Chisinau, Moldova, August 26 - September 2, 2016

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  • September 01, 2016 11:00 AM | Anonymous member
    Greetings from Chisinau,

    Everyday in Chisinau has been a gift that continues to unfold.  We have all had such a wonderful time.  Today we experienced the Back to School celebration of for students of all ages, elementary to college.  After the kids were back in school, it was time to drink, so we spent an interesting morning in the largest underground cellar in the world, had a fried fish lunch in a lakeside pavilion, got our boarding passess and airport transfers figured out for tomrrow, and bid a fond farewell to our new best friends in Moldova.  Please see the complete blog with photos at

  • August 31, 2016 10:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    At our host's home we started the day watching TV, looking for the interviews we did yesterday. About 9:30 we all got excited to see the TV spot. It showed many of the Ambassadors and hosts being interviewed at the dinner last night. Kathy Hart did a wonderful job representing us!

    Around 10 am we all met at the National Ethnographic Museum where Chris Flowers, a Peace Corps volunteer, led a tour. A few of us paid 75 cents to use our cameras in the museum. It was a very good museum with displays covering natural history, geography, paleontology, cultural history and more. We were there about 2 hours and then many of us walked about 20 minutes to lunch. Unfortunately a few were not feeling well so they had to rest.

    Lunch was at Pizza Mania where most had thin crust pizzas but they also have a full menu from omelettes to roast chicken. It was good food although there was a mixup on a couple of the orders.

    After lunch we split up with some heading home but most going shopping or walking downtown. 

    Marty, Kathy Hart and Chris Smith went to a TV station where they were interviewed on a live show!!  It was a good opportunity to promote FF and the local organization CDA. We were a bit nervous to start but it all went smoothly and time flew by, partially due to the need for Mariana to interpret.

    Afterward many of us met in the park for ice cream (50 cents per scoop for a cone).

    The Meyers and Smiths went to their host's cabin where they had barbecue, smoked fish and more great conversation. The evening ended with us looking at the stars before heading home.

  • August 31, 2016 1:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    30 August was fascinating with scheduled visits to the mayor's office and time at the embassy in hopes of helping Chisinau develop a Friendship Force club.

    The mayor was a little late as he was tied up helping his  father with health issues. He explained his vision for the city and country and had time for a few questions. He sees his city as a green city, a city in a forest. The city has expanded in radial fashion with its districts separated not by trees but by forests. His vision is that the city should continue to increase its greenness. He also shared that he thinks Romania had far outpaced Moldova in its development since 1989, when the Soviet Union fell apart, partly because Romania was an independent member of the East Block while Moldova had been part of the USSR. His vision is that these two countries share a common ethnicity, language, etc and would be better off if they could merge somehow. Apparently on the day of Moldovan independence the U.S. Ambassador made a public statement that the countries should remain separate. The mayor said he thought this was a mistake by the Ambassador but that the mayor would not lose his support for the ambassador. 

    We walked to the embassy's public affairs section which is not close to the embassy. That was good because apparently there were protests at the embassy by a large group of people who were supportive of a combined Moldova/Romania. (Today's news has been full of the issue ; interestingly there does not seem to be any discussion in the U.S. Press.)

    Our host thinks that unification will take time because the younger generations are supportive but the leaders are older( the Chisinau mayor, now in his third term, is probably in his early 40's- he may end up in the Moldova national leadership one day.) He also explains that the transnistria issue is quiet at present; in fact the only way Russia can access Transnistria is by air, through Chisinau. They are not able to go in by land as they are not friendly with Ukraine; they also must fly a circuitous route to Chisinau avoiding Ukraine air space.

    A lunch at a local restaurant before heading to the ethnicity museum for a tour. BUT a local TV station had been engaged to interview us and record our recitation of their national anthem. This took enough time that we had to postpone the museum visit til tomorrow. A Peace Corps volunteer from Cincinnati has been involved with the museum and will lead us through the museum in the morning.

    The TV crew followed us to the Smoke House, a BBQ restaurant run by ex Peace Corps volunteers where we hosted our new friends at a typical U.S. Style BBQ. Today we saw ourselves on TV being interviewed at the restaurant. 

  • August 31, 2016 7:21 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    At our host family we started the day watching TV, looking for the interviews we did yesterday. About 9:30 we all got excited to see the spot. They showed many of the Ambassadors and hosts being interviewed at the dinner last night. Kathy Hart did a wonderful job representing us!

    Around 10 am we all met at the National Ethnographic Museum where Chris Flowers, a Peace Corps volunteer, led a tour. A few of us paid 75 cents to use our cameras in the museum. It was a very good museum with displays covering natural history, geography, paleontology, cultural history and more. We were there about 2 hours and then many of us walked about 20 minutes to lunch. Unfortunately a few were not feeling well so they had to rest.


  • August 30, 2016 11:54 AM | Anonymous member

    August 30, Tuesday.  Today we seemed to attract attention everywhere we went in our blue club shirts.  We met at 9:00 a.m. At the Chisinau City Hall, and as we gathered the policeman on the corner asked to take our picture.  It was to be the first of many.  We were led to a conference room where we met with the mayor of Chisinau, Dorin Cirtoaca.  He has participated in exchanges with the USA and speaks English very well.  George Meyer presented him a letter from Kevin Johnson and some gifts from Sacramento, including a Kings t-shirt.  He talked about the importance of cooperation with the United States and why it was vital to support exchanges with countries that share Moldova's values and will help it build a future.  He emphasized that Moldova and Romania share a common culture, ethnicity, and language.  He related how the last four generations of his family had suffered under Russian control.  When asked about his vision for Chisinau's future, he said he would like to capitalize on its green resources, such as the amount of forested land in the city, and would like to see better public transport using green technologies, recycling, production of biogas, bicycle lanes, and other improvements that would make Chisinau a desirable vacation destination.  Another challenge is keeping young people in the country, by providing better economic opportunities.  From there, we walked to the American Embassy where we were directed to the Office of Public Affairs in the American Resource Center and greeted by Joseph Tordella, director of public affairs.  Getting through security was a slow process, but we finally all got in.  We were joined by a number of US 'alumni' and took time to introduce everyone.  He talked about the importance of exchange programs and explained the functions of the American Resource Center and the embassy in general.  Marianna gave a powerpoint presentation on the Creative Development Association, which supports a number of programs including Odyssey of the Mind, Ecomania, Erasmus +, Moldox (a documentary film festival), and of course Friendship Force coordination.  Chris Smith made a presentation about Friendship Force, followed by a video in Russian.  After some snacks, we left the embassy and walked to the Ethnological Museum, where former Peace Corps Volunteer Chris Flowers was to show us around.  But our plans were changed when we learned that the crew from Jurnal TV was already in the park waiting for us.  We have been practicing the Moldovan National Anthem for this occasion, and we divided into small groups to recite verses of the national anthem.  The TV reporter filmed all of this, and then individually interviewed Chris Smith, Lynne, Marty, and Linda.  By the time we finished with the TV crew,  the museum had closed, so we rescheduled that for tomorrow and continued on to the Smokehouse Restaurant for our American Dinner night.  The food was definitely American:  BBQ ribs, hot wings, corn chips with salsa, chicken quesadillas, veggies with ranch dip, and pitchers of Arnold Palmer and lemonade.  We met the owner of the place, a former Peace Corps volunteer from Virginia.  The TV crew had followed us to the restaurant, and continued to interview both ambassadors and hosts.  The fun and food continued, and some stayed for the trivia session.  Enough media attention for one day!

  • August 28, 2016 5:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dawn broke on Sunday to yet another warm, sunny day.  Our group gathered for a leisurely coffee at an outdoor cafe decorated with more coleus than I'd ever seen in one spot.  The misting system overhead helped to keep the plants moist and thriving and the customers cool. When it was time to head out to our destination for the day, we all piled into two mini- vans and set off.  The short drive through Chisinau didn't take long as the Sunday traffic was so light compared to weekdays.  We were headed it Orhei, about 69 km northeast of the city.  

    One thing Moldova is infamous for is the state of it's roads.  It was a bumpy ride through the verdant countryside.  We passed through a couple of villages but mostly it was agricultural land.  

     Orhei Vechi (Old Orhei) is an archeological and historic open air museum.  As we neared our destination we made several photo stops to admire the views.  Orhei is famous for the monestary complex dug into caves in the hillside.  It is also very important in Moldovian history for the medieval fortress built by the Golden Horde (Tatars) when they occupied the area.  It is considered the most important archeological site in Moldova.  Also on view was a small village with it's colourful Orthodox Church and some ruins of ancient Turkish baths.

    Once in the complex we headed down a dusty road past past histori buildings.  We stopped to view a typical 2 room home on display, with a wine storage area dug out of the hillside and aa kitchen separate from the house, also dug into the hill.  Then up the hill for a visit to the famous cave monestary.  This was an ideal place for an ancient monestary due to it's remoteness.  It was first inhabited in the 13th century and used until the 18th century.  Following the demise of Communistic rule in the area, monks returned to restore the community.  

    Next was a late, leisurely lunch in a sprawling Bessarabian style restaurant, the Villa Thnica Hotel. Located along a small river the restaurant was spread over several levels.  We ate in a partially openair area.cooled by misters and ceiling fans.  After a group photo we piled into the hot vans and headed back to the city, arriving about 7 pm.  

    For me it was time for the home made borscht my hostess had spent the afternoon preparing, followed by fresh sweet melon.  Oh yes, and I can't forget the home-made brew tasting. My host pulls out a coke bottle with a hand written label - containing a very strong dark liquid which definitely was not coke.  Next was cherry infused vodka.  Perfect ending to our Sunday in Moldova.

  • August 27, 2016 11:59 PM | Anonymous member

    Our day started with a great breakfast of granola with lots of dried fruit and warm milk and coffee and bread then a small piece of chocolate. Yum!

      Today is Independence Day and the city will be celebrating. We took a taxi to the city center to meet the group. We had a little extra time and were able to visit  an Orthodox Church. It was beautiful inside and we enjoyed the choir for a few minutes.

      Next was the parade. We joined the crowds to watch military troops from neighboring countries and all different sections of the Moldovan army, Special Forces, and presidential security. Just as much fun was interacting with the policemen. They had brought in 6000 officers from all over the country and they were shoulder to shoulder

    to shoulder lining the parade . We had fun talking to the officers in front of us in our only common language- Spanish.

      Next we walked to the History Museum. It had artifacts going back to prehistoric times and followed the history of Moldova through ages including Roman civilization and the Middle Ages, Soviet occupation and to the present.

      It was time for lunch so we walked to a restaurant named 'Draft' and had a delicious meal of chicken soup, chicken stuffed with bacon, mashed potatoes, salad, and specially made lemonades. And dessert was cheesecake, brownies and ice cream.

      Now it was time for "City Quest" , a game to help us learn about Chisinau. We divided into 4 teams of 4  Americans and 2 Moldovans. We were each given 10 photos of well known places in Chisinau and we were to find them by asking the locals to give us directions. We had fun interacting with the people on the street and most were very helpful and some even offered to take us to our destination. We learned a lot about the city and I think we walked about 10K! We had a few extra minutes before we had to meet the other teams and were able to watch some of the folk dancing in the main square.

      Dinner was next on the schedule and we went to "La Placinta" for a wonderful Moldovan meal. Mariana was our host and toasted each of us individually. Food was plentiful and delicious. Cheese Placinta, salad, cabbage rolls, grilled veggies, polenta, chicken, and much more. Of course wine was poured liberally and the food just kept coming! We were treated to a wonderful performance by 4 young women singing tradition songs. They had such lovely voices.

      It was time to head home to finish the celebration. Our apartment is on the 15th floor of a building on a hill overlooking the city and we could watch the fireworks from the balcony and enjoy a bit of cognac.

      Happy Birthday Moldova! 

  • August 26, 2016 9:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    this is an addendum to Linda's input.

    Several of us got together with our hosts to go to a watermelon patch outside of town. Of note is that once we arrived at a bridge over the Niestru River we noted a military presence on both sides of the bridge. (There is a portion of eastern Moldova called Transnistria which Contains mostly Russian persons. They have set up their own government, have their own money, etc) . The place we went to was about 20 K out of town. After picking several melons and eating a lot we packed up our melons and started to return at dusk. One of the drivers was in a German licensed vehicle and he got a thorough going over at the bridge .

    We returned to Viorol Gaina's place for tea, desserts, followed by homemade wine before returning to our hosts' for dinner at 9:30 PM. Many Moldovans learn English from U.S. Movies and CNN so we do have CNN access in Chisinau. Btw Chisinau has free WiFi at high speeds throughout the city. It is amazing

  • August 26, 2016 6:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    25 August by Chris Budwine

    Our last night in Transylvania was spent in Brasov. This was a rich medieval town with beautiful historic guild mansions as well as modern Art Nouveau fa├žades in the town square.

    Returning to Bucharest to catch the train to Chisinau, we visited two castles. Bran castle was made famous by Bram Stokes' novel Dracula. He combined the life story of Vlad the Impaler with local beliefs and folklore of vampires and strigol (witches) to create his masterpiece. ( He had never visited Romania and his castle descriptions were taken from literature he had read). You can find detailed information about the castle, the writer and Vlad III on the web.

    Peles castle was built 400 years after Bran. Started in the 1870's it had all the modern conveniences when it was finished in 1914( electric elevators, in wall vacuum cleaners which are still used, etc. )It's opulence was impressive. Again you can get good photos and information on The web. Peles has three main buildings. One is higher up on the hill amongst the trees, used during the time of Ceausescu as a protocol villa to entertain visiting dignitaries, including Nixon and two Qaddhafi brothers. The elder brother had a fatal hunting accident while in Romania. The younger one, Muammar became dictator of Libya.

    Transylvania is beautiful, organic and rich in history. She is also endowed with brain power. I learned that Romanians were pioneers in flight, jet engine development , rockets, and computer technology .

    We had hoped to get to the Gara de Nord Bucharest train station by 5 PM to meet the Mellors and have a leisurely dinner before catching our train at 7:15 to Chisinau, Moldova. We arrived at about 6:20 and barely had time to get food for the overnight train. Most of you know that Chisinau and Sacramento are Sister Cities.

  • August 24, 2016 10:00 PM | Anonymous member

    One more fabulous day in Romania! We had another magical walk in the medieval city of Sighisoara, a 12 th century city in Transylvania at the crossroads of ancient civilizations from The Romans, the Ottomans, the Saxons, the Hungarians, the Romanians and more. We walked up the 5 stories to the top of the entry tower where we had a wonderful view over the city and the surrounding mountains. Exhibits along the various floors showed the historical perspective with ceramics, tools, clocks and furniture from the thirteenth century on. At the 4 th level we were able to see the clock mechanism. It is glockenspiel with different figures for each day of the week and a separate one for daytime and nighttime. Some of us walked up the 176 steps to the top of the hill, where an old 13th Century church is located, while others visited the torture museum and the weapons museum.

    We then went on to a most interesting tasting experience where jams and savories are made from local organically grown fruits and vegetables. We sampled a variety of delicious products and purchased a few goodies. We continued on the beautiful hilly drive to Brazov with fields of corn, sugar beets, alfalfa, horses, cattle and sheep.  Brazov is built between two mountains and backs into a box canyon. We took a walking tour of the area around the main square, including the Catherine gate, the Synagogue, the Black Church and more beautiful views of the entire town. We enjoyed a short visit with a local member of the Brazov Frienship Force club before we went to a local pub for dinner.

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