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On the World Happiness Database the UK ranks 28th with an average score of 7.2 (2000 to 2009).Moldova ranks 114th with a score of 4.9 – the lowest of any of the Nations we would be travelling through, and with only Macedonia and Albania ranking worse in Europe.

Notwithstanding that – we really liked Moldova :- )
Although it obviously does have its problems….

Despite our slightly problematic border crossing (see previous post) we entered Moldova in buoyant mood – our 8th Country of this trip and the first one we entered in bright sunshine! After all the recent rains the country side looked lush and verdant – full of greenery and loads of roadside wild flowers.

Well, we say road…
To be honest they weren’t that bad at all – in places.

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A thoroughly decent stretch of Moldovan Road
In other places they consist of patch, upon repair, upon fix, so they are a latticework of every imaginable shade of grey (No, not read the book and refuse to make any pun in that direction).
Still capable of making fairly decent time on them, but need to maintain your attention for the odd pothole.The first Moldovan town we passed through was the most run down we have seen in all of Europe (although Africa is our yardstick – and we have seen MUCH worse there).
This was still completely decrepit, with crumbling soviet apartment blocks the only architecture, and the underlying infrastructure (by that I mean roads, pavements, kerbs) smashed to pieces by time and neglect.
But not – I hasten to add – is there any evidence of vandalism.

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Apartment blocks in Chisinau
In the UK you would avoid such areas – at all costs.
But here, there is still the full spectrum of humanity living in the places, kids playing, families, sullen “yoofs” giving us Paddington Bear hard stares, middle and old aged people just getting on with life.
We started to find this throughout Russia and the CIS – the towns and cities are often…well…a bit crap. Yet, they are lived in, active, and any amenities provided are fully used. Where they exist – parks are full, benches are sat on, fountains played in, playgrounds and public open air gyms used. There is a real feel of community – albeit the 114th happiest community.Another point – the streets are much wider than the UK’s – and a lot of them were planted with trees decades ago – so they now benefit from leafy, shaded boulevards. Something our cramped island does not often have the space or will to create any more?

We never, ever felt threatened in these areas, and some even had quite a nice vibe to them. Nothing wrong sitting in a crap but busy park enjoying an ice-cream?

The sign above caught my eye. These were to pop up in Moldova, Ukraine and Russia. Roadside, public inspection ramps for working on your vehicle! What a fantastic idea!
Would have been really handy when the oil change was due.
It took us a pleasant 3-4 hours, with stops, to get from the border to the capital Chisinau.We had been struggling to download Open Street Mapping onto the Garmin SatNav, so were still using the Europe chip. It had been faultless to date but was struggling now in Moldova.  Detail of towns and cities is lacking and the map was sometimes up to 100m out – frustrating when navigating a busy city!

But we made the capital in time, forewarned that the small lodging house we had booked (central and with secure parking) was difficult to find.

Serious understatement!
It took over two hours to find, and for the last hour we were always with 500 metres of it.
Tucked in behind apartment blocks down a warren of alleyways – we were always going to struggle. Asking for help at a fuel station, and later a travel agent we discovered one of the nicest aspects about Moldova. The people. Cheryl left the fuel station armed with hand drawn maps – and a mobile number should we struggle further. The map (80% correct), after a few wrong turns got us very close, and a visit to the travel agent confirmed we were within 500 yards. After 17 brief, feint, static ridden ‘phone calls between us and the hotel and their English speaking friend – roped in to help – we parked up, handed the phone to a shopkeeper to describe where we were, and begged for the hotel to come and find us and bring us in…
Those calls cost us £30 BTW!

Despite this – would recommend the Hotel Olympia.
Chisinau may be poor – but it isn’t cheap!
We found via Booking.com, but booked direct.
Cheapest in town and great if you want to lock your vehicle securely whilst you tour some of the best wine venues to be had – anywhere in the world!

We’ve toured wineries in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand – and Moldova knocks them out the ring – seriously!

N 46.59.892 E 028.51.391 – takes you to the entrance to the rabbit warren

N 46.59.761 E 028.51.366
Turn left at the following (off-putting) signHotel is then past the sports complex at:
N46.59.751 E028.51.434

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Come get us – please…!
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Our Ice Cold in Alex moment – “worth waiting for”…
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Scarlet 4×4 gets some liquid refreshment at the Olympia too. A lovely spot…