AWAY TRIP REVIEW: CHISINAU, MOLDOVA, OCTOBER 2016
Chisinau (Chișinău), the capital city of Moldova, is one of the greenest in Europe with trees and parks everywhere you look. It has a population of half a million and one of them must surely be the world hop-scotch champion; the paths and pavements are decrepit and crumbling, necessitating much leaping over craters and potholes. The buses are overcrowded and the cab drivers are daredevils, driving taxis with no seatbelts, speeding along at the first sign of a clear stretch. Inexpensive though, even when you were being ripped off it was still dirt cheap at an average of less than £1.20 a journey.
Along with the usual array of statutes to national heroes, museums, cathedrals etc. The Central Market was worth a look, a sprawling wide open space of nearly 5,000 stalls selling everything that you need and much much more that you don’t.
Apart from the odd uncooperative Russian-speaking cabbie, the locals could not have been nicer – in every sense; they claim that Moldovan girls are ranked the third prettiest in the world. Though they are vague on the source of such an assertion, or indeed who is first or second.
Tried the invartitas (minced chicken and pork-filled strudels, rather like artisan sausage rolls) and plăcintă cu cașcaval (hot savoury cheesecakes), both were excellent. But if you wanted a bite to eat after midnight, there was just the McDonalds on Bulevardul Ștefan cel Mare, the main thoroughfare running through Chisinau.
The local beer was also called Chisinau and it was top notch, award-winning too apparently. Though it’s possible the locals were no fully prepared for our visit; we gathered at the lobby of the Hotel Chisinau on Saturday morning for the day trip to Transnistria and the bar in the lobby ran out of beer before 11:00am. All of the above leads one to conclude that if they fix the pavements and open the odd late-night eatery, Chișinău has potential to be a possible stag do destination. The next Prague or Tallinn if you will.
Stadionul Zimbru in Chisinau is a neat compact little two-tier ground with a capacity of 10,000. Many have remarked that this should be the model stadium that all League of Ireland clubs should aspire to. However, situated south east of Chisinau centre, it was a bugger to get to. Trolley buses were infrequent and packed. Getting a taxi from there back into town was all down to luck.
It’s a UEFA rule that for competitive internationals, match programmes must be issued by the national FA, for VIPs at least, if not to the general public. None were on sale at the ground on the night, but throughout the day they were being sold by shifty-looking youths out of backpacks in downtown Chisinau. Apparently the Moldovan FA printed only 500 programmes and there was a big shortage of them at the match in the VIP section. Draw your own conclusions…