Noroc and greetings from Moldova! 😀
It is currently the poorest and least visited country in Europe, but I would have never guessed that based on my experience there. On the contrary, I found the capital of Chisinau (pronounced Kish-eh-now) to be quite refined. 😍
During my visit, I grabbed a coffee at an outdoor kiosk and headed to Valea Morilor Park, a leafy park on a lake, where people were jogging, walking their dogs, fishing, playing chess, and there was even a wedding photo shoot. 👰
This guy was sitting on a bench below a floating mask. If only he would have scooted over a bit more! Hah!
Basically, what I learned about the economy from my local guide was that this country has switched hands so many times throughout the years, they are constantly losing out on all their savings. For example, back in the early 20th century, they were known as Bessarabia and were part of Greater Romania. They had this currency during that time. 🇷🇴
Side note: our guide had all this old currency, which made the explanation much more helpful!
But then, after the war in 1940, Bessarabia dissolved and they became a satellite nation of the Soviet Union. When that change occurred, their currency and all their savings became worthless! After taking that major hit to their economy, they slowly began making savings using this Soviet currency. 💸
But when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, they ONCE AGAIN lost all their savings! Their money became useless. Our guide said that these events are a total joke now. People have thousands and thousands of dollars worth of old currency just sitting like stacks of paper in their homes. Anyway, after taking that major blow, they finally became independent and adopted their own currency, the Moldovan Leu. 💰
Fun fact: The various coins can be put together like a puzzle to form a bull. So cool!
But at this point, people were so terrified of their currency collapsing again, they’ve built exchange places on every corner, just in case they need to quickly switch to something stable like the US Dollar or the Euro. It was crazy…I saw five currency exchanges on one block alone! 💵
Anyway, their economy has been slowly increasing by 5% each year, and the government is making big investments in startup companies as well. We can only hope that things continue to progress in that direction in the future! Anyway, tourism is definitely still new here, and the locals seem very curious of foreigners. This cute, well-dressed old woman would do circles around the block just to watch our tour group. 😂
They have fresh dill in so many of their dishes, like plăcinte, a pastry filled with cheese, cabbage, or potato, and mămăligă, a cornmeal filled with beef and topped with ricotta, and egg.🥐
Up next, I went into the unrecognized country of Transnistria, one of the last remnants of the Soviet Union. Stay tuned to hear all about it! Until then! 😀
To get to Moldova from Skopje on a budget, I took three buses. The first was a 5-hour overnight bus to Sofia, Bulgaria, then a 7-hour day bus to Bucharest, Romania. After spending a day in Bucharest, a city I had explored back in 2016, I took my final overnight bus to Chisinau. The total cost was 50 USD, but I also saved on two nights of accommodation, making it incredibly budget friendly! Tickets can also be bought without advanced reservation. Here are a few shots from my day in Bucharest.
I didn’t try any traditional Romanian food, but the street eats, like pizza and gyros were phenomenal!
While in Chisinau, I stayed at Tapok Hostel. The host was really sweet and the hostel is trying to raise money for animal shelters in Moldova. They even had a new litter of kittens they were caring for at the hostel. So cute! 🐈