21 February 2011

On the Moldovan Road

We've spent more time on the road in Moldova than we planned or we'd like. We've been here for seven days and a full one of them has been spent driving. Twenty-four hours is a modest estimate, really, and it was completed in a four day period. The reason we've driven so much, is that there is no tourist infrastructure outside of the capital. We have encountered four places to sleep in all, two of which were directly across from each other on the highway, three in which we slept. Fortunately, Moldovan countryside isn't flat or boring. There are rolling hills and vineyards constantly on each side of the car - just no inns.
The weather has digressed since Ukraine and the new-fallen snow has made things interesting. With a lack of plowing, drivers rely on the treads made by cars past before them. Even on a two-way road around the bend of a high cliff like this, cars from each direction move along the brown tire tracks, dodging each other at the very last minute.
Luckily, there really aren't many cars on the road at all. Outside close proximity of Chisenau, automobiles are few and far between. Mostly, it's just us, people walking to bus stops, van taxis and horse drawn carts. Mostly, the horses pull loads of lumber or hay, but sometimes they have more precious cargo. This is the first time we've seen pigs (that aren't on a plate) in a very long time.
Now and then a lawnmower will pass by on the highway or a motorbike with a sidecar. Since Ukraine, we've seen more single person motored vehicles than we ever knew existed and no two have been exactly alike. It's amazing to see them put-put by slower than the horse pulling the guy pulling a dozen tree trunks. Slower, even, than the old woman with a cane pulling her wagon-load of apples.On the Moldovan road, this is our snack. A piece of cake and an ultra sweet instant coffee is pretty delicious in a what-the-hell-am-i-putting-in-my-body sort of way. This is just from an 'alimentara' (grocery) and cost a buck altogether. The combo is served on very pretty china in actual 'cafeneas,' which adds an extra comforting touch. At more popular joints, you'll find couples of twenty-somethings flirting or small groups of teenagers gabbing over their cake slices and hot beverages. Sure, you can buy your own instant coffee packets at the market or pastry at the bakery, but it's nice to have a reason to go out and sit somewhere that isn't your kitchen or your room or your car.
Driving to Soroca, we noticed this wall of graffiti. We hadn't seen anything like it in the country and with the virtual white-out of a sky, it was particularly striking. Consulting our roadmap, we realized that just beyond the mural, over the Dnistru River was Ukraine. We waved hello to our last home and continued on our way.
Driving around in Moldova, we noticed that Saturday must be laundry day. All of a sudden, there were lines filled with clothes in front of every house. When you're driving aimlessly, looking for accommodations on Moldovan Laundry Day, all you want is to feel at home somewhere you can do the two loads of laundry that are festering in a canvas bag at the back of your car.
After three days of driving, this is the fur coat our car got. It added to our laundry quite a bit, as it's next to impossible to get in or out without brushing our legs against the mud-ice shield. I'm not sure you can tell from the picture, but it's really pretty impressive. Inches thick. Somehow, no other car looks as dirty. We just like to think they're less adventurous.
We got to feel good about being incognito for a while, until one person after another told us that cops stop cars for having illegible plates. So, we dutifully and regretfully cleaned off our informative rectangles, making their glaring New Yorkness more obvious than ever. Then, got back on the road.

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