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September 10, 2002

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Chisinau, capital of Moldova, carries life into the streets. Each morning vendors transform empty avenues into open malls. They string rope between the trees along the road and hang their clothes, carpets, and sheets. They open vans full of fruit and cooking utensils. They lay books and pirated cds on tables. Browsers jostle and elbow their way down these crowded venues. Old ladies, heads covered by multi-colored scarves, examine the goods with sharp, predatory eyes. The market overflows into the bus station which itself is a controlled riot. To find your bus you must weave past vehicles parked at every odd angle and read signs or listen to drivers that shout out their destinations. Outside this lively center the city grows in a grid of tree lined streets and low buildings. Chisinau deceives you into believing it's a town and not a city. Everything seems to be around the corner. Yet with 600,000 people living here, the city isn't small., so that short stroll to the opera house turns into a long walk.
Chisinau's overflowing central market - everyday it's a rugby scrum searching for bargains.
Women line the streets, human clothes hangers, selling their old outfits.
Stephan the Great, a prominent Moldavian hero. Don't tell the Romanians, since they also claim Stephan to be their hero. But these countries have only been divided since WWII and down the road they may be re-united. The official language of Moldova is Romanian (despite half-hearted attempts to transmute this Romanian into something different) although most people, at least the educated class, speak Russian as their first language. Confused? So are the Moldavians...
Chisinau's Arc de Triomphe (1846) yet no one can tell us who the Moldavians triumphed over.
A great couple we met on our first night, Angela and Alexei. They are ethnic Moldavians who speak Russian and have quit their jobs as doctors to become linoleum salespeople because the pay is much better (doctors are paid starvation wages by the government).