Having done most of the sights that Chişinău has to offer yesterday, first stop today was a venture out of the city limits to the Milestii Mici wine cellars. Owned by the state these cellars are recognised by the Guiness book of records as being the largest in the world. Between 100 and 150 meters underground there are just over 200 km of tunnels housing over 2 million bottles of wine. If you have ever been to Epernay in Northern France and been impressed at the champagne storage facilities then these make those look like a kids plaything in the beach sand.
En route on a fog laden morning my driver Victor told me proudly that during the summer they close this piece of highway and hold drag racing for the petrol heads of Chişinău every Saturday night. Sounds sensible.
My type of wine glass!
We entered the labyrinth of tunnels in our own cars and the drive some 2 km to the first stop where our rather officious hostess gave us a rundown of facts and figures. There were 3 cars in our convoy on this occasion. Carbon monoxide, confined area, no ventilation. Sounds like perfect conditions to store wine. Or.
Air temperature is a constant 12-14 degrees C , humidity 90% , each of those ‘’ casas” holds between 250 and 300 bottles, and of the 200 km of tunnels just 55 km are currently in use.
A map of the tunnel network which they have also turned into their label. Helpful, she said, if you were to get lost after an over serving at the tasting room.
Enroute back to the city. My Moldovan isn’t great but some words just don’t translate.
Back in the city and it was too pleasant an afternoon to look inside another gallery so wander the streets I did on a beautiful autumns day.
Man selling a bucket of grapes takes on the might of an international congolomrate to win over the Chişinău consumer.
Opposite the grape seller a younger entrepreneur attempts to sell his home made honey.
Collecting leaves is not just for the children.
Sometimes I just sit and read.
The Chişinău state circus building. Officially opened in 1981 it was at the time a top circus entertainment venue with state of the art equipment and spaces for rehearsals, animals and veterinarians. With just over 1,900 seats it had a ring size over 40 feet making it the largest circus arena in Moldova. Since it’s glory days and with the fall of communism funding became an issue and it fell into disrepair. Realising it’s cultural significance the government started a restoration program in 2014 that is still on going.
A trip on one of these to anywhere in the city....
...will cost you two Lei. That’s approx 10 pence. (17 AUD cents)
She sits and waits in hope.
Chişinău “florists row”. 15 shops all selling identical arrangements.
Weddings are like dolphins and waterfalls. Whenever you see one they make you smile. Especially on an autumns day in Chişinău Central Park.
Moldovan wedding car bling.
Ah ! A customer! Can’t fault the vendors taste in red hoodies !
Walking though the main cemetery to reach the WWII memorial I came across this set of tombstones. Now that’s what I call planning for the future.
War memorial park.
A gun for every year they fought the Germans . Five. Beneath them lies the eternal flame.
Ahhh another wedding. At first it seemed incongruous that you’d visit such a somber place on your wedding day. Then I got thinking. Place of the eternal flame. Marriage. Eternal love?
In a country where 34% live on less than EUR 1.75 a day me thinks the seller of these could have his work cut out for him trying to shift them. Especially at 6,600 LEI a go. That’s £286 (AUD$ 477).
I finish with a conversation I had today.
Scene - Two smartly dressed, tie wearing,clean cut lads representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (ie: Mormons) are standing on a Chişinău corner looking to engage with the Moldovan population. They are approached by a western tourist from London via Australia and Papua New Guinea.
Tourist - Hi (looking at his badge) Brad. I noticed you guys here yesterday too. How are things going?
Brad - Ahhh , good afternoon Sir. It would be fair to say it’s a challenge but all things considered we are doing well. It’s a beautiful autumns day the lord has given us and this is only our 4th day here.
Tourist - So do you both speak Moldovan?
Brad - No, not a word.
Tourist - So how on earth do you plan to get the (holding up his fingers to mimick inverted commas) “word” across?
Brad - English is not the only language of the lord and the message does not necessarily need to be spoken.
Tourist - Mmm interesting well good luck with that. Have a great afternoon.
Brad - Thank you sir we surely will and you too.
Tourist walks away thinking to himself “You have to be kidding me. No wonder I enjoyed the stage play “Book Of Mormon” so much. They ACTUALLY exist! “