From Baltic to the Black Sea #11

Chisinau, Moldova
10 September 1999

Dear all,

Yesterday, I visited Transdnestria but missed the bus to Comrat, capital of Gagauzia. Felt quite sad at missing the opportunity to stay at a Gagauz (a Christian Orthodox Turkish tribe) home. I rang my Gagauz friend to apologise. No bus to remote Comrat until the following morning, but I have to set off for Kiev in the afternoon. Felt very disappointed at failing myself and friends, especially knowing the legendary hospitality of the Turkish/Turkic peoples.

To comfort myself (lame excuse), I had dinner at the city’s most expensive restaurant – a fantastic meal at a place where lots of personal bodyguards and drivers (all dressed in suits and ties) of the diners stood outside waiting – the Lonely Planet says ministers dine here. Seeing the intimidating crowd, I almost didn’t go enter the restaurant – I thought some mafia chiefs were in – which was probably true – ministers, businessmen and mafia – they were probably all the same. In any case, I was the only diner in casuals.

Anyway, it was an enjoyable Moldovan meal – Moldovan/Romanian cuisine is sophisticated compared to Ukrainian or Baltic cuisine and the meal cost only US$10. The waiters dressed in tuxedos and light candles at your table. They speak English too and the one serving me was an engineering graduate – sad fact of life in ex-Soviet states. I also met a group of World Bank officials and had some red wines with them.

This evening I will take an overnight train to Kiev, capital of Ukraine. I will arrive there smelling like a pig, for the city’s water supply has been shut down for repairs and I couldn’t take a bath. The well-trained staff at Hotel National, one of the best in Chisinau, had taken the liberty not to inform me in advance. The smiling front manager told me that I was lucky as I had washed up the day before. I am indeed impressed by their fantastic service and kind consideration.

Pray that I will survive the Moldovan-Ukrainian border checks – crossing ex-USSR borders are mini-adventures by themselves.

See you guys again in Kiev.


Wee Cheng