I spent two days in Chisinau which gave me a taster of the country
by Essexgirl09 on October 7, 2013
I visited two markets whilst I was in Chisinau, although there are several, in the city and its environs. The main central market that I was aware of, is on Strada Armeneasca (Armenian Street) was the closest to a large locals market. I believe it goes all the way through to Strada Tighin on the other side but I didn’t spot an exit this way (however this may have been just as well as I think we would have been quite disorientated by this point). It is a large market where the locals shop and sells virtually everything you need from fruit, groceries, clothes and household goods. You can purchase eyelash curlers, shoes and laundry detergent if you so wish. In the end I just purchased a leather belt for the equivalent of £4 (I wonder if locals would pay the same, but I was happy with the price). As a true locals market, you only get locals here, so not everyone will speak some English. What I liked most about it was the snapshot of local city life.Not far from Armenian Street, on the main drag (Boulevard Stefan cel Mare) by the junction with Strada Mihai Eminescu, is a good art and craft tourist market. There are some pretty paintings, but nothing eye catching (Moldovan art doesn’t have a distinctive ‘style’ that you can identify), mainly still life, portraits and local scenes. This is also the place to buy Russian or Ukrainian nested dolls. The Ukrainian versions apparently have different designs within in. As well as traditional painted ones you could get ones with political figures (Obama or Merkel for example) or animals. There are also Soviet ‘antiquities’ such as hats and badges and a limited amount of embroidered craft goods. I didn’t make any purchases as nothing really grabbed me, but prices seemed reasonable. It is open air, so weather could have a factor in its appeal!
by Essexgirl09 on October 4, 2013
Central Chisinau is hard to explain. After the Nazis pulled out of the city during the Second World War, they destroyed most of it, so the new Soviet era built city is antiseptic, impersonal and has no real personality or charm. The Central Park (Stefan cel Mare) nearby is lovely (see separate review), and St Stephen’s statue marks the end of the park and the wide open and bland boulevard of which I am now writing about (Boulevard Stefan cel Mare). Just up the road from the park is Government House, where the Moldovan cabinet meets, with the Moldovan flag proudly flying from its roof. It is a large, uninspiring building and I don’t believe it can be visited. Behind here is a concert hall with some nice bars.Opposite Government House is Cathedral Park and the Triumphal Arch. The park has some lovely green areas, but roadside it is paved. The arch was built in the 1840s making it one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city. It does have a bell but it is not used usually, and also contains a clock, which faces outwards. There is a flag hanging from the centre. Beyond the arch, you walk down a few steps to the square and there is a giant chessboard with large pieces on the same scale, and often local men having a game, watched by other locals and tourists alike. I thought this a charming addition to an otherwise sterile, impersonal environment. Next you will see the bell tower affiliated to the neoclassical Church of the Nativity. The church was built in the 1830s and is set back from the main street. Like much of the city, it was bombed during the Second World War and the bell tower was destroyed in the 1960s by the Communists. The church has subsequently been repaired, and like those in many former Soviet countries has been well-restored (apparently work is still ongoing) so it looks a much more modern building than it actually is. The bell tower was rebuilt in the late nineties and I had hoped to go up it, but I am not sure it is possible. At the bottom is a religious gift shop affiliated to the church. It is free to go into the church, and whilst you are not supposed to take photos, I did manage a sneaky one to confirm that the Russian Orthodox churches are as well decorated and gilded as the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox churches over the border. The park area around it is very attractive, although more modest than the nearby Stefan cel Mare park, it is still pleasant and popular. Around this area there are shops, bars and restaurants also, much of the area is dominated by business however and the UN offices, various government departments and international embassies are all around this vicinity.
by Essexgirl09 on September 27, 2013
The Dacia Hotel is a four star hotel located in central Chisinau. It is well located for various government institutions, the UN and various other businesses as well as the attractive and bustling city park. It is situated on 31st August 1989 Street, named after the day that the Moldovans switched from Cyrillic script to Latin script after independence. It seems to be mainly a business hotel, offering conference facilities. Whilst look fairly unassuming from the outside, the interior of the hotel is very well maintained, spacious and modern. The reception area, is very smart with a marble finish. I found the lifts a bit odd. When arriving on your floor the button you pressed when you got in, popped out loudly. I never got used to hearing a loud noise in a lift. Bypassing the odd art on the corridor walls we entered out twin room (approx. €100 per room) and found an entrance hall containing fridge/mini-bar and mirror fronted wardrobe. To the right was a good sized bathroom with large shower, WC, basin, and heated towel rail. There were some ledges for your stuff and basic complimentary toiletries. The bedroom was quite small with minimal furniture: twin beds with shiny, green bedspreads, a bedside table, luggage rack, reading lamps and a TV (no English channels could be found, although we were informed they should be available). The room was air-conditioned, but we preferred to open the window for fresh air. We had a varied experience at breakfast. On the Friday, the larger breakfast room was setup with an extensive buffet of hot and cold food. On the Saturday, breakfast was in the Decebel restaurant (open for lunch and dinner in traditional Moldovan style), and was a narrower selection. Although we arrived only 10-15 minutes after it opened, they had run out of juice, cereal bowls and milk. Overall this pleasant but slightly bland hotel worked for us as we found it easy to get to where we wanted. I found the staff to be friendly and polite, if a bit slow off the mark at breakfast on the second day. If you can get a good deal (most likely at weekends) then this is worth a try
by Essexgirl09 on October 2, 2013
Ştefan cel Mare Central Park (named for St Stephen the Great) is the main city park in Central Chisinau, Moldova. Chisinau was apparently one of the greenest cities in the former Soviet Union and we were lovely that this pretty, tranquil park was situated so close to our hotel. The park is surrounded by 31st August 1989 Street, Boulevard Stefan cel Mare (the street Parliament is on), Maria Cebotan Street and Mitropolit Gavril Banulescu-Bodoni Street. At 17 acres, this two hundred year old park (formerly known as Pushkin Park in the Soviet era) is the largest and oldest in the city. Much of the city was destroyed by Nazis at the end of the Second World War, so now the oldest surviving monument in the city, the statue of Russian poet Puskin (erected 1885), is here. There is also an Avenue of Literature with busts of key Moldovan and Romanian writers (none of which I had ever heard of). In the centre is a large, attractive fountain and this area also has a few stalls selling drinks, ice creams and snacks. There is a children’s playground in one corner and nearby is a small area with simple, public exercise equipment. One of my favourite aspects was that there were lots of acacia lined paths across the park, with benches alongside. Some were in the sun and some sheltered by the trees offering some shade. Although there were lots of benches, on a sunny Friday afternoon, most were occupied by at least one person. I was surprised to find that I could get free wi-fi in the park, and discovered that it is available in Moldovan parks as standard. To be honest it was erratic and I needed to keep re-connecting, but handy if you just want to download your e-mails, rather than surf the internet, but availability may have been better further in. I spent a very pleasant few hours chilling in the park with my Kindle, on a bench, in the shade. It is very tranquil for such a centrally located park
Orheiul Vechi is a 13th century cave monastery situated approximately 60km from the Moldovan capital Chisinau. It is apparently Moldova’s 3rd most visited attraction (the first two are wineries). I have to say I was intrigued to see how the Moldovans ‘do’ tourism. You can get here by public bus from Central Chisinau bus station but we did it as part of a tour. Our tour lasted about four and a half hours including travelling time in good roads (at least until you get to the village) and hotel pick up. As the monastery doesn’t take up too much time, a traditional dinner at a local restaurant was included. Total cost was €25. Russian Orthodox Monks were here until the 18th century when local villagers took over the monastery and built a small church above ground. This was shut in 1944 under the communist regime and abandoned until 1996 when the church re-opened and a few monks came back to work in and restore the monastery. They live off site now, but there is one old monk here during the day and early evening. The cave monastery is…well… in a cave in a remote village less than an hour’s drive from our hotel in Central Chisinau. The coach dropped us in the village and we walked about 7minutes up a steep, uneven incline to the door of the monastery in a cliff face. If you have a torch that is a good idea, as it gets darker as you go through the tunnel. The tunnel is enough to stand upright in and whilst narrow, is not claustrophobically so, and you could walk two abreast. It is also fairly short and at opens into a small, dark room and you can go outside here too. There is a hand rail as you go down. At the end of the tunnel are a few scarves and wrap skirts. In Russian orthodox churches women are expected to cover their heads with a scarf and keep their shoulders and legs covered too. Long trousers, or hoodie sweaters also seemed to be acceptable. Inside you will see a small room with artefacts, and alter and various icons. I am not sure if you can take photos, it seemed to intimate and inappropriate. There is a small door leading to an earthen man-made ledge outside. The ledge is only a metre or two wide and could make those with a fear of heights uncomfortable. There is no hand rail out here and it would not conform to Western European safety standards! Apparently a few people have fallen, but were not seriously injured. I would not be keen to test this for myself. The view is amazing and you can see the locations of several other cave monasteries, now long since closed and beyond repair or ease of access. You can get a good view from the monastery back door if you are not comfortable on the ledge. Our guide took us into a small room at the side which was where the monks used to live/sleep. Here it has very low ceilings and most people will have to keep their heads down, or bend over if particularly tall.That is about it! Moldova’s third most popular tourist attraction is done in about half an hour. After you can walk up and round the back of the monastery bell tower (not big or tall) to see the newer church (1905).
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