Prietenia Bucharest Chisinau train, gara de nord
Moldova "Prietenia" train in Bucharest Gara de Nord

Chisinau train station, Moldova
Chisinau Train station

Triumph arch in Chisinau downtown
Triumph Arch in Chisinau

Kathedral park, Chisinau, Moldova
Cathedral park in the center of Chisinau. Very green and lovely in summer time.

Chisinau fountain, Moldova
Fountain in the Central park of Chisinau. Very lively place.

rock n roll cafe in Chisinau downtown, Moldova
Rock-n-Roll cafe in downtown Chisinau

Sarah drinking kvas in Chisinau downtown, Moldova
Drinking kvas in Chisinau downtown

Central market in Chisinau downtown, Moldova
Chisinau Central market

Fully packed trolley in Chisinau, Moldova
Fully packed trolley in the center of Chisinau

Public transportation in Chisinau, Moldova
Chisinau is served by a well-run public transport system, making it very easy for the travelling foreigner to get around

Stefan cel Mare's fortress in Soroca town, Moldova
Soroca fortress

Park in Soroca downtown, Moldova
Fountain and park in Soroca

House of gypsy in Soroca, Moldova
Gypsy house in Soroca town

Deserted house in Besarabka village, Moldova
One of the many deserted houses in Besarabka village, Transdniestr

Old soviet car, Besarabka village, Moldova
Old soviet "JEEP"

People of Moldova and Transdniestr, Ilyusha and Sarah in Besarabka village
Ilyusha is the only kid in Besarabka village

Separating milk, Besarabka village, Transdniestr
Vera separating cream from fresh the milk

Local bikers in Besarabka village, Moldova
Local bikers of Bessarabka. No police to check them for safety

Donkey cart in Ivancea village, Moldova
Donkey cart. Slow, but safe!

Sarah's stay in Ivancea
hot July of 2007

Prior to my trip I read several books and all the online information on which I could get my hands so that I knew what to expect when I arrived in Moldova. However, nothing could have prepared me for the kindness and hospitality I encountered throughout my stay, which turned out to be one of the most enjoyable experiences I've ever had and the most important journey I have made to date.

Chisinau is a beautiful city, with many sights, sounds and smells to be experienced. My first trip into the city centre is very memorable, having spent time relaxing by the fountain in the park behind the statue of Stefan cel Mare, visiting an extensive collection of florists and the bazaar, and falling prey to a glass of Cvas from a street vendor, and a local beer and an ice cream in one of the many quaint and very affordable restaurants. Chisinau is served by a well-run public transport system, making it very easy for the travelling foreigner to get around. Twice did I get lost, through every fault of my own, and I found that bus drivers and Moldovan citizens were more than too happy to help me get to where I wanted to be. Don't be surprised to see people climbing into minibuses and trolley buses to the point of idiocy, when there blatantly ISN'T enough room, and be prepared to get squashed in yourself! If you're unsure of your stop, especially when on a minibus, as it is difficult to see out of the window once it becomes over packed, make sure you listen out for the driver, who will call out the name of your stop, and DON'T be afraid to ask someone if you are unsure of where you are. People are very friendly and really will help you!

I spent the majority of my stay in the village of Ivancea, with Marisha's parents, Baris and Katya. I was welcomed and treated like one of the family, and despite the language barrier, patience and perseverance allowed everyone to be understood, and even laughs, jokes and funny stories to be shared. I helped around the farm, watering, cooking, feeding the chickens and harvesting crops, and living with basic accommodation and bathroom facilities in the midst of such a warm and generous family was a very humbling and exhilarating experience. I was exceptionally well fed, and as a keen cook, I am very pleased with the Moldovan and Russian recipes I have been taught, and taken home with me. The village is very picturesque, comprising of some of the most unusually coloured buildings, and it will no doubt strike the Westerner as "out of this world". It is dotted with many Russian Orthodox shrines and often will you see villagers pass you by in horse-drawn traps as they work on their farmland, or fetching pails of water from the wells on which they rely. I was lucky enough to attend a Russian Orthodox Church service, which was very beautiful, and had a magically calming effect on Marisha's baby Lisa! She was mesmerised!

The famous and somewhat mysterious country of Transnistria, which attracts those with a desire to make the acquaintance of the unknown is not to be missed should you have the time to visit. I travelled with Boris to Besarabka, a village with a population of only twelve people, where family relatives live, and Marisha's cousin Lena, her husband and their son Ilyusha spend summers at the family's farm. I had the most wonderful time. Despite a minor kafuffle at customs, solved by Boris making a fuss, demanding to speak to the boss, and finally getting me into the country on a day-pass, the experience was one which I shall never forget. Only 30km across, the countryside struck me as hillier and much greener and lusher than Moldova, and with better roads, which was almost instantly noticeable! We arrived at the farm, and all warmly greeted me. Little Ilyusha, not spoilt for choice when it comes to playmates in such a little hamlet, adopted me for the day and made the best tour guide ever. He introduced me to all the animals; cows, pigs, goats, bees, geese, chickens and kittens, and took me on walks along all the paths around the village, showing me all the trees, not neglecting to pick fruit off them as we went. Lunch, as always, was delicious, consisting of vegetable soup and stew, with cheese and salad, fried courgette, bread and homemade wine. A couple of weeks later, I returned to visit the Transnistrian capital, Tiraspol. An hour's bus journey from Chisinau, I went with Natasha, our tour guide, and two fellow travellers. Natasha obtained transit visas on our behalf, and we crossed the border on foot, admiring the enormity of the flag, suspended high above the road. Tiraspol has many Soviet relics and monuments, including the famous tank, in front of which many newly-weds were having their wedding photos taken, and where the President of Trasnistria just happened to be the afternoon we visited, as well as monuments to lost war heroes and figures such as Lenin and Suvorov. We visited the Kvint cognac factory and warehouse, as well as a couple of shops. I took home a lovely Russian doll, as well as some stamps - from a country, which technically, is still classed as No Man's Land!

Two and a half hour's bus ride from Chisinau landed me in the northern town of Soroca. Well-known for its fortress, which stands rather magnificently, overlooking the River Dniestr, it was sadly closed when I arrived, but normally open to visitors who wish to peruse inside. It can be found through a lovely park, which I found with the help of a fellow passenger on the minibus. Despite not knowing either the Romanian or Russian word for "fortress", he and the driver worked out what it was I was interested in, and after the driver dropped us off, the other gentleman showed me the way. I was very touched by their kindness, and would never have found my way alone. Behind the fortress, and up the hill lies the Gypsy quarter, which can be reached after only ten minutes walk by even the unfittest of individuals (being Me!) The views overlooking the town and the river are wonderful, and I made sure I documented them with my trusty camera. The gypsies are renowned for their architecture, living in the most ornate and decorative of dwellings, and as the largest population of settled gypsies in the world. Back at the bottom of the hill, I spent the rest of my trip to the town exploring, finding another park, with a very grand, modern fountain, being enjoyed by many of the inhabitants, sitting on benches in the shade, and I stumbled across several other monuments, and a market. It was well worth the journey, to have retraced the footsteps of the author of one of the books I had read, finally living the trip that I had been planning for months.


I can honestly say the food was excellent! I was always very well looked after at mealtimes, and my diet was accommodated also. Living on the farm meant there were plenty of fruits and vegetables, all organically grown and beautifully prepared. In the city, blinis, a Russian bread/pastry with various fillings, are widely on sale in the street and market, and many fast food outlets and very affordable cafes and restaurants can be found. Vegetarians are well catered for, the popular dairy products of brinza (Moldovan cheese) and sour cream being national favourites, but vegans may find they have to cook for themselves to ensure they maintain their nutritional requirements. Be aware that palettes differ from one country, or one continent to the next - dishes may shock you as bland or too salty depending on where you are from and what you are used to. I am a very nosey chef, avidly adopting recipes from abroad whenever I have the opportunity, and I learned some wonderful things during my stay, which I don't miss at all, because I cook them all the time now that I'm home!

If you're in Chisinau, pass the Arc de Triomphe on your left, on the other side of the road, and crossing the road at the junction, turn right, and you'll see a yellow sign reading "Gratis" - most affordable and very pleasant. Continuing straight on past the Arc, cross the road at the intersection and the next corner on the left will lead you to a Rock n Roll cafe which has a great atmosphere for those interested in such musical tastes and very well priced beers.


I found everyone to be very kind, friendly, helpful and welcoming. However, be prepared to encounter an old-fashioned Soviet mentality, possibly mistrusting of new things and new ideas, as well as believing he or she knows what is best, and not willing to listen or be told any different, no matter how old or how independent a traveller you are. Remember you are not in your "normal" life at home, but in the company of people who will take it upon themselves to take care of you. It is nothing to fear, and by no means is it negative, but it can become very frustrating across a language barrier when all you want to do is explain you are fine and simply don't need fussing over. At 22, and having been completely independent since the age of 17, I found it very overwhelming, and not at all what I was used to, which was due to my personal experiences, not my hosts'. I resolved to accept their love and care as purely concern - after all, there would be nothing worse than landing in a country, especially for an extensive period of time, and staying with people most ungracious who couldn't care less how you feel and if you're eating enough. Moldovans are naturally a very nosey nation, and you may find they want to know where you're from, where your Mum and Dad are, where your boyfriend is, if you haven't got one - why haven't you got one, when will you get one, if you already have one, when will you marry and begin to reproduce? Where've you been? What are you doing now? Where are you going? And what are you going to do when you get there? It's quite innocuous and no harm is meant, it is just an interesting quirk of the people, who are endearing and of a warm-hearted disposition.

Remember, wherever you travel, people are products of their pasts, and while you will meet good and bad people wherever you go, a nation which has known difficulty and hardship and which continues to struggle will present you with a more varied range of personalities. Moldova is by no means an exception to the rule, and neither is it an outstanding example. Its people will accommodate and take care of you. It has so much to offer travellers and visitors who wish to come here with the right motives. If you wish to enjoy striking architecture, vast landscapes and delicious cuisine, while staying in comfortable accommodation with a family who will show you what Life here is about, you will not be disappointed. As well as learning a lot about the country, I learnt a lot about myself at an important time in my life. It is certainly the best trip I have made yet, and I shall be back in the not-too-distant future. Come and experience the best of Moldova, and let Moldova bring out the best in you.



Bus stop in Ivancea village, Moldova
Bus stop in Ivancea village

Katherine in the field, Ivancea, Moldova
Katherine selecting garlic

Boris working in the field

Sarah in the field, Ivancea, Moldova
Sarah selecting garlic

Sarah in the field, Ivancea village, Moldova
Sarah in the field

Country meal in Ivancea village, Moldova
Country meal. Katherine, Marisha and little Lisa at the table

Vegetarian meal in Ivancea village, Moldova
Vegetarian meal cooked by Katherine

Ivancea village, view of the forest
View of the forest from Katherine's garden

Ivancea village, view from the hill
Ivancea village, view from the hill

Local woman with buckets of water, Ivancea village, Moldova
Village "babushka" carrying buckets full of water

well in Ivancea village, Moldova
Well in Ivancea

traditional moldovan house in Ivancea village, Moldova
Colourfull house in Ivancea

Local shop in Ivancea village, Moldova
Local shop

Jiguli old car, Ivancea village, Moldova
"Jiguli" old car

Horse cart in Ivancea village, Moldova
Horse cart - local way of transportation

Horse cart in Ivancea village, Moldova
Another horse cart

Horse driver Ivancea village, Moldova
One more horse cart

Young horse driver, Ivancea village, Moldova
Young horse driver

Horse and foal, Ivancea vilage, Moldova
Lovely scene

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