I hadn’t heard many good things about Moldova before going there. It’s apparently the poorest country in Europe. I’d been told that it’s also the saddest, that it’s the hub of sex trafficking in Europe, and that it’s thoroughly and hopelessly corrupt.
I didn’t really see any of that. I spent most of my time in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, lazily walking around and eating. There was a restaurant right next to my hotel that offered American-style food that I hadn’t had for several months, so that was fun. I got a pizza (it had corn on it, but close enough) and a slice of cheesecake. It was great. Also in Chisinau I saw the usual array of monuments, churches, parks, government buildings, etc. The word I keep coming back to when I describe a lot of the cities (like Chisinau) that were either established or significantly built up during Soviet times is pleasant. Chisinau is pleasant.
One thing that surprised me was how much Russian I heard. Probably 90% of what I saw written in Chisinau (Kishinev in Russian) was in Romanian, but 95% of what I heard people speaking was Russian. I thought I’d hear a lot more Romanian.
I was in Moldova for all of two days and Chisinau for one, so I can’t really attest to how corrupt or awash in sex trafficking the country is, but I can say that I left Moldova with zero negative impressions. All of the people I met were very friendly. The Moldovan countryside is beautiful (very green hills and lots of vineyards), making my several long bus rides in Moldova some of the most enjoyable I’ve ever had. Moldova may be the poorest country in Europe, but it’s all relative—we’re definitely not talking heart-of-Africa levels of squalor here. At some point I’d love to go back and explore the place a bit more.