25 February 2011

Chisinau Aboveground

We've spent nine nights in Chisinau, the longest we've spent in one location since leaving New York. Despite that fact or maybe because of it, we still haven't been able to come up with our impressions of the place. Maybe having a more fleeting look at a city helps give it a perspective, maybe it's just a hard place to really pinpoint. It's not really a pretty city, having been destroyed during The Patriotic War and rebuilt in Soviet style. It doesn't feel particularly inviting, unless you're into casinos and nightclubs. Very simply, Chisinau has been 'home.'
On our second day here, Merlin's mac went kaput. So, we brought it into a service center and spent the next three days walking there to check on it and walking back home. (In the end, it was repaired and all charges were covered by his warranty - which was shocking). About a ten minute walk from the service place, we ran into this church being constructed and a gaggle of children in a playground, further was a lake with a beach and a man rocking his boat back and forth to break up ice around the dock. As we walked around some more, we heard the roar of a crowd, which we followed to find a soccer game in process. Our first futbol match the trip.
That particular day was perfect for rambling and we made our way through the awninged tunnel of this flower shop. As we approached, woman after woman would pop out from behind a door and welcome us inside. There were Valentine's Day bouquets on sale and some really beautiful roses. Their windows were opaque with condensation and they all wore some version of a furry wool vest over their outfits. I wondered if all the unsold flowers would wind up in nearby cemeteries.
On the main strip, there are more currency exchange places and banks than either of us ever thought possible in a single place, let alone on a single avenue. There's shopping galore, but only one of the stores had a name we recognized- Hugo Boss - though Mall Dova is filled with them: Swatch, Ecco, a shut down IStore and a Forever 18 (not 21, which is sort of suspect). Dotting the sidewalks are adds for 'beauty salons' which list cosmetic surgery procedures as opposed to the normal mani, pedi, highlights, etc. Our favorite one (not pictured) featured about ten allusions to a stripclub, including a pole, fluorescent lighting and even the "spotlight" of the operating table's overhead light.
Every time we've passed this government building, there's been a small protest. This was one of the livelier groupings. Usually, it was just a small cluster of fairly old people holding signs that read 'death to' something or someone we couldn't quite understand. A police officer always stood nearby looking somewhat bored. If we had spent two days in Chisinau, we probably would have inquired about the protest, but passing it every day made it just another part of the scenery.
Something we got used to in Ukraine was turning a corner and almost smacking into a bust jutting out of the side of a building. This skill came in handy on Tolstoy Street, which we turned onto every day on our way to the city center. We were usually running at a pretty high speed across toward Leo. Pedestrian walkways are marked with white lines in Chisinau, but it's still up to you to just start walking across and trust that the oncoming traffic will stop. It took us a few days to get good at this and neither of us can say we enjoy the thrill too much
Many of the streets here are named after dates (for example,31 August 1989 Street) and buildings often have a year prominently displayed in tribute to some event in Moldovan history. A lot of this is due to the fact that there was a massive wave of remaining things after the country's independence from the Soviet Union. I was going to use this picture as an example, citing the "1430" that was printed over and over again along this wall, but when I looked at it more closely, I realized that 1430 wasn't a date, it was a phone number, just like TaxiBus 1414 and Taxi 1406. But, hey, there's a kid in it. So, I posted anyway.

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