26 February 2011

Well, Well, Well...

Except for the citizens of a few big towns - Chisinau, Balti, some of Tiraspol - people in Moldova get their water from communal wells. They show up on the side of the road in villages and in isolated fields. They are sometimes decorated, sometimes plain, sometimes dilapidated, almost always with well-worn paths leading up to them. This is an example of a levered well - the handle acts as a counterweight to help pull up the water.
Unlike in Ukraine - which also has very few municipal water and sewage systems in the countryside - Moldovan wells tend to be shared amongst several families. In Ukraine, each house would have its own well, usually quite close to the building. Here, people walk to a larger, town well and it is common to see people gathered there, waiting their turn at the crank.
Almost all of these shafts were covered both by some type of cap and by a roof - probably to keep the water-drawing people dry as much as to keep detritus and snow out of the water. Often, the wells and shelters would be decorated with elaborate designs, colors and trim.
Most of the cranks were operated by hand and connected to chains, not rope. The buckets had interesting designs - notice how this one points down in one corner. My theory is that it makes it less likely that the bucket will land and float on the water instead of filling, but I'm not sure.
It's interesting to me how wells seem tied so closely to a primitive way of life, or to underdevelopment. It's amazing how swiftly indoor plumbing has become normal in Europe - snaking pipes through old buildings isn't simple. I'm actually surprised that more of the continent doesn't rely on their old wells for water.
We actually haven't turned a well crank yet - partly because we don't want to look silly if someone comes along, but mostly because we don't want to drink the water. Sadly, all of our fluids come out of plastic or glass bottles - some of the outhouses are a little to close to seem safe.

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