(Visited: June 2009)
Moldova, Moldovia or Malta; Quite Juicy Nevertheless??
Kashif, how about a trip to Moldova? My manager enquired! Which country?? Did you say Malta? He wasn’t sure himself! There was a confusion where I need to visit; Moldova, Moldavia or Malta. We were not alone here; most people haven’t even heard this name before. Moldova often gets confused with Maldives or Malta. Even the country’s name is pronounced in two ways; Moldova (current & official name) or Moldavia (form Russian, not used anymore). I was excited regardless!
(Click on Photos to Enlarge)
The name alone was quite juicy! My manager had met an official from a company called ‘Orange’ who expressed his interest in knowing more about our company’s products hence I was summoned to visit Orange in Malta (which turned out to be Moldova later). And who was that official? You will find soon!
I beat the Queen:
Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain has visited 116 countries; nearly 75% of all the countries on this planet and list include even Iran & Pakistan. Yet I beat her on Moldova; Her Majesty has NOT visited it!
Where is it then?
On searching the internet I found that Moldova is a small country sandwiched geographically between Romania & Ukraine, and culturally between Romania & Russia. Moldova was part of Romania till 1940 when Russia forcefully gobbled it up. Moldova secured its independence in 1991. No wonder its official & most common language is Romanian but Russian is also spoken. In short Moldovan people are more Romanian ethnically & culturally than anything else. I have never visited any Russian state. This would have been an opportunity; though it is not Russia anymore.
What is Moldova?
Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe but recent years have seen a limited recovery. Moldova is landlocked country with population of 4.5 million. Economy depends on agriculture largely. The land area is only 13,000 sq miles. Chisinau (spoken as Kishniev) is the capital city.
Noisiest Ever Flight to Chisinau:
My flight to Chisinau was via Vienna. The plane I boarded from Vienna to Chisinau was an old fan propelled and the noisiest I have ever travelled in my life. Take off was scary; I wasn’t sure the plane could really take off but it did but I was literally scared till it rose to full height. I sat in the front as it is always least noisy but this time it was quite opposite; an unbearable thundery noise was tearing my ears apart. So much so that air hostess noticed my agony and offered me to take the last seat at the back which I did indeed; yes it was far quieter there. These planes are going out of service next year, she assured me. What about return flight I enquired?? Enjoy till it lasts, she smiled!
Chisinau airport was telling stories of its past; few old Russian planes were rotting away. A driver was waiting for me as I came out of the airport. The office secretary was also there; I wasn’t expecting this reception! I had to sort few matter at airport she explained, hmm… Soon we were driving back to the office.
Gates of Chisinau:
Two famous landmark buildings; a set of high rise flats known as “Gates of Chisinau” were visible from miles as we approached the city. Soon we arrived at our offices. It was an old house converted into office. Doors were closed and there was no guard. We knocked; soon a person peeped through a hole and then opened the door. Welcome to (former) Russia!
The Chisinau is a rusty slow-paced old city with only 800,000 inhabitants. It is quite green though. Architecture somewhat reminded me of Eastern Europe/Russia. Buildings are built few feet higher than the street. Stairs in front leads to the main entrance. There is one main street in the city. Most of the major buildings, offices, shops are located around this road.
Among trams, busses and cars, there are mini vans used as public transport similar to the ones in Lahore and are called “Maxi Taxies”; just wave your hand to one and enjoy the ride. Chisinau is a small city so I just walked around in its peaceful streets. The only scary thing was a large number of astray dogs wandering in the streets. I enquired about a traditional restaurant to go for dinner. There was one famous restaurant very near to the hotel I was staying in. The interior was excellent, the food was fine; and the best part was that musicians and singers sang live song standing next to my table!
People are polite & friendly, and one of the most beautiful I have seen; blue eyes; golden hair and fair skin. I wanted to know more about the culture so I invited the young engineer working with me to dinner. Unfortunately he was busy but he showed me around in the city during the day.
I thought I was the first one to visit this country but you will be surprised that I manage to meet a Pakistani here, proving that Pakistanis are found everywhere! The official who invited me to Moldova was a Pakistani!
I used next day to walk around in the main street and its surroundings. Could not decide where to go for dinner eventually settling for a McDonalds;
Bad Country for Army:
Moldovan army consists of only 8,500 soldiers. They have no tanks and almost no fighter plane; Moldova sold entire of its fleet of MIG-29 fighters to United States in 1997. And as it doesn’t touch any sea, there is No Navy at all. As a result Moldova spends only 2.5 percent approximately of the total budget on defence; wonderful isn’t it?
4 Flights and 5 Capitals in a Day:
Return flight was interesting; I had to reach London but my connections made it four separate flights passing through five capitals. I had breakfast in Chisinau & boarded the same dreaded plane to Vienna (capital of Austria). I visited the city and had lunch there. Then I flew to Stockholm (capital of Sweden). Little later I was onboard to Copenhagen (capital of Denmark). After a small stay there I was flying again to London; very tired & completely disorientated by the time I reached home;
Bye Moldova – probably forever!