Okay, I'm not going to lie, Moldova is probably not going to make it to the top of tourist lists any time soon, but if you just want a relaxing weekend in a laid-back city, there are worse places than Chisinau. For starters, it's comparatively cheap. For our usual budget, TJ and I landed a room with a view at City Park Hotel (top left). I mean, c'mon, sparkling wine was free as part of the included breakfast buffet (top right). Chisinau is pretty sleepy, although it was hard for us to tell how much of the slumber was due to Orthodox Easter, or due to a more innate quietness. The pedestrian street outside our hotel was frequently devoid of people besides some statues (bottom left). When people did come around, they posed like statues for photos (bottom right).Vdrova Pub, which we stumbled upon right around the corner from our hotel on Friday night (top). It was an outlet for Balti-based Beermaster, which makes a fine IPA for this part of the world. The next day, we went much farther afield, getting quite lost in an industrial lot trying to find Litra Brewing Company. After many inquiries to wary locals, we tracked it down. At first, the proprietor didn't seem excited to serve us, even though the brewery has a nice vat-side tasting room (bottom left). But eventually, he relaxed and offered us some off-the-list items, including a Pumpkin Ale, one of the best I've ever had, and a Lucky Porter, a dangerously delicious imperial chocolate porter (bottom right).
Smokehouse for a late lunch (top left). The BBQ bar, opened by a former Peace Corps volunteer, served up actually American versions of pulled pork and quesadillas (top right). In order to have more beers on tap, the bar has a second outlet, Taproom 27, upstairs in an enclosed patio (bottom left). There, we were able to try some more quality local brews, including Cahul-based 0,5 Pub's Albeer IPA and Chisinau-based LaBREWtory Brewing Company's Irish Stout (bottom right).
Assumption of the Virgin, the oldest wooden church in the country (top left). The main structure and its free-standing bell tower are located near the Botanical Gardens (top right). The chapel and its contents, including a bunch of bells, were moved piece-by-piece from the nearby village of Hiriseni in 2010 (bottom left). The great care taken during the reassembly is clear when you see the well-preserved 18th-century iconostasis inside (bottom right).
Central Market before all the vendors closed down for the holiday (top left). A lot of fruit and veggie stands were still doing brisk business, but the scales were already being wiped down at the counters in the dairy building (top right). On the other hand, the 24-hour Flower Market never closes, and of course, it was operating at a good clip providing gifts and decorations for Easter celebrations (bottom).
Nativity of the Lord Cathedral, the city's main Orthodox church (top left). Lights of all kinds, including candles, play a big role in the Easter vigil, which lasts from the Resurrection announcement at midnight until dawn (top right). The ceremony is for the seriously devoted, but that doesn't preclude casual participation, including candle-lit conversation on a warm spring night (bottom).
Straseni, a nearby wine village. We had no illusions that Straseni Winery would be open, and it wasn't (top left). But we were able to peak through its gates to see the operation's equipment (top right). Besides, it was a beautiful day to take an aimless stroll through the countryside (middle). In a happy coincidence, when we returned to Chisinau, we found a locals wine bar open -- and serving a Straseni red and white (bottom left). Fellow patron Sergei tried to talk us into staying and slurping up some sweeter vintages, but we moved on before the 1-buck chucks became too intoxicating. We opted for beer with a snack at Regal Pizza (bottom right). Italian pies seemed to be the only allowable Easter entrees; we ended up eating dinner at Pizza Mania, one of the only other open restaurants.
National History Museum -- which displays a catapult, helicopter, and tractor in its courtyard -- would be shuttered (top left). The City History Museum, which is housed in an old Water Tower, also was closed (top right). It was no surprise that most people were spending the day enjoying spring in the city's green spaces, such as Park Valea Morilor (bottom).
Cathedral Park, there seemed to be even more people than before midnight Mass (top left). Many of them were taking their photos next to the over-sized pysanka eggs near the Triumph Arch, which somewhat ironically commemorates the Russian defeat of Ottoman aggressors (top right). Even besides the eggs, Easter seemed to be lingering. For the second time during the weekend, we saw a film of the Crucifixion being shown in a public square (bottom). However, this time at the Cathedral Teodora de la Silha, there were fewer (read: no) people watching.
Carpe Diem Wine Bar (left). After a flight of four tastes, TJ and I enjoyed a full glass of our favorite -- well, one inspired by a favorite for him (right).
We could've stayed longer, but we knew we should have more than a flight in our stomachs before our flight home. In our last attempt at a traditional Moldovan meal, we headed to La Taifas, whose ambiance was certainly promising (left). The meals went beyond expectations, at least in terms of size. I could barely finish my Moldovan meatballs, and TJ struggled with the last forkfuls of his mamaliga with pork (right). Our two-leg trip home, including a delay, meant we had plenty of time to digest before we landed back in Kyiv.