Today saw me lose my fleece. I hung it up on a coathook in the train compartment, and ended up leaving without it because it was hot outside so didn’t think of it. I do this sort of thing a lot – in SE Asia I left my hat in restaurants and cafes about 14 times. With me it can sometimes be ‘out of sight out of mind’ with clothes and ephemera, and is why my work ID swipe card was permanently tied to my trouser belt.
We wandered back to the station in the late morning but Chisinau station is barely used (about 9 trains a day, which for a European capital sounds a little weird, but it’s basically only on one rail route and in this part of the world they favour long infrequent trains rather than short frequent ones. Also there are no suburban lines), so there was no-one around to ask and no lost property office. Bah.
Chisinau feels like quite a small city. The train didn’t seem that popular, and coming out of the station into the main square, rather than the taxis and bustle you expect from a normal mainline station, I was greeted by a street market with people selling all kinds of wares (though mainly women’s clothing and electrical items) just on the side of the road.
There seems to be two kinds of bus here; the trolleybus – a long single-decker powered by overhead lines that acts like a normal bus route (although with less frequent stops), and some of which look like they were rejects from other Soviet states – and the minibus – effectively white vans that follow fixed routes but which seem to be able to be stopped at any point on the route. The former have conductors, the latter you pay he driver (often by handing your money to other passengers who pass it down the bus), which feels a bit more like Africa than Europe.
Chisinau isn’t exactly beautiful. There’s a lot of trees and some of the city centre does feel quite ‘green’, but it’s punctuated by somewhat Soviet architecture (grey buildings, straight lines, not much adornment). And statues. I guess it looks pretty much exactly how you’d expect, really.
I’m staying the night with another couchsurfing host, a chap from Germany called Gerhard who’s been here a few years, originally on a volunteering program. One of the things he does is take classes for teenagers who want to learn/improve their English, so obviously he invited me along for a couple of sessions today.
The weather started out dry and hot, but took a turn for the worse mid-afternoon, with a sudden thunderstorm. This wouldn’t have been so bad, except that we were out walking in the main park at the time, waiting for Gerhard’s lessons to start, and neither of us had coats. In addition, about 10 minutes previously, the rubber ‘hook’ on my left sandal that was holding the cord in place snapped, making the sandal pretty useless so I was also barefoot by necessity.
It’s interesting how a 20-minute rainstorm can cause so many floods – some of the roads were pretty much torrents of water, just as I’d seen in Budapest. Although the rain eased a bit by the time we decided to escape the cover of the trees, it ended up raining pretty much all day so by the time we got to the class, we were quite soaked.
It being in the middle of a series of holidays here, plus the weather being wet, and the classes themselves being voluntary, not too many people turned up for either of them (he hosts two, one after the other). However, those did turn up seemed happy to chat with a native English speaker. They seemed quite able to understand me, and hopefully they could see the difference between the way I speak and the way that Gerhard speaks – they don’t get many native English speakers pass through.
There was no set pattern for the discussions, they were just whatever the conversation naturally led on to, so we were free to talk about pretty much anything. I did talk a bit about the UK though; it does seem as well that quite a few people have heard of Nottingham, although oddly mostly because of Nottingham Forest football club rather than anything mythological involving bandits…
It was only drizzling by the time we left about 6pm, but the roads and some pavements were still pretty flooded. Still barefoot (which made it psychologically easier to wade through the floods), it took only about 20 minutes to get back home.
In the evening (now with my heavy, worn-out, “I was going to dump these after Chernobyl” shoes on), we went out to a local restaurant with one of Gerhard’s friends, a lady from Romania. There’s a lot of Romanian/Moldovan cross-over, and many people seem to have dual nationality (Romania seems to have allowed Moldovans to take Romanian nationality quite easily depending on family history a couple of years ago). Recently it seems too that Moldovans have been allowed free right of passage into the EU (or Schengen area, at least), but as most of those who would want to seem to have already added Romanian nationality, it isn’t expected to make a lot of difference.