically open the settings to reconnect even though our hotpots were turned on all the time,

We found the Sixt desk and joined the queue. Keith and I headed for the toilet, while we were washing our hands a man walked past and farted – welcome to Moldova!

I left the others queuing while I found a cash machine it had a limit on how much you could withdraw, luckily it was about the same as the cost of the apartment.

Finally we were at the front of the car hire queue. I had to message the apartment owner as we were already late.

Sixt gave me a credit card sized card and told me to keep it on me and not leave it in the car and to show it to the police if I got pulled over.

To be able to drive in Transnistria we had to pay the foreign use fee of €4.17 a day (although we only planned a one day excursion). I was given another document that I would have to show at the Transnistrian border, I was also told that the Transnistrian authorities would change a fee to enter the area by car.

Finally we were on the road, it was now dark. It was a short drive from the airport to the centre of Chisinau. The roads didn’t seem too bad, there was hardly any traffic, there didn’t seem to be much in the way of lane markings on some of the roads.

The apartment owner wanted to meet at a restaurant called Madame Wong. I drove past it and we had to navigate back round a one way system. I parked on the pavement outside a restaurant the sign wasn’t clearly visible but it looked like an oriental restaurant, we’d made it.

We met Gabriela she led us to an apartment block. She apologised for the building, and said unfortunately there’s nothing she could do about it but the apartment would be the complete opposite. The front door led us to two lifts. The stench of tramps urine was strong, soviet era letterboxes lined the wall. The lift arrived; it was cramped and also didn’t smell too pleasant. It looked like it should have been retired from service years ago. The apartment itself was very fresh and modern, nothing like the soviet entrance.

Our Apartment Block

She gave us a little local info and didn’t think much of me wanting to go to Transnistria!

I paid her the money for the apartment and then she led us to the local supermarket so we could grab a few essentials. There was a good selection of cakes so we chose a slice each. It was almost 11pm so the supermarket was about to close, one of the female staff members was trying to hurry Ash up so he said “yes ok” and she proceeded to keep repeating “yes, yes, yes”.

I wanted to get a video of the lift so walked out of the apartment and pressed both lift call buttons there was a bit of noise but the lifts never arrived. Actually you could see through the gap between the doors that it actually was on our floor but the door wouldn’t open.

Surely there was another way out. We hadn’t seen any stairs. There was a balcony adjacent to the lifts. I went investigating. Sure enough there was a pitch black stairwell that stank like tramps piss.

Armed with my iPhone torch I made my way don’t the stairs until I got the some external doors that had a stick wedged in where metal bolt should be to lock the door. I turned and saw the stairs went further down to the basement; at the bottom of the stairs was what looked like a tramp tucked up in blankets. I assumed he’d locked himself in using the stick.


Day One – Journey to Chisinau
Day Two – Exploring Chisinau
Day Three – Trip to Transnistria – Tiraspol
Day Four – Further exploring of Chisinau
Day Five – Journey to Romania
Day Six, Seven, Eight – Romania

Day Two. Thursday 11th July 2019

After a pretty bad night’s sleep we decided to explore Chisinau by foot.

In the light we figured out the door at the bottom of the stairwell – my thoughts about a tramp locking it from the inside with a piece of wood were wrong. The stick was just to replace a missing dead bolt; it was the other door that opened. It had a button just like the door to the lifts. The tramp himself was actually just a pile of blankets! Probably was/ is a homeless persons bed though.

Chisinau

We headed towards the Chisinau Circus building.

Chisinau Circus

The building seems to be derelict inside though round one side away from the main building there is an entrance which looks used, there was a dog lying outside it.

Chisinau
Chisinau Circus
Chisinau Circus
Chisinau
Chisinau

In a subway under the road we bought some food. Google translate helped quite well, I got a cheese and dill pasty. Ash got some kind of burger that he absolutely hated and had to dump.

Chisinau

We walked back towards the centre of Chisinau along Grigore Vieru Boulevard.

Chisinau
Chisinau

There were some workmen working on the power lines on a street light using a really old crane. It would be quite a common sight to see really old equipment like that.

Chisinau
Chisinau

We passed the massive Government House.

Chisinau
Chisinau
Chisinau
Chisinau

Finding ourselves passing the tourist information centre we thought it might be a good idea to go in and see what they knew about Transnistria.

A girl approached us and asked if we needed any help, she was really helpful. In fact she went out of her way to help. I showed her a photo of a cool Chisinau sign I’d seen on a random website and asked if she knew where it was. She went to confer with her colleagues, came back and showed us on a map where a number of large signs were.

She also recommended some other things to do or visit.

A little further along the road there was an area of stalls selling souvenirs, crafts and Soviet memorabilia.

Chisinau
Chisinau

Outside Magazinul Universal Central (UNIC) shopping centre there was an ice cream stall, the ice creams were tiny!

We walked past the derelict National hotel and found the underpass featured in Bald and Bankrupts YouTube video. Builders were hard at work renovating the stairs

Chisinau
Chisinau
Chisinau

In front of us now was the Cosmos Hotel.

Chisinau

Across the road there was a mall with a sky bar, we thought it would be good to have a sit down for a bit overlooking the city. After walking around the mall and not finding a way up, we made our way out again. Eventually we found the lift to the sky bar only to find it closed when we got to the top.

Chisinau

Keith had spotted a Hikoki power tool shop when we arrived the previous evening. Being endorsed by them for his wood working YouTube channel, he thought it would only be right to check it out.

Chisinau

We were quite a way from our apartment so decided to get a taxi if we saw one.

Chisinau
Chisinau

We asked how much to Madame Wong and the taxi driver told us a price that sounded reasonable. He obviously had misheard us as we ended up at Mall-Dova! We corrected him and eventually we were back at the apartment.

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Looking at the map from the tourist information office, I tried to work out where the Chisinau signs were situated and plot them on Google maps. I managed to locate what looked like one so we drove to find it. It wasn’t the one I’d seen photos of before (in fact we would never come across that one) but it was pretty cool. (E584, Ialoveni District, Chișinău, Moldova 46.973553, 28.766234).

Chisinau
Chisinau

Next we drove to the City Gate, up close it was nothing to write home about, just some average looking tower blocks, it really didn’t look impressive, the fridge magnet view was from a high vantage point.

The car was facing the wrong way, I didn’t fancy turning round on the busy road so pinned it where we thought the view was on the map and drove towards it. I pulled the car over near some traffic lights. We started to walk along the central reservation of the dual carriageway. We were too far away; it would have been an extremely long walk. We headed back to the car and drove and drove a bit further back towards Chisinau.

Now we were at the top of the hill. This was the view we were after. There was a petrol station on the right. I pulled in and we went for a quick walk into the centre of the road.

City Gate Chisinau

There is a pedestrianised street called Strada Eugen Doga containing a few restaurants near the Cathedral Park. It was near also near to our apartment. We went to Bistekka.

For dessert we headed back to the local supermarket to try another cake.


Day One – Journey to Chisinau
Day Two – Exploring Chisinau
Day Three – Trip to Transnistria – Tiraspol
Day Four – Further exploring of Chisinau
Day Five – Journey to Romania
Day Six, Seven, Eight – Romania

Day Three. Friday 12th July 2019

I got up and went for a run, I wanted to run about 5K and worked out if I ran to the Rifle Monument and back it would be just over that. Some of the streets were really busy with people and market stalls.

I ended up making some wrong turns on the way back also my Apple watch decided to reset itself half way though so Strava missed some of the distance but it was well over 5K.

We set off on the road to Transnistria.

My sat-nav looked like it was taking us towards a small border; Ash suggested it might be better to head for what looked like the main border. This added a bit of extra time on to the journey because we had to double back. The roads were full of pot holes the all the way in fact the road was pretty much one big pot hole.

When we arrived at border and were told to park up at the side of the road and go to office.

In the office our passports and vehicle documents were checked and a 10 hour visa was issued to each of us. No charges – no bribes.

We proceeded on into Transnistria.

The first thing we noticed was the roads we so much better, not a pothole in sight. There were also road markings! and obviously all the signs were now in Russian Cyrillic script.

As we turned on to road towards Tiraspol we got pulled over by a police man. The man checked our passports and visas and handed them back to us – no bribes required.

As we approached the city we passed a really cool painted concrete Tiraspol sign; we would try and stop to get photos on the way back.

On our left was the Sheriff Tiraspol football stadium.

We were trying to go in the direction of the centre but hadn’t seen any signs.

There was still just about enough phone signal to have a look on the map.

Ash and Keith had differing views on where the centre was but then I spotted a sign and took a right turning. On our left was a big sign reading Тирасполь (Tiraspol). It must be the centre. I drove down a side road where there were lots of cars parked. There didn’t seem to be any parking restrictions.

Tiraspol, Transnistria

Now on foot we headed back to the sign as a starting point. There was still a little phone signal so I got the map up and found a Lenin monument.

Tiraspol, Transnistria

We headed in that direction along a really wide road (25th October Street), passing a WW2 tank and memorial. The Memorial of Glory commemorates 3 wars – WW2, Afghanistan and the defenders of Pridnestrovie 1992.

Tiraspol, Transnistria
Tiraspol, Transnistria
Tiraspol, Transnistria
Tiraspol, Transnistria

On the other side of the road Lenin stood tall in front of the Supreme Council/Parliament building.

Tiraspol, Transnistria

The Transnistria flag was flying complete with hammer and sickle.

Tiraspol, Transnistria
Tiraspol, Transnistria
Tiraspol, Transnistria

We headed back towards the Tiraspol sign and beyond along what we thought might be the high street but was lacking in shops so we weren’t sure.

The phone signal was now non-existent but luckily I had downloaded the Moldova map to the maps.me app. It guided us towards the tourist information office; it was amazing that it was there, I thought the map had got it wrong as there were no shops or other public buildings near it.

We asked the lady where centre was, she showed us and we had already walked through it! It was basically where the Supreme Council/Parliament building, Lenin statue and tank were.

The lady gave us a map.

A man came into and heard us speaking English and made some kind of joke, I forget what he said but it wasn’t funny.

We headed for the other Lenin monument which was situated outside the city hall/ house of soviets.

Tiraspol, Transnistria
Tiraspol, Transnistria

Pridnestrovie/ Transnistria has its own currency, cash points don’t accept international cards and Moldovan money is not accepted but can be exchanged.

Tiraspol, Transnistria

It was time to get some currency. There are a number of exchange office windows on the streets. I handed over MDL200 approx £9. I got around 170 Rubles.

£1 = MDL 22.17 (Moldovan Lei)

£1 = 20.22 ПMP (Transnistrian Ruble) (MDL1 = 0.88 ПMP)

Now we had some currency we could get a snack and drink. There was a mini supermarket near to the tank monument. The others bought something savoury but it all looked too meaty for me so I ended up getting an ice cream.

We sat and ate on the tables and chairs and we greeted by a soviet cat.

I was hoping for some stalls with soviet memorabilia but there was nothing probably because they have very few tourists.  However there was a souvenir shop next to the mini supermarket.

mdrm_120
Tiraspol, Transnistria

The Green Market Center (an under cover market) was all packed up, the cleaners were hard at work and annoyingly the toilet was locked up.

The time was getting on so we decided we’d better start heading back soon but not before checking out the souvenir shop. I spent so long trying to find something to spend my money on. I bought a flag magnet for my bar, a coat of arms type banner flag and a Matryosha style man that was weighted with a bell in so wobbles from side to side when pushed.

Tiraspol Souvenirs

I kind of regret not buying the rather sorry looking Cheburashka doll.

I still had some money left so went next door to buy more food and drink.

Before making our way back to the car we got ice creams and walked by the river, we could see a beach on the other side.

The weather was hot and the ice cream was melting my hands were getting rather sticky.  Conveniently we walked past a hand pump at the side of the road and were able to pump some water to wash our hands!

On the way out of the city we stopped at the cool Tiraspol sign that we passed on the way in to the city.

Tiraspol, Transnistria

Google maps led us to a different border crossing, at the crossing the border guards took our visas back and sent us on our way.

On the drive to Transnistria we had passed a fair few soviet bus stops and couldn’t drive all the way back to Chisinau without stopping at one.

Bus Stop

On the way into Chisinau we passed another cool Chisinau sign. R2, Chișinău, Moldova

46.926908, 28.965083

Chisinau

We thought it might be nice to try a traditional restaurant or at least a touristy traditional restaurant. There was one that the girl from the tourist information office had pointed out on the map; it was very close to our apartment. It had traditional food, music and dancing every night.

Searching on Google, it looked like you might have to get there for a certain time and it was kind of like a banquet sort of thing. We thought we’d give it a look just in case you could just walk in. It was situated within a shopping mall. We stood in the door way, there were some people at a table and some girls standing at the side, presumably the dancers. After a few minutes of nobody approaching us we gave up and headed back to the area we’d been to the previous evening – Strada Eugen Doga.

Being a pescitarian/ fussy eater it was hard to find a vegetarian option that wasn’t pizza in Moldovan restaurants, they don’t seem to have any sea fish presumably because there is no sea and I’m not in to river fish, anyway we ended up going to a restaurant opposite the one we’d been to the previous night called Berăria Chişinău.

There weren’t any main meals without meat so I picked a couple of side dishes : egg potatoes and grilled vegetables.

A couple behind us asked where we were from, we asked the same to them thinking they were local but they were actually on holiday from Russia.

We wanted to go out for a few drinks so had a look online to try a find some options. We passed a rock bar called Rock & Roll Cafe which would be our last resort. The first place we went to was Brothers Pub it had the annoying European thing of only having one toilet for the whole bar.

Roll out the red carpet, it’s Rag’n’Bone Brown!

The bars seemed few and far between and it was getting late. We went to Rock & Roll Café, it was table service. We waited and waited and eventually the barman took our order and to be fair to him after the initial wait he was very attentive. Apart from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers being on repeat and only having one toilet; the place was alright. After a few vodkas we decided to call it a night.

I wish we’d stayed longer in Chisinau, maybe we would have discovered some cool places to go out.


Day One – Journey to Chisinau
Day Two – Exploring Chisinau
Day Three – Trip to Transnistria – Tiraspol
Day Four – Further exploring of Chisinau
Day Five – Journey to Romania
Day Six, Seven, Eight – Romania

Day Four. Saturday 13th July 2019

Today we wanted to cover all the other places around the city that we had plotted that were a bit too far to walk.

Romanita Tower, Chisinau

The first stop was the 73-meter-high Romanita Tower.

Romanita Tower, Chisinau

After taking some photos, Keith and I ventured up an external metal staircase and walked around the outside of the building.

Romanita Tower, Chisinau

There were a number of openings in the side of the building. It was pitch black and derelict looking with rubble everywhere.

With our phone torches we located a stairwell and started to venture up. The building needs some serious tlc, it is falling apart though I’d assume it’s still structurally safe,  at least I hoped so as we were getting further towards the top.

Romanita Tower, Chisinau
Romanita Tower, Chisinau

We had made it as far as we could, to the highest balcony. Opposite a new tower block was being built, Moldovan health and safety looked a like sketchy.

Romanita Tower, Chisinau
View from Romanita Tower, Chisinau
View from Romanita Tower, Chisinau

Afterwards I bought some ice creams from the shop at the bottom of the tower and gave one to Ash who was patiently waiting for us.

I stopped the car near the Rifle Monument. We walked into a cemetery, I wasn’t 100 percent convinced we’d be able to get to the monument but Ash was feeling confident. Sure enough the whole place was interconnected.

Rifle Monument, Chisnau
Rifle Monument, Chisnau
Rifle Monument, Chisnau
Rifle Monument, Chisnau
Rifle Monument, Chisnau

The next destination was the Jewish cemetery where there was a derelict synagogue I wanted to have a quick look at.

Abandoned Synagogue, Chisinau
Abandoned Synagogue, Chisinau
Abandoned Synagogue, Chisinau
Abandoned Synagogue, Chisinau

Before heading back to the apartment we stopped at the abandoned observatory. 

Abandoned Observatory, Chisinau
Abandoned Observatory, Chisinau

It was in a pretty derelict dilapidated state, Keith and I attempted to make our way to the top. We climbed over rubble to get up a staircase.

At the top there was a panoramic view. Down in the basement it smelt awful and looked like its where homeless people were living.

Abandoned Observatory, Chisinau
Abandoned Observatory, Chisinau

I drove us back to apartment where we had a short break before taking a walk into town. From one of the stalls I bought a Russian soldier’s hat with loads of Soviet pins badges on it.

Ash was disappointed that a stall that had been selling old soviet era badges the other day wasn’t there.  I don’t know if the badges on my hat are real old ones or replicas.

Chisinau

I searched for the best Pizza in Chisinau, first off it seemed like the place was nearby but then google decided it was a massive walk away so we abandoned it and went to Andy’s Pizza which was next to our local supermarket. It would turn out to be one of the best decisions we made.

Apart from the Margarita, all the other pizzas were meaty, I just wanted mushrooms on mine but the waitresses English was poor and my Romanian non-existent, I gave up and just ordered cheese and tomato which would have been fine. A couple of minutes later another waitress came over to ask what I had been trying to ask for so I told her and she told the first waitress. 

The pizza was great; I also ordered some potato balls which were amazing. We got dessert too which also didn’t disappoint.

Keith bought some dog food and we went in search of the stray dogs we kept seeing throughout our stay. Soon enough we spotted them. Keith tried to offer the food but most of them walked off.

One stayed but was too scared to come and get any food.

We went to find the others but they didn’t seem interested.


Day One – Journey to Chisinau
Day Two – Exploring Chisinau
Day Three – Trip to Transnistria – Tiraspol
Day Four – Further exploring of Chisinau
Day Five – Journey to Romania
Day Six, Seven, Eight – Romania

Day Five. Sunday 14th July 2019

Today we would leave Moldova and travel to Romania.

Without doing much research, we’d booked a flight to Moldova and a flight back from Romania. The original plan was to find a way from Chisinau to Bucharest by road but it was a lot further than we had anticipated, it would have wasted a whole day, the train would have been cool too but that would have taken even longer. So before the trip we found there are flights between the two cities for under £100 each. There was a flight on the day we had planned to travel and at a reasonable time.

I contacted the apartment owner and said we would be ready to leave at 10am. She said to give the keys to the cleaner who would come round then.

We left the apartment and set off in the direction of the airport stopping off for a quick browse in Mall-Dova. In one of the clothes shops I found a t-shirt with a Russian word on it. I held Google translate up to it. I bought it.

There wasn’t anybody behind the Sixt desk so we thought we’d check the cases in first. As soon as we had started walking away we spotted a Sixt man walking back to the desk. I gave the keys back, waited for them to inspect the car then signed some paperwork.

Bye Bye Logan Paul

After checking the cases in, we went through security in to the departure lounge.

I tried to find something to spend my remaining currency on in the duty free shop.  Ash had lots of money left. We looked for somewhere to change his money but there wasn’t anywhere. Outside of the country the money would be useless. Time was running out the plane was nearly ready to board.

The only solution would be for him to buy cigarettes. He still had lots of currency left. We had run out of time and had to board the plane.

It was probably the smallest plane I’ve ever been on; it was also my first time on a prop plane.

The flight was only around an hour long, just enough time to be given a roll, a Milka chocolate bar and a small glass of whatever drink we wanted.

I changed my sim card back to EE ready for the EU roaming.

The trip continues here http://leaderofourboat.co.uk/romania/


Day One – Journey to Chisinau
Day Two – Exploring Chisinau
Day Three – Trip to Transnistria – Tiraspol
Day Four – Further exploring of Chisinau
Day Five – Journey to Romania
Day Six, Seven, Eight – Romania

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